A Brief History of Towersey Festival

Richard Thompson at Towersey Festival 2014

Towersey Festival is one of the UK’s longest running independent music festivals – but how did it all start?

Towersey Festival started as a one day village event back in 1965. Towersey at this time was a typical small country village, it had no playing field and a decaying Memorial Hall. It was from this that the first village festival developed.

A meeting was called to discuss the future of the Memorial Hall in 1965. It was decided that some immediate action was required to raise the funds to make the repairs that it greatly needed. A committee was formed, and it was agreed that the usual village fete was not enough. What was needed was an event that would attract all the villagers, young and old. So, it was decided that this one day event would celebrate a thousand years of Towersey plus the many more to come.

This event was extremely popular and raised a great deal of money. The following year (1966), due to its popularity it became a three-day event. From this a proposal was put forward to the Gomme family, who owned land in the village, to purchase one of their fields and to use it as a playing field. The proposal was agreed and the field was bought for £4,500, which at the time was equivalent to several years salary. There then followed much hard work and a great deal of fund-raising during which the committee got the field drained, ploughed and reseeded (at a cost of £10,000). The field now belongs to the village; bought and paid for by the Festival all those years ago.

Since the first day of this event back in 1965, Towersey Festival has grown in size and popularity and has now established itself as one of the major arts and music festivals of the year, attracting visitors, musicians and entertainers from all over the world.

In 2014, the festival celebrated its 50th Festival, making it one of the oldest and most loved in the country (and even the world) and in 2015 the Festival moved to a site just one mile from the Village on the edge of Thame, still very much in the rural heart of Oxfordshire.

Other funds from the event have been given to good causes in nearby communities and to the festival’s own Charity The Friends of Towersey Festival (reg. Charity 299636) to further the education and careers of people in music, dance, song, theatre, arts and crafts.

Eliza Carthy and her Wayward Band

Eliza Carthy and The Wayward Band perform on Towersey Festival’s main stage, Venue 65, in 2017. Image credit (c) Phil Sofer.

Festival Director Joe Heap reflects on the history of Towersey Festival

Towersey Festival has always been my life. Started back in 1965 by my Grandad (Denis), I was born into it and I have missed just two festivals in my life!

“It began in my Grandparent’s back garden in the Oxfordshire Village of Towersey.

“It quickly grew from this handful of music enthusiasts and friends to a few hundred and onto a small field in the village. The Festival was taken on by my Dad (Steve), who was Festival Director for some 40 years.

“As it continued to grow organically it attracted more families, new generations of fun loving festival-goers and moved onto land purchased by the festival for the village. Its goal, to provide a culturally significant event for the local community.  A mission that continues today.

“And now?  Well, those foundations of family, musical passion, togetherness and community are what continue to feed us and our customers.  We call them Team Towersey.  It’s their festival, our festival and your festival and all who come to Towersey feel that sense of ownership and community.” 

Towersey Festival runs over the August Bank Holiday weekend, in Thame, Oxfordshire.

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Website: www.towerseyfestival.com

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