OFFICIALLY, summer doesn't begin until later this month. But June always seems like the real start of summer.

That's especially the case this year, with the gradual easing of lockdown bringing a real sense of freedom - the kind of freedom you felt as a child when the long-awaited summer holidays finally arrived.

Among the things we associate with long summer days are galas, fetes, festivals and flower shows. So we have dug out from Explore York's brilliant digital archive ( a few photos of all of these for you today, to celebrate both the arrival of summer and the beginning of the end (we hope) of lockdown...

For sixty years, from 1859 onwards, June meant the York Gala: an annual festival of flowers, open-air bands, jugglers, entertainers and balloon flights held in the grounds of Bootham Park.

Our photographs today include a couple of the Gala itself - and an aerial photo of York taken between 1900 and 1914 from one of the hot air balloons which would have attended the Gala.

There's also a photo of a bandstand, a Diamond Jubilee celebration, a Coronation celebration - and a flower show.

The photos show:

1. A man hanging from a balloon at York Gala, some time in the 1910s.

The idea of reintroducing a Gala similar to those held in medieval times at the Corpus Christi festival was suggested in 1858. The first such Gala was actually held in York in June 1859. It took the form of a floral and musical exhibition, and from that year on was held annually on or about June 13 for the next sixty years without a break.

The main feature of the gala was a horticultural show which was attended by nurserymen from the whole of England. Other attractions included regimental band concerts, jugglers and circus entertainers, swings, roundabouts, shooting galleries, balloon ascents, refreshment tents and the fair. The events of each day were crowned by a nightly fireworks display. There were railway excursions to York for the Gala from many parts of England and tens of thousands of people attended

2. Entrance to the Gala on Bootham Field in the early 1900s

3. An aerial view of York taken some time between 1900 and 1914. The photograph was probably taken from a balloon during the York Gala. The large building visible bottom left is the Exhibition Hall which once stood behind what is now York Art Gallery

4.A children's fete held at Bootham Park on June 22, 1897, to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. York held a variety of events to celebrate the occasion including a 'Tea to 1,200 Aged and Necessitous Poor' and a 'Procession of the Corporation, Magistrates (and) Clergy.' The Royal English Circus gave a 'Grand Fashionable Performance' and there was a breakfast and a Gala

5. Lord Danesfort at the prize-giving of the Great Yorkshire Flower Show and Gala in 1925. Next to him, seated on the right, are Arnold Rowntree, Councillor Watson, and Lord Mayor Newbald Kay

6. The bandstand on Knavesmire in June 1913. The bandstand was to the west of the Knavesmire gates and the metal railings of Tadcaster Road can be seen in the background. The metal chairs for the next performance are in the foreground of the photograph

7. York City Art Gallery decorated for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953.

Stephen Lewis

All the photos on these pages, and thousands more, are held on Explore York’s redesigned digital archive of historic images. You can browse it at