It seems hardly believable that we are on the cusp of 2023. With the festive lunches behind us, and the thoughts of New Years celebrations on the horizon, it is not a shock to think most of us are looking towards ‘next year’ but for the next few minutes, we’d like to look back. Back over a truly remarkable year in a City for All Seasons!
January began with the finishing touches being put to the Visit Ely Visitor Guide for 2022 – our yearly publication covering some of the incredible things you can do, establishments you can eat and drink in, shops where you can browse and places to stay so you can enjoy the City at your leisure.
Once the book is finished and it’s sent to print, we await the inevitable moment when some sixteen thousand books turn up here and we begin unloading them! It is all worth it however, when the first copy is handed out and we begin to see people enjoying all the City has to offer. Fast forward to December 2022 and we’ve got no copies left but are nearly finished with the 2023 edition! And what a year awaits….
But back to Winter and the other project that filled our minds and took our time! The celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee of her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. A truly monumental undertaking for the team at Visit Ely – but more on that in the Summer….
Winter rolled onwards, the city began to bloom as Spring came around.
The City’s heritage featured large in April when a team from BBC News came to record a piece about the Jews Free School and the evacuation of those students to Ely. Working with Ely Museum, who have on display a wonderful exhibition concerning this difficult time, and local Historian Mike Rouse’s book, Bernstein’s Boys. The book acts as the collection and focal point for the extensive research Mike had undertaken, and for the first time put together many of the stories and recollections of those families who hosted the evacuees and the evacuees themselves.
A walking tour revealed to the world the stories of this unsettling time, revealing the resilience, the bravery and the dedication of the staff of the Jews Free School, the young people taken from their London homes and placed in the embrace of the people of our Medieval city, and those remarkable people who opened their doors and hearts.
It was only alas, a matter of weeks from this incredible event, that Mike Rouse passed away at the age of 82. The shockwave of sadness that rippled through Ely was immense and we would just like to take this moment to say “Thank you, Mike, for Everything”
Behind the scenes of the past two Seasons, the Visit Ely office was incredibly busy organising the four days of celebrations for the Platinum Jubilee. It was a monumental undertaking but after 6 months of planning, thousands of emails, thousands of phone calls, a few sleepless nights, a sizeable amount of biscuits and support from far and wide, the first of four days began.
The choir assembled on St Mary’s Green, the Town Crier gave her final public address, the Piper played and the beacon was lit. The thousands who gathered, cheered and it became apparent that this was something truly remarkable, a once in a lifetime event and Ely came out to show the world just what this little City in the Fens can do.
From there it was full steam ahead, with The Grand Platinum Jubilee Food and Craft Fair, consisting of over 50 stalls, over 6000 visitors and for the Visit Ely Team, about 10 miles walked per person – despite the event being on modest sized site!
As mentioned, our Town Crier, Avril Hayter-Smith, retired after many wonderful years of dedication, and the third day of celebrations saw the competition to appoint the new Town Crier. After a rigorous selection process, a new Town Crier was appointed – Cecilia de Boer – who has carried on the incredible legacy of Avril throughout 2022.
The final day of the celebrations was special for several reasons – it saw the return of Ely’s beloved Eel Day, back to full strength and size after the Covid 19 Pandemic, along with the return of the Eel Parade that led people through the City and down to the riverside for the celebrations. In honour of the celebrations, for one year only the day was “Ely’s Jubil-Eel Day” – yes, it was wet, yes it was a bit windy but the City of Ely, the people, came out and made the day a huge success!
You’d like to imagine that the Visit Ely team then took a well deserved break….. But no! Not a chance!
Autumn saw the return of Heritage Open Days, a wonderful series of events spotlighting elements of Ely’s rich history, often inaccessible and all completely free – from guided walks to access to remarkable private homes, Heritage Open Days was once again a well-received and much-loved series of events.
It was also in early Autumn, that her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II passed away at 96 years of age. It truly made the team reflect on the Jubilee Celebrations and just how much was given by Queen Elizabeth II during her incredible reign.
Apple and Harvest Day, now in it’s 21st year, was another large event that saw people from far and wide come to Ely and discover the rich history of the Orchards in and around Ely. With traders and food vendors covering a range of products, it was another stellar Apple and Harvest Fayre, and a wonderful way to bring Autumn to a close. Not forgetting another successful year of Ghost Walks and Tours, including Witchcraft, Haunted Houses, Spooky Boats and Nightwatchmen!
Back to Winter we come, with the Festive Fayre in late November (with snow, as promised) and a visit from Old Saint Nick as well, along with a Christmas Hamper competition, a Best Dressed Festive Window challenge. You’d once again like to imagine that we’re having a rest but no, 2023 awaits!
With a 1350th Anniversary to celebrate, the return of Ely’s Two Day Food, Drink and Craft Fair – this event will have a theme to tie in with the Coronation of his Majesty King Charles III with stall holder being invited to celebrate and decorate around this monumental occasion – Eel Day, Armed Forces day and so much more, it’s going to be one of the busiest years ever and we sincerely hope you’ll be joining us!