As Pontefract Civic Society turned 50 in May, over 100 members and guests attended a celebration concert at Pontefract Town Hall with Doncaster Youth Jazz Orchestra.

The musicians delivered a great selection of big band, swing and jazz classics, including three vocal numbers, and the Assembly Rooms were especially decorated to mark 50 years of civic service in Pontefract. The event was opened by the Town Crier, John Turner, and as the proceeds of the raffle were shared with the Prince of Wales Hospice, Michelle Grainger was invited to speak about her 50/50 fundraising challenges, which on the night raised £76, which topped up with donations bring the total to £116. Before the concert got under way, civic society chair, Paul Cartwright said “50 years ago, Pontefract & District Civic Trust was formed to keep an eye on development of the built environment, conservation, heritage, road and rail, though over the years it’s remit has broadened becoming more outward looking on all matters relating to the functioning of the town as a whole”.

Earlier in May, a different format was adopted for the civic society’s monthly talk, where Paul Cartwright interviewed Allan R Blaza in front of members and guests, the event was entitled ‘50 Years of Civic Pride in Pontefract’.

Allan Blaza, a founder member and first Secretary at the society, regaled tales and successes from the early decades, and the presentation of the event was set against the background of images, events and people from the era together with pop music of the late 60’s/early 70’s. Allan spoke with pride about a campaign to stop unsympathetic paving and street furniture planned for the refurbishment of Pontefract town centre, which was then changed to deliver the precinct that we now all enjoy.  Other reminiscences included the loss of New Hall (a fine Elizabethan House), the Georgian Micklegate House, Great Northern House and the Flying Horse pub, and a less than impressive development, that of Jubilee Way severing the town. Allan was equally proud of two periods of refurbishment of Pontefract Town Hall done at different times which had the involvement and some financial support from the civic society for internal decoration. He also spoke about the status of some of the former guests for the annual dinner invited by the then President, Lady Rosse (mother of Lord Snowdon) from Womersley Hall, which included Sir John Betjeman, Nikolaus Pevsner, Patrick Moore, and Princess Margaret who was revealed to be a Lucky Strike chain smoker!

Moving forward into this celebratory year for Pontefract Civic Society, an Afternoon Tea is being hosted at Farmer Copley’s on Thurs 11th July, and tickets will shortly go on sale for an afternoon, which will also include a flower arranging demonstration, entertainment from Sharp Rose, and a birthday cake.

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