You might be wondering why are we celebrating St Edmunds Day, a long dead king from 1148 years ago. What bearing does he have on today, and why was he important?
I move back to Bury St Edmunds just 2 years ago, and during that time, I had been aware that in 2006 there had been a campaign to try and reinstate Edmund as patron saint of England. Rather a big task I thought. I have been fortunate enough, in the time since moving back to meet many people who thought the same way as I do. I believe to reinstate Edmund as our national saint would be an enormous task.
So why don’t we start with smaller steps. Its great to have big ideas but what would be the best way to go about such a gargantuan task. So lets get the town people and those connected with it inspired by Edmund, lets get some civic pride in our town.
I was aware that a few events had been a general occurence around this time of year. A St Edmunds Day dinner, a service in the Cathedral, St Edmunds Roman Catholic church having an event. All very good in their own right, but not very “town inclusive”. For me, the disparate events, had no cohesion, or way to get more people involved, or even included.
So my proposal was quite simple, the aim of the St Edmunds celebration should be, “To delight, inform and educate the townsfolk of Bury St Edmunds and beyond, that we are named after a King, and all of the town should know that he was killed on 20th November 869 by the invading Danes because he refused to renounce his Christian faith”.
Now I am not a religious person, but I DO believe that people should stand up for what they believe in, and stay firm in their convictions.
So I looked at the dates, and saw that St Edmunds Day fell on a Monday. Hmmm… not a problem, lets just drop it back into the weekend, a weekend which happens to be the one just before the Bury Christmas Fayre. But can we not change the date to sometime warmer? No, that would be wrong. Was Edmund able to change the date when the Danes invaded? No, that is how it was, and that is how it is.
So we have the dates in place, 18th, 19th and 20th November.
How would we celebrate? We needed a method which would demonstrate how the town could be brought together, and it should not be expensive. All should be able to take part. At our first Anniversary party, I was inspired by Brian Gobey, a young football fan who is also a big fan of Bury St Edmunds. I had seen him in the newspapers at various football matches, all around Europe displaying the Flag of St Edmund Of Suffolk. Hmm he gets in the papers, he gets noticed, he gets people asking about the flag…
So it was obvious, we use the flag, or bunting to bind the town together. Ideas started to form, and as April came along I watched with interest how the town celebrated St Georges Day. No flags in town, that I could see, yet Brandon, close by, displayed the flag of England all the way down their high street, proud to be celebrating the day.
Working in retail, it was obvious to me, that we had to get retailers, especially those open over the weekend to come on board. Quite simply to raise the flag over the weekend.
I met up with Mark Cordell of BID Our Bury St Edmunds, suggesting that ALL businesses could take part. He liked it, and we created a flyer, complete with caricature graphics and information about what we wanted to do, how we would do it, and why people should be involved. We wanted to make it have wider appeal too, so we tried to get the Town Council on board with the scheme.
This proved a more difficult task. Where a number of the Town Councillors liked the idea, there were a few who were not with us, and as a result, it took quite a few months to encourage them to see how good this would be for the whole town, and that it was really their duty to support it.
While all of this was going on, various groups and businesses were approaching me with ideas for events. It seemed like a natural progression to log these events, and create a full weekend calendar. The Bury Free Press and Bury Mercury were also on board.
I wanted the businesses to give a discount, or some kind of incentive for that weekend. The smaller establishments were very keen to get people to get walking around the town, to come and visit them. Within a couple of months I had collated quite a long list of retailers willing to be involved. Along with this came the Treasure Hunt. What a great way for people to use their grey matter on the clues, work out where the objects of the trail were, and collect the codes, in order to win £100.
And so the weekend is about to begin, the inagural “We Love Bury St Edmunds!” Your Town Needs You, St Edmunds Weekender.
Have a fantastic weekend everyone, I hope to see you and chat to you around the town over then next few days, and remember, we have a special town and we should be very proud of it. Let’s show the world how awesome this place is.