An arts festival aiming to bring a community together is being held in Ossett this weekend.Nick Ahad talks to the woman behind the idea.
It’s going to be not so much a case of ‘if you build it they will come’ as ‘they’re already here, so let’s build it anyway’ in Ossett this weekend.
The town near Wakefield is hosting an inaugural arts festival all this month called Flock to Ossett, which comes to a head over this weekend with two full days of art, music, theatre and... sheep.
“It all started when my partner Ralph and I realised that we were always having to get in the car to travel outside the town to go to arts events,” says Jacqui Wickes, a musician and lead artist on the project.
“It just felt like there was nothing in the town for people who wanted to experience the arts and we felt we wanted to do something about that.”
Wickes has worked in the arts for over 30 years while her partner Ralph is a relationship manager with Arts Council Yorkshire and it struck her as odd that neither of them had worked as artists in their home town.
“There was clearly something missing.”
Wickes’ answer was to create something to plug the gap. Via social media network Twitter she organised a meeting and 27 people turned up to an initial get together which simply asked what was missing from their town creatively.
“The fact that so many people turned up showed me that we could do something, that there were plenty of people in the town who wanted to see more creative and art opportunities here. I knew we had the talent and will to do something in Ossett,” says Wickes.
What really kicked off this weekend’s art event, however, was something emailed to Wickes a couple of days after the event. Ossett resident Helen Rhodes had been inspired to write a myth about the town.
“It was a beautiful story and someone had given their time and imagination because they wanted to and had something to offer. She had written something beautiful about a sheep losing its wool – we’ve built the whole arts event around that story,” says Wickes.
The idea has slowly evolved and is now described as an arts intervention happening all through this coming weekend.
An Arts Council grant helped attract other funding and Faceless Arts company has spent the past month delivering free workshops to all nine junior schools in Ossett helping school-children from around the town to make large, brightly coloured papier mache sheep – which will be paraded through the town at the end of the month.
One of the people involved in the event wrote to Wickes and said: “Flock has changed the way I felt about living in Ossett – from a town I had no connection with to to one I love and want to engage in, it’s introduced me to many amazing people and taken me from being a girl with a hobby to an artist.”
This weekend will feature some high profile artists presenting work, but the community will still be involved, with sheep-making workshops being run throughout the weekend.
“By the end of the month Flock To Ossett will have worked with 900 school children through Faceless Arts,” says Wickes.
“That kind of engagement with the community, through art is such an important thing to help create a sense of community.
“It’s not about being patronising to the audiences. People from Ossett engage in the arts but, more often than not, travel outside the town to do that. This is about giving people something here.”