Newtown Green was buzzing with excitement on Saturday 1 July 2023, as hundreds of people gathered to celebrate the rich heritage of Ashford Railway Works and Newtown Railway Works, which marked their 180th and 175th anniversaries respectively.

The Railway Vintage Festival, organised by South Willesborough and Newtown Community Council (SWANCC) and supported by Ashford Borough Council and Ashford International Development Company, offered a variety of fun and nostalgic attractions for all ages. From retro cars and rides to handmade crafts and live music, there was something for everyone to enjoy. The festival also featured a spectacular show of songs and dances from the 1920s to the 1960s, performed by talented artists from London and Brighton, as well as local acts on the community stage.

One of the highlights of the day was an attempt to break the world record for the largest human image of a train, with hundreds of participants forming a colourful locomotive on the Green. The result is still pending, but everyone had a great time joining in.

The festival also paid tribute to the history and memories of the area, with a Community Memories tent that displayed a fascinating exhibition of Newtown Railway Works, curated by local historian Ani from Tales on the Tracks. Residents also shared their own stories and photos of life at the Works, adding to the rich collection of local heritage. Other exhibitions included model railways from AIMREC and displays from Ashford Museum.

The event was attended by the Mayor Cllr Larry Krause and Deputy Mayor Cllr Lyn Suddards, who joined Chair Cllr Sue Mullan and Vice Chair Cllr Andy Rogers in planting trees in honour of Her Majesty the Queen Elizabeth and Cllr George Koowaree.

Chair of SWANCC Cllr Sue Mullan said: “We are delighted with the success of this Railway Vintage Festival, which was made possible by the hard work of SWANCC, the generous sponsorship from Ashford Borough Council and Ashford International Development Company, and the amazing SWAN Community Spirit that helped us run this wonderful event. We are proud to showcase South Willesborough and Newtown as a vibrant and historic part of Ashford.”

Vice Chair of SWANCC Cllr Andy Rogers said: “This was a fantastic day for Newtown and Ashford, bringing people together to celebrate our railway heritage. We hope this is just the start of a bright future for South Willesborough and Newtown and Ashford as a whole community, with the exciting development of Ashford International Studios.”

By Ed

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