Wirral Festival of Firsts was inaugurated in Hoylake in July 2011, under the inspiration and leadership of John Gorman. The second festival took place in July 2012. We are now starting to plan our third festival from 6th-14th July 2013. Our long term goal is to establish this Festival as an annual Wirral-wide festival with programmes and events across the peninsula throughout the month of July, but this can only happen once there is a well established organisational and financial foundation.
What is special about the Wirral Festival of Firsts? It is an arts festival with a difference. We aim in particular to encourage three things: innovation; community participation; legacy.
1) Innovation: By featuring a number of “Firsts”, for either Wirral or the World, we encourage innovation and creativity. In 2011 the first year of the festival, we featured the following “firsts”: Art on the Promenade and Gallery Hoylake, the First National Poetry Competition to be organized on the Wirral, the First ever Poetry Proms and a Poetry Concert, as well as the world première of the play Lena, not to mention the début performance of the Wirral Ukulele Orchestra and the establishment of an on-going programme of regular poetry reading in care homes in the Hoylake catchment area. In 2012 we repeated many of the 2011 successful “Firsts” and also delivered two world première plays including Enola Gay which employed an innovative approach to developing the script with one script writer based in Wirral, another in Japan, as well as the world’s first especially planted PoeTree – planted on Market Street Hoylake. Our Mothers art exhibition featuring Turner prize winners staged in Hoylake was a special coup.
2) Community Participation: The Festival promotes community participation by providing lots of opportunities for local artists and performers to showcase their work. It also holds a wide range of participatory workshops for the general public, and tries to get people involved through a well run volunteer programme.
- Participation by local performers, artists and arts groups: We showcased about 1000 artists, poets and musicians, and actors altogether, including about 350 local artists, 100 local poets and 400 local musicians (including singers and ukulele players!).
There were performance and exhibition opportunities for many local groups including the Wirral Young Musicians Concert which showcased the fabulous talent of young musicians in our local schools, Hand in Hand’s brilliant production of Bev Clark’s After the Dream, Angwin and Nelson’s Dickens Drood and the best of Tomes, Carl Howard’s Shakespeare’s bits, The Wirral Ukulele Orchestra, The Wirral Community Choir and two LORCAM productions to mention just a few! Gallery Hoylake was a supreme example of bringing works of art and poetry right into the community by showcasing them the length and breadth of Hoylake’s Market Street in over 80 shop windows.
- Participatory workshops: Over 25 participatory workshops in various forms of art, craft, well being and music were planned – some did not take place, but many went ahead and gave members of the community, young and old an opportunity to try and taste different art forms.
- Getting involved through Volunteering: Our Volunteer programme although smaller than we had hoped, was well resourced and well organised thanks to support from our sponsors and the management of Mary Beaumont our outgoing Volunteer Manager. Volunteers felt they had a worthwhile experience. At the follow-up focus group, volunteers mentioned many positives from their volunteering:
“As a local, … doing something for Hoylake”; “Getting to know what artists, musicians and poets do, was impressed and excited by so much creativity and the diversity of what was on offer”; “I discovered that I liked poetry – and am thinking of giving it a try myself!”; “It gave me motivation to launch a new website”; “I bought a ukulele!”; “I gained the confidence to do something different!”
3) Legacy: The Festival aims to encourage a legacy of arts programmes to benefit the local community over the whole year not just during the festival. To date, legacy programmes include Urban Arts and Culture Trail to be launched in early 2013, Hoylake Entertains programme – a regular theatre programme at Melrose Hall for 2013, the PoeTree; Poetry in Care Homes programme, now in its 2nd year, and the Hoylake Then (Local history and heritage) programme to be launched on 18th November at Melrose Hall..
The scope of the 2012 programme can still be seen on our website http://www.festivaloffirsts.co.uk/ and on the Festival Blog http://wirralfestivaloffirsts.wordpress.com/.
Wirral Festival of Firsts 2013 will start with a grand launch of Gallery Hoylake (Art and poetry in shop windows) on 6th July and culminate in another lively weekend featuring the Music and Poetry Proms, Art on the Promenade and an exciting programme of evening concerts and theatre, as well as an expanded workshops programme. Look out for some more “Firsts”!
We need help from people who have enthusiasm and commitment to the idea of the festival as well as some time to give. To get involved as a volunteer email us through the Festival of Firsts at firstname.lastname@example.org . When contacting us, let us know whether you are interested in joining one of the organising committees to work on planning and organising the Festival, or whether you would rather just be involved as a volunteer during the festival itself, from 6th-14th July 2013.