Marking mighty oak that grew from post-war acorn – Summer celebrations of Stevenage’s 70th anniversary set to begin

African drummers will once again provide some of the entertainment on Stevenage Day

African drummers will once again provide some of the entertainment on Stevenage Day - Credit: Archant

An oak which has grown and become bigger and stronger with age is a great metaphor for the way Stevenage has developed since the birth of the new town 70 years ago, and it’s a fitting badge for a six-month programme of celebrations to mark the anniversary which kicks off this month.

The name Stevenage probably comes from the Old English ‘Stipen ac’ or ‘place at the stiff oak’, and that’s why an oak is part of the design on the town’s coat of arms.

Organisers have dubbed the programme of anniversary activities Stevenage Oak at 70, and the programme is shaping up as a fitting tribute to those who dug, built, planted and strived to make the new town project a success in the heady post-war days of 1946.

On Sunday, June 12, it’s Stevenage Day with a big party on King George V playing fields which will include arena shows galore and two music stages, witnessing the return of the Rock in the Park event after an absence of seven years.

This will be followed by a mini arts festival from Wednesday, June 15, to Sunday, June 19, organised by Stevenage Arts Guild and centred on the Gordon Craig Theatre.

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It includes the Stevenage Celebrates talent night, performances by musicians, singers and dancers from the town’s schools over two nights and a Last Night of the Proms event.

A flower festival at the town’s parish church of St Andrew & St George will also mark the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s visit to the town to lay its foundation stone.

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Arts Guild chair Hilary Spiers said: “It’s an excuse for a celebration and people often don’t know about all the wonderful things that happen in the town so it’s a chance to let them know.”

Later in the summer there will be a celebration of the life of Gordon Craig at the theatre which bears his name starting at the end of July, and an exhibition called Post War Utopia, Building the Dream, which opens at Stevenage Museum on Saturday, July 23. Keep an eye on and for a full programme.

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