Manchester’s longest running community arts festival is celebrating its 20th anniversary with more acts, artists and events than ever before. The festival will be a month-long celebration of community talent packed full of 150 events.
Starting on April 29 and running until May 29, the Chorlton Community Arts Festival will see almost 1,000 artists showcasing their talents across 60 local venues in and around Chorlton. The Chorlton Arts Festival was established in 2002 and is now an entirely voluntary, non-profit and community driven event that is mostly free and open to everyone.
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The festival will include art from all, from primary school children creating Jubilee flags to paintings by people in their 80s. But artwork isn’t all the festival offers with comedy shows, music, dance, theater performances, opportunities to craft and a lot more.
The program for the festival is set to be released later this week and gives a glimpse into the history of the festival. In the words of local historian Andrew Simpson, ‘it began when a teacher, a city councillor, and a vicar sat down a bottle of wine’.
The original concept of the festival was to create a fun and free for all event that included all aspects of the arts. Despite some changes over the years, the festival remains inclusive, community based and mostly free with only a small percentage of events requiring an entry cost.
The festival continued to thrive year after year and in 2020 went completely virtual during the Covid pandemic. Instead of shutting down, the festival created a virtual version of Chorlton to explore, complete with art and entertainment.
Despite the festival returning to the streets in 2021 and hosting just under 1,000 artists at 80 venues in south Manchester, this year’s promises to be bigger than ever before but strictly community based.
While normally only a week-long affair, the 2022 festival will last for the entire month of May and will tie in with the Queen’s diamond jubilee.
Visual arts and crafts take a center seat in this year’s festival with exhibitions all over Chorlton, from the Chorlton Craftavists working around the area to shows at the Horse and Jockey, Proof Bar & Kitchen, Barlow Hall Primary School and many more. Meanwhile other events from music to a mini festival for children will be taking place across Chorlton’s green spaces.
Over the years, the Chorlton Community Arts Festival has played host to some big names, including Jason Manford who performed a set in 2002 at the first ever festival. Since then, the festival’s local patrons include Scotland’s poet lauerate Jackie Kay and Badly Drawn Boy.
Carolyn Kagan, a retired community psychologist and now chair of the Chorlton Community Arts Festival, said: “We’ve had a wonderful time working with local people, bringing another Festival to Chorlton, though it’s not been all easy sailing.
“Two years ago was a virtual festival which received international acclaim. The following the year was hit by uncertainty with local venues affected by Covid-related closures right to the last minute.
“However, with fantastic locally connected patrons like Jackie Kay, Stephen Raw, Lip Service, Badly Drawn Boy and Jason Manford and 30 volunteers, business sponsors, local venues, schools and artists, we are sure 2022 will be the most memorable ever.”
Artistic director, Peter Topping said: “Take a look at our program on the website. So much more to see and do than ever before – it is the best ever.
“There’s something for everyone. Chorlton residents and traders have once again done us proud with incredible talent, energy, creativity and fun. We would love to see you all come and support them and your community.”
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