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By Annalie |

River Festival 2024 – a personal view by Bjorn Hove

Bedford River Festival 2024 is just a few months away – but for Bjorn Hove the much-loved event is always here. 

Because Bjorn is Lead Events and Infrastructure Officer for Bedford Borough Council. And while the River Festival only takes place every two years, the planning for each one starts just a few weeks after clean-up along the Embankment finishes.

He said; “We have our debrief after each River Festival, and then I try to stop thinking about it for a month. After that, I’ll spend the next two years working on it.

“By this time of year, when the festival is only a few months away, my supportive wife knows that whether I’m at work or at the dinner table, I’ll be thinking about the River Festival almost 24 hours a day!

“This year we’ll have a family area at St Mary’s Gardens, which will have things like Rhyme Time and other activities for younger families, and a petting zoo. We’re also working with our special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) team to have a dedicated area for the SEND community on St Mary’s Gardens too.  We want everybody to feel that they can come along and have a festival experience.

“And the Bedford Music Hub will have their own stage for the first time this year, with children and young people from across the Borough playing to thousands of people.”

Despite being one of the River Festival’s biggest fans, Bjorn has only once attended it without working – his first-ever festival in 1996. After that he spent several years doing bar shifts over the festival weekend, before joining the Council’s Events team in 2004.

He said; “The festival doesn’t make a profit for the Council, but it does offer people one of the biggest festivals in the country in the heart of our town. Not everyone can afford to go on holiday or to Glastonbury, but you can enjoy the festival experience and not pay a penny on the day if you don’t want to.

“It’s great for the town and it’s great for the Borough. It promotes Bedford’s shops, it promotes community groups and charities, and it’s a huge boost to the local economy.”

Bjorn estimates that the River Festival usually accounts for “around 30%” of his job, thanks to the sheer range of events which take place in Bedford Borough. Or as he puts it, “I also oversee the play areas, all the parks infrastructure.

“We’ve got between 70 and 100 events in our parks each year, ranging from fun runs to the Bedford Park Concerts, which we don’t run as a council but are engaged with.”

And while his involvement can vary enormously between different events, he is proud of every one of them.

“Sometimes it’s just checking paperwork, whereas other people will need more guidance and advice from our team so that their events can be safe and successful,” said Bjorn.

“People of all ages have something to enjoy in the Borough. It doesn’t matter if it’s the River Festival, the music concerts, the Eid Festival at Addison Howard Park, the Regattas, the parkruns or the small community events, the organisers put so much effort in.

“I’m a Bedford boy, and I like to see all events be successful in our Borough.”

Bedford River Festival will take place this summer on 20 and 21 July.

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