The celebration born in times of crisis is thriving
More than a hundred artists and craftspeople are putting the finishing touches to one of West Somerset's mots popular arts festivals.
The biennial 10 Parishes Festival is eight days packed with artistic and community celebration.
This is the sixth festival, which originally began in the community as a project to create something positive after the devastation of foot and mouth disease in the area.
It is held in venues from private homes to pubs, schools to breweries, in and around the parishes of Wiveliscombe, the small market town at its centre.
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A vibrant mix of the professional and the amateur, people celebrate their creativity and communities in the villages in myriad inventive ways.
Alongside the beautiful stained glass, paintings, ceramics, sculpture, jewellery, photography, music, community events and more, a day-long street market with more than 70 selected stalls and a street carnival in the town on Sunday, September 8, draws huge crowds to the area.
This year there is new work from London painter Antonia Myatt, who returns to her roots in the tiny village of Bathealton, where well-known professional artist Tilly Willis also exhibits. You will also discover the Bathealton Silk Group and others, while outlandish flowers will grow all over the village in a fun community event.
International performer Yvette Staelens will be celebrating Somerset folk song for a very special evening in equally tiny Ashbrittle; in the comparative metropolis of Wiveliscombe many exciting events are scheduled – including an exhibition by children at Wiveliscombe Primary School who worked with renowned sculptor Michael Fairfax on a special festival project.
In nearby Milverton, textiles and antiques enthusiast Susan Lady Lethbridge will not only open her highly individual shop within her home, Devonia House, she will also hold a unique exhibition of family textiles, some of which belonged to Harriet Cresswell, treasured granddaughter of the renowned Quaker prison and social reformer Elizabeth Fry.
The 10 Parishes Festival is led by founder and director Pauline Homeshaw, recently awarded an MBE for her services to the community (including work she does for SSAFA the British Armed Forces charity.)
"Right from the start this has been an inclusive arts, crafts and community festival and it helps support people who frequently work alone, often in rural isolation," she explains.
The festival offers them a valuable economic benefit – in 2011 sales amounted to almost £30,000, local charities benefited by £3,500 from refreshment sales and other opportunities, while local traders enjoyed increased footfall and the promotion of Wiveliscombe on Market and Carnival Day.
And that's quite apart from the market. Demand for stalls far outstrips supply and the organisers make sure there are always some new ones among them. The 70 carefully selected stallholders will sell everything from local cheeses to sourdough bread; locally sourced beef and venison burgers to organic vegetables and local ales.
For full details of what's on and where, a detailed, beautifully produced free festival guide is available at the Wiveliscombe Community Office, local libraries and shops, or on the website.
The 10 Parishes Festival takes place from September 7 to 15. Visit 10parishesfestival.org.uk.