York’s 800 Years and Counting


In July 2012, the city of York celebrated its 800 years of independence with a series of events that commemorated eight centuries of royal charter. Since York was granted its first charter back in 1212 by King John, the city has continued to prosper and to develop its economic base, going from a northern trading post to being voted the European Tourist City of the Year only 5 years ago.

Local residents are undoubtedly proud of their city’s heritage, and the 800 anniversary of York’s independence provided them with yet another opportunity to get involved in showing visitors the highlights of this historic city. The celebrations lasted for almost 2 months, during which the most representative events included:

York 1212: The Making of the City

This exhibition was hosted by the Yorkshire Musuem. In it, visitors could learn the significance that the granting of the royal charter had for York through interactive displays and short films. The exhibition was also made possible thanks to the donations of local residents, who contributed with invaluable objects they had kept for generations, such as rings and badges.

The York 800 Flotilla

Initially scheduled for the charter weekend in July, this event was postponed due to bad weather and so that it would fall on the same dates as the arrival of the Paralympic flame The 200 boat flotilla consisted of lavishly decorated canoes, boats, and barges, which made for an impressive sight as they carried the flame past the banks of the River Ouse.

Cultural performances

The charter celebrations gathered 800 voluntary performers (including singers, dancers, musicians, and puppeteers) who offered free entertainment under the Ebor Vox project, whose aim was to fill the streets with music. This project culminated with an impressive performance of a song dedicated to the city sung by 19 choirs. The lyrics were created by young York residents.

Street markets

Since York’s history was marked by its position as a trading town, it would have been odd not to feature a reminder of this fact in the York 800 festival. During July and August 2012, Parliament Street hosted a vintage market with goods donated by local residents, which included clothing, jewellery, furniture, and antiques. Further up the road, a special street market offered the best of local produce and souvenirs at bargain prices.
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