WhitFest is a Whitley-centred annual event, aiming to use the arts to make a positive difference to people’s lives. This community-led programme of arts projects and activities celebrates this distinctive part of Reading. All activities aim to be:
- Aspirational – arts experiences which are enjoyable, but also seek to have a longer term impact through developing skills, increasing confidence etc.
- High quality – activities which enable participants and festival goers to engage with professional artists and tutors
- Whitley-centred – activities which either take place within Whitley, or which have the significant involvement of Whitley residents
- Community-focussed – activities which start from and explore the interests of Whitley residents
WhitFest 2015 was led by a steering group of young people who was supported and mentored by Darren Ralphs from Creative Junction as part of a Youth ‘Take Over’ project. They were tasked with creating a festival that would engage the entire community, not just people their age. The steering group also worked closely with the WhitFest project manager to develop and manage the three strands of the festival programme:
Community-led arts workshops and activities –
During the May half term a comprehensive programme of free activities was on offer for Whitley residents. To include even more people in the activities we asked local knitters to make stars so that we could knit “bomb” the festival site. Whitley Library hosted several events including a Whitley Quiz for residents to learn more about their community. The Library noted an increase in uptake due to the WhitFest Half Term flyer. Seven thousand flyers were distributed throughout Whitley and Reading town centre.
Other venues including Whitley Cafe, Whitley GrowAlot, and Rabson's Recreational Grounds hosted activities. As part of the half term activity Academy Sport sponsored the “Draw Your Future” competition.Winners received free swim vouchers and their drawings were displayed at the leisure centre.
At the Step-Up event at Whitley Cafe, WhitFest launched our time capsule project. The time capsule encourages residents to think about Whitley's future. This project will continue at various events throughout the year
Strategic arts development projects – Real Time and Red Van Man
Imagining Whitley: This project offered older people in the community the opportunity to explore their creativity, develop their voices and present diverse stories and views to a wide audience. Participants took part in digital storytelling workshops, working together using stories, photos and video to create content based on their ideas and reflecting the WhitFest 2015 themes. This project worked with approximately 150 Whitley residents.
Annual Daydream Harvest: Building on the work he delivered in 2014, The Red Van Man (Nick Garnett), delivered a series of workshops at Reading Girls School, Whitley Park Primary, Whitley Library and Rabson's Rec. His work encouraged residents to dream of Whitley''s future and use reclaimed objects to illustrate those dreams. This project worked with approximately 100 Whitley residents.
Festival finale – an outdoor celebratory event held in July 2015
Attended by over 700 residents the Finale took place for the first time on Rabson's Recreational Grounds. On offer were 15 free arts and creative activities including: steel pans (Culture Mix), circus skills (Doug Green), juggling ball making (Fusion Arts), polymer making (Reading Uni), mono-printing (Creative Junction), futuristic photobooth (Real Time), mutoscopes (Real Time), bird feeder making (Ufton Court), plant growing (Whitley Grow Allot), time capsule (Aspire2), futuristic name generator (Creative Junction), treasure hunt (Reading Uni), & Red Van Man .
There was also a live stage with performances by local dance groups, Voices of Reading, zumba, the Young People's Steering Group, RASPO and a circus skills performer.
To encourage the participation of more of the community we also offered local charities, businesses, craft people and food supplies to have stalls at the festival. A variety of stalls providing everything from information on healthy living to toys to face paining were on offer along with a bbq, crepes, cupcakes and Caribbean food.
As part of WhitFest Academy Sport opened it doors providing free swimming, taster classes and health checks. This leisure centre at the heart of the community, provides state-of-the-art facilities to resident.
Aspire2 is keen that this festival grows year on year and experiments with new ways of engaging the community and building skills. To this end we hope we are able to build-in ways to provide other accreditations like the Arts Award into this project.
Next year we will focus on:
engaging more schools in WhitFest
finding ways in which parents can get involved
working closely with students from Reading University
providing more opportunities for small businesses and crafts people
WhitFest 2016 will be launched in December at the Aspire2 Children's Christmas Party and Craft Fair.
WhitFest is Aspire2's annual community arts festival. WhitFest uses the arts to make a positive difference to people’s lives. It will host an ambitious community-led programme of arts projects and activities which celebrate this distinctive part of Reading. The festival programme will include activities across a range of art forms, and is supported by funding from the Earley Charity and The Cultural Partnership (Reading Borough Council). The theme for WhitFest is ‘The Future of Whitley’ and we want to celebrate everything we love about Whitley.This year WhitFest is working in partnership with Whitley Excellence Cluster of schools, University of Reading, Creative Junction, Real Time, The Red Van Man, Academy Sport, Whitley Library, South Reading Community Centre, Cedar Court, Whitley Wood Community Centre, Hexham Community, and Whitley GrowAllot. A full schedule of May Half Term Events will be available soon.
Visit the WhitFest Facebook page!
The Finale will take place at Rabson's Recreation Grounds on 18 July 12-4 PM. If you are interested in sharing something at the Finale please contact Christina Pepper at email@example.com.