Wirksworth Festival 9th – 25th September 2011

One advantage of living in the Peak District and indeed living in near Wirksworth is visiting the Wirksworth Festival without having to drive your car.

Wirksworth festival is an exciting annual event that offers sixteen days of contemporary visual art and performance across two un-missable highlight weekends. It has grown through the staging of an annual Arts Festival in September each year within the small historic market town of Wirksworth on the southern edge of the Derbyshire Peak District.

You can see inspirational work from international and national artists shown alongside the very best from the region. This year you’ll be able to explore even more of the town with work planned in churches, woodland, pubs, quarries and even in a railway carriage. It is a great invitation to see great art in some fascinating places.

The Festival includes a range of visual and performing arts, but is best known for the weekend Art Trails when local residents and businesses open their houses, shops, offices, churches and gardens for artists to display their work. 250 artists and 100 venues make a powerful body of exciting and rewarding art of every style and taste.

Highlights of the festival are:-

10-11 September: Trails Weekend

The fantastic opening weekend when art takes over the town.

The whole town becomes a gallery with more than 150 artists and makers showing their work in private homes, historic buildings, gardens, shop windows and churches. A great chance to buy affordable art, meet the artists and take a peek at some of Derbyshire’s best interiors!

17-18 September: Contemporary Focus

A weekend of inspirational performance events, artist film and video, exhibitions, workshops, guided tours and talks, exploring and debating contemporary practice and an opportunity to look at some of this year’s most exciting work.

25 September: Community Celebration

A spectacular finale event, where the towns creative community takes centre stage. A colourful procession will wind it’s way through the town followed by a spectacular finale of music, performance and light.

9 – 25 September: Performance Programme

World class performers to the very best home grown talent, over 2 packed weeks of exciting events, music, dance, drama and more.

Over the last couple of years Wirksworth Festival has clearly established itself as a key event in the East Midlands cultural calendar.

The Festival that has evolved today is a direct result of the creative energies and ambitions of the town, which is home to a range of innovative and talented companies and individuals. Wirksworth and the surrounding area has an unusually large creative community, particularly bearing in mind its rural location – around 5% of its population, or 8.8% of its workforce, is employed in the creative industries. The Festival remains part of this community, and will reflect and support new initiatives to encourage the development of the Creative Industries as a fundamental part of the economic life of the town.

Year on year audiences for the Festival have grown, with nearly 10,000 people taking part in 2010; at the opening ‘trails’ weekend, at one of the 30 performances, at one of the extensive programme of participatory workshops or at the fantastic Community Celebration finale.

Arts Council funding has enabled the Festival to develop an ambitious, high quality contemporary visual arts programme, that has helped the Festival grow in profile and now attracts applications from all over the world. Wirksworth Festival will receive £58,895
in 2008/2009, £60,485 in 2009/2010, £61,809 in 2010/2011 and £57,545 in 2011/2012. As a national portfolio organisation, Wirksworth Festival has been offered £58,000 in 2012/2013, £59,334 in 2013/2014 and £60,877 in 2014/2015. This is subject to a funding agreement being agreed.

Alongside this the Festival’s education and outreach programme has reached further into the local community and invigorated renewed interest from all sections of the community. We’re proud that in 2010 over 60% of local residents actively participated in
the Festival.

And where did it all begin? The Festival’s historical roots are in an event called Church Clypping, which takes place at the town’s St Mary’s Church (founded in 653) on the Sunday following the Festival of the Blessed Virgin Mary on 8 September. This ancient
ceremony, which sees the congregation join hands in thanksgiving to completely encircle the Church, continues as a Festival event today.

The Festival’s current form dates from 1995, when a group of local artists opened their own homes to display their work, and this part of the Festival has now become one of the Festival’s highlights, the highly successful Art and Architecture Trail. Today’s Festival encompasses a broad-ranging programme of visual arts and performance spanning 17 days, over three weekends annually in September.

The Festival is now becoming an innovator and promoter to encourage a body of new work each year, commissioned from leading artists, to leave a lasting legacy of public art in the town.


Chris Sabian is an artist with http://www.kutefineart.com and co-owner of http://www.paragonprints.co.uk


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