By 1981 Livingston Festival was the largest community festival in Scotland. But in the early years of the new town annual gala days were only held in Livingston Station and Village, where they were already an established tradition. It was the celebration of Livingston’s tenth birthday in 1972 that inspired the beginning of a new West Lothian tradition in the form of an annual festival.
The Livingston Development Corporation organised the first festival it was huge success and included art and industrial exhibitions, a Ladies Football match, schools open days and the Livingston Village gala. The celebrations ended with a jazz concert and a fireworks display. The Corporation also staged the opening of the newly create Howden Park Centre. According to files in the archive, this first festival cost the Corporation £14,000
The town accepted the challenge set by the Chairman of Livingston Development Corporation to make the festival an annual event, - though with a lower budget, the 1973 and 1974 festival cost just over £1000. From 1973 the festivals began to roughly follow the same pattern. The week opened with a parade of floats from each housing district, during the week the schools and housing districts competed against each other in a variety of organised events, there were schools open days, an art exhibition and a motor gymkhana. The end of the festival was celebrated with a fireworks display in Howden Park.
Records in the Livingston Development Corporation collection include minutes of the Festival Committee, souvenir programmes and promotional material. They give an insight into the planning and organisation required to hold the Festival each year.
'Ownership' of the festival changed through the years. After 1972, Livingston Community Council agreed to arrange the festivals but the Council was itself dissolved by 1975 (when Community Councils became the most local level of government in Scotland - Livingston had jumped the gun a little here and re-organised its community councils into districts) . A festival and gala committee was formed in 1975 with encouragement from Steve Trivett, Community Development Officer at the Corporation. The Festival association continued to arrange the festival until the mid 1990s, when the town wide festival was replaced with district gala days.
An early constitution of the Livingston Festival Committee, held in West Lothian Council Archives, stated as one of its main objectives:
“To promote a Festival of which Livingston people can be proud”.
The records and photographs held in West Lothian Council Archives indicate that this objective was readily achieved. The Festivals included a diverse range of events and activities such as festival floats, raft races, rock climbing, soap box derby, mini tattoo, Victorian Cricket Match, kite flying competition, athletics, Highland Dancing, roller derby and wheelbarrow races.
During 1985, the International Year of Youth, a Youth Theatre/Youth Arts project was formed under the umbrella of the Festival. Their production ‘Spectrum’ was performed three times during the Festival and featured a cast of over 50 young people from all over West Lothian.
Over the years local communities within the town established their own galas and the town wide Festival was reduced to a one-day event.
|Youth organisations at the festival, 1974|
|Festival Floats, 1974|
|Highland Dancing at the Festival|
|Tug of war at the festival|
|Livingston's First Festival, 1972|