Joan Mackenzie, Chair of the Kirknewton Gala Committee, gives us an insight
into the village’s Gala Day and what is involved in running this fun event for the
Throughout West Lothian and beyond, Galas Days are seen as traditional
community fun days in which everyone in the village can come out for a day of
festivities and enjoyment. They are family friendly events for all members of
the family and are usually preceded by a week of various activities for
Kirknewton Gala Day has been in existence a long time, probably since around
1928 in an official capacity and before that informally. There were breaks for
the World Wars, but as is often the case, more recently volunteers were
becoming thin on the ground and the Gala Day stopped being held around the
turn of the century.
Fortunately, after the Community Council surveyed the locals to see if there
was enough interest in getting a new committee together to bring this
wonderful village event back, an enthusiastic committee was convened and
the Gala Day re-established in the summer of 2008.
Joan was a member of that new committee and as she says, while it mainly
comprised new people, the committee was lucky enough to entice back an
original Gala Committee member happy to join the crew and bring his much
needed knowledge of running a Gala Day.
Planning meetings began in Autumn 2007 with an initial decision by the new
committee to work on a fun-filled day, rather than spread itself too thinly by
trying to bring back a full week of Gala Day activities. They also decided to
exclude the traditional crowning of a Gala Queen and her court, concentrating
on using limited manpower to ensure a good day of events.
However, it wasn’t long before the main day was enhanced with the addition
of a five-a- side football tournament for all ages in the park on the Friday
before Gala Day and this has also become a very successful annual event in
itself, kicking off the festivities and getting the village into the swing of the
Gala. 2016 will see for the first time another addition – a fun 5k and 10k
Kirknewton Running Race to be held on the Thursday before Gala Day, bringing
in extra funds too.
The Gala Day is all about providing a fun day out for everyone in the village,
where folk can spend time with neighbours, family, and friends.
But like any event run for the village, Kirknewton Gala Day wouldn’t happen
without the support of the whole village. The committee members give up a
fair amount of their time to organise the event and they need the help of as
many other village members as possible to make the whole day work. Village
businesses and individuals alike are supportive and helpful, providing time,
advice, money, donations for raffle prizes and more. The various stalls are run
by village groups, such as the Allotment Association, Kirknewton Playgroup,
and the Youth Club. The Committee could not organise the event without the
much required help and cooperation of volunteers, together with donations
from various organisations and sources.
As for the day itself, Kirknewton Gala Day is always held on the third Saturday
of June and is officially opened at midday by a notable member of the local
community accompanied usually by a pipe or brass band, followed swiftly by
the running races.
There are entertaining displays by local groups, prominent in the village such
as West Lothian School of Dance. The tea tent is always a winner, often run by
the local SWI or a group of local volunteers.
You will also find bouncy castles, fun inflatables, carnival cut outs, obstacle
races and more. Combined with candy floss and ice-cream, popcorn and
sweeties this all makes for a traditional day out for all the family. The
Committee welcomes feedback and reacts to it, trying to accommodate
everyone’s ideas and suggestions. The line-up includes professional
entertainers as well as local groups and often includes animal or bird shows
The Gala cements community spirit by providing a fun day out for all with
refreshments, family entertainment for all ages such as wheelbarrow races,
egg and spoon, races and a chance to meet up with friends and relax. Last year
a beer tent was added for the first time to the general approval of all. A
combination of sunshine, friendship and a pint of real ale was a winner!
Of course as Joan points out, in order for any of this to happen and for the Gala
to continue its success, there is a need for volunteers at all stages of planning.
New committee members are required to bring a fresh approach and ideas,
particularly younger members who can add their own ideas; volunteers to help
set up and take down on the day and perhaps most important of all, to give
even just half an hour during the event so that everyone can enjoy the majority
of the day.
The current Committee members all give of their spare time, even though
many are working full time and have families to care for. A lot of the work is
done behind the scenes, applying for funding and licences, hiring marquees
and entertainment, producing the brochure, liaising with the council,
emergency services, first aiders and so on as well as the hard graft of shopping,
admin, set up and take down.
Kirknewton Gala has a Facebook page where the Committee can post
information to the community and in turn receive feedback. If you have any
ideas you can post them here and of course offer your help.
Planning for the Gala Day in June begins in earnest from January onwards, with
monthly committee meetings. The general theme is decided and booking the
entertainment begins, along with form filling. The meetings become more
frequent leading up to the event and after the day a feedback meeting is held.
The AGM is held toward the end of the year when new Committee members
Additionally, the Gala Committee organises the now annual Torchlight
Procession and Tree lighting ceremony which heralds the Christmas Festival,
getting the village in the mood for Christmas. This year’s procession will be
held on Sunday 4 th December.
If having now read all about Kirknewton Gala Day, you feel you would like to
help in any way, no matter how small, the Committee would love to hear from
you. The more the merrier! In 2014 Kirknewton Gala won the Event of the
Year Award at the Kirknewton Volunteer Awards, recognition of the fact that
Gala Day is one of the best days of the year on the village calendar. Your village