HUNDREDS flooded Lydiard Park this weekend after Ashley Waldron’s brother inspired him to hold an event and raise awareness of a mentoring project for disaffected youngsters.
Unlike his brother Craig, Ashley cannot commit enough time to help mentor the dozens of children and teenagers from difficult backgrounds referred to specialist youth project SMASH, so instead opted to hold a special event to raise money and awareness for the cause.
Ashley funded much of the costs with the help of his Abington Way company, Flawless Floors, which he set up six years ago, so all the proceeds from Saturday’s event could be split between Cancer Research UK and SMASH.
Ashley said: “It’s been brilliant, all the artists have given up their time for nothing and been so fantastic.
“It just struck me that Swindon really needed some sort of festival in the summer. There’s all sorts of smaller things going on around but Swindon itself doesn’t really have anything, and it was also an opportunity to raise money for some really important causes.”
- Amee Wakeman and Drove Vets’ dalmations
Initially, Ashley only planned to hold a three-hour festival at the Conference Centre in the park, but over the past few months it has grown into a 12-hour marathon of entertainment and games complete with performances from Tanwood School For Performing Arts, a concert and a literally hypnotic performance as well as an auction with prizes including a child's bike, two tickets to see a show at the Wyvern Theatre, signed memorabilia, wine tasting sessions from Majestic Wines, a VIP booth at Bushwackers, and jewellery from Beaverbrooks.
But the biggest draw was the Swindon SMASH vs Cancer Research UK football competition during the afternoon.
Ashley said: “The weather really helped and the football match was a really big draw, and obviously more people came along to the evening event.
“It was great to have so much support for these charities.”
Visitors also enjoyed having their hair styled by What Women Want and photographs taken in retro photo booths as well as browse the numerous stalls, take part in the games and munch on candy floss, hog roast, and Coffee Gang coffee.
There were also music sets from Emily-Jane Shepherd, Sophie & Perry, Lucy Gray, Jenny Bracey and Aidan Moore, as well as a ticketed concert featuring Soundbites and Cover Addicts from 6pm in the evening.
Ashley’s brother Craig was pleased his brother had decided to show his support for SMASH in this way.
He said: “This event is all about raising awareness of the project.
“Mentoring means giving about two or three hours a week to a young person where you might meet for a coffee, go to the cinema, go bowling, anything like that for 12 months and it really, really does make a difference.
“For some of them, just the fact you turn up each week means a lot, and developing that relationship with them and being able just to be someone who is there for them really makes a difference in their lives.”
Ashley hopes this year’s extravaganza will just be the first of many to grow bigger and better of the years.
To find out more about the event, visit www.facebook.com/pages/BIG-Swindon-Event.
For more about SMASH, and to find out how you could get involved, visit www.smashyouthproject.co.uk.