Wiltshire Publications

Setting the stage for Westbury’s future

WITHa prestigious folk festival arriving in the town, an established music and arts festival gearing up for September, and now a new arts season at the Laverton, Westbury has a growing reputation as a centre for the arts and entertainment in the county.

This year, the reborn Village Pump Folk Festival moves to Westbury, bringing the cream of the British folk music world – and an anticipated 2,000+ people – to White Horse Country Park from the 20th-22nd July.

Acts at the festival include Cara Dillon, Show of Hands, Seth Lakeman, Karine Polwart, Oysterband, Three Daft Monkeys and Ben Waters.

On the same weekend, the Laverton launches its brand new arts season, boasting theatre performances, popular and folk music, and even a theatre school for young people.

In September, the Westbury Music and Arts Festival returns for its fourth year, bringing a host of events including music concerts, art exhibitions, and workshops to the town.

Although Rickfest, a new music festival in Southwick in aid of the Rainbow Trust, was unable to run this year, there are hopes that the Westbury couple who are organising the event, will be able to go ahead in 2013.

Leander Morales is a Westbury musician and music promoter, who has worked with names such as rock band Reef, folk duo Turin Brakes, and Adam Ant. Recently, he was the music production manager for Westbury’s Diamond Jubilee Concert in the Market Place.

Leander says, “The Village Pump is the cream of the crop, the best folk artists in the UK. This town is very lucky.

“A music scene and an arts scene can happen in any town, but it depends on the support of the people. With 18,000 people in Westbury there’s great potential to offer a high level of entertainment. Even just in local pubs I’ve heard some great music. Things are getting noticed and picked up on. But it needs the public’s support.”

On behalf of the Westbury Music and Arts Festival, chair of the committee, Roy Inwood said, “We’re trying to continue to develop the festival. We’ve got our funds to do things and if we make the money each year we can plough that back in and hopefully keep bringing something bigger and better as time goes on.

“It’s pretty good for a town the size of Westbury, and we hope it’s putting Westbury on the map.”

David Jenkins, president of the Westbury Chamber of Commerce, points out that attracting more visitors through the arts can help the local economy. “2,000 people [at the Village Pump Folk Festival] need to eat and drink, so it does bring money into the area,” he said. “From that point of view it’s good. If we can get a wider choice of things happening in the town, hopefully that will develop.”

Westbury mayor Sue Ezra says, “Westbury does have a lot going for it. Matravers do a lot, and the Laverton is pursuing a lot of things. Just because the Jubilee is over, we don’t grind to a halt – we’ve started on planning the Christmas events already. I’m hoping local people will get involved with all these things.”


A new generation of artists in the town


Nurturing the talents of the next generation, the town has Matravers School which is a specialist arts college, a status which reflects their commitment to the arts and encourages them to put on more and more activities and events.  Primary schools in the area endeavour to offer plenty of creative opportunities for their pupils, and earlier this year Dilton Marsh Primary School was one of just three schools in Wiltshire to receive the Artsmark award from Arts Council England, which celebrates the strength of their arts activities.

Matravers School has welcomed artists such as acclaimed percussion group Stomp, actor Mark McGann and EastEnders actor Brett Fancy to run workshops. The school also puts on a number of big concerts and performances such as its Young Musician of the Year, school production, Christmas concert, as well as hosting the  Lions concert which features many of the local primary schools.

Heather Leach, head of expressive and performing arts, explains about the importance of the arts programme saying, “It enriches their lives, it gives a feeling of success, enjoyment, and enrichment. The kids, and the people of Westbury, are very proud of the artwork the kids do. If we put it up in the school or in the town it doesn’t get damaged, and that’s evidence of pride.”

The school also takes the arts out into the community, playing a large part in the Westbury Music and Arts Festival and hosting the popular “Big Draw”. They work in the local primary schools and put on community workshops throughout the year, including life-drawing, photography, willow sculpture, glass blowing, and silversmith tuition.

Heather added, “It makes Matravers a focal point for the arts in the area. It allows other people to gain skills, meet other people, and our courses are always full of people laughing and enjoying themselves. And if the adults are involved, it rubs off in support for their children. We passionately believe the arts are good in people’s lives.”