The Wirral Arts Festival takes place between September 30 and October 14 and, in addition to attending events during the fortnight, there’s an open invitation to the people of Wirral to get involved by staging events within their towns, villages or communities.
The Festival began life as the Heswall Arts Festival in 2010 but, last year, interest from elsewhere on the peninsula persuaded the organisers to expand and rebrand as the WAF.
Founders Valerie Warr and Edward Peak recall how it all began. “We thought Heswall could benefit from a festival,” says Valerie, “something affordable, accessible, that would inspire and entertain people, attract visitors, benefit local businesses, and put Heswall on the festival map.”
“We had a blank sheet of paper,” explains Edward, “and we filled it with ideas pretty quickly. That was in April 2010. I said to Valerie, ‘So we’ll launch in autumn next year?’ And she said, ‘No, we’ll do it this year.”
The Heswall Arts Festival was born and featured 55 events.
“We didn’t really know what we were creating,” says Valerie, “and we had no funding and still don’t, so we press ganged friends and spread the word and begged and borrowed. Heswall Hall and the local Rotary Club joined in and somehow we managed to put together a pretty good line-up. And people liked it.
“The following 5 years saw more than 100 events being organised during each Festival fortnight and then, last year, we decided to help more communities get involved under our new banner, The Wirral Arts Festival. They’d seen the model could work for them and wanted to be part of it.”
“We thought maybe 2 or 3 events would happen outside Heswall in that first year,” adds Edward, “but 12 other villages chose to join in and host days or evenings, from barn dancing to ballroom, to painting to belly dancing to photography.
“One wonderful thing is that sometimes these events or workshops turn into groups or clubs who keep up their interest, which means the spirit of the Festival is maintained throughout the year.”
The nature of the event reflects its founders. Valerie is a retired engineer as well as a clarinetist, while Edward spent 30 years with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. He is now Musical Director for Orchestra dell’Arte which will close the Festival on October 14 in Heswall Hall with a fun programme including George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue.
“I love music,” explains Valerie, but I also love science. So we started a Science Day and that usually involves 4 great speakers who attract some of our biggest attendances. We say it’s an arts festival, but for us this can mean the art of anything, from engineering to sport, so we can cast our net wide to offer something for almost everyone. It can even include law, so we have a day of talks by experts all about the law, and that’s supported by Heswall’s Campion Solicitors.”
Valerie, Edward and the team of volunteers are determined to expand the Festival’s programme year on year, and If you would like to contribute an event small or large it’s not too late.
“We are happy to receive ideas right up to the last minute,” says Valerie. “The more the merrier!”
The Wirral Arts Festival takes place between September 30 and October 14. To find out more please click or tap here.