Hebden Bridge Arts Festival, free entry - Visit now
The biographies of the Co-Chairs of Hebden Bridge Arts Festival are an indication of the cultural heft behind this annual creative celebration – and the past lineups proof of its ambition. Amanda Dalton and Pat Weller were formerly Engagement Director and Executive Director at Manchester’s Royal Exchange respectively, and have years of working freelance for arts organisations across the country between them. Comedian Sara Pascoe, poet laureate Simon Armitage, journalist Polly Toynbee and acclaimed artist Martin Parr have all featured on the festival’s programme – as well as a touring Claude Cahun exhibition from London’s Southbank. Each year, high-profile names appear in venues across the town; Bridget Christie in Hebden Bridge Picture House, Adam Buxton in the Little Theatre , award-winning artist Yan Wang Preston in Gibson Mill at Hardcastle Crags .
Hebden Bridge Arts Festival is, then, a cultural heavy-hitter – as well as being one of Yorkshire’s longest running arts festivals. Established in 1993, the festival follows in the footsteps of the pageants and celebrations that have taken place in the town for hundreds of years, contributing its own unique approach to Hebden Bridge’s heritage and history. Each programme is given a central theme: Virtual Valley in 2019, with VR experiences, electronic music and a glimpse behind the scenes with a Hollywood concept artist. Trouser Town in 2016, which was a nod to Hebden Bridge’s rich textile history and the boom in clothing and trouser manufacturing that bolstered the town’s fortunes. These themes offer an organising principle for the festival’s events, and for the decorations that take over the town during the celebrations.
Hebden Bridge Arts Festival Board announced a well-timed hiatus for 2020, in order to make time to think about the future direction of the festival. This impressive, vibrant event remains a core part of the town’s cultural ecology – and, like the annual Handmade Parade, is well worth organising a visit to Hebden Bridge around.
Hebden Bridge Arts Festival