The return of Holmfirth Arts Festival this weekend

Holmfirth Arts Festival returns as a live event this weekend and with a wide-ranging and varied line-up there is something for everyone to enjoy. Grace Hammond reports.

Holmfirth Arts Festival parade 2019

Due to the Covid pandemic, last year Holmfirth Arts Festival, like many other events, moved online for its three-day run, but it returns this weekend as a live event with a packed schedule of family friendly shows, music, comedy and theatre performances.

Some of the highlights include a contemporary circus company with an extraordinary aerial show, a flying astronaut, Yorkshire brass from Hade Edge Band, a triple bill of comedy, and lots of street performance, much of it free or Pay as You Decide.

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“We are excited about producing a live event as people are ready for some high quality arts and culture,” says festival director Bev Adams. “If you already know Holmfirth and the Holme Valley, the festival is an opportunity to see it a little differently. If you have not yet discovered this beautiful part of Yorkshire then September is the perfect time to join us.” The festival’s extensive community engagement programme has been in full swing since the beginning of the month with local schools, families and community groups of all ages, cultures and backgrounds taking part in a variety of arts projects and workshops. Local people have had the opportunity to work with professional artists to create a walking tableaux that charts the history of Holmfirth from its agricultural roots to the present day. The History of Holmfirth parade takes place on Sunday. Adams is pleased that after the uncertainty of the past 18 months, especially for the arts, the festival will be bringing people together again. “People have missed live performance, be it comedy, theatre, music or a chance to dance,” she says. “We are social creatures and enjoy sharing an experience together.”

On Saturday night at Holmfirth Civic Hall there will be a comedy night featuring, at the top of the bill, Holmfirth-born and raised comedian Kieran Hodgson whose short films on Twitter satirising well-known TV series such as The Crown, Line of the Duty and Bridgerton went viral and provided some much-needed laughter during the bleakest days of the pandemic.

Also on the line-up with Hodgson are locally based stand-up Pete Selwood who has appeared on BBC 3’s Laugh Lessons and up and coming Bradford-born, Leeds-based comedian Seeta Wrightson. Hodgson says it is an honour to have been asked to headline the event and is looking forward to performing back in his hometown.

“Holmfirth may be a small rural place but is in fact this hub of life and culture and activity,” he says. “There is a whole world sustained now by resident artists and people like the team at Holmfirth Arts Festival.”

There are also two exhibitions taking place over the course of the weekend – a display that focusses on parades in the town in the 20th and 21st century, beginning with the Sunday school feast, and a show looking at the fascinating history of the Bamforth photography studio in Holmfirth.

Also at the festival a new play gets its premiere. Former teacher and city councillor Kauser Mukhtar from Bradford will take to the stage to tell the story of her dual heritage and growing up as the first generation child of immigrant parents in Yorkshire in the 1980s. Her show Khooghi, which means dove, is partly her own story and also that of thousands of other people of Pakistani heritage, whose home is now the UK. Khooghi uses puppetry, music and song to tell a story of humour, tragedy and hope and draws on Pakistani musical and oral folklore to create a visual and musical treat for all the family.

“The reason I created the show is that my daughters are now second generation and I really wanted to carry on the story of our heritage and culture,” says Mukhtar. “I want to make arts and culture accessible to all.”

Holmfirth Arts Festival, September 17-19. Tickets and full programme: holmfirthartsfestival.co.uk. Audience numbers will be smaller to accommodate crowds safely.