Wirksworth Festival: Sweet Art, Fancy Homes, and Hella Hills

Both days of this weekend, I went with my dear old mother to Wirksworth Festival. It is billed as “a leading rural arts festival”. This is the second time I’ve been – I was at the 1st or 2nd outing as well, about 4 years ago. It’s grown since then. The main idea with this Festival is that you get a map, and walk around the town to see art displayed in 70+ different venues. The venues themselves are all regular parts of the town at other times, be they churches, houses, shops, schools or studios. There are also performances, talks, film screenings, and musicians playing all over the place. Oh, and most importantly, food vendors and stalls on the street, as well as all the local cafes and pubs.

Wirksworth is a pretty town in the Peak District, meaning that half the town is on such a ridiculous gradient that peoples’ back gardans adjoin sheer cliffs, and the beautiful views barely make up for the pain of walking up the hill roads. It used to be a lead mining place with a slightly shady rep, but these days the stone miners’ cottages are likely to be home to people who like architectural furniture and white or pale grey paint. Luckily, they also had enough taste to retain the original log fires, stone flagged floors and wooden doors in a lot of the places we saw. Getting to look inside rich peoples’ fancy houses is weirdly amusing. There’s some real design creativity there. Also I think my bar for labelling people as “rich” is ludicrously low. If you bought a house and a car and aren’t in crippling debt because of it, you may as well be a millionaire. If you can afford a designer sofa, you’re the bourgeousie.

Anyway, back to the art. Having seen hundreds and hundreds of paintings, ceramics, textiles etc, things have somewhat blurred together in my mind. There was plenty of pretty stuff. But things that actually stuck in my mind: Geoff Litherland explores interesting themes as a painter, painting paintings which are then featured within the landscapes of his other paintings. Lyn Hodnett‘s mythlike images of women intrigued me since a few years ago when Mum sent me a couple of postcards of her work. It was great to see some in full size original form, and to tell Lyn face to face what her art has meant to me.

Mums bought an amazing print by Hannah Sawtel. The artist luckily has an Instagram, with a photo of this exact piece, so go look. It’s a lot of fun.

Hundreds of creative people suddenly appear for the Festival. A lot of the artists themselves turn out to be quite local; a couple even live or work in my own town. Of course the Peaks are infested with landscape artists, and Nottingham and Sheffield have busy creative scenes. I complain a lot about having to live in the middle of nowhere, but there are other people managing it just fine. Derbyshire might not be so bad…

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Wirksworth Festival: Sweet Art, Fancy Homes, and Hella Hills

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