Pick of the past

Over the years, Wirksworth Festival has presented masses of talented artists and performers. There is no way that we can show all of the wonderful work that has appeared at the Festival and so, we have chosen a selection of just some of the highlights, in no particular order. If there’s something that you think we should have included, that isn’t here, why not get in touch to let us know!

Jaleo Flamenco
(1998 & 2000)

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Jaleo Flamenco brought ‘passion, jealousy, power, seduction, sexuality and humour’ from the Sevillian plazas for a sensational show combining explosive footwork, haunting singing and playing.

Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company
(2000)

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Horse and Bamboo Theatre Company spent three days working in local schools before performing The Girl Who Cut Flowers. Inspired by the paintings of Paula Rego, the show combined masks with shadow imagery and black light effects.

John Hegley
(from 2003)

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Bespectacled dog-loving bard John Hegley has been a Festival regular since 2003 performing popular shows such as Uncut Confetti, The Adventures of Monsieur Robinet’ and family show The Animal Alphaboat.

St John’s St Theatre
(from 1998)

St John’s St have been entertaining Wirksworth crowds for years. Lively, engaging, fun and wonderfully scripted storytelling interwoven with music & humour by award-winning playwright Tony Jones.  Intricate stories that work brilliantly on every level and for young and old alike. A few visual treats have included spectacular fifteen-foot masked giants, talking dogs, and three headed witches.

Spiral
(2003)

‘Fossilised’ was a site specific piece set in the quarries around Wirksworth created and performed by Spiral integrated performance company to help celebrate the creation of the Sculpture Trail.

Andy Sheppard
(2003)

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Saxophonist Andy Sheppard is one of the few jazz musicians to make a substantial impact on the world stage and reach audiences beyond jazz. This project was specially commissioned by Derby Jazz when he worked with Brazilian grooves, Latin percussion and sensual songs of the Mat Andasun Band.

The Man Who Planted Trees
(2013)

Puppet State Theatre

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This Puppet State Theatre Production was a hit with adults and children alike. The captivating puppet show told the story of Jean Giono’s cult environmental classic. A French shepherd and his dog set out to plant a forest and transform a barren wasteland, a story that inspired the creation of Wirksworth’s own Stoney Wood!

Matt Ratcliffe - Kuroneko - The Black Cat’s Return
(2010)

Wirksworth raised Jazz pianist and composer Matt Ratcliffe presented a suite of original pieces inspired by the 1968 cult Japanese horror film by Kaneto Shindo, accompanied by excerpts and narrative from the film.

Bright in the Corner
(2012)

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The Cultural Olympiad premier of an exhilarating and uplifting musical dance production, created through collaboration between artists from the township of Mamelodi in South Africa and Learning Through Arts in Derbyshire.

Public Service Broadcasting
(2013)

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This duo performed in Wirksworth not long after releasing their first album and on the rise to their now huge popularity with unique live performances that weave samples from old public information films and archive footage around live drums, guitar, banjo and electronics.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson
(2014)

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Rising star and MOBO Award Nominee (2012) cellist and singer blended a honey-sweet vocal with bewitching cello playing for a night of soulful music at the Town Hall.

INdepenDANCE

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A Wirksworth-based dance company led by Debi Hedderwick and working with the talented young people of Wirksworth to produce work that is both stunning and moving, their work has transferred to the Edinburgh Festival.

Joan Ainley
(2015)

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Recall, Reflect, Remember was an exhibition to focus thoughts and reflections. Joan Ainley’s work, based on poppies, mediates the difficult issues between the ‘heroic’ meanings that have come to be attached to the red poppy and the realities of war. Joan Ainley lives in Wirksworth and has exhibited at the Festival many times.

Maxine Hall
(2009)

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Maxine Hall, a regular contributor to the festival since 1999, documented the people of Wirksworth in 2008 for a photography exhibition the following year. Using a traditional 5×4 camera the sitters, bathed by natural light, took ownership of the chair and command of the lens.

Veronica West
(2000)

Infinity was created by Veronica West as a permanent piece on the slope of Stoney Wood. A series of standing stones in a continuous loop almost 200m in length, it forms an elongated figure-of-eight or infinity symbol.

Denis O’Conner – The Tower Series
(2003 to 2005)

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Over 3 years, sculptor Denis O’Connor developed three tower sculptures sited in the grounds of the National Stone Centre, each with contrasting influences but developed to reflect the changing journey that these grand symbols of the English mill industry have gone through, slowly ebbing away to become heritage artefacts.

Kate Bellis
(2003)

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Kate Bellis, agricultural journalist and photographer, exhibited Idyll, images from a troubled land. Kate’s work over the years has done much to document and raise awareness and understanding of the farming communities in Derbyshire.

David Ainley
(2004)

Paintings from a Cultural Landscape involved approaches in which changing states and ‘histories’ are significant concerns. David engages with contemporary issues in the practice of his painting whilst having regard to the art of the past.

Andrew Robinson
(2005)

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The Middlepeak Quarry crusher, conveyor and hoppers created a post-industrial landscape in Wirksworth until their dramatic removal in 2005. Andrew Robinson worked with the original 1950s archives and his contemporary photos to provide an artist’s perspective on the changes in the landscape over the past 60 years.

Jonathan Vickers Fine Art Award

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The Festival had a long-standing partnership with this Fine Art Award, which brings a rising artist to Derbyshire to produce work inspired by the county’s landscape, heritage and people. Award winners, Lewis Noble, Helena Ben-Zenou, Kerri Pratt and Natalie Dowse have all exhibited at the Festival.

Wirksworth Windows
(from 2005)

Artists had always exhibited in diverse spaces around the town, but in 2005 artists were invited to make work specifically for 15 of the principal windows lining the Market Place and St John’s Street. Schools in the town also took part in a programme co-ordinated by Daisy Butler. Showing work in the town’s shop windows continues today.

Aiden Shingler - StarDisc
(2011)

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StarDisc was conceived to inspire, entertain, engage and educate; a 21st century stone circle that represents and evokes Heaven on Earth. StarDisc is a 40ft diameter amphitheatre and permanent art installation showing a luminous map of the night sky situated at the very top of Stoney Wood. It is a true asset for the town, often used as a spectacular venue during the Festival and all year round.

The Caravan Gallery
(2007)

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A gallery in a tiny caravan run by artists Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale. Since 2000 they had been traveling round Britain photographing the reality and surreality of everyday life with a focus on the bizarre and the absurd. For Festival 2007 they parked up in the town.

Maggie Cullen
(2008 & 2015)

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Maggie’s work centres around human stories influenced by the people, heritage and surrounding landscapes of Wirksworth. Using paper, discarded books and found materials she creates detailed miniature monuments, and mythical tableaux. Maggie lives in Wirksworth and has exhibited at the Festival many times.

Peter Hoon, A retrospective
(2009)

Wirksworth-based artist Peter Hoon died in March 2008. He was a printmaker of outstanding skill and achievement. He invested the technique of the collograph with unusual sensitivity in response to architecture, the coast and still lifes reminiscent of the work of Giorgio Morandi.

Charles Monkhouse
(2009)

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Derbyshire artist Charles Monkhouse’s spectacular installation Market Square Horizon consisted of 360 lights fixed to buildings surrounding the square. All the lights were on the same horizontal plane and as you climbed the square the lights became a single encircling line defining a (usually hidden) horizon, referring to the sea at the time the Wirksworth landscape was formed.

Wirksworth Field Barns Project - Michael Branthwaite’s installation
(2009)

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Michael Branthwaite’s installation was a radical modernist intervention in a vernacular building. The high gloss aluminum ducting restored the appearance of function to a building, which has changed over time from a functional to aesthetic object, this installation still stands in a field off Porter Lane.

Goh Ideta
(2009 & 2010)

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Japanese artist Goh Ideta enthralled many people with interactive lightworks which played with our sense of physical relationships with architectural space, a really memorable Festival highlight.

Caitlin Masley
(2010)

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Caitlin Masley, an outstanding American photographic artist, showed 2D and 3D work, using kaleidoscopic repeats and collaged imagery of iconic, industrial, dysfunctional and war-damaged buildings.

Tony Hill
(2010 & 2015)

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Tony Hill is a leading experimental filmmaker. The Doors, a multi-channel film installation, was a huge popular hit when it premiered at the Festival, its amusing twist delighted crowds in the Parish Room. SEA and Pool, shown in 2015 alongside demonstrations of Tony’s extraordinary camera rigs were again, enormously popular.

BIBI
(2010)

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French artist BIBI constructed the Bibigloo, ostensibly a functional building, in the Memorial Gardens for the duration of the Festival. Entirely manufactured from recycled red 20 litre plastic petrol canisters it was lit from within, creating a tension between the iconic Arctic home and the fuel of global warming.

Lucy Stevens - Don’t Shoot the Messenger
(2010)

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This piece retraced a visitor’s footsteps around Wirksworth to experience a different type of audio tour; listening to the sounds of the town through intense 360-degree binaural audio recordings to become immersed in a narrative that explored the town from a bird’s viewpoint.

Metro-Boulot-Dodo
(2010)

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In Whispers from a Rickshaw visitors could play a game of chance, creating an experience unique to each individual by putting on headphones and immersing themselves in a world where secret pockets hide intriguing objects that contemplate the nature of journeys and destiny.

Matthew Conduit
(2011)

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Large-scale photographs explored the tension between Middlepeak quarry and Wirksworth. Matthew Conduit’s imposing images have a quality of permanence and of powerful materiality, whether the lens captures the immemorial stone of Wirksworth’s impressive quarries or the profuse wildlife.

Katherine Vaughan And Greg Storrar - The Blacksmith’s Depositree
(2013)

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A fantastically engaging and beautiful installation where the discarded remnants of the old blacksmith’s workshop hung from hundreds of lengths of wire. The installation, imbued with smell of ginger nut biscuits, did not lament the death of a way of life, but highlighted the cycles that workers, industries and Wirksworth itself experience.

Gerry (Gerald) Vaughan
(2013)

A Place in Time – the Thames Estuary. Gerry who died in 2012 was both resident and champion of Wirksworth for almost 50 years. These charcoal drawings of the Thames Estuary were created for an exhibition at Derby Playhouse, accompanying a 2002 adaptation of ‘Great Expectations’.

Paul Cummins
(2008 & 2009)

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The Derbyshire artist who created Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, the iconic installation of 888,246 ceramic red poppies at the Tower of London in 2014, was a festival exhibitor earlier in his career, showing sgrafitto bowls on poles and ceramic flowers.

Stoney Wood
(1995)

Stoney Wood – a new wood on the edge of town in a former quarry – was a remarkable community project. Over the years the wood has developed into an important Festival site, hosting open air film shows, theatre and music performances, community celebrations and much more.

Willow Man by Carole Beavis
(2004)

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In 2004 a large willow man, around 6m tall, was constructed at the Stone Centre by group effort over two days, eventually, in true Festival style, the man was set alight.

Charity Shop DJ
(2010 & 2011)

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A free opening night party rom the king of cheesy favourites. A lounge night of bric a brac, charity shop records and Charity Shop DJ’s very special “Unlucky Dip”. Charity Shop DJ brought their uniquely infectious party spirit to the Festival.

Community Celebration
(from 2009)

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Fire Journeys was the first Community Celebration in 2009 and since then there has been a spectacular Festival Finale every year, a fantastically fun family event that celebrates the talent in the town and encourages participation throughout the town’s diverse community.

Carmina Burana
(2012)

A rousing classical music experience, conducted by the acclaimed Richard Roddis. Carmina Burana was produced following three separate workshops by three professional musical directors conducting a choir of 130 community singers with three professional soloists including a children’s choir of 12, and an amateur regional orchestra of 58 players and professional cellist for Elgar’s Concerto.

Northern Light Cinema Outdoor Screenings

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Every year since Wirksworth’s wonderful independent cinema opened, they have hosted an outdoor “immersive” film screening in Stoney Wood on the opening Friday night of the Festival – Monty Python, Les Mis, An American Werewolf – dressing up, drinking, a fantastic and fun night to open the Festival’s Fringe programme.

Lost Pubs of Wirksworth
(2014)

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A firm Festival favourite with anyone that could get tickets to see it, the film, The Lost Pubs of Wirksworth took Gavin several years to make, using a list from 1840 of over 50 pubs in Wirksworth, this film tells the bizarre tale of a small town with big thirst for beer, one pub at a time! The film premiered at the Festival and sold out six screenings!

Gig on the Roof

The Gig on the Roof takes place every year in the town’s sloping market place, rounding off the opening Trail Weekend with a flourish. It is a great fun event, with loads of local bands playing right into the night, and for many people in the town, this is the highlight of their Festival experience.