The signature event of the WTF calendar, Willfest, is our invitation-only celebration of Will’s life doing the things he enjoyed most: listening to live music, eating good food, and being with the people we care about most.
Our back garden becomes a festival site for 24 hours with stages, refreshments and not the odd puddle or two! Friends and family come together spend time celebrating all that Will was- a loyal friend, a kind heart, an intelligent soul and a fun loving young man.
Willfest is also our biggest fundraiser of the year and we have to thank local businesses for their continued support. With the help of Nutbrook Brewery we have created our own light beer, Brew 45, which is available on draft and by the bottle. We think it’s a beer Will might have approved of. Oakfield Farm are the purveyors of the most delicious burgers, using only products from their farm in Stanley Common. Custom Group always send an army of helpers to set up stages without which performers would probably be stuck in mud.
Will loved music festivals and was lucky enough to go to Glastonbury and Reading and Leeds festivals several times. And while Willfest is not quite to this scale we like to think we have created an atmosphere Will would have enjoyed and approved of.
In 2020 we asked ourselves … What does a normal Willfest look like? Well, usually there are hundreds of people; there’s 8 hours of loud, live music; there’s comedy; there are local businesses selling all sorts from lip balm to burgers; and there are always conversations about Will and warm hugs. It’s a great coming together to celebrate Will’s life.
So what do you do, when we’re in the middle of a pandemic, and social distancing means we can’t get within 2 meters of each other?
Well, you go online !!
With a little bit of vision, and a huge helping of technical know-how, we brought together performances by local artists and had our first YouTube Premiere.
There were performances from bands in their garage (Baltimore Jacks), in the countryside (Acoustic Union), and even in their spare bedroom (Lee Brown). We had hilarious performances from Will Marler and Ian Eckloff and we joined Megan and Jess and Pete and many others in various rooms in their homes. And it was all topped off with a staggering performance from SPG that can only be described as enthusiastic!
With the help of our supporters we also brought messages of self-care (Beth Morton Riley), and the importance of talking (Ben Taylor) throughout the event: after all, WTF aims to help young people in particular, make more informed decisions about their own well-being, and Willfest was a great vehicle for this.
Willfest is our biggest fundraiser of the year so we had to get creative with how to do this online – and throughout the video there are reminders of ways to donate. Huge thanks to everyone who donated, continued to donate, or encouraged someone else to donate. We do appreciate every donation: every penny will help us pay for books and resources in our Well Being Libraries.
Huge thanks go to every performer, and every supporter of every performer, who helped come up with innovative ways to perform. Thanks especially to Will Marler whose idea it was to try the Youtube Premier and who tirelessly and brilliantly put the whole thing together. (You can link to the replay on the WTF Youtube channel here).
It was an incredible show and something WTF are enormously proud of.
Next year? Let’s wait and see…
Our gratitude and thanks to all the following performers:
Megan & Liv
In 2019 despite the weather, the day was awesome. This year’s Willfest was a lot earlier in the year than usual so we were not surprised when the heaven’s opened and almost led to our first wash out. The rain did not stop play, of course. Record numbers came and joined us with wellies and raincoats. With a few extra gazebos placed appropriately, we created a festival tent that provided not only cover but extra warmth too!
Oakfield Farm brought the barbeque for the best burgers for miles around and Dean, from Nutbrook Brewery, brought along gallons of Brew 45, our specially brewed beer, which we like to think Will would have enjoyed.
This year we also welcomed Helen, who brought her ‘Gin Bar’ for the first time; Vicki, from ‘Forever Living’ who was selling products that help support our emotional and physical well-being; and Carrie and Ali who have set up a charity ‘Agape’ that provides support for parents, whose children are experiencing a mental health crisis.
As for the music, we enjoyed some incredible performances from newcomers to Willfest, Pete Holsworth; Will’s friend, and local comedian, Will Marler; Willfest regular, Richard Jenkins; and old favourites, (in more ways than one) NEQ, who have had more name changes than Mrs Henry VIII. And of course we have been entertained by the up and coming Rock Hard and the Viagras who constantly amaze us with their extraordinary capability (their own words, not mine!)
The highlight of the day, though, was an incredible set by SPG who got the audience out of their seats, and many of them out of their shirts, to dance, and jump and thrash around to punk favourites by Blondie, The Clash, Stiff Little Fingers, and many more. That it was pouring with rain didn’t do anything to crush spirits, instead SPG’s front man seemed to come alive!
As has become tradition, the evening was rounded off by a rendition of Wonderwall. All in all, an amazing day.
2018 the sun shone brightly and so did the smiles. What a glorious day! We could not have asked for better weather. Everybody wanted a Willfest T-shirt and we’d sold out by tea time! Everybody was thirsty – Dean, from Nutbrook Brewery, had to go and fetch another barrel of our signature beer, Brew 45, to satisfy demand. And everybody was hungry – Andy, from Oakfield Farm, brought burgers and halloumi that sold like veritable hot cakes.
We had some new faces this year. We also welcomed Krystina Marie, who is a grammy award winner, and has the voice of an angel. Mike enjoyed his comedy set, but then so did one or two others! And 2018 breakthrough band, Rock Hard and the Viagras with their first ever set, stunned us all !
We also welcomed SPG, a Sheffield based band who got the whole crowd going with their unique take on punk classics like Anarchy in the UK, Blitzcreig Bop and Suspect Device.
Willfest favourites Jordan Shepherd, Richard Jenkins, and Mid- Life Crisis performed in the blazing heat and entertained the crowds all afternoon.
Newly reformed Kingfisher Blue rounded off a fantastic day’s music with an eclectic mix of folk-rock. Roll on Willfest19!
Thanks to everyone who helped in any way at all – we couldn’t do it without you.
2017 was our second Willfest and it was soooo much fun. The weather was perfect, if a little cold as the sun disappeared behind the clouds as dusk. Loads of people arrived to support, and celebrate Will’s life with us. Thank you to those of you who have stood with us whilst we find a way to live again without Will. Thank you also to those of you who have given up your valuable time to help us plan Willfest17. And thanks to all those who volunteered on the day: we couldn’t do it without you.
Brilliant local artists turned up again to help us celebrate Will’s life with live music The Silk Road kick started this year’s event for the second year running with their ‘infectious blend of raw punk, gritty passionate lyrics, and foot stomping Celtic jigs and reels’. If you ever get the chance to see them play, go. Just go. They are awesome! They now have a record deal and have just released their first album ‘ The Silk Road’. We like to think we started them on their way.
We enjoyed a first performance from the amazing Evie and Orla. Local teachers were a feature this year as Tom Lucking (primary) took to the acoustic stage and Rich McKerron and Andy (secondary school) showed off their Djembe drum band. Another local favourite is the amazingly talented singer songwriter Josh Kemp, who’s been a friend for many years.
We were honoured to welcome Jenny Eckloff to the acoustic stage. She brought along her guitar, as well as her children’s books (The Girl Who Took Her Rocket to the Moon and other stories) which raise awareness about mental health for children through the medium of beautifully told stories. She is very generously donating proceeds from the sale of these to WTF. Thanks Jenny!
And by no means least, back by popular demand was the Supergroup, who rounded the day off leading the crowd with their own unique version of Wonderwall, one of Will’s favourite sing a longs.
2016 was our first Willfest. Will missed his 21st birthday, so we decided we would celebrate for him with some of the things he enjoyed the most: live music, food, and good friends. Custom Group provided the staging, and just about everyone we knew provided gazebos (not that we needed them – the rain stopped just as the first band began performing and started again just as the last one finished. We couldn’t have planned it any better).
We reckon Will would have loved Chesterfield Celtic folk-punk band, The Silk Road, who took to the main stage to get the event off to a brilliant start. He’d have appreciated the talent of the fiddle and banjo players and passionate front man, Tich, which all combines to create a really exciting sound: a heady mix for a sunny, late summer’s, afternoon. They wear their hearts on their sleeves and keep their feet firmly planted in values of solidarity, compassion and the wish for a better world for all’ a world view I think we can all buy into and one that Will would definitely have approved of.
Will used to do pantomime when he was younger and he once played Buttons, to a friend’s Cinders. Fay Miles, who played Cinders, did a beautiful and emotional set that culminated in a rendition of ‘Rule the World’ the song that they had once sung in Cinderella. Simply stunning; there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Lee Brown’s acoustic set would have appealed to Will’s sense of fun (he would certainly have approved of Lee’s hat style – Will loved his hats, got a bedroom full of them!). Lee did a few old favourites with a jazzy twist – Jungle Book’s ‘I wanna be like you’ was brilliant!
We were blessed to have so many friends and family turn up to support us at Willfest and we’re thankful to them all. It’s not a drinking session, just to get drunk, or to be lairy, we don’t want that at Willfest, Will would have hated that. And we will be eternally grateful to all the performers, those we know and those who were recommended to us, and who willingly gave up their time to help us out. Thanks also to everyone who served drinks, and hot dogs, and mushy peas and to those who sold raffle tickets.
It wasn’t the 21st birthday celebration we’d been looking forward to, (it’s hard to celebrate when the birthday boy himself isn’t there to join in), but it was good. And we think Will would have loved it.
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