THE driving force behind the fully-restored Blackberry Fair admitted he was left 'ecstatic' as thousands descended onto Whitchurch for the return of the popular event.

Steve Chapman is a key member of the Blackberry Fair organising committee, which made its full return to the Whitchurch calendar following the Covid-19 enforced break.

With street dancing, puppets, an elephant on a bike and much more, residents and visitors young and old were treated to a great day.

And Steve admitted it was all he could ask for.

"It's turned out absolutely brilliant," he said.

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"I think the weather being what is is has really helped and been the key to everything as everyone wanted to have a good time and to smile.

"We'd have survived with a bit of rain but this was the icing on the cake to make everyone feel upbeat.

"It's a great atmosphere out there and a great vibe, and everyone I've spoken to has a had a great time.

"It means a lot that the town was packed but that's what it's about, the community.

"We asked people to send things into our 'Beauty of the Earth' theme to show why it is previous and why we should save it, and we showed the images with birdsong."

With stalls and entertainment stretching from the St Alkmund's to Green End, the message of protecting the Earth remained while also supporting Whitchurch businesses, something that Steve felt mattered.

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He said: "We've kept our core message and that's the beauty of Blackberry Fair – it's not about commercialism.

"Yes there is an element and particularly now with the crisis we're going through, we need to be helping shops and the town centre is the artery of a community.

"If you lose that, then you're in danger of losing your community.

"The youngsters have backed us as well as the town – we've had a great bunch of them come onboard to help us.

"We are a bit maverick – we have a parade and we don't want hi-vis and clipboards, just people taking back their High Street, and I'm a child of the 60s, and that's what we did.

"Provided it's in the right spirit, that's why you get this good vibe, and people come to enjoy themselves."

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And Steve admits he hopes the brilliant turn-out translates into more funding for the 2023 event.

He added: "It costs us nearly £30,000 this year but I hope that people who can give us money will see this year how the full the town is.

"We do this voluntarily but it needs a driving force and professionalism for it to work.

"Going forwards, I'm getting older and we've got to find young people who can take it on and sustain it because lots of people can pick up the baton.

"I do get a big buzz from it."

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