Festival history

Wirksworth is a Derbyshire market town rich in history. Lead was mined here in Roman times, the parish church, which dates from about 653, is sited on the junction of at least five ancient trackways, and in 1306 the town was granted a charter by King Edward I to hold an annual three-day fair in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary (to whom the parish church is dedicated). It’s this that still sets the dates for today’s Wirksworth Festival.

A celebration of arts and creativity by and for the local community, Wirksworth Festival began in 1979, with a £1000 grant from the Town Council, a small group of people doing everything, and a programme on a folded piece of blue paper.

Festival history

In 1994 a group of local artists decided to show work in their own homes and invite artists from outside the town to join in – the Art & Architecture Trail was born.

Since its beginnings, the Festival has evolved thanks to the hard work and commitment of many people. Come Festival time an army of up to 150 volunteers help make this annual event happen.

Supporting art old and new
Between 2005 – 2011, the Festival received development funding from Arts Council England. This enabled it to initiate an ambitious programme of contemporary visual arts, increase support for emerging artists through partnerships with regional universities, and increase work in schools and within the community.

A new era
The Festival we see today hosts over 150 artists from all over the world and welcomes thousands of visitors, but it still remains firmly rooted in the local community. Wirksworth and the surrounding area is home to a range of innovative and talented companies and individuals and has an unusually large creative community. The Festival is part of this community, and continues to reflect and support the economic and creative life of the town.

In 2016 the Festival became a charity and launched a membership scheme to help ensure its future. Due to the Coronavirus global pandemic, 2020 saw Wirksworth Festival go online for the first time.