Picture the scene... 2004, the Beehive pub, Swindon. A group of dedicated Jasper Fforde fans are holding their first event, an interactive performance of Shakespeare’s ‘Richard III’. Everyone is having a great time and a man named Phil McMullan wishes that this could happen again; that next time it could be bigger, better, and maybe last for a whole weekend. And so, after getting together a small band of similarly minded fans, the idea for the first Fforde Ffiestival (as it was named back then) was born. Put together with the aim of getting Fforde fans together for some silliness and the chance to get to know one another, the event is a celebration of the books and of the absurd – and lobsters. We can’t forget the lobsters.
At the Fforde Ffiestival, held in Swindon Old Town during September 2005, attendees taking park in extreme croquet (complete with an Italianate sunken garden), a village fête, complete with games and sideshows, a guided open topped bus tour of Swindon and the first round of ‘Celebrity Name That Fruit’, every fans favourite quiz show.
The weekend was a huge international success – and took the inaugural committee by surprise. A fun auction at the end of the event, initially intended solely to help offset the cost of staging the undertaking, made a profit of several hundred pounds, all of which was donated to local Swindon-based charities, including one helping children with reading difficulties. Content with having done a good job, the exhausted Ffestival committee retired gracefully in September 2005, with no intention of ever doing anything as crazy as that again. Ever.
We held out for one whole year. Around Christmas 2006, the same committee (give or take a person or two), met again and started laying down plans for what was to become The Fforde Ffiesta. It was to be bigger, even more ambitious and if anything even crazier than the Ffestival which had gone before it.
Relocating to a hotel on the outskirts of Swindon, The Fforde Ffiesta took place in May 2008 and was even more successful than the committee dared hope. Once again it featured stalls, games, entertainments and a guided tour of Swindon, this time in a vintage bus. Another auction was held to offset costs, and thanks to some extremely generous donations a four-figure sum was this time sent to Alzheimer’s research charities once the bills had been paid.
Planning for the 2010 Fforde Ffiesta started shortly afterwards. The committee - by now dubbed “The Fforganisers” – was expanded in order to achieve the ambitions set out by Jasper, to take the Ffiesta to the next level again, and someday perhaps beyond even the boundary of Swindon. Held on the 28th – 30th May, the event, with the help of the Chronoguard, travelled back to 1985 and saw not only the legendary pre-union gig by the infamous Strontium Goat, but the coming together of the First Legion of the Danvers, setting the world record for the most Danverclones in one place at any time.
And so, with the sounds of 1985 still ringing in our ears it was on to the 2011 Ffiesta, taking the event back to 1968. With more Danvers, Lobsters and the resurrection of the Swindon bus tour (in a genuine 1960s bus), the Ffiesta rose to ever greater levels of success. The weekend’s events, which included an excellent training session from the local Croquet club, The Nextian Factor, and the return of everyone’s favourite, Lobster Space Invaders, even attracted the local (and even international) press, with a full page feature in the Swindon Advertiser.
For 2012, the Ffiesta travelled back even further to 1952, for the Queen's corronation. The Danverclones were out in force and their march on ASDA was something to behold. The murder of the Grand Old Duke of York formed the basis of a murder mystery weekend which will be very hard to forget.
In 2013 the Ffiesta was held in 2057, the Danverclone multiplied to a record breaking 69, Spike put in an appearance to train his new recruits and we had a very succesful village fete. Jasper brought along a massive box of Kapla bricks that resulted in some truely impressive models. To cap it all off we had a worldwide premier of a new song by Talis Kimberley
In 2015 we celebrated the 10th anniversary of this wonderful event. The Danverclone army remained at 69, equalling 2013, instead of an actual bus tour we built our own version of Swindon out of boxes and then had a tour around that. Richard III put in an appearance to remind us where it all started. We also introduced the surprisingly successful Evade the Question Time which will be sure to put in an appearance at the next Ffiesta.