Swapping festival ideas

Founder of the Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival, Merrill Findlay, is in the United Kingdom this month, attending the Wirksworth Festival in England as a ‘roving student’. 

Ms Findlay is one of 12 Central West artists attending the festival as part of the Australian Pavilion, a partnership between the Wirksworth Festival and Arts Out West.

The annual arts festival in The Midlands of England has parallels with Forbes’ own festival, Ms Findlay said.

“They have more experience and more money than us but they started the same way,” Ms Findlay said.

In between volunteering to help where she can Merrill will study the success of a festival she said saved a dying town.

“I’m going to learn how they’ve grown over the last 25 years,” she said prior to her trip.

“It started with a small group of artists who wanted to do something.”

In Wirksworth, exhibits from 170 artists will be on display in houses, churches and other places. 

The success of the festival in England was due to community engagement and Ms Findlay said Forbes needed to emulate that community spirit of getting involved.

“It’s about all the community getting up and making things happen,” Ms Findlay said.

The area of Derbyshire in England also has a similar economic history with Forbes. Both towns have histories with mining and producing sheep, which the Wirksworth Festival reflects.

“They celebrate their rural and mining heritage and their sense of place,” Ms Findlay said.

“It’s a very unique [sense of place], as is Forbes’ sense of place.”

Ms Findlay said The Midlands also shared history with Forbes.

Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival founder Merrill Findlay (left) at a promotional event in Forbes earlier this year.

Kalari-Lachlan River Arts Festival founder Merrill Findlay (left) at a promotional event in Forbes earlier this year.

“So many migrants came from The Midlands. There are so many stories that start there and end over here.”

While in England, Ms Findlay will talk to artists and other creative people she meets about doing collaborative projects there and in Forbes.

“They might be able to come here for [future festivals].”

She said there was a story between The Midlands and Forbes that she wanted to explore.

The Wirksworth Festival runs from September 6-22.