Monday, 12 September 2016
Generally speaking, I'm no fan of arts festivals (I managed to entirely avoid the Edinburgh Festival while living in that city for a year) - but Wirksworth is different. With very little funding but huge reserves of community spirit and an extraordinary concentration of creative work going on all the time in the town, Wirksworth manages to create something very special and quite unlike other festivals. The key to its unique appeal is, I think, that so much of the art is displayed in people's homes - either the artists' own or those of other townspeople happy to join in.
There's always simple pleasure to be had in seeing inside other people's homes, and a very high proportion of the houses in Wirksworth are interesting in themselves, and often beautifully laid-out inside. There are some delightful town gardens too - all there for all to enjoy, along with the art, for the duration of the weekend. Making even a highly selective tour with my cousin - a long-time resident who is on friendly greeting terms with le tout Wirksworth and their dogs (it's a very doggy town) - was slow progress, but all the more enjoyable for that. This is a genuinely local, genuinely friendly event, in which truly the whole town is involved and which the whole town seems to enjoy.
The artists displaying their work included not only well established practitioners who've been around a while but also, happily, an up-and-coming new generation. The artists who poured into Wirksworth back when it was a run-down post-industrial town not only transformed the nature of the place but created something that looks set to run and run - as, surely, will the festival.
The centrepiece of this year's festival is an installation in the parish church by Wolfgang Buttress, no less, the artist responsible for the hugely successful Hive, currently pulling them in at Kew. It was quite a coup to get him for Wirksworth, and BEAM, his work in the church, is impressive - a reflective, light-spangled, music-bedded presence projecting a series of changing images onto the crossing roof. You can hear him talking about it here. The pictures above and below are my own, and do it scant justice.