Festival to celebrate town’s ties with Native Americans

TRADITIONS: Left to right: Stuart Foster, Mike Cilliers, Richard Fox, Lesley West, Daniela Okrajkova, Rod Cleasby and Derek West

TRADITIONS: Left to right: Stuart Foster, Mike Cilliers, Richard Fox, Lesley West, Daniela Okrajkova, Rod Cleasby and Derek West Buy this photo

First published in Headlines Witney Gazette: Photograph of the Author by , Reporter covering North Oxford, Jericho and Summertown. Call me on 01865 425498

WITNEY’s link to Native Americans will be celebrated in a 10-day music festival for the first time.

Pubs, restaurants and churches will host music and dance performances for the Witney Music Festival from May 16 to 26.

And this year organisers have created a totem pole to commemorate the historic relationship between Witney and Native Americans.

Blankets produced by town firms were popular amongst tribes in North America in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

Witney first supplied the Hudson’s Bay Company, in north west Canada, from 1681 and the town was the major provider by the 1730s.

Native American tribes highly prized the blankets, which they traded for furs.

Early’s, one of the prominent firms, included a tribesman in its logo.

Festival spokesman Derek West said: “We have a totem pole this year, which is not massive but we hope it can be at the entrance of the main event to greet people.

“The theme we decided to adopt this year was partly for fun and partly because a lot of Witney history is tucked away and it’s good to keep it in the public eye.

“We hope it will carry on every year because it just adds something extra that’s interesting for everybody.

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“We would love it if people turned up in traditional Native American dress and some war paint.”

The totem pole, created by Minster Lovell sculptors Bevan and Richard Fox, will be displayed at the Witney Music Festival’s biggest event, on May 24.

This will have two stages in Thorney Leys park and one inside nearby St Mary’s Church, with all performances from from noon to 10pm.

A the park there will be a “silent disco”, where people will gather inside a tent and tune-in to a choice of three DJs using headphones.

It follows the success of 2013’s “Live on the Leys”, which attracted about 3,500 people and organisers hope 5,000 will visit this year.

It will feature Oxfordshire bands 1000 Mile Highway, Empty Vessels, The Kites and folk singer Ags Connolly.

The festival is sponsored by West Oxfordshire-based energy firm Ebico, Witney Lions Club, Wychwood Brewery and the county’s BongoIT. Mr West added: “Free festivals like this are quite rare now, but it’s all done for the benefit of people and local artists of Witney.

“We had a great turnout at the few festivals and now we are hoping to refine it.

“We always get a fantastic response, people love it so it is something we’d like to continue doing.”

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