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Ellesmere Port’s First Ever Arts Festival Comes To Town

4 March 2014 – Volunteers are busy gearing up to welcome hundreds of visitors to Ellesmere Port as the internationally renowned Methodist modern art collection comes to town.  Spread across four venues in the town centre, 55 fabulous paintings will be on public display from March 5 to April 29, 2014 as part of a special six-week arts festival.

Throughout ‘The Port Arts Festival 2014’ residents will be able to view the entire collection – housed within Trinity Church Ellesmere Port, West Cheshire College, University Church of England Academy School and the Paperboat Gallery.

The Festival will also be an opportunity to showcase all of arts in the town, from music events and community arts activities to theatre productions and poetry.

A fringe programme of different events, all based within the theme of ‘Peace and Reconciliation’, has been carefully put together at venues including the National Waterways Museum, Ellesmere Port Library, the town’s FabLab, the Port Arcades Shopping Centre, Circle Cabs, and many more.

Trinity Church booked the Methodist Collection of Modern Art to come to Ellesmere Port six years ago, with the view of celebrating their centenary year in the town.

Trinity Church’s Reverend Christine Jones said: “When church members booked the exhibition six years ago, they didn’t know whether we would have a Methodist Church in Ellesmere Port in 2014.

“This exhibition is tribute to the faithfulness of a community who have embraced the ‘Our Place’ approach to being neighbours.

“Sincere thanks go to Jochem Hollestelle and his Town Centre Improvement Team who have given unstinting support throughout a year of planning, to Professor Maureen Wayman who grew up at Trinity and has curated the exhibition with Professor Neil Grant and the team from the Art Department at Chester University.

“To Owen Mageean from U3A, Jenny Owen and the Art Department at the Academy, John Lansley and the Art Department at the College and the Paperboat Gallery. The exhibition is testimony to pooling skills and a willingness to keep on keeping on.”

The official opening of the festival will take place this Thursday (March 6) following a year of preparation, with many enthusiastic people and organisations, guided by professional expertise from Chester University helping to make it become a reality.

Executive Member for Culture and Economy, Councillor Stuart Parker, said: “I am delighted to welcome this fantastic exhibition to Ellesmere Port.

“We are committed to the development of art and cultural events throughout our borough and this new exhibition is especially exciting as it brings a theological theme as one of the exhibits to inspire local artists and school children to broaden their horizons for art.

“Community involvement is well-promoted and catered for, and the involvement of Chester University, West Cheshire College and local schools provides a really great catalyst for the creation of a truly memorable exhibition.”

Financially supported by many of Ellesmere Port’s local councillors, Cheshire West and Chester Council, and Plus Dane Group with associated sponsors, large-scale volunteer support has been enabled through EPNAVCO.

This is the latest in a long line of high profile events coming to Ellesmere Port. Over the past two years the town has seen the introduction of a 10km race, a big wheel in situ on Civic Square, a much-improved Christmas lights switch-on event, and an annual beer festival put on at the Boat Museum.

Professor Neil Grant, Head of Art and Design at the University of Chester and Professor Maureen Wayman OBE, Visiting Professor at University of Chester, said: “In planning for this ambitious, four-venue exhibition a successful collaboration between organisations has resulted not only in an exciting exhibition but in a fringe festival of creative activity engaging a broad spectrum of the Ellesmere Port community.

“The Methodist Art Collection is one of national importance and continues to expand to reflect the ideas of contemporary artists. This presentation of the collection provides a fantastic opportunity to experience very high quality work up close in familiar local spaces.

“The trustees of the collection are keen to see legacy projects so hopefully local artists, school children and students will be inspired to produce new work as a result of visiting the exhibition. We believe this is the first event of its kind to be held in the town and we hope it acts as a catalyst for many more events in the future.”

Local member, Councillor Pat Merrick, said: “We are incredibly fortunate to have such an opportunity to show case some wonderful paintings by leading artists from the Twentieth century, as well as some contemporary paintings that have as their common theme the life and death of Christ.

“You do not have to be a person of faith to appreciate and be moved by these works as this subject has inspired artists, of all faiths and none, for the past 2000 years  and I would urge all of our residents to come along.

“When I was growing up in Ellesmere Port the centres of culture were in Liverpool and Chester but now we have wonderful exhibitions, an art gallery and a college to study all the arts right here. Be inspired!”

Further information on all of the events taking place throughout The Port Arts festival 2014 can be found at www.theportartsfestival.wordpress.com.

The Port Arts Festival 2014 is supporting the key objective to change perceptions of the town, highlighted in Ellesmere Port Development Board’s Vision and Regeneration Strategic Framework.

More exciting events for Ellesmere Port are always in the pipeline so keep an eye for the Ellesmere Port events leaflets or visit www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/events.  

The Council’s Town Centre Improvement Manager Jochem Hollestelle is always keen to hear from events organisers who may wish to use one of the town’s fantastic venues. For more information please email Jochem.hollestelle@cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk