A look ahead to the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival
PUBLISHED: 00:00 15 June 2015
The 22nd annual event takes place from June 26 to July 5
Hebden Bridge has long been known as an arty kind of place and that reputation will be enhanced this month as one of the town’s bigger events draw in the crowds.
Helen Meller, the director of the arts festival, wants to see some of the peaks and troughs ironed out and events staged in Hebden Bridge throughout the year.
‘We are looking at ways we can do things year round, maybe with family festivals or winter festivals,’ she said. ‘There is so much activity going on, sometimes too much, with festivals and events every weekend during the summer months all competing for audiences. I would like to see a bit more of a cascade throughout the year.
‘When the festival started it was a leisurely literature festival with events scattered throughout over six weeks, but life moved at a different pace then. Everyone now is frantically competing for audiences but people only have so much money and time, they can’t go to every festival. We want to make people feel they are on holiday in their own town and for the people who are on holiday, we want to send them home with wonderful memories of great experiences.
‘This is the 22nd Hebden Bridge Arts Festival so we are one of the elder statesmen of the festival world, most are more recent and some don’t stand the test of time. We’re a brand that people trust – we’re inviting, inclusive and long running and we are continuing to re-invent ourselves. We’re in a great location too, and artists see value in being here so we have a lot of things in our favour.’
This year’s festival, which runs from June 26 to July 5, will be Helen’s third as director and has attracted big names including poet John Hegley, writer Lemn Sissay and comedian Richard Herring as well as rock band I Am Kloot, scores of street performers and a world music picnic
Helen is originally from Doncaster and worked as a producer for television programmes hosted by Mariella Frostrup before starting work in Hebden Bridge. ‘I wanted to be a children’s television presenter at first but I don’t think I have enough of an ego, I think I like making things happen better.
‘My job is about lighting the touch-paper and seeing where the fireworks go off. I am very privileged to be in this role but it’s not about me, it’s about the people who come and take part and about the volunteers who do such a good job. I am the ring master, but I’m a quiet, understated ring master.
‘During the festival, I try to spread myself as thinly as I can. Events I go to as a punter are the ones I enjoy the most. On the street days it’s lovely to lose yourself in the crowd and watch the faces of people. It’s great to watch the magic unfold.
‘Most of the time I’m anxious that everything is going well, that’s the nature of live events, it’s what makes them special. The days of passive audience driven events are a thing of the past, it’s a much more immersive experience and we have got to change with the times. The festival model is brilliant for that because it’s not anything until you make it.’
Events will be staged at venues around the town – indeed, the festival’s strapline is ‘where all the world’s a stage’ – and even more people will be able to be players as the town warms up for the festival with another event which re-affirms Hebden Bridge’s arty standing.