[Festivals Stories] Holmfirth Arts Festival

28 Sep 2021

Holmfirth Arts Festival
17 > 19 September 2021
Holmfirth, UK

Film, photography, live stream

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As the pandemic struck in March 2020, we had the funding, a programme and agreements in place with artists. We did not want to cancel these agreements as artists had already lost all their work. We agreed that we would find a way through rather than cancelling the festival. We immediately sent artists 30% of their fee as an advance and retained 70% for when it was possible to create the Festival. We then decided that we would produce an online festival and applied to Arts Council England to work with two film makers to create three online live streamed and live hosted programmes of about 45 minutes each. We simply asked artists to do what they could within this new format.

Some artists sent us existing films and others made completely new ones. We also produced our participatory programme in this way. Our parade became Puppets in Place, where families learned how to make puppets through online workshops and then met with a photographer to photograph their puppet outdoors in their chosen part of the town.

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We installed two art installations in the local parks - Carbon Capture Sculpture (living willow sculptures) and Solarphones (solar powered instruments in the trees) plus a children's shop window exhibition.

The reach of the livestreamed festival exceeded our expectations in numbers and went global (South Africa, Australia, Canada and Europe). These are some of the statistics: 51,946 total reach; 3,489 live audience (installations & Supporters' fundraisers) 47,935 online interactions; 87 artists; 281 days of work for artists; 41 participatory sessions; 231 participants.

This is what people said. "Fantastic to put this on given restrictions; a very smart change of direction, excellent quality of interesting programme".

"What an outstanding experience - huge community feel, even though we were distanced."

The pandemic has inspired us to continue to include a livestreamed event in future festivals.

(General Editor: Simon Mundy)