One week to go: Home-grown talent leads the way at this year’s Wirksworth Festival

Final preparations are being made as Wirksworth Festival 2018 gets underway 7 – 23 September. Now in its 24th year, the Festival is an annual two-week celebration of contemporary art, performance, music and the community in the heart of the Derbyshire Dales.

This year’s Festival is very much about home-grown talent, recognising the huge pool of talent that resides in this part of the country; they are joined by some great artists and performers from across the country and abroad.

“Each year we aim to bring good quality contemporary art to the town,” explains Carol Taylor, Chair of Wirksworth Festival. “We have artists new to the Festival and some old favourites showing new work. We want the town to come alive with art in all its forms and we think there is something for everyone to enjoy.”

The opening weekend (8-9 September) is the much-celebrated Art & Architecture Trail when over 140 artists exhibit at 70 plus venues across the town. This is a chance to buy art, meet with the artists and see inside some of the town’s distinctive homes and buildings. 

The Trail features artists and designer-makers of all disciplines including painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics, sculpture, installation, jewellery making and textiles. This year we will be welcoming artists from Die, the French town with which Wirksworth is twinned. Their work will be featured in the International Salon.

Part of the Trail will be Haarlem Artspace where the studios of their resident artists will be open alongside a new site-responsive solo exhibition by Sheffield artist Victoria Lucas. Where Rock and a Hard Place Meet is a mixed media installation, investigating culturally engrained representations of femininity using local sites and stories as a backdrop.

At Haarlem Mill the Red Tape Project will be showing work that has stemmed from two years of research. A celebration of the humble legal essential once produced in Wirksworth, red tape’s fascinating story is unravelled by artists in one of the former red tape mills.

Throughout the weekend, the town will come alive not only with art but also street theatre, live music, a Heritage Market, and the Pavilion, the winning design of the architecture student competition the Festival runs in partnership with Nottingham Trent University.

This year’s curators, Johnny White and Amanda Wray are based in Wirksworth and their Curated Exhibition, The Family Show, brings together artists to celebrate all things family and will be shown in and around The Maltings (formerly known as the Parish Room), St. Mary’s Church and Noble’s Yard.

Commenting on one of the reasons the Festival selected this year’s curators, Carol Taylor said:

“When I first saw Amanda and Johnny’s exhibition, in another part of the country, I was taken aback by how funny it was, how moving and also how it made me think. I feel their Family Show will strike a chord, make you laugh and may even bring a tear to your eye”.

White-Wray will be showing their quirky kinetic sculptures which are loosely based on their own family experiences. They will be joined by fellow Wirksworth artist Tracey Keeping whose paintings are inspired by family photographs, The Singh Twins with their animation, Andi Dakin and his new body of work, Church Urchins, playful installations in St. Mary’s Church, and Andy Plant and Tim Hunkin’s Astronauts’ Caravan, the chance to experience a family holiday of the future. The Family Show runs 8 – 9 and 15-16 September.

The Performance Programme, hosted by Town Hall Events in partnership with Wirksworth Festival, headlines with the Dodo Street Band and a very special production of the acclaimed HILL, the story of one Derbyshire hill directed by Debi Hedderwick and featuring the work of photographer Kate Bellis, filmmaker Gavin Repton, poet Lucy Peacock, musicians Carol Fieldhouse and Brian Boothby and sculptor Sally Matthews.

Other highlights include new theatre company The Wild and the Innocent with their debut play The Flight alongside Eve Hedderwick Turner‘s Superas well as a night of urban infused live rebel music with Rebel Sound.

From further afield we welcome the Climax Blues Band, master puppeteer Stephen Mottram, the Mandala Theatre Company with their play Castaways, and performance poet Elvis McGonagall.

The Festival Fringe features a host of music, film, workshops and performance including Adverse Camber with their new performance Stars and Stories, and the much-loved Gig on the Roof from 4pm on the Sunday of the Trail Weekend.

A Festival first comes in the shape of Verdi’s Requiem which will be performed on 15 September by the Wirksworth Festival Choir, made up of all sorts of people from the town and beyond who love to sing. They will come together to rehearse in the afternoon and perform in the evening. There is still the chance to be part of this – details are on the Festival website.

The annual showcase of young talent, Altitude, takes place Sunday 16 September, 12pm – 5pm and will have artists, performers and musicians taking to stage at Mount Cook Adventure Centre, Derbyshire Eco Centre and the National Stone Centre. Alongside the performances there will be a variety of workshops and activities for all. For anyone interested in performing on stage, get in touch with Wirksworth Festival at

The Festival rounds off with the Community Celebration on Sunday 23 September from 1pm, this year taking place in the historic St Mary’s Churchyard and the newly redesigned Memorial Gardens. It features a host of local groups celebrating the wealth of local performing arts activity, achievement and talent in the town. There will be art, drumming and Maypole Dance workshops, a story tent for young children and much more. The event culminates with a Tea Dance for all to join in with.

Full details of all the events and artists taking place can be found at where tickets for most events can be booked. Tickets can also be bought from the Festival Box Office at Traid Links, Market Place, Wirksworth tel: 01629 824393. Entry to the Art & Architecture Trail venues is by wristband at £7 per person (under 18s free). These can be bought at points across the town during the Trail weekend.

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