The Success of the Heswall Arts Festival 2015

The following is a report to the AGM by the festival director and chairman Valerie Warr.

Another fabulous two-week Festival, celebrating in 2015 the fifth anniversary of our original ideas to make Heswall a more vibrant and inclusive Community through entertainment, education and enthusiasm.

2015 also saw the Festival spread its wings to locations outside Heswall with the planning of events in Southport, Liverpool and Bebington. These turned out to be very successful and well supported. We also were delighted to welcome the Heswall & District Business Association to our fold as very lively and enthusiastic partners. Under the leadership of Martin Brassey (HDBA) the Opening Day was very busy with a well-supported “Dog Show”, a fairground, music, pony rides, a display of vintage vehicles and much more. Heswall also held its first “Festival Scarecrow Trail” with displays of themed scarecrows outside many of the businesses and shops in and around the area. Young people were spotted taking adults for long walks, clipboard in hand, to try to find each scarecrow and win a prize. We hope to develop this idea further in 2016.

We began to bring international artistes to the Festival and to increase our ethnic footprint. There seemed to be a little reluctance, or perhaps fear of the unfamiliar in Heswall, to support the Pagoda Arts evening. Those who attended were treated to a rare opportunity to see first-hand a magnificent display of the culture of China over 2000 years. The Chinese Youth Orchestra played, we saw dancing, Tai Chi, Double Fan and Guzheng, all in very colourful costumes. A visit from the renowned London Klezmer Quartet was very well supported in a Southport lunchtime concert followed by workshops for young instrumentalists in Wirral Boys Grammar School and adult workshops with dance and music. LKQ would love to visit us again and we would be delighted to welcome them back at some stage. One of the problems of bringing artistes from some distance away is covering travel expenses in addition to event costs. It is important for Festival goers to realise this and to be happy to dig a bit deeper into their wallets to buy tickets. Many people happily spend a regular £3’ish on coffees; perhaps forego one coffee a week and use the money to support your Festival events.

We hosted several high profile Guest Speakers this year, showing that Heswall is now well respected as a very credible and successful addition to the range of UK Festivals. Doug Scott’s evening raised a considerable sum of money to support the earthquake relief operation in Nepal, Edwina Curry proved less controversial but even more entertaining than expected. Rosie Millard had good support in Lingham’s and Christine Truman gave us a splendid evening in Heswall Tennis Club. The now traditional sessions about the Arts of Science, Engineering and Astronomy were once again very popular with excellent speakers and the display of the fabulous Formula Student Racing Car.

Visual Art was on display around town and Heswall Artists did us proud with an Exhibition in the Library. In fact the two weeks gave us so many different and stimulating sessions that you really should look back through the official Programme to check what you missed.Valerie Warr Heswall Arts Festival

In his Patron’s message for 2015 Stephen Hough promised to play for us in St George’s Hall, Liverpool as Festival Encore. This concert featuring the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 has just taken place and was a very special occasion enjoyed by all who attended. We are indeed fortunate to have him as our Festival Patron. 

I believe your committee fulfilled the aims outlined twelve months ago to lead us to greater things. We achieved a higher performance level, inclusivity, improved ethnic focus, an introduction to the Art of Sport, and the development of a relationship with HDBA. These are but beginnings and we are actively considering the future role of the Festival.

Finally, I would like to thank all the members of the committee, the Rotary Clubs of Wirral and our supporters for their excellent work last year. We would welcome ideas to strengthen our Team meanwhile we are looking forward to offering another exciting programme starting from 1st October 2016.


Valerie Warr