Cheers as beer festival saved

Festival-goers visiting the foreign beer bar at the Bent and Bongs Beer Bash in Atherton
Festival-goers visiting the foreign beer bar at the Bent and Bongs Beer Bash in Atherton
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ALE enthusiasts are raising a glass to a venue which has stepped in to save one of the region’s longest-running beer celebrations.

The Bent ‘n’ Bongs Beer Bash will be going ahead once again next year after Atherton Roller Rink agreed to host the event.

The bash, which has been raising money for charity and bringing the very best hopped products to the borough for more than 25 years, had looked in danger after Atherton Community School (ACS) recently pulled out of hosting it.

The festival was on the move as long-established Atherton venue Formby Hall’s future remains uncertain, with developers still trying to demolish it to make way for a new nursing home.

Organisers today spoke of their relief that the popular fixture in the real ale fan’s calendar would not have to be axed and said the roller rink in Victoria Mill is an exciting location which should ensure Bent ‘n’ Bongs has a bright future.

Organiser Sarah Bellis said: “The Roller Rink has basically saved the festival and it’s a really exciting development. It’s a huge venue and we can definitely see it being there for a few years.

“The official name of the festival is Atherton and Tyldesley Winter Ales Festival, it’s just that over the years it’s become Bent ‘n’ Bongs Beer Bash, so we wanted to keep the event in Atherton and Tyldesley.

“The rink is also a bit closer to the train station for all our visitors. We think moving the festival there will help it become bigger and better and raise even more money for local charities.”

The roller rink, which is owned by the same company as the similar Wigan facility on Swan Meadow Road, also expressed its delight at hiring out the venue to the beer festival.

Company director Dawn Holding said: “It’s great the organisers have been able to find somewhere to run the festival, it’s very successful and it would have been a shame if it couldn’t have continued because of a lack of a venue.

“It’s going to be a great event and I can’t wait to sample all the different flavours of sausages they have and some of the beers.

“Hopefully we can help draw a bigger crowd than ever before. I think Atherton needs these kind of events to show there is a real community spirit here and bring publicity to the town.”

The festival organisers and the South East Lancs (SEL) branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) have been protesting against the flattening of the event’s old Alder Street venue and have secured asset of community value (ACV) status for it.

However, Sarah said the committee was still forced to look elsewhere for the 2016 Bent ‘n’ Bongs as Formby Hall is not a pub, which means new owners Formby Hall Investments (FHI) may still be able to bulldoze it, and the uncertainty over its future has left it in need of refurbishment.

Next year’s beer bash will run from February 4 until February 6 and the organisers are currently looking for sponsors who would like their names to be on the barrels and in the programme in return for festival tickets.

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