Jul 1 2011 By Liam Murphy
AN ARTS and music festival set to take over a Wirral town has revealed plans to expand across the borough in future years.
The Festival of Firsts aims to bring a new and unique brand of events to Hoylake in just over a week’s time, with hundreds of artists, musicians and poets lined up to take part.
The event is also intended to be a family-friendly event, with workshops and opportunities for youngsters to in involved.
Festival of Firsts spokesman Steve Hall said the weekend of events, which kicks off on Friday, July 8, and continues until Sunday, July 10, will include premiere performances of plays, poems and musical works featuring hundreds of prominent local acts from every genre in venues throughout Hoylake.
The event was initially kick-started when poet and former Scaffold member John Gorman suggested using Hoylake’s mile-long promenade to stage a lively summer arts festival.
The promenade is due to host the art exhibition, and the festival team also plan to create "Gallery Hoylake" which will see the entire town turned into an art gallery, with local shops and businesses displaying works of art from Saturday, July 2, to Saturday, July 16.
Since then, it has received £5,000 from Wirral Council’s Coastal Regeneration Fund, as well as a £9,000 National Lottery Grant and the enthusiastic backing of various local personalities including Radio Merseyside’s Billy Butler.
Mr Gorman said: "A year ago, we had this idea. Why ‘firsts’? Well, because we can’t compete with places like Liverpool and Chester with their very fine international festivals.
"So, instead, we aim to have the world’s biggest art exhibition, featuring work from 150 artists, Wirral’s first music proms with 70 bands, orchestras and choirs, more than 50 poets over the weekend.
"To see the idea grow and take over, to see it’s not just talk but actually happening – we are still getting people emailing in asking to be a part of it – I am floored by the whole thing."
The event aims to raise money to open more beds at Claire House Children’s Hospice, in Clatterbridge.
Mr Gorman said: "They have 10 beds there but told me they are only able to afford to run eight of them – that means two children are missing out. It costs £200,000 a year to run a bed, and that is what we want to do.
"The Festival of Firsts has an artistic edge, but this gives it a moral edge, too."
Among the highlights is the premiere of John Gorman’s play, Lena, at St Luke’s Church, on Friday, July 8, featuring Wirral Grammar School students in the lead role.
More details about the event are available from www.festivaloffirsts.co.uk/