Bridgwater is a Carnival town, a Rebel town, a Pirate town, a Clash town, an Internationalist town and a Party town. It’s rural, it’s urban, it has all the waterways you can imagine, it’s a transport hub, a creative outpost, an industrial centre and it’s location is second to none. Within 20 minutes you can be on the coast, in the hills or on the moors. And this weekend people from all over will be coming to Bridgwater to celebrate the diversity, creativity and down to earth culture of this unique Somerset town as the Quayside Festival takes to the streets, International Twinning Week reaches it’s peak and the Towns Art Centre -the first in the country – is re-opened with a new programme and a new brochure. On top of this a progressive major green initiative to combat climate change is launched and the medium….another festival!
But first Quayside. Now in it’s third year, The Quayside Festival was set up, with money from the Town and District councils responding to a consultation where people asked for ‘more festivals’ (and maybe not just in winter..). Town Council Leader, Brian Smedley, says “The inspiration for Quayside was the Big Bash, held in Brdgwater’s historic Castle Street in 2016, featuring live music stages, craft stalls and street entertainers, both local and touring. This was organised by the Bridgwater Cultural Partnership which brought together the key creative organisations in the town-the Art Centre, the Engine Room, the Library, Carnival, local radio, the College, the Blake Museum and the Town Council. As our funding contribution to Quayside we directly fund the BCP and our Mayor Tony Heywood, with his background in theatre and music promotion, is right at the forefront of this.”
Quayside Festival Saturday July 20th
Quayside Festival this year is on Saturday 20th July and will see the town come alive with a series of events from 11am to 5pm. The full programme of events can be found here. There’s also a ‘soul night’ at the Bridgwater Art Centre in the evening
Co-ordinators for the Quayside event are FUSE PERFORMANCE who have also managed to attract funding from Arts Council England. Fuse specialises in outdoor performance, installations, circus skills and street arts bringing all of these together to create vibrant community festivals.
Quayside Festival will see parts of Bridgwater turned into ‘Festival Zones’ for the day including Blake Gardens, West Quay, Eastover New Road, Fore street, St Mary’s Church Tower, King’s Square, the Engine Room on the High street, Bridgwater Library and Angel Place Shopping Centre.
International Night heralds relaunch of Britains first Art Centre
Bridgwater’s mid summer cultural party will also see the relaunch of the Bridgwater Arts Centre, with funding from the Town Council to repair the damaged roof which was limiting performance space, and also the Bridgwater Twinning celebrations.
The launch event for will be a Twinning Party at the Bridgwater Arts Centre on Friday 19th July when Italian surf-rockers The Loreans from Bridgwaters partner region ‘Lazio’, just south of Rome will take to the stage supported by local legends the ‘Dave the Milkman Big Band’ and will also feature presentations from the 6 Bridgwater international link groups (France, Germany, Czech Republic, Malta, Italy and Portugal). The Loreans will be in town for the weekend and will also play during Quayside Saturday, 20th, acoustically in the Art Centre bar (1230),and at West Bagborough Village Hall (7pm) at Pebbles Inn, Watchet on Sunday afternoon (3-5) 21st and at Bar Brunel on Monday night 22nd.
Cllr Smedley said “This is the weekend where everything comes together in the cultural world of Bridgwater. We celebrate our internationalism, we enjoy our creativity and we show off our town. One thing that’s come out of our People’s Forums that the Town Council set up is that people want more festivals. This is an ideal and in fact culturally historic way of bringing people together to share, teach , learn and enjoy and has been since pagan times. Which is a few weeks back now. As a result of this, Bridgwater Town Council will next be launching a new date to the towns calendar – a festival to tackle the issues related to Climate Change. We passed a Climate Change emergency motion at town council, but we said at the time that this mustn’t just sit on the shelf gathering the dust of the morally right on, it has to be acted upon. So one thing that came out of our Climate Change Forum was the need for a information hub and a green festival. So keep the date September 7th in your diary as that’s when we’ll be launching ‘Seed the Day’ which will be an eco fest of information sharing, entertainment bringing, and suggesting alternatives – which Bridgwater has always been good at. In this case Cllr Li Gibson, our Climate Change Portfolio Holder, is busy pulling this together. One of the main features will be Bridgwater’s first Vegan Fair which will promote plant based diets as a way to tackle the climate emergency. “
‘Seed the Day’ – New Eco-Festival planned for September 7th
Cllr Li Gibson recently led a delegation of Town Councillors (at their own expense, and by train) to the Transition Towns Conference in Totnes. Li said “At the conference people were asking how they could get their councils to actually hear them and when Bridgwater delegates spoke about what we were doing they were impressed at our Forum system where we were actually engaging with people who could then actively inform local policy.”
Cllr Gibson recently held the first Climate Change Forum in Bridgwater which clearly recognised the importance of trees in the process and insisted on a policy of not just replacement of any trees that were removed but an increase in planting, creating urban orchards, ecological conservation areas to promote bio-diversity ,wild roadside verges and a mass planting programme of native trees and native plants. “People want us to get on with this and now. Please be part of that.”
The next Climate Change Forum at the Town Hall will be Thursday 15th August and will focus on Plastics. The ‘Seed the Day’ Festival will take place in Castle Street on Saturday 7th September.
Climate Change – Not Just Talking About it.
Cllr Gibson also believes that roadside recycling doesn’t help enough with the sorting and reuse of plastics and adds “It can be confusing for people. I believe we should look at a more effective centralised sorting depot where all materials would pass through and be sorted by experts, there would be less bins on the roadside and the recycling lorry would spend less time on the road. There could be one small bin for food waste, one medium sized bin for general waste and larger bins for all recyclables and this would increase the amount that could potentially be recycled. Most people do not recycle and all this goes straight into land fill, so I think the shock of realising how much we are throwing away might encourage people to think about it more. The manufacturers of products and supermarkets should be looking at alternative packaging options which are available but they are too slow off the mark and we need to be asking them what are the reasons they are not doing this.”
Unique Cultural offer from a ‘special’ town
Cllr Brian Smedley concluded “All of this is inspiring stuff and I’m confident that the people of Bridgwater will engage with it. Even as we speak yet another consortium of artistes, promoters and producers from the cultural sector crossing over with the public sector are making a major bid for a milllion pound community bid to the Arts Council -Town Council is backing them and we hope to hear next week that they’ve been succesful. The project is called ‘Creative People and Places’-which sums up Bridgwater. I was even more inspired this week when Bridgwater Trades Union Council announced the Somerset launch of the South West TUC Manifesto for Creative and Cultural Industries here in Bridgwater at the Railway Club on Tuesday 23rd July, 7.30. Bridgwater is a proud working class town with a strong Trade Union past, present and future so its no surprise that this initiative is being launched in our town.Another aim of the launch is to initiate a discussion on arts and culture generally, which seldom happens in a trade union context, but here in Bridgwater, of course it does!”
Cllr Smedley will be in the thick of it this weekend as he will be playing guitar with the Dave the Milkman Big Band on Friday and Saturday and playing football with a Bridgwater all-stars (possibly misheard) team on Sunday in a repeat match against local Syrian Refugees.