The Willow Festival

Past, Present, Future'

“ Where words fail, music speaks.”

 Hans Christian Andersen.

Peterborough local Mark Ringer began to plan the idea of a live music festival with a multipurpose remit.

It would be a festival which encouraged, supported and promoted live performing musicians and their artistic projects, whether that be as soloists or with others. As well as wishing to help grow and promote musicianship, The Willow Festival aimed to grow audiences for original live music by offering entry to the festival for free. The idea was to attract those who would not normally think of going to a live music show, in the hope that they themselves would enjoy it enough to attend more events or even consider taking up playing and performing themselves. Another goal was to give Peterborough an event it could be proud of and one that would put it firmly on the live music / performing arts map. The spin off being increased tourism, quality of life and an annual financial bonus for local business.

The Willow Festival was launched in the summer of 1998 and showcased approximately 25 bands / artists and had an encouraging enough response from the public to warrant re-staging it the following year in 1999.

By 2001, the event was attracting a footfall of over 50,000 people and was extended to be a three day festival. Indeed, it became the largest event of it’s type in the world, eventually showcasing over 170 bands / artists, performing across 7 stage areas and attracting a footfall of over 80,000 over a weekend, making it the most successful arts event in the city’s long history.

The Willow Festival more than achieved it’s goals and became what many consider to be Peterborough City’s most highly regarded and loved event, but increased costs and the difficulty in keeping the event free to enter saw the festival come an end in 2014.

Every year since, there have been many calls to bring TWF back, and finally, it’s here! Sadly, it won’t be a free to enter event any longer, as it’s simply impossible to run it as such, but owner and originator Mark Ringer has handed the reins over to a new and well funded company to take TWF forward, with the promise of keeping the entry fee to the bare minimum, and to run the festival with the same ethos and to the same scale as in past years.

So in 2023, a new chapter begins!