Feature: Review - Wirksworth Arts and Architecture Trail

Wirksworth Arts and Architecture trail is part of the September long Wirksworth festival. Rob went down to take a look. 

With the sun illuminating Wirksworth to near melting point, the small village in the Peak District once again opened its doors and stood with open arms, inviting the world to enjoy its Arts and Architecture trails. Now in its 17th year the Arts festival has expanded to bring the picturesque town to life with more bunting than ever before, offering music, arts, theatre and beautiful scenery that envelopes this quaint village. After missing the festival last year I was excited to get started, so armed with my official badge and trail program I got stuck in, putting one foot in front of the other with the crowd as my guide, I went in search of Art.

My first stop was a delightful house just off the main road. From a distance it looked like any other village house, but after stepping into the garden I found myself in what can only be described as Wallace and Gromit’s Laboratory created deep inside the nightmare of David Lynch. All the pieces were created by Johnny White & Amanda Wray to tell the tale of family life. The majority of their work was based on conception with such stella titles as “womb with a view” and pieces involving an egg covered in mirrors, with LED sperm flashing their way around, “it’s like a conception disco” we were told.

Feeling a little shaky in the legs we headed back to civilisation, the Red Lion pub to be precise. There we would be entertained by local cover band Carpe Diem led by Hatch’d favourite Lee Smith. After some unfortunate aggro from nearby theatre types (they didn’t like the noise) Lee settled into his role brilliantly, his voice is a little like that chap from Ash (the one who did that AWFUL Christmas song with Emmy the Great, but don’t let that put you off) and his stage persona is somewhat genius, long winded rambles about the state of his memory and how rock and roll doesn’t sit well with his age or posture, it’s impossible not to like him.

As the gig slightly over run and the festival slightly under run, we were met with the end of Saturday. As such we went for a pint and eagerly waited for Sunday morning where we promised each other we would see a considerable amount of art.

Arriving the next day with a map, an itinerary and a can do attitude we made our way to the first area, I think it was a garage and a mighty big one at that, housing no fewer than 4 artists, yes, you heard right, four. At the top of my favourite list was Lucy Gell, an incredibly talented screen printer and illustrator who specialises in making cats look cross. Each design had its own story to tell, they were fun and sometimes almost sinister in a cartoon kind of way. I liked them very much.

As we made our way around the town, sweating to near drowning point we found Lights Out, a new cinema venture that would bring independent films to the town of Wirksworth. After talking to the chap in charge you felt a genuine sense of excitement, there would be theatre, music, spoken word, foreign films, short films, great food and great beer all in this intimate setting. Not content on being contained by his four walls he also had ideas for performances throughout the village as well as outdoor screenings and drive-in events. I can barely wait to see this come alive.

After a quick half with the fantastic Wirksworth brewery we made our way up into the surrounding hills to enjoy the view as well as some world music at the Star Disc Enterprise (their pun, not mine). An incredible star trail built in to the hills that plays host to astronomical events throughout the year. Unfortunately for us the Sun hid all other stars behind it being the egotistical ball of flames that it is, but this is certainly a place I will be coming back to.

Making our way back into the village we arrived at the train station to see designer and screen printer Lesley Warrington. Blessed with an incredible location Lesley appears to have been very busy, having no problem filling the entire carriage with her amazing selection of time pieces printed over mysterious yet poignant passages of text, as well as a few newer pieces experimenting with some exciting ideas and techniques. It looked truly remarkable.

As the sun set behind the hills of the peak district, the festival came to a reluctant close. What became obvious to me however was that this village would carry on without us. There were so many exciting ideas flowing around and a real sense of a community that was hell bent on creating, making, entertaining and building on the already perfect town. I have to admit I fell a little bit in love with Wirksworth this weekend, not just for the incredible, scenic surroundings and the beautiful architecture, but also the people who just seemed truly inspired and excited to be alive.