Organisers of this year’s 10 Parishes Festival in Wiveliscombe and its surrounding area are approaching the final stretch in their preparations for the eight day event which opens on 7 September. Over 100 artists, craftspeople and performers will be contributing to exhibitions and events at venues from pubs and cafes to schools and homes in and around the Wiveliscombe area. They include 68-year-old local artist John Abraham, returning to painting after fifty years, children at Wiveliscombe Primary School making art led by renowned sculptor Michael Fairfax, David Manners, Associate of the Royal Photographic Society, and international performer Yvette Staelens celebrating Somerset folk song.
On the opening weekend there’s the hugely popular day-long Street Market and Wheelbarrow Carnival on Sunday September 8th in the town. More than 70 stallholders will be there – and special Carnival workshops are being held in the run up to the big day.
The town is at the centre of an area that includes the parishes of Ashbrittle, Bathealton, Brompton Ralph, Chipstable with Waterrow, Clatworthy, Fitzhead, Huish Champflower, Milverton and Stawley.
The Festival grew out of the Wiveliscombe Area Market Town Initiative, which focused on developing local culture and creativity, employment, rural tourism and a sustainable, proactive approach to the local environment and community life. It began in 2003, in the words of Pauline Homeshaw, then Chairman of the Wiveliscombe Civic Society, with “workshops and fun demonstrations, as well as things which the kids will love, like street circus, break dance, and live ‘make your own theatre’. Enthusiasm for the festival has been remarkable – there is so much artistic talent in this area and we have been very fortunate to involve so many artists, new and established. For the visitor, there really is something for everyone.”
Organisers of the first Festival hoped that the biennial event would become a catalyst for the expansion of arts and creativity in the area; ten years on and six Festivals later, the event is now firmly established as a major West Somerset celebration of the visual and performing arts, supported by the large number of artists, craftspeople and performers who live and work locally.
Festival Director Pauline Homeshaw said: “We’ve had enormous interest with so many artists and craftspeople signing up once again for the festival, in spite of the economic climate.
“The Festival gives a real economic boost to people and businesses in the area as well as being a wonderful celebration of the visual and performing arts in communities here.”
Since 2012, the Festival has been taken under the wing of The Wiveliscombe Area Partnership (WAP), a registered charity. It provides a number of services to the local community, such as the Community Office in Wiveliscombe, and Wivey Link which runs community transport in the area. Its oversight of the Festival ensures legal and financial functions are taken care of, and allows the working group to continue building on the artistic and community events that make the Festival so special.
For full details of what’s on and where, the detailed free Festival guide is available at the Wiveliscombe Community Office, library and many shops, or visit the website at www.10parishesfestival.org.uk . Pauline Homeshaw paid tribute to Taunton Deane Borough Council which gave funding towards the costs of the guide production and the website.