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Hebden Bridge Arts Festival


Thursday, 12 July 2012

With devastating flooding either side of the festival, it has been an extremely difficult time for many of the businesses in Hebden Bridge but they rallied to support this year’s Arts Festival.

Helen Parnell of Spirals was determined to put up a festival window display, despite both shops being badly hit by flooding, the same went for Ruby Shoesday and The Bookcase. The Picture House team worked round the clock to dry out the seats in time for the Stewart Lee gig.

The opening day of the festival turned out to be a carnival though as the rescheduled Handmade Parade danced through town in a blaze of colour and sunshine, followed by the Mytholmroyd gala and a day of dance events on the imove stage.

Families gathered in alternating rain and sunshine to watch the Sheffield breakdancers Rationale, Belfast troupe ponydance, So & So Circus and Lindy Nsingo.

‘the imove dance stuff was fab. The visual arts was outstanding and loads of faces I didn’t recognise. The ‘Girls Allowed’ music at Wainsgate chapel was top dollar, some gorgeous singers and a nice mix of local and ‘names’  says local resident Susan Burns.

The Great Mandavi

The Great Mandavi - photo: Craig Shaw

Selling more than 2000 tickets for over 30 events at across 15 venues – including first time events at the Octagonal Chapel, the new Town Hall and Riverside School, the festival drew large numbers from across the valley and further afield - the Lake District, Lancaster, Leeds and Manchester.

There were plenty of sell out shows - Stewart Lee played to a packed and only just dried out Picture House, the Inspiral Carpets rocked a capacity crowd at the Trades, Julie Felix was also a sell-out in the stunning setting of the Octagonal Chapel. The event was held in the memory of Festival Chair, Di Smith and raised over £300 for Macmillan.

Rocket Theatre’s ‘Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and Penned In - True Life Crime also sold out along with the Matisse workshop. The hot ticket for families was  Mimika theatre’s 8 performances of Landscapes and Small Worlds performed in a tent inside Riverside school.

‘That was the best piece of children’s theatre I’ve ever seen. Stunning.’ Said North of Watford’s Lisa Allen.

The Festival’s pop up poet Winston Plowes has been harvesting words throughout the festival (you may have seen his red wheelbarrow and high visibility ‘Poet’ jacket!) and his findings have been appearing daily on the website. Perhaps the most apposite piece was his flood poem (see below) and heads, compiled from the words of local businesses affected by recent events.

Mike Hancock

Mike Hancock - photo: Craig Shaw

It’s been a surreal experience really, rallying audiences who are wondering whether events are going to happen in a flood damaged town (we did have to cancel a few events) and trying to support shops and venues forced to close. The wonderful street events really brought the festival out into Hebden Bridge and hopefully provided both entertainment and a morale booster, which was echoed when we were asked to provide a mini festival for Prince Charles on his recent visit.   

I do think this festival has reached deep into the community this year - we were able to involved students from Todmorden and Calder High Schools and Bradford College, Riverside, Hebden Royd, Old Town and Heptonstall.

I would like to thank Heidi Waddington for delivering a top notch Hebden Bridge Fringe Festival and our team of nearly 50 volunteers without whom all this would be undoable! Thanks also to photographers Sarah Mason and Craig Shaw who have recorded some unforgettable moments.

Thanks also to all the businesses who supported the festival in what were very difficult times. We’d also like to thank our sponsors Welcome to Yorkshire and  Sweet & Maxwell and funders Arts Council England (Yorkshire), Hebden Royd Town Council and Calderdale Council.’

The Arts Festival would really like to hear your thoughts on this year’s festival and what you might like to see next year. There’s a feedback form on the website www.hbaf.co.uk.


Slopping Out


Shops are slopping out in public.

Mopping up the mud and debris
washed up in the rise and fall
of one long tenebrous night.

Hebden Bridge is cellar sore
from pumping out
through throbbing hose.
Till all that’s left are Calder dregs
and tall tales told of lines on walls
exceeded by good measure.

Stacks of Sofas, chairs and squares
of once familiar furnishings
now play Tetris on its streets
As the big clean up begins.

The tidemark on the pub front door
The girl who helped us save our store
(We never caught her name).

The parents bailing out the school
the day we got that swimming pool
when all hands pulled together.

Sad to see those carpets rolled
the damaged goods that can’t be sold.
Sad to hear the sirens wail
the sand bags stacked to no avail
and skips dripping with lives.

This town will still have troubled times
and for now and many nights to come
will hear dehumidifiers hum
as it drifts off to sleep.


© Winston Plowes 2012


See also

  • HebWeb News: Carnival weekend in Hebden (3 July)
  • HebWeb News: Arts Festival and Handmade Parade hit the sunny streets of Hebden (27 June)
  • HebWeb News: The girls are back in town! (20 June)
  • HebWeb News: Festival Box Office opens Saturday 16th June
  • HebWeb News: Dance weekend to kick off Arts festival
  • HebWeb News: Festival Programme launched: Matisse and Stewart Lee headline
  • HebWeb News: Hebden Bridge Fringe Programme launched
  • HebWeb News: Countdown to Arts Festival


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