The Festival Beginnings
Tenbury Wells has been associated with the sale of Mistletoe for Christmas use for well over a hundred years. The whole of the Herefordshire and Worcestershire areas were once involved in this trade but Tenbury is the only town to still hold mistletoe auctions. Wholesale buyers come from all over the country to bid for local mistletoe lots.
This unique mistletoe tradition seemed at risk in 2004/5 when the livestock market in the centre of town was sold and closed.
Worried that the mistletoe auctions would cease a group was set up to promote Tenbury’s mistletoe heritage and to market mistletoe in new ways: Tenbury English Mistletoe Enterprise, T.E.M.E. for short – and this business partnership of 5 people – was set up in 2004.
The five were drawn from local councillors, farmers, and mistletoe and media experts – Reg Famer a local councillor and retired farmer, Alec Wall a retired farmer and ex-councillor, Stan Yapp, a local farmer known as the Mistletoe King, Jen Green, a local writer and marketing expert and Jonathan Briggs, an ecologist and mistletoe expert.
TEME began two initiatives – the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival and the marketing of mistletoe online, both to highlight the town’s long role in mistletoe sales.
For the Mistletoe Festival T.E.M.E. decided to start some new ‘traditions’ – the crowning of a Mistletoe Queen each December and the establishment of National Mistletoe Day on December 1st. They managed to get Mistletoe Day supported by all major political parties in an Early Day Motion in Parliament. And, supported by many in the community, TEME also organised a series of mistletoe-themed events each year.
Other groups joined in too - the druidic Mistletoe Foundation started visiting as part of the festival in 2005 – and have been a key part of the proceedings ever since.
TEME’s online mistletoe marketing worked surprisingly well – sending Tenbury mistletoe all over the country by post – and the TEME online brand continued for some years. But by 2010, with the mistletoe festival well-established and by then run independently of TEME, and alternative online mistletoe marketing also now run by other businesses, local and not so local, the TEME partnership was no longer needed and was disbanded.
The Tenbury Mistletoe Association, TMA, was set up in 2010 to run the Mistletoe Festival and promote the town’s mistletoe heritage.
Meanwhile, despite the 2004 worries, the town’s mistletoe auctions carried on – albeit at an out of town site. Now held at Burford House and Garden Centre. The combination of these traditional auctions, the Festival events and ongoing online marketing help to ensure the town’s mistletoe traditions continue to thrive.
It is with thanks to the members of T.E.M.E. whose hard work in establishing Tenbury's Mistletoe Festival and furthering Tenbury's mistletoe heritage and tradition, the Tenbury Mistletoe Association hopes to continue their legacy.