A look ahead to 2012 Preston Guild

PUBLISHED: 20:16 28 August 2012 | UPDATED: 21:48 20 February 2013

Artists’ impressions of the Vintage Weekend Festival on Avenham and Miller Parks this month

Artists’ impressions of the Vintage Weekend Festival on Avenham and Miller Parks this month

Now the Olympics are a memory, Preston's all set to take centre stage, as Paul Mackenzie reports

As the days tick down to the biggest week of the Preston Guild celebrations, the atmosphere in the organisers offices intensifies. Theyre working long hours to co-ordinate hundreds of events around the city, to attract star names and to plan the biggest party the city has seen.

But when the processions have finished, the concerts are over and the big tops are taken down, Guild director Stella Hall, who has previously worked on major cultural festivals across the UK, will head to an American city where they also know a thing or two about throwing a party.

Her visit to New Orleans wont be for work, though, or for pleasure either. Shell be there as part of the continuing international relief efforts after the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Im going as a volunteer to help re-build the city, she said. I wont be there for long just a couple of weeks but it will give me a change of scene and a change of focus. Ill be back in time for the Guild Marathon.
That takes place in late October, but the main Guild events will be held this month, with a packed programme. In total, it is estimated an extra million people will visit Preston this year because of the Guild.

But even when the year is over Stella does not want to sever links with the city and is already planning another cultural extravaganza to be held next year. Im exploring the possibility of being involved in an event in Preston next year, she said. I dont want to say what, but it will involve hundreds of people putting on something extraordinary.

The legacy of her time in Preston is clear the desire to get involved she has witnessed during her time in post has left its mark. And while legacy has been one of the key words attached to this summers other big event, its been in the minds of Guild organisers too.

The Guild Wheel and the new history museum at the Harris will be the physical legacy, but I hope the legacy will go further than that, Stella said. I hope the Guild will leave people with a greater desire to get involved and get out cycling or singing or dancing. Its all about bringing people together and inspiring them to want to continue to be involved in events across the city. Already we have seen that groups who have come together to organise events for the Guild are asking what shall we do next?

The Guild is a means for people to work together. The choir who sang at the Riversway Festival will carry on, the people who were involved in the Preston Passion will continue and there will also be an annual youth festival. The director of the 2032 Guild could be taking part in the years event but we dont then to have to wait 20 years to get involved.

Stella has directed festivals in Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle and Belfast but her experience here has changed the way she will work in future.

The big difference is the level of engagement people of all ages and from all backgrounds, she said. It really is the Peoples Guild. Hundreds have got involved. The willingness to participate has changed my view of what is important in a festival. I now feel its more important for people to work together rather than just to book a touring show, however spectacular.

Take the Dukes Theatre at Lancaster for instance, they could have simply brought a show to Preston but they brought in a writer to work with young people and create a show. Thats a much more exciting and challenging.

Artists, shows and performers have come from across Lancashire and the world with French percussionists Les Commandos Percu bringing Guild Week to a close with a stunning performance in Avenham Park, but help has come from slightly closer to hand for the weeks opening event the Guild Vintage Weekend festival has been curated by Morecambe-born Wayne Hemingway.

The two-day festival, sponsored by Lancashire Life, will showcase fashion, music, food and art from Guild years in the 20th century with events throughout the weekend.

And Stella said: Wayne could have come along and just put his name to the vintage festival and left it at that but he has been thoroughly hands-on. Hes been a mentor, an inspiration, an encouragement and a real participant.

The vintage weekend is expected to draw huge crowds to Avenham and Miller Parks and to help push up the total number of Guild visitors.
So far weve had 7,000 Sky riders, 4,500 corporate gamers, 15,000 people at the Riversway Festival and 3000 signed up for the marathon,

Stella said. The take up has been astonishing and were on track to reach that landmark million. People are realising this is an event that they should be a part of.


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