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NEWS: 22nd June

The 2005 Hebden Bridge Arts Festival is about to begin. In actual fact, 10.15 a.m. on Saturday 25th June sees the start of the first Festival activity, (if you don't count the exhibition of the enchanting work of childrens' illustrator Charlotte Voake in the Festival Shop, which has been on show since the Box Office opened on June 11th).

The honour of being the opening Festival event goes to the already sold out Ted Hughes walk, followed closely by the opening of the first Open Gardens and Studios at 11 a.m. Then the festival moves straight into top gear with a choice that evening of the eight melodic voices of Cantorelli at Heptonstall Parish Church or the eight million watt energy of The Bloody Big Soul Band, with Doris and the Dinner Ladies, at the Picture House.

The following day sees the first of the free Sundays in the Square activities with Horse and Bamboo Theatre's pPod portable performance space, and then the first of the visiting Big Names, with radio and tv comic Jo Caulfield at the Picture House and jazz trombonist Dennis Rollins guesting with Tongue and Groove at the Trades Club.

Most of what the next two weeks hold in store has already been catalogued in these news pages, under various headings, and, of course, details of the whole Festival programme are available in the little gold Festival programme which is widely available, or from the Box Office on Albert Street (open daily 10 till 5, Sundays 12 till 5, phone 01422 842684).

Discussing the programme under headings (music, theatre, poetry etc), whilst being an orderly way of highlighting events, tends to miss out those things which don't fall neatly into one category or another. One such is Peter Coles's "Pictures Words and Music" at St Michaels Church Hall in Mytholmroyd on Tuesday 28th June. Peter, apart from being a local Calderdale Councillor, is well known around these parts for his collaboration in local poetry and other publications. What may not be so well known, however, is his international acclaim as one of the world's top creators of Audio Visual Sequences. He will present some of his own work, and some from other authors from this country and abroad, in a show which the Festival hopes will pave the way for a full International Audio Visual competition during the 2006 Festival.

It's still not too late to book for many of the Festival events (a few are already sell-outs - contact the box office for up to date details) - but don't rely on turning up at the door and hoping to get in. The Hebden Bridge Arts Festival gets more popular by the year, and advance booking is increasingly becoming the wise way to ensure that the unmissable is not missed!

Another Arts Festival exhibition which is quick off the mark is the Quentin Blake show at ArtsMill, which opened last Wednesday 22nd June. Former Children's laureate Quentin has worked with many writers, most famously with Roald Dahl, and has created much-loved characters of his own such as Mister Magnolia and Mrs Armitage. David Wright, Co-Director of ArtsMill said: "This exhibition is our third presentation by artists who offer us their own approach to illustration. Neil Pittaway showed his work here in 2003; last year we had the Jane Eyre prints by Paula Rego; and we are grateful to Quentin Blake for the chance to show one of the nation's best known illustrators."

Entry to the exhibition is free, and the gallery is open 11am to 5pm Wednesday to Sunday. There will be a programme of workshops accompanying this exhibition, linked to illus tration, drawing, story-telling & poetry. For further information contact ArtsMill Gallery, Linden Mill, Linden Road, Hebden Bridge HX7 7DN, Tel: 01422 843413.

And in a final coup for the Festival the artist himself will be at Artsmill on Thursday 21st July to talk about his work. Tickets for this are limited and are available from the Festival Box Office.

The Hebden Bridge Arts Festival is thrilled that, thanks to an Arts Council grant, it is able to show the stunning work of both Quentin Blake and Charlotte Voake. Another feather in the cap of this little town's big annual Arts Festival, and a unique opportunity to wander across town and compare the styles of two leading lights of children's illustration -contrasting the deft pen-strokes and colour wash of the one with the finely crafted detail of the other. Which is which? - well, you'll just have to see for yourself!

Hebden Bridge Arts Festival