New Mills Festival is back and better than ever

Organisers of New Mills Festival say this year’s event will be better than ever after coronavirus affected last year’s programme.

Friday, 10th September 2021, 12:29 pm
Updated Friday, 10th September 2021, 4:29 pm

The annual event, which gets underway on Friday September 10, brings together arts, music, literature and family activities for two weeks of entertainment across the town.

One of the first events of this year’s festival is the art trail, which will be launching across shops and businesses in the town.

Festival media officer Alison Johnson said: “We’ve got more businesses than ever taking part in the art trail which is great.

Tony Maloney and The Lonely Ponies will be performing at the New Mills Festival 2021. Photo - Dave Kakapo Gower

"There’s more than 70 on the trail list this year and some traders have even commissioned special art work pieces just for the festival.

"It seems like everyone wants to be involved this year and make the festival the best it can be after the past 18 months with the pandemic where so many events were cancelled.”

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Also kicking off the first night of festivities is Chris Dobrowolski at the Spring Bank Arts Centre.

New Mills Festival's volunteers Lyn Bannister, Martin Burton and Sharon Burgess showing their silly side at New Mills Carnival

Chris will be telling the crowds about his Antarctica adventures where he spent a period of time in the South Pole exploring and making art in the hostile region.

Matt McGuinness is another opening weekend performer, bringing his We Are What We Overcome show, a mix of conversation, comedy and music, to Torr Vale Mill on Sunday September 12, in a performance Alison says deftly walks the line between entertainment and enlightenment with mental health at the absolute centre.

The festival was started in the mid 1990’s by the then headteacher at New Mills School as a way of bringing together the many groups and organisations in New Mills with the people of the town as a celebration of community, culture and arts.

And Alison says over the years the festival has stayed true to that message.

Bubblefest will be returning to New Mills Festival 2021

She said: “It brings people together from all parts of the town and we celebrate the good things going on in New Mills.”


This year’s festival theme is home and Alison says home has become much more important to everyone in the past year.

She said: “Everyone has a different experience of home but where we live, where we work, where we socialise forms our home and our community.

More artists and venues than ever are taking part in part in the art trail as part of the New Mills Festival 2021

"After the year we have all had we wanted to celebrate where we have come from and look to the future.”

A new event which has brought the community together is the Home Farm project where people signed up to grow wheat in their homes. The harvest will be taking place during the festival and a large bear made of straw will be in the town to celebrate their efforts.

One of the other highlights festival goers can look forward to includes the return of Jimmy Cauty, with a new immersive installation titled Estate.

He has taken his art work on tour and it has popped up in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Sheffield.

Alison said: “Jimmy came five years ago and his work is still talked about now so we are all so excited to welcome him back.”

Artists hard at work getting ready for the New Mills Art Trail 2021

His work is once again in a shipping container which has 1,360 rooms inside but each home has been vandalised or attacked.

Alison said: “His work is so detailed and having Estate here is a huge privilege for the festival.”

Estate is at New Mills Football Club and will be open at weekends free of charge but booking is required to manage numbers.

Back for a second year running will be the return of Light up New Mills where shops and homes are encouraged to decorate their windows and be part of the illuminated gallery across the town.


Music-wise, New Mills Festival will feature several live music venues in the heart of town including the iconic Torr Vale Mill Building and the Spring Bank Arts Centre.

The last days of the festival, from September 24 to 26, will see the return of The Weekender event, featuring music from the Roving Crows, the Galivantes and the Shovel Dance Collective.

Alison said: “People can expect amazing, foot tapping, and fun.

"Talented folk acts Jacob & Drinkwater and Painted Sky, who will be performing at Spring Bank Arts, are also expected to be extremely popular with fans of both folk and live music alike.”

For the first time New Mills Festival is venturing out of the town with some events being hosted at Sunarts Fields – a rewilding farm in Whaley Bridge.

Naturalist Mark Cocker will be leading a two-hour talk and those attending are encouraged to think about sustainability and make the journey via train or bus.

A number of family orientated activities will take place during the fortnight, and the One World Festival will also join forces with New Mills Festival after the event was pushed back earlier in the year.

Alison said: “We are all really excited to welcome people back to the festival.

"It’s going to be better than previous years and I think it’s something the community really needs and is ready for that sense of normality returning.”

Lantern parade

However, for those wondering about the Lantern Parade, Alison says it is not going ahead again this year.

She said: “In 2018 the organisers said they needed to rethink how the event went ahead and it did return in 2019 but didn’t happen last year because of the pandemic.

"It has become so big and so successful that thousands of people came to the town but in light of Covid we thought it needed a rethink as the paths are so narrow and it was becoming quite slow to get around as there were so many people.

"So we are using this time to sit back and reflect on what we want to happen with the parade for next year.”

For the full line up of events, shows, and gigs visit the New Mills Festival website for the programme schedule and to buy tickets:

For any queries contact [email protected]

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