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Tears still, but Whitehaven moves on with festival

Alan Cleaver
whitehavenfestival1 300x186 Tears still, but Whitehaven moves on with festival

Soon-to-be-retired beat bobby PC Mick Taylor with All Angels at the festival

Whitehaven in Cumbria has at last had some good news after several months of being in the news for all the wrong reasons.

This weekend the town – still sore after the Derrick Bird shootings of June 2nd – put aside its troubles and joined together for the annual Whitehaven Festival.

Tall ships, celebrity chefs, a plethora of musicians and bands – all topped off with a display by the Red Arrows – helped the town turn a corner after the tragedies.

Music is a great healer so it was fitting that the festival kicked off with a performance by mezzo soprano Katherine Jenkins. She performed Sarah McLachlan’s Angel as a special tribute to all those touched by the tragedies of the recent few months. But it was probably Time To Say Goodbye that had most of the audience wiping away the tears.

The open air concert by the harbourside was performed against a sunset backdrop on a glorious summer’s evening. Even the seagulls seemed to specially choreographed for the music! But it was the occasional empty seat in an otherwise packed auditorium that struck me as the most poignant part of the evening – a reminder that almost certainly one or two of those killed by Bird would have bought tickets for this concert.

The other big hit of the weekend was the performance by the four young girls, All Angels. They performed Sunday lunchtime in a concert straight after a service marking Armed Forces and Veterans’ Day. Hundreds of people of all ages wandered into the arena to hear the uplifting arrangements of classical and popular works.

And they struck just the right note when they announced halfway through that they were performing a special number for beat bobby PC Mick Taylor and the  police constables who served the community. Whitehaven folk have reacted angrily to the armchair critics armed with hindsight who have criticised Mick and the other officers – even though the men and women PCs ran out of their police station unarmed in the hopes of stopping Derrick Bird. Mick – who helped two of Bird’s victims – retires in a few weeks time.

The national press were not of course present at Sunday’s concert to hear the praise and applause for Mick. Nor did any of them seem to notice during their interviews with the Whitehaven public at the time of the shootings that almost everyone spoke of their beat bobby by name. How many readers of this column can name their local beat bobby?

Precisely. That’s just one reason why Whitehaven is so special and why it will pick itself up after the tragedies that have hit the town so hard.

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