The Fair Organ Preservation Society Discussion Forum

Widnes Rally
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Author:  Degs [ Sun Sep 27, 2015 3:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Widnes Rally

Just been to the vintage rally at Widnes and was surprised at how few organs were on display. There were no large organs, mainly street and hand models which again, were fewer in number. Is there a particular reason this year or has the event changed in some way so as organs no longer attend.

Author:  George Houghton [ Mon Sep 28, 2015 1:53 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Widnes Rally

The Widnes Rally unfortunately has suffered the same fate as many other events and that is because many Organs are not available any more. Owners have reached a time in their life when age or financial reasons restrict them from travelling so much.
Organ owners bring their machines to Widnes FREE and bear the cost of fuel etc so it has become expensive to travel an Organ without payment. Over the years that the Rally has been running we have had some very generous enthusiasts who have brought their machines from all over the country each year without receiving any financial reward and the Rally managed to have some of the top prestige Organs both Large and Small, The Rally was started some 25 years ago by a few Members of the North West Group who thought it was a good idea to stage a get together for owners of Organs to have a social weekend at the end of the Rally season and has been expanding each year but times change.
This year we were down to about 8 hand turned Organs and about 10 Larger Organs including Graham Atkinsons Gavioli and Entertainment Stage, unfortunately 4 Organs had to leave on Saturday night due to other commitments and no one came on Sunday to replace them.
It would be ideal if we could pay some expenses to organs but the Council insist on the Show being free entry and free car parking so there is no way to recoup the costs.
The estimated attendance over the 2 days was in excess of 31000 and with the bonus of the Summer weather the event was once again a huge success.
My grateful thanks to all who attended I hope you had a great weekend in sunny Widnes.

Author:  Dave Stubbs [ Mon Sep 28, 2015 3:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Widnes Rally

Sorry to hear you were disappointed about the lack of organs at the Widnes Rally this year.

I will give a brief history of the rally with some possible reasons for the lack of instruments.

The event evolved from the North West Group FOPS rally at Astley Green Colliery in Lancashire, which started in 1990 as an end-of-rally-season gathering for organ owners. Years later, it moved to Abbotsfield Park in Urmston near Manchester and the rally ran there until 1999.

The event was rained off that year and the main organiser George Houghton suggested the event was moved to Victoria Park in Widnes, which was close to where he lived and was maintained by Halton Council, who were keen to run the rally.

The first rally was held there in 2000 and over the years became a major annual event with up to 50 organs and hand turned in attendance. George liaised with Halton Council, who kindly provided their resources for the event.

A number of years ago George felt he was unable to continue as main organiser, so he handed control of the event to Halton Council, who now run it as a vintage rally which has become very popular

It costs a considerable amount of money to hold an event of that size, especially when you take into account they don't charge an entrance fee, the £20000+ it costs to run has to come from somewhere - councils are always short of cash. The funding is provided by sponsorship and rents taken from the fairground, traders and the beer operator. It is important to note that exhibitors are not paid, so their attendance is entirely voluntary.

There is only a limited amount of space available in the park and the council are always trying to fill the space with as much variety as possible - if you attend any vintage rally, you will notice there are only a limited number of organs - so I suppose organ owners probably don't see Widnes as an organ rally anymore and are reluctant to attend (especially as there is no attendance fee), although there are no specific limits to the number of organs that can apply for entry.

It is sad to see the reducing numbers of instruments at the event, but one factor is the decline of touring organs. Large instruments like Whites Gavioli, Malcolm Reeder's Gavioli, Frank Lithgoe's Marenghi (and others) all used to attend the rally, but are no longer on the road.

As George said in his reply, another factor for the decline is the ever increasing age of organ owners who don't like to travel too far.

I must correct you when you say there were no large organs there, Graham Atkinson's "Southsea" Gavioli was about half way up the park with the stage, but it wasn't playing all day due to other entertainers using the stage, however the Pauleen Reeder dancers had a number of performances on both days with the Gavioli providing the music and it was also played when the stage wasn't in use.

On Saturday we had Allan Guest and Eddy Nickson with their collection of organs and also Nigel Wilkinson with "The Twister", but they were only available for one day, so Sunday was looking rather sparse!

Will we ever see another organ rally with 50 organs / hand turned? That is a difficult question to answer, probably not. For example, the Great Dorset Steam Fair used to have over 100 organs, but the event organisers didn't see the need for so many and their numbers have now been reduced dramatically.

On a personal note, I think the Widnes Rally is the best free-entry event in the North West and the council are very keen to continue with it, so I expect it will return next year.

Author:  Degs [ Mon Sep 28, 2015 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Widnes Rally

Thanks George & Dave, sorry about missing out the stage organ & please don't think my post was a complaint, it was really meant to be an enquiry, apologies if it came over the wrong way.. I am sorry it was down to cost & age & that the organ side of it has diminished. Don't remember how I heard about it but I did go when it was in Urmston a few times & really enjoyed it. In fact I almost went to Urmston in error the first time it was held at Widnes but heard it given out on the radio. I have visited several vntage days, shows etc & I have also in recent years regularly been to the vintage rally at Birkenhead Park, though missed it this year, which had also shrunk in respect of organs, engines etc. I noticed last year they had started charging & this year it had moved to the week before Widnes & was hoping this was the reason for the lower numbers of exhibits as having been this way one week, didn't want to come back to the North West a week later, but did suspect it may be down to cost.
However, I still enjoyed the afternoon & will attend the event & other similar again. I have always been fond of the sound of mechanical organs & will still stop & listen to them when I come across them.

Author:  Dave Stubbs [ Mon Sep 28, 2015 7:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Widnes Rally

Hi Degs.

Don't worry, I could see you were making an observation which was perfectly valid, but I thought an explanation of the rally would be of interest to anyone who was wondering where the organs had gone.

I was at the Birkenhead Park event last week - actually with one of the organs (the Dean) - and noticed they started charging £2 for entry, which I suppose is a sign of the times unfortunately.

Glad you enjoyed your afternoon at Widnes.

Author:  George Houghton [ Wed Sep 30, 2015 10:47 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Widnes Rally

Hi Degs.
As Dave said in his reply no offence was taken with your post.
I also am a little disappointed that the Organ numbers are down from recent years, but understand some of the reasons for that.
Congratulations to Halton Council who still manage to stage the event despite all the financial restrictions that are imposed on them, how long that can go on is anyone's guess, each year costs go up and managing the budget for the event is not easy.
Other similar events have gone due to lack of funding.
The Rally is certainly very popular with the public so the Council must be doing some things right and we all hope that the event will continue for many years to come.

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