Each September, Wirksworth throws open its doors for a three-week contemporary arts festival featuring great art in inspiring and unusual places, and 2012 is no different.
Over three weekends, the town’s homes, shop windows, streets and open spaces are filled with contemporary artworks. During the weeks, performances take over the town’s historic buildings, a buzzing Festival Fringe unleashes a diverse mix of lively events and on the final weekend a fantastic community celebration concludes the event in style.
This year, the festival programme blends must-see highlights such as the famous Art and Architecture trail with an increased focus on gifted young artists from the region. Successful innovations, including open air film screenings in partnership with Quad, are back by popular demand alongside a quirky range of new and provocative contemporary art works, positioned around this compact, stone built town, which includes 90 listed buildings from every era.
“Each Festival explores the town’s unique heritage, as a post-industrial meeting point between rural and urban life,” explained festival manager Natasha Astara.
“Wirksworth is a stimulating contemporary festival with something for every appetite, whether you’re shopping for special artworks for your home, seeking out cutting edge visual arts or simply looking for inspiring experiences in the town’s unique setting. Our audiences are a mix of local people and visitors, people coming for the first time and people who return each year – we’ve a friendly welcome for everyone and are very excited about our programme this year!”
The Art and Architecture Trail opens Wirksworth Festival on September 8-9, when over 150 specially selected artists and designer makers working in every conceivable medium exhibit works in homes, local shop windows including the vets and bakers and the town’s open spaces.
This event has featured every year since the Festival’s origin in 1995, when the town’s unusually high population of resident artists opened up their houses to show artworks. The trail also offers a deliciously surreptitious glimpse inside the town’s historic homes as well as an eclectic mix of contemporary art. It costs just £6 for the weekend, with a badge gaining you entry into any venue on the trail.
During its history, the festival has offered a first step for many emerging artists who have gone on to become well-established in their field. This year, Young Artists take centre stage with a major Parish Room exhibition featuring hand picked highlights from Graduate Shows across the Midlands.
During the festival’s middle weekend, September 15-16, there’s a networking session for emerging and established practitioners as part of the highly popular curator’s tour, giving insight into the contemporary artworks on show. Leading lights from the town’s thriving youth arts scene will also share their work in a mini-Edinburgh Up and Coming young performers showcase at the Town Hall.
At the heart of the Festival programme each year is a specially commissioned series of contemporary visual artworks, made possible through funding by Arts Council England. Wirksworth Festival achieved National Portfolio Organisation status earlier this year.
This year’s programme is curated by a panel of leading artists, designer-makers, curators and academics from around the region. Seven artists offer brilliant, radical, interactive, unexpected, dramatic, visionary and reflective pieces positioned around the town, including a relaxing hammock ride in an open air Lifeboat, unusual beings taking up residence in St Mary’s church and drawings inspired by gatherings moths from Wirksworth’s night sky.
Participation and learning are central to the festival ethos and alongside many talks and discussions and a concluding community celebration linked to the town’s well-dressing traditions, the final weekend of September 22-23 includes a concert of Carmina Burana at Wirksworth Leisure Centre, enabling chorus members and orchestral players to sing alongside a professional team.
Places are already filling up for the chorus, with rehearsals taking place in the weeks prior to the festival. Bookings can now be made via the festival website www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk with full details of the festival programme and the Festival box office now open.
Wirksworth Festival is firmly established as a leading rural arts festival and a highlight in the region’s cultural calendar. For full details of the programme, visit www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk.