I took my Mum into Macclesfield today to have a look round some of the Barnaby Festival events, in particular the World War One Memorials exhibition. There was a real buzz about the town and a lot of people were out and about. Of course the glorious weather helped!
During the Industrial Revolution a lot of the Northern Towns adapted the traditional ‘wake’ week of the Church – the week they would celebrate their patron saint – into a regular summer holiday. All the factories and mills, schools and shops would close down at the same time. It was an opportunity to overhaul the machinery and clean the chimneys, the workers being given a week’s unpaid holiday. Those that could afford it would head off to the seaside, Blackpool or Southport, depending on how deep your pockets were!
The holidays were staggered around the region, in Macclesfield the holiday was known as Barnaby after St Barnabas whose Saints Day is the 11th June. There has been a fair in Macclesfield at this time of year since the 13th Century, when the town was granted a Borough Charter. St Barnabas was patron saint of Cyprus and it’s thought he may have been chosen due to some connection with the Macclesfield longbow men who served in the Crusades. The church at the time was, and still is, dedicated to St Michael.
As times changed so did Barnaby, a lot of the factories went out of business and then in the 1980s the council refused to allow the schools to close. The traditional exodus stopped. There were still carnivals and parades held to celebrate but they died out after a time and it looked like Barnaby was history. Then in 2010 a group of volunteers began a revival and it has developed into a festival of contemporary art and local culture with a vibrant music fringe.
There is so much going on in town, a lot of the historical building are hosting exhibitions with pop up cafes galore. If your interested in history it’s a good chance to poke around some architectural and important historical gems like the Town Hall and Charles Roe’s house! For more information and a programme of events take a look at the website.