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Photographs of Woodhall Spa 1940's Festival

Updated: Aug 12, 2022

I must admit I've never been to any sort of period festival before, certainly not that I can remember anyway, it just wasn't on my radar of 'things to do', But I love event photography. I've never really been into history or anything historic, I'm more of a 'look forward' type of person, being more interested in technology, what's happening now and coming up, and what the future might hold. That all changed though, and thanks to a couple of friends of mine, I have recently attended my first historic event. They invited me to join them on a trip to Woodhall Spa in Lincolnshire UK, to the 1940's festival.

Period motorcycle and soldier
1940's war time Lincolnshire event in Woodhall Spa

As the local town's main street was closed off to vehicles, the event organisers had arranged a number of 'Park and Ride' facilities, which (for those who don't know) means you park your car in a designated area, away from the event, and a bus ferries everyone backwards and forwards to the main event. This is a bit like street photography, except most of the participants are willing subjects.

The main street that was closed off seemed a lot longer on the day and I had thought it was about a mile long, but I've just checked on a map and it was about one third of a mile (or about half a kilometre). I think that fact that I must have walked up and down it at least ten times, made it seem a lot longer than it was. Either that or these legs aren't as reliable as they once were!

Three cheeky period kids in the back of a truck
1940's event in Lincolnshire, Woodhall Spa

So what is a 1940's festival? I expect they are all different, but essentially it's a gathering of enthusiastic people wearing their period costumes, with equipment, props and vehicles, from the 1940's era. But, it was also a whole lot more than just that. The high street shops and shops workers were dressed for the occasion, there were multiple venues hosting drinks and food with 1940's singers, music and dancing. To top it all there was a fly past of an Avro Lancaster second world war heavy bomber, a British four-engined very big, beautiful, and very loud plane. It flew over three times and fortunately I managed to get a few good shots of it. Apparently later there was a British Spitfire fly over too, but I missed that one.

Turning up early was a good idea, there were less people dressed in modern day clothing to get in the way of the authenticity of the day. People who were part of the event and even members of the crowd, were milling around in period outfits. By mid morning it was pretty busy but still great fun.

Works War II reenactment vehicle and soldiers
Military World War II reenactment

Photographically, I packed a 24-70mm lens and a 100-400mm lens. The longer 100-400mm lens means you are more likely to get shots of people without them posing, more candid and natural shots. You know what it's like when someone asks you to pose for a photo, it's not very natural, unless you find someone who loves being in front of a camera. I did take two cameras because swapping lenses can be a pain and it just means a bit more weight to carry. The early part of the day was better for wider angle, or shots with more of a scene view, thanks to less crowds. Later on, and certainly for the airplane fly by's, the longer zoom lens was essential.

Lancaster bomber fly past in 2019
Lancaster bomber fly past in 2019

So we ended up having a lovely time, met some friendly people and captured some images I was very pleased with. I would certainly look out for another period event in the future.

Woodhall Spa 1940's festival Lincolnshire UK in 2019
War time photographer at 1940's event

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