Yorkshire Festival Blog: 100 amazing days

Henrietta Duckworth, executive producer of the Yorkshire Festival, reflects on an incredible three months

"Take your stabilisers off

Let your imaginations fly.
Over the horizon into the
Big wide Yorkshire Sky."

This was delivered by Kate Fox, project leader of Festival Headline Event, True Grit Digital Poetry at the inauguration of the first ever Yorkshire Festival on 27 March at the start of the 100 Day Festival.

Well Yorkshire has flung off its stabilisers and its imagination has flown. No one has seen a Grand Depart of the Tour de France like this last weekend in Yorkshire. And no one has seen a 100 day festival of arts & culture like the Yorkshire Festival.

This festival has created work in all artforms, at all scales, across the 6000 square miles of this largest county, to make people aware of the big bike race. An extraordinary 750,000 people have attended and engaged with just the 47 Headline Festival events alone – not to mention over 500 Fringe events.

The festival has showcased the artists living, working and making in Yorkshire. From the Ghost Peloton to Bike Story, Beryl to Kes, Le Phun to the Grand Departs, Fields of Vision to the Tour of Infinite Possibility, our artists and our creative organisations have exercised wit, true grit and originality. They have made and played, smelted and welded, sowed and mowed, surprised, illuminated and entertained.

And this festival has really placed people at its heart. Choosing projects which prioritized engagement with communities and really creating and giving people opportunities. With the 47 headline projects alone, over 7000 people have "been part of it". They have crotcheted woolly bikes – they have played live outdoor gigs – they have rehearsed choreography at night in LED suits on road bikes – they have learnt to make harps & trumpets out of bikes – they have shared family photographs and stories about their bikes. People have come together to make work in some extraordinary new combinations. Visual artists have worked with landowners, cyclists and young farmers with the sole aim of creating epic land art.

"Vive the Yorkshire Festival"

Nothing would have been possible on this scale or in this timeframe for Welcome to Yorkshire’s idea of a festival without the amibiton, vision and support of the stakeholders, principally the Arts Council of England. Their commitment has given rise to a new sponsor, Yorkshire Water, who have been so much more than a sponsor. They have given their people, their land and most critically, their passion for a new cultural festival with true Yorkshire creativity and generosity. And for the first time, in parallel with the commitment to host the Grand Depart, the Local Authorities of Yorkshire have joined forces to support a new county-wide Festival. Such support has meant that the majority of our events have been totally free to access.

Now, just after the 100 days have passed, it is true to say that life looks a little different. We have learnt and grown. Unusually for an Arts Festival, projects have reached global audiences of millions through broadcast of the Opening Ceremony and the race coverage.

Mike Kenny‘s Bike Story – a new outdoor touring theatre play made of 100 collected stories – references Susan B Anthony, I paraphrase her eloquent words, to assert that today bicycles are truly a force for good for everyone. We have forged new relationships and partnerships. New work, new images, new experiences have been created and given. People and organisations have challenged themselves to do bigger, go further and try something new.

And we now know that it takes 3 hours and 52 minutes for 18 cyclists to pull a grand piano, while being played, up the longest continuous ascent in the UK, Cragg Vale.

We have seen new images and felt different sensations; we have taken off our stablisers and let our imaginations fly. Long after the peloton has passed, these smiles and emotions will last forever.

Vive the Yorkshire Festival.

Henrietta Duckworth
Executive Producer