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  • Writer's pictureSTEVE COOKE AATA

Over 2000 People Attend Darnhill Festival

By Steve Cooke

This year’s festival took place on Saturday 2nd July in Darnhill, Heywood, attracting over 2000 people to the area, marking the return after a two-year absence due to Covid.

The theme l was ‘connections’, with a huge range of activities and performances promoting connection to each other, to stories, to play and to the earth.

Darnhill Festival takes place each year and is organised by Darnhill Festival Association with Cartwheel Arts, funded by Arts Council England.

It was free to attend and all were made welcome.

The People’s Parade

Celebrations opened with a parade through Darnhill, led by a brand new banner created at the Community Café in Darnhill Library. The procession included local residents, Manchester School of Samba, clog dancers and folk musicians from Oakenhoof, circus performers from Skylight Circus Arts, and children from local schools with costumes, banners and decorations they’d spent the past few weeks creating for this year’s parade.

The Mayor of Rochdale Ali Ahmed opened the festival with a speech praising the resilience and vibrancy of the community in coming together to create and support the Festival.

There were a huge number of activities across Darnhill including free workshops for samba, archery and circus skills, a huge number of arts activities, as well as storytelling, bouncy castles and face painting.

Community Connections

Poet John Lindley performed a new poem, part of Letters of Connection, a series of pieces commissioned specially for this year’s Festival, written as part of a number of workshops with the neighbourhood’s elderly community and then used as the basis for creative writing workshops in schools in the area. The resulting pieces written by local children were exhibited in the Festival’s Storytelling Tent for visitors to see.

Family Fun

People took part in painting, badge-making, creating felt flowers, t-shirt printing, samba

drumming and dancing, circus skills and more.


There were also live performances from a raft of musical artists including the Flat Cap Three, Rubella and The Dave May Band.

Vanessa Scott

One of the artists running workshops at the Festival was Venessa Scott, a prolific public artist whose bright and bold works can be found across the north including MediaCity, HOME and Rochdale Canal among others. She is also known for her appearances on CBeebies where she can be seen helping young children discover and explore colour thought art on the show Colours. She has also been officially recognised as a Great Mancunian, putting her alongside the likes of Maxine Peake, Andy Burnham and others who have had a significant cultural and creative impact on the City of Manchester and its surrounding areas.

Cartwheel Arts

Based in Heywood, Cartwheel Arts has been delivering Art for a Reason - using the arts to address social issues - for over 35 years. We promote social inclusion and cohesion through vibrant, innovative, high-quality arts projects. With a focus on participation, Cartwheel Arts enables people who may have had little experience of the arts to explore and develop their creativity and talents, generating a sense of ownership and pride.

Cartwheel Arts Director, Hebe Reilly said:

'It was wonderful to see Darnhill Festival return after being on hiatus for the past two years and it was particularly great to see locals come together in such strong numbers to celebrate. Events like Darnhill Festival are important to their local communities, providing residents with the opportunity to get involved in artistic activities which they might not normally find on their doorstep. It also allows locals to meet and socialise with their neighbours, while also bringing people into the area, generating interest in Darnhill and footfall for local businesses. So it was great to be able to bring Darnhill Festival back for 2022 and for it to make such a big splash'.

The festival orgaisers are very grateful to all the funders of this fantastic community festival: Arts Council England, the National Lottery Community Fund, The Guinness Partnership, Curious Minds, Grow Wild, Rochdale Borough Culture Network and Heywood Township.

For further information please contact Vicki Greer, Cartwheel Arts at 01706 361300 or

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