This year we’re excited to be heading to the Lymm Historic Transport Day as a sponsor – we’ll be giving out some freebies too so look out for us if you go!
We spoke to Alan Williams to find out more about the event.
Hi Alan, please tell us a bit about yourself.
The first thing to say is that I am not actually a classic car owner, couldn’t explain how a steam engine works and have never been on a canal holiday. My career background though was based on project management. When my wife and I and my then ten year old daughter moved to Lymm in 1993 from Manchester I became increasingly interested in the history of the village and the canal in particular. I am retired now and have never been busier or worked harder in my life as I am also chair of the new Lymm Heritage Centre.
How long have you been involved in the Lymm Transport Day? How did it start?
It started from the thought I had at the end of 2012 that although Lymm has a great Festival it had never really embraced its greatest asset – The Bridgewater Canal. This turned into a couple of conversations in the pub with boat owners. They introduced me to the idea that there is a whole group of owners of historic boats scattered along the waterways who may be prepared to come and support an event.
However at the time the Festival was needing to boost funds so we also needed to find a way to be able to charge admission that would more than cover costs. The May Queen field filled the bill there as it has a couple of controllable entrances . Halfway between the two is the village Hall … ideal for a model railway show and Maple lodge – the new Scout HQW which now regularly houses the LEGO Exhibition.
How has it grown over the years? What have been the biggest challenges?
That first event in 2013 was held in rain and driving winds and a temperature of around 12C. Yet somehow we still had 2,500 payers and managed to make a profit of £5,000 which was an enormous boost to the festival at the time. Looking back it is probably a good thing it wasn’t a sunny day as with only a small team of volunteers we may not have coped. But it was a valuable learning exercise. After the event a number of people came forward locally who could see my vision for the event and shared my enthusiasm. That first year it was hard work persuading car clubs in particular to support an unknown event. Now we open for booking on Jan 3rd and just sit back and watch the entries pour in so that we are full within a couple of days. We now have two park and rides and five buses ferrying people in and out of the village. Last year we estimated there were 8,000 people including all the visitors and exhibitors.
Challenges ? Oh yes plenty of those .. We need around 100 volunteers over the day. That presents a huge logistical challenge – recruiting, allocating, informing, training. But the volunteers are one of our greatest assets too. In fact communication is probably the biggest challenge. With hundreds of exhibitors and traders making sure that everyone knows where they need to be and when. We are blessed with a great core team who help to get all this done but it remains a huge job. I doubt many people could appreciate just how much work is involved through the year.
What’s your favourite exhibit you’ve ever had at the festival?
Three years ago I had a text message from some-one asking if he could bring his Sabre CRV to the drive-in parade. I replied that we had no room for any more cars. His response was “is not car, is tank”.. He was last in the parade and I was invited to hop up on top. It was fantastic riding through the village and seeing the looks of amazement on people’s faces as we came round the corner.
It’s a big event now, but still a really great family event with local sponsors. How important is it that the festival keeps that local community feel?
It’s absolutely critical. I have heard about so many events where people say “it used to be great but it’s just too big and impersonal now. “ I don’t think that can happen here . We are constrained by the size of the field, the village itself and the canal. The challenge now is not to grow physically but to stay fresh and maintain our great reputation which in turn is good for Lymm as a whole.
There are some really exciting exhibits this year, such as the Batmobile and Lightning McQueen. What are you particularly looking forward to?
We love the challenge of getting the balance right between pleasing the “petrolheads” but also providing a fantastic value family day out. ( It ‘s just £12 for a family of four including parking and a ride in one the vintage bus). Watching the kids explore some of the old vehicles , maybe ringing the bell on the old fire engine, sitting on the steam train, or sitting in the cockpit of a jet are highlights for me. And I am just in awe of how we fill a huge field from top to bottom in three hours , have a fantastic show and yet by the end of the evening it is as if nothing ever happened ( apart from a few white lines on the grass)
What should people really look out for this year? Any hidden gems or surprises?
I’ll end up describing everything if I start. Kids drive-a-digger is a fun novelty and we have the extreme stunt bike team . There’s cars from the movies and of course the dinosaur. Stop Now ! Just come onto the main field so you don’t miss anything. Be sure not miss our two great indoor venues too . Some amazing LEGO models and model railways that create little worlds of their own.
We are also hoping to have a horse-drawn boat with harnessing demonstrations. Beautiful.
And at 12.53 the sky should be filled with sound of an approaching Spitfire as it make the first of three passes over the village. That is a show-stopping, jaw dropping moment. Grown men confessed to shedding a tear or two last year.
What’s your top tip to visitors ?
My top tip to visitors is to come early. Use the park and ride if you are coming from outside Lymm. If you get in before 10.30 you will catch the drive in. Pace yourselves. It really could take you all day to take it in and be sure to build in a visit to the World Food Court on the field for lunch. If you still have the energy the final highlight of the day is the historic Sail past at 16.30.
We are really looking forward to working with Redex this year in what will be a new kind of sponsor/supporter relationship.
We love and appreciate all our sponsors and supporters but have probably not had anyone before whose products related so closely to the needs of our exhibitors.
The Redex name has great heritage too so it’s a great fit all round.
We have been impressed by the energy and creativity the Redex team are putting into the event which we think will add a whole new dimension. We certainly hope this may be the beginning of a great relationship between our two organisations over years to come.
Have a Great Day. And come back to Lymm again soon.
To find out more about the event visit their website here.