Where it all began

How it all began…
Way back in the mists of time – well, the summer of 1977 actually – a small group of like-minded people decided the market town of Leek should do more to to shout about the wealth of artistic and cultural talent its people possessed.

Thus was born Leek Arts Festival and into the world it came, kicking and struggling, for a week of events including a piano recital, a generous helping of folk music and a concert by Leek Choral Society.

So well received was Leek’s inaugural arts festival that within a few short years it was expanded – first to two weeks and then to cover the whole of May each year with a programme of more than 40 events.

Artists to have delighted Leek audiences over the years have included famous choirs and brass bands such as the Morriston Orpheus Choir and the Black Dyke Mills Band; members of the Halle Orchestra, Humphrey Littleton, Helen Shapiro, George Melly, Steve Gibbons, Climax Blues Band and, of course, the ever popular Fairport Convention.
And the programme now encompasses a whole range of non-music events including the Moorlands Open Arts Exhibition, poetry and prose, film and photography.Homegrown talent – including Demon and Hunter – have also featured heavily in the programme and the festival has provided a solid foundation for many artists and bands from across the UK and beyond who have subsequently gone on to greater things.

Despite various financial hiccups, the enthusiastic band of volunteers who make Leek Arts Festival happen each year, put their heart and soul into assembling the programme and trying – successfully, so far – to ensure it at least breaks even.

And a shortage of funding is often not the only headache to be overcome. In April 2012, just 10 days before the festival was due to get under way, we were informed that The Swan – the central venue for festival events for more than 30 years – was to close with immediate effect.

That particular crisis was solved by the actions of the Foxlowe Arts Centre trustees who stepped in and offered their facilities to a festival committee desperate for a new home.

As things turned out, the move to the Foxlowe proved more successful than either party could have imagined, with improved audiences at festival events and prodigious bar takings for the arts centre.

The Foxlowe Arts Centre is now the official home of Leek Arts Festival and we look forward to a long and happy relationship in the years to come.