Wirksworth Festival funding slashed

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‘The show will go on’ say organisers of the Dales leading arts festival – despite it losing more than half of its funding.

Organisers of Wirksworth Festival say they are disappointed that the Arts Council rejected their bid for funding for 2015 to 2018.

New ways to fund the annual event are being looked at such as charging visitors for some exhibitions that would usualy be free and relying more on volunteers rather than staff.

The festival costs around £110,000 to put on each year, which for the past three years has included £59,000 per year from the Arts Council.

Natasha Astara, who manages the festival, said: “The festival will continue to function and will be applying for other Arts Council funding, such as Grants for the Arts to maintain its work on contemporary art and office infrastructure.

“The board were disappointed as were the office staff at the outcome but it has been positive about the use of the funding to move the festival into a good position to grow even without the funding using other grants.”

The festival has enough funding for this year’s event, which starts on September 5.

Natasha said the remainder of the money needed to run the festival came from the arts trail, which brings in around £25,000, as well as performance grants and support from Wirksworth Town Council and Derbyshire Dales District Council.

She said: “The festival is planning to move to charity status as it fits the business model we use more appropriately and will help us gain access to more funding streams.

“The festival already fulfils many of the requirements for a charity as it is not–for–profit and has a lot of community engagement and supports young people.”

Natasha added the festival was looking to increase its revenue and was considering charging for some things which are usually free such as performances and workshops.

She added: “This is not the end for the festival, it’s just a different direction.

“Creativity comes out of necessity.”

Bill Lounds, director of the festival, said it had an inclusive management structure, which includes volunteers and staff.

He said the festival was looking for more volunteers to help run the event.

Bill said: “We feel the festival is an opportunity for people to pick up new skills and we are good at training as well.”

The festival will run until September 21.

The popular arts and architecture trail is in its 20th year and takes place on Saturday and Sunday, September 6 and 7.

The trail weekend usually attracts around 4,000 to the town, with an extra 2,000 attracted by the performance and musical aspects of the festival.

Wirksworth Festival is based on an ancient celebration based around the church clypping and coincides with St Mary’s birthday on September 8.

To find out more about the festival, including how to volunteer, visit the website www.wirksworthfestival.co.uk

What do you think of the festival? Send your letters to news@matlockmercury.co.uk