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Wirksworth Festival

  • Date: 17 November 2009
  • Artform: Combined arts
  • Area: Midlands
Gina and Dan Marsh, local artists creating a mural with community input at the Wirksworth Festival Gina and Dan Marsh, local artists creating a mural with community input at the Wirksworth Festival, Ashley Franklin

Since 1995 Wirksworth - a charming Derbyshire Dales town - has enjoyed a thriving annual festival which attracts thousands of visitors and helps to generate extra income for the local economy.

Since 2008 the festival has been regularly funded by Arts Council England, East Midlands and during the period 2008 – 2011 the organisers will receive £181,500. This funding means that the voluntary run festival of visual and performing arts is more financially stable and is managed on a professional level.

From small beginnings when local artists opened their homes to display their work, the festival has gone from strength to strength.

The 2009 festival attracted more visitors and offered a wide variety of events during the two weeks. The themes for the curated exhibitions were Modernism/Architecture and Illumination/Animation.

Events included: an Art and Architecture Trail when over 100 artists displayed their work in public and private spaces; a Makers’ Market; a Contemporary Art Focus with walks and artists’ talks.

Featured artists included: Michael Branthwaite, Martyn Blundell, Ben Cove, Raphael Daden, Alec Finlay, Kate Genever, Maxine Hall, Matthew Houlding, Peter Hoon, Ghislaine Howard and Charles Monkhouse.

Other events included performance, architecture, sculpture, film, drama, comedy, workshops, dance, craft and poetry.

Jacek Laskowski, Literature Officer and the Lead Officer for the festival with Arts Council England, East Midlands, comments:  “It’s a remarkable festival run almost entirely by volunteers with just two part-time organisers. 

“The festival attracts people from all over the region. This year saw a range of visual arts exhibitions and installations which was hugely impressive both artistically and in terms of social engagement.

“The way in which the festival involves the young people, from the ideas stage all the way through to their implementation, gives grounds for optimism about its longer-term success. The performing arts events – especially the comedy offer – proved very popular with audiences.”

David Gilbert, the festival organiser, comments: “This year has been a real leap forward in the visual arts, which was our key area for development, with an ambitious programme featuring fantastic new work from nationally and internationally known artists.

“Along with great art we were lucky enough to have great weather for the Art & Architecture Trail weekend, which brought over 3500 people into the town to see some truly stunning contemporary visual art and craft. Audience feedback has been really positive, artists' sales were up on last year, and local businesses had a busy time catering for our visitors. The challenge for us now is to consolidate and grow Wirksworth's reputation as the leading rural festival of contemporary visual art in the UK."