This article first appeared in the Sale & Altrincham Messenger Friday 22 July 2016

and in VIVA – A Taste Of Madchester As Festival Spirit Arrives At The Showground Monday 25 July 2016

The sell-out Happy Festival at the Ashley Hall Showground last weekend has become a fantastic new fixture, with attendees declaring it a huge success.

The idea for the Festivals came in 2015 when Tracey Donnelly and her brother Chris, local Bowdon resident, were looking for somewhere to go for a night out and realised that their generation weren’t catered for.

“HAPPY has been held once every few months in various local venues including the Stamford Arms, Bowdon Rugby Club and Hogans of Hale”, explains Tracey.

“Our audience are not out every weekend, they’ve outgrown the clubbing bit, but still want to have a dance and a night out with friends.  As demand increased, we outgrew the venues and it was actually our audience who suggested that it would be fun to make this into an annual festival type event.

“The festival isn’t a cheesy retro night, but neither is it ‘too cool for school’ it’s all about having a good time thus the name HAPPY.

“The Showground was perfect’, Tracey continues, “TEM Locations and Events, which manages the Ashley Hall Showground, along with Event Buddha, organised the whole thing brilliantly for us.

“The event was aimed at a 35 plus audience, but families came with older children and in the end the age range was across the board.

“Some people travelled from Wales and Birmingham and it was great for bringing custom to Hale village and Altrincham town centre. The local shops, restaurant and bars were busy as many of our guests visited before the festival to eat and drink.”

Paolo Bistacchi, owner of Danilos Pizzereria in the village, told us:

“I wasn’t aware that the festival was happening and was slightly confused when ladies appeared with wellies and flowers in their hair. It drew a great crowd and made for a vibrant atmosphere in the village.”

Owner of Hale Wine Bar, Ashley Brown agreed:

“There was a real buzz about the place with all the bars and restaurants busy. Events at the Showground are an excellent way of bringing additional visitors to the village and a real bonus for local business.”

The tightly controlled event was monitored for noise throughout the evening with special directional speakers and other mitigation to make sure that it wasn’t just party-goers who had a good night!

“This was really important to us”, continues Tracey. “We wanted to ensure that the festival was carefully managed and so entrance was by advance ticket purchase only (plus some freebies for neighbours) and these quickly sold out.

“We had some great DJs including writer and broadcaster Dave Haslam. Dave DJ’d more than 450 times at the Haçienda nightclub in Manchester and has since DJ’d worldwide. We were chuffed when he commented that this was one of the best organised events he had attended; this was great to hear.”

The DJs played dance music from the 70s, 80s and 90s with each tent offering different genres from Motown to dance anthems and attracted some famous faces including Mike Joyce, best known for his time as drummer with The Smiths.

Mike, who lives locally and has also played and DJ’d at many festivals throughout the years, commented:

“It was really well organised and we had a ridiculously good time. Events like these bring locals together which is great for the community, with the added bonus of being within walking distance.”

“We’ve also had some super feedback on our Facebook Page”, says Tracey smiling.

“It’s the little details that seem to have been a big hit with the audience, such as plenty of seating for people to sit down in between dance sessions. We’ve also had some constructive criticism, such as more bins and lights in the WCs, which we really appreciate.

“We’re not ageist but our audience should not expect to hear all the latest dance tracks, this festival is for people who are old enough to have heard the tunes first time around!”

Stephen Black, Hale resident and business owner of French Connection on Ashley Road, thinks it’s a good idea to hold events locally as they mean increased footfall in the village.

“It was very well managed and extremely popular”, he told us. “The friendly atmosphere meant everyone was out enjoying themselves.”

Jonathan Gittins of Rowlands Jewellers, whose shop is also on Ashley Road agreed.

“It was fantastic to see the village embracing the festival; it attracts new people which can only be good for local businesses.”

Local Ashley resident Richard Rowlands, from I Want Trees said:

“I loved it – a great night and everyone seemed to be having a good time!”.

His neighbour, Rob Goodall, also attended the festival with friends and family concurred:

“We all had a great night; I hope they run it again as we’d definitely return.”