Belper Arts Festival is launched

BAF%20LogoThe first Derbyshire arts festival of 2013 is a newcomer and is being staged in Belper.

The community-run event will be joining the likes of Melbourne, Wirksworth and Ashbourne with an array of performances, workshops and exhibitions by talented artists from the area.

Co-ordinator of the first-time festival is George Gunby who has run a short play festival in the town for the last few years and is responsible for the theatre contribution to the month-long event.

There will also be music, dance, film, literature and art curated by other Belper volunteers.

“Over the years we have been holding a variety of separate events such as the film festival at The Ritz Cinema and our Open Houses event where you could meet artists in their studios.

“After the short play festival last year a few of us got talking and thought it would be good to bring them altogether as one festival,” explained George.

“We had an open meeting and the response was brilliant resulting in a very full programme spread across the town for all of May.

“It is something of a loose alliance between several groups and it has worked really well.”

The festival has been funded on a shoestring but they have had the support of £1,000 from both Belper Town Council and Derbyshire County Council.

Central to the event is a new arts venue on Belper Market Place, No. 28, which is the now transformed former Salvation Army Hall.

Belper Arts Collaborative is staging an exhibition by 25 artists and crafters at No. 28 for the month and most of the short plays in the festival will be staged there.

On May 23 there will be four plays making up Fright Night – Nothing Personal, The Woman Who Cooked Her Husband, Masks and Lost Lonely Unloved.

The following evening you can see Educating Rita starring two young actors Ellie Ward and Ed Telfer.

There will be more short plays presented during a Saturday matinee on May 25 followed by the theatre finale that night with the staging of the winner of the 2013 short play competition Riot by Janice Hallett. Her play was chosen by a panel of judges from 350 entries.

The Market Place venue will also host creative writing, literature and make your own book workshops as well as an evening of readings from the entries to the first Short Story Competition on May 28.

Derbyshire’s Poet Laureate Matt Black will be a festival highlight when he entertains at the Strutts Centre on May 23 and there will also be poetry read at an open mic session in Fresh Ground in King Street on May 18. The same day there will be a celebration of literature at the Strutts Centre with a book sale and meet the author session.

As well as the art exhibition Belper’s artists are staging an Art In The Park event in the memorial gardens on May 11. Creatives will be sketching and painting and there’s rumours of something to do with a monster. Check it out.

There is an art auction at the Lion Hotel on May 12 and a whole week of art workshops at No. 28 from May 13-17.

The now annual Open Houses event is from May 25 to 27. Thirty homes will become galleries for the weekend and admission is free.

One of the most interesting art events will be the Big Belper Sketch Book. The giant sketchbook will be at No. 28 at the start of the festival on May 4 and everyone is invited to have a go at creating some artwork. The book will be moved around the town’s festival venues throughout the month.

Most of the music events are taking place at St Peter’s Church and include the Helix Ensemble and Beate Toyka, an organ recital by Christopher Dixon, the art of song with Richard Roddis and Derventio Brass. There will also be a Festival of Song with a pop-up choir and various other performances on May 18.

Top of the music bill is a performance by Pete Castle, who is celebrating 35 years on the road, with an all new concert specially prepared for Belper on May 16 at No. 28.

The Ritz Cinema is hosting the film festival and there will be ten movies from May 5 until May 26, including Cinema Paradiso as the opening event with a drinks reception; Hugo with an illustrated talk by Andy Minion on May 11; The Illusionist, Tati’s screenplay brought to glorious life on May 18; Singin’ In The Rain with a portrait of Gene Kelly by Andy Minion on May 25 and Summer In February, a gala advanced showing of the film on May 26.

The festival’s dance offering is headed up by a comprehensive programme of workshops throughout the month at No. 28 including belly dancing, dancefit and movement and meditation.

It has been co-ordinated by Andrea Haley, a community dance artist who is looking to start a series of Maturer Movers Movement workshops in the town and in Matlock. She can be contacted on 07910139087.

In other locations there will also be Tai Chi, zumba and burlesque as well as Morris dancing, folk from Eastern Europe and a ceilidh for all at the Strutts Centre on May 11.

Well Heeled will be performing outside from 1.30pm-4.30pm on May 18.

The whole month will be rounded off with a Family Fun Festival Day and a rock ‘n’roll picnic in The River Gardens on bank holiday Monday May 27 from noon until 5pm.
On the bill are music, storytelling, dance, fancy dress, comedy and much more.

There are lots more events not listed in this article some of the events are free and some have charges so make sure you check out the festival website
George can be contacted by email at or by telephone on 07845 400914.

There are free programmes available to be picked up throughout Belper at arts venues, the library and cafes.