Biggest festival yet for Belper

Belper Arts Festival is preparing the biggest festival to date with over 1,000 participants – many of them taking to the stage, including Broadway star Jeanna de Waal, the Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan, comedian Nina Gilligan and playwright Kevin Fegan.

The festival, from May 4-June 1, includes a Short Play Fest with a series of work written by local writers and curated by Sue Reaney; a performance  featuring Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet presented by Belper-based Captive Audience theatre company, and even a talk about Toy Theatre by the town’s Trevor Griffin.

The festival gets under way on May 4 with a concert, Bedazzled by Broadway, which features Broadway star Jeanna, Belper Musical Theatre and Derby’s Paddy Stafford.

After a year as Scaramouche in We Will Rock You, Jeanna De Waal moved from London to New York. She has appeared in leading roles in Kinky Boots and American Idiot on Broadway and toured the USA as the Good Witch in Wicked. 

Jeanna is about to play Princess Diana in a new musical, Diana, which opens in San Francisco shortly. 

She plays her Belper concert before returning to New York where it is expected that Diana will open. 

The festival will also be making use of the latest addition to performance venues in the town. 

Director of Belper Festival George Gunby says he has been looking for the right space for a while and now feels he has found it above the Old King’s Head pub In Days Lane. It is to be called Little Theatre and the arts organisation will stage monthly performances.

The Little Theatre will open for performances on April 1 and 29, May 27 and 24 June. It will then stage events on the last Monday of each month.

“The intention is to give writers and performers the opportunity to try things out,” said George. 

It could be a professional performance or a work in progress. The ambition is to stage regular quality performances, maybe even fortnightly, as time progresses.”

More details of Belper Arts Festival’s weekend- long Art Trail, Woollen Woods and music events will be in future editions of artsbeat. 

For full details of all events go to