Crisis meeting over Haworth 1940s Weekend as residents demand action over drunken behaviour, traffic management and parking problems
The nostalgic event has a long history in the famous Bronte village and has taken place since the 1990s, but has grown to attract around 40,000 visitors – which many locals claim has led to issues with its management and organisation.
Normally held in Central Park, the 2023 weekend overspilled onto Main Street, leading to complaints about vendors and stalls blocking access to properties and shops. It is organised independently by a local committee, who are awarded permits and licenses by Bradford Council.
Parking has also become contentious, with residents claiming that the road into the village effectively became a single-track lane with poor access for emergency vehicles.
There are also worries that the event has become too alcohol-orientated, with military re-enactments by enthusiasts replaced by groups ‘on the p***’. One resident said they had witnessed visitors urinating in the graveyard of the church where the Bronte sisters’ father was a curate and others snorting cocaine off the windowsill of a sheltered housing complex. Concerns have been raised about the presence of deactivated replica firearms, which under law are only licensed for use in re-enactment displays, and a recent increase in the number of Nazi uniforms worn, as these are forbidden at similar events.
Writing anonymously, a worried villager said: “When this event began, more than 25 years ago, it was a modest affair, where enthusiasts could wear vintage clothing and admire cars from that era against the backdrop of our famous Pennine village. In recent years, the 1940s Weekend has grown to the extent that more than 40,000 people descend on Haworth for two days. The original committee resigned a few years ago when they realised that the event had become too big for our village and that it was impossible to hold it in safety, and with respect for the residents.
"A new committee took over, and the 1940s Weekend has become a disaster waiting to happen. Communication with residents is so poor that people open their doors on the Saturday morning to find that huge food stalls, or mobile bars, have been erected within feet of their homes. Roads are closed at the whim of the organisers. Generators are set outside homes and run continuously for 48 hours. This year, one such generator was under the bedroom window of a dying man. Stallholders arrive from far away and have no idea where their pitch is. Residents get parking tickets for parking legitimately outside their homes - or their access to their driveways is blocked by inconsiderate parking. Roads into and out of Haworth are reduced to single track by parked coaches - so buses can’t run, and on some roads emergency vehicles cannot pass.
"There is a myth, propagated mainly by supporters of the event who don’t live here, that the 1940s Weekend is ‘good for the village economy’. A small minority of the shops, pubs and restaurants may do well, but scratch the surface and it becomes apparent that many traders dread the weekend; shoplifting increases, the huge amount of alcohol available leads to fights and pubs have to employ extra staff just to keep things safe. Most of the money spent by the 40,000 goes to the dozens of stallholders, who all pay a pitch fee to the organisers and who can undercut the fixed premises.
"Residents find people sitting on their windowsills, throwing rubbish or urinating in their gardens or in the famous graveyard. Do you just have to accept this as wartime banter and respect for our ‘Finest Hour’?
“The supporters of the 1940s Weekend, make much of honouring the memory of those who made sacrifices during the Second World War. In fact nearly everyone in Haworth who actually lived through the war now lives in the sheltered housing whose lawns are a reluctant part of the event. This year they had to watch bare-chested men swigging beer on their grass, armed enthusiasts dressed in the uniform of the Waffen SS strutting about, and people snorting cocaine from their windowsills.
"Things have become so bad that many residents go away for the weekend. Why should people be forced from their homes, or be unable to use their vehicles, or sleep at night, or even spend their dying days in peace? The 1940s Weekend is effectively a 48-hour party in our home, over which we have no control.“
The meeting, held in the Old School Room, was arranged by Martin Lingard, from nearby Oxenhope, who now feels it is no longer safe to take his 81-year-old mother to the event that she used to enjoy.
"In previous years, it has been beneficial, and I wouldn’t want to see it stopped. But it was shockingly organised this year and it has become dangerous. There were medical incidents, fortunately not too serious, but there was no way of getting an ambulance up Main Street.
"Vendors set up outside people’s homes and they have no idea when it is going to happen. The organising committee needs to take into account the impact on residents and businesses. There’s a misconception that the event is good for them. Maybe it is if you have a bar or food offer, but for others, takings are down and shoplifting is up.
"The parking arrangements were bad this year. There used to be a drop-off area and coaches would then go up to Penistone Hill Country Park. This year they were parked along the road, all the way up to Stanbury.
"Where is the accountability? The links to Bradford Council are unclear, but they must have given permission for the event to move to Main Street.
"The demographic has changed. It used to be about 1940s fashion and music, but it’s now degenerated into an excuse to walk about in army gear getting drunk. These deactivated firearms aren’t licensed, as there are no proper re-enactment societies attending.
"The Nazi uniforms are distasteful and I’ve noticed more of them in recent years.There was next to no support from officials – very few wardens or marshals were visible, they had hardly any presence.
"We just want to change the atmosphere and make it safer.”
The Yorkshire Post has also seen a copy of a report from meetings held between Bradford Council’s Safety Advisory Group – which included West Yorkshire Police – and the event organisers.
The 1940s committee’s representative told the SAG that issues had arisen because of a late decision by a farmer to withdraw permission for the event to use a field next to Bronte Parsonage Museum, leaving the committee searching for alternative locations. An artisan market had already booked Central Park.
A new planning meeting was then held before the festival, and the SAG was satisified, though they advised altered start times, consultation with residents, traffic management, road closures, signage, licences and parking provision.
A debrief then took place after the weekend, in which it was confirmed that there had been seven minor medical incidents and one arrest for a public order offence. The report cautioned that some of the reported incidents were ‘hearsay’ with no evidence, and that both highways and licensing officers at the council had received no official complaints. A council representative had visited the event and reported the atmosphere to be ‘serene and laid-back’.
Communication problems, which included social media information that was misleading and changed frequently, were discussed, as was organisers failing to tell campervan owners that they could not park in the primary school’s car park as originally advertised. A letter drop to homes and businesses was carried out, and the committee member said that the parish council had been ‘challenging’ to interact with.
The organiser added that many issues had resulted from the plans changing so late, and that they had held a public meeting in a pub that was poorly attended. Although they accepted the placement of generators was an issue, they also referred to some residents as ‘nasty’ towards the committee.
When questioned about the number of licensed bars – there were 20 outlets selling alcohol on Main Street – the organiser said that ideally they would have been spaced out had the park been available, but the vendors were needed to generate revenue.
On the subject of parking, police described the situation as ‘overall a bit chaotic’ and highways officers said the traffic management plan needed to be revamped. The organiser replied that the committee had asked for exclusive use of Central Park and would ‘learn lessons’.
The report’s recommendations were for: more stewards to patrol; letters to be sent to a wider geographic area with six weeks notice, and including detailed map of stall locations and road closures; a staffed contact number for complaints; the event to be more spread out; consider having no stalls on Main Street; review and present a new traffic plan; clarify stance on campervan parking; consider the number of temporary alcohol licences; review toilet provision.
A Bradford Council spokesperson said: “Council representatives were due to attend the meeting and listen to the representations made by anyone attending. The Haworth 1940s Weekend is not an event run by the council. However, following the event this year, when some residents expressed concerns, a debrief was held with the organisers and members of the Safety Advisory Group, and recommendations were made to address the concerns.”
Organising committee representative Chris Slaven said: “This event puts Haworth on the map and as our survey shows many people return to Haworth when it’s quieter. That’s good for inward investment into the village.
"The cricket club, primary school and Manorlands Hospice all charged for parking and were able to collect donations. The village hall also generated revenue from bar sales. We have made a donation to the village’s Christmas event.
"The concerns of the residents are noted and will be taken into account in future plans.”
Things have become so bad that many residents go away for the weekend. Why should people be forced from their homes, or be unable to use their vehicles, or sleep at night, or even spend their dying days in peace? As one resident remarked, ’The 1940s Weekend is effectively a forty-eight hour party in our home, over which we have no control.'There will be a public meeting to discuss the 1940s Weekend on Monday 18 September at 7pm at the Old School Room, Church St., Haworth, to which all are invited.
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