New Mills ArtsFEST: Town transforms into giant gallery

Harp and a Monkey
Harp and a Monkey

Over the next two weeks, New Mills will be throwing open its doors, and windows, to more than 100 artists, poets, musicians and other creatives from across the UK for New Mills ArtsFEST 2014.

The festival, which runs from May 17 to June 1, also includes the town’s contribution to the county-wide “Derbyshire Open Arts”, with six more venues displaying the work of more than 40 artists and craftsfolk open to the public over the Bank Holiday weekend of May 24 to 26.

New Mills ArtsFEST started life in 2009 as the New Mills Arts Trail and was created by artists passionate about raising the profile of contemporary art in their local town. Several incarnations later the festival encompasses a wide range of events, but at its heart keeps the idea of the original organisers - to work with local shops and businesses to create an arts trail and “turn the town into a gallery.”

The arts trail can be viewed at any time, and creates opportunities for residents and visitors going about their daily business to encounter a wide range of art including painting, film, sculpture, installation and drawing.

This year the work of more than 60 artists is being displayed in unusual spaces and places, in pubs and clubs, a barbers, bookshop, florists and even a funeral parlour.

“The reaction has been fantastic” enthused Deborah Pitman, who is organising the event alongside Lyn Bannister and Arthur Burns.

“With more than 50 venues across the town joining in, business owners have gone out of their way to provide space for artists to show off their work. It’s a great partnership.”

The festival organisers are also working closely with local artists, organisations and schools and displays of work will be included in the Town Trail, creating plenty of opportunities for the younger generation to get involved.

Among the highlights of this year’s festival are two exclusive ‘up-close and personal’ performances by Manchester-based electro-folk trio ‘Harp and a Monkey’ at The Studios, and at the same venue an exhibition featuring 12 international and nationally-acclaimed artists, including Turner Prize-nominee David Shrigley.

Dominic Berry will take audiences on an emotive journey by recounting his story of “an effeminate, vegan poet growing up in the Pembrokeshire countryside”, there will be an exclusive performance by The Manchester Opera Project with New York-based singer and actress Emily Howard, and an evening of toe-tapping folk music from around 
the world at The Torrs, featuring local bands The Gally Canters, Gypsy Jazz and The Roaring Owls, Katy Galloway, The Hayes Sisters and Lazlo Baby.

There will also be plenty of opportunities for visitors young and old to get involved, including the interactive show ‘The Dragon Who Hates Poetry’ with Dominic Berry for ages five to ten, workshops in printing, drawing and weaving, an ‘open mic’ poetry night with Kerry Tankard and a series of pop-up performances.

A full programme of events and details for purchasing tickets can be found at