A MAJOR business event that used to attract tens of thousands of people to Witney is to make a comeback next month.

The organisers of the Witney Trade Fair – which was last held in 2005 – hope the event will bring 20,000 people into the town.

And at least 100 businesses are expected to exhibit at the event on The Leys on Thursday, September 18, and Friday, September 19.

A 2,000 sq m marquee will be the centrepiece, which will then be used over the weekend of September 20-21 to host a Wedding Expo.

Chris Clinkard, director of Abacus Events, which is organising the fair and the wedding expo, said: “We have had a really positive response from Witney Town Council and the business community. We want to entice companies from all over the UK, and from abroad.

“Witney was a centre of international trade when it was a big seller of wool and blankets and that is where the idea is coming from.

“The way businesses work together in West Oxfordshire is an example of best practice, as well as the amount of innovation that goes on, and we’re going to showcase that.”

The £90,000 event will be staged with the help of 16 Oxfordshire firms, with the aim of having all services, such as catering and infrastructure, provided by companies from the area.

The festival was last held on Church Green in 2005 and attracted about 60,000 people, having been held every year, or every other year, since at least 1936. Mr Clinkard said it had stopped nine years ago because event had become “too big” to manage on Church Green.

Oxfordshire Town Chamber Network director Keith Slater said the event would bring “significant” benefits to Witney’s economy.

He said: “The Witney Trade Fair in the past was always a big event, so it’s great to see it is being revived.

“I’m sure it will be even more successful now and it’s also likely to bring a significant amount of trade to local shops, cafes and other businesses, as well as exhibitors”

The organisers are also bringing the event into the digital age, with traders being able to use “proximity marketing technology”, where information is sent to visitors’ smartphones as they pass stands.

The marquee will be used in the evenings for a number of fundraising events, including a quiz and comedy show in aid of the Longworth-based African Children’s Fund charity and Witney Buttercross Scouts.

There will also be an under-16s silent disco at 6pm on the Thursday in aid of the Liberty Baker Memorial Fund, set up to provide a lasting reminder of the 14-year-old Witney schoolgirl killed when a car mounted a kerb in June.

Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron said: “I'm delighted to welcome Witney Trade Fair back. 

“West Oxfordshire is already home to some fantastic businesses and it's great to see firms from here and further afield coming to Witney to showcase their work. 

“With activities for all ages and opportunities to support a number of important charities, including the Liberty Baker Memorial Fund, this looks set to be a great success. I wish everyone involved the best of luck”.