The curtain went up on Belper Arts festival this week - and the popular event has already received praise in Parliament.
MP Pauline Latham cut the ribbon on the town’s second-ever festival of its kind which will see 179 events taking place at 99 different venues in Belper during a launch event at No28 Community Hall.
The programme of events had already commenced with the Belper Passion on April 18. However, the official launch signals the start of the main body of attractions.
Following the formal opening an interpretation of Picasso’s “Guernica” by Belper Arts Collaborative was unveiled and then a performance of Willy Russell’s modern classic “Educating Rita” featuring Sali Gresham and Jeff Foster got underway (pictured). Other events this week have included Lesley Smith performing Mary Queen of Scots at Belper Strutts Centre.
Mrs Latham was so impressed with this year’s line-up that during Culture, Media and Sport Questions she asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, the Rt Hon Ed Vaizey MP whether he would join her in praising the arts festival and the work of the volunteers. She made special reference to chief organiser, George Gunby, who she stressed is an unpaid volunteer. Since moving to the area in 2010, Mr Gunby has been an integral part of Belper’s arts scene - arranging events such as the Belper Passion.
In his answer to Mrs Latham’s question, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary said he was aware of the draw of the Arts Festival, and called the breadth of events on offer “fantastic” and “enticing”. He went on to mention Belper’s Earth Theatre as another example of Derbyshire’s rich cultural landscape.
Mrs Latham, MP for Mid-Derbyshire said: “l am pleased that the Belper Arts Festival and the outstanding work of volunteers like George Gunby are being recognised by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The Arts Festival is an important part of Belper’s social calendar, and I greatly look forward to going to a number of the events being held in aid of it.”