Giant puppets to tell the tale of Stalybridge in spectacular arts festival

Date Released - 18/05/2023

A LARGER than life character is coming to Stalybridge this summer to put the spotlight on the town’s rich heritage and culture.

Farrah the fox – a giant 5m high puppet who is taller than a double decker bus – will be zooming in to the town on scooter on Saturday 9 September as part of a spectacular arts festival called ‘Weave’.

‘Weave’, which will involve free carnival performances, brass band music, morris dancing, street theatre, canal activity and creative workshops, is part of Historic England’s collaborative ‘Hi! Street Fest’ project to celebrate high streets and the people who love and look after them.

Stalybridge is one of just six towns nationally chosen to welcome Farrah and host an event, which locally will be delivered in partnership with Tameside Council, the Bridge Cultural Consortium, Mossley based arts organisation Global Grooves and outdoor arts company Emergency Exit Arts (EEA) – the latter two having notably both last year worked together on The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Pageant.

Farrah, who will be visiting all the towns in the project over the summer, will be greeted in Stalybridge by a giant animated mill boy puppet and his friend, who together will introduce her to the town’s cotton heritage and its vibrant cultural scene of today.

The trio will provide pop up performances through the day, which will be part of a wider cultural weekend of activity including the monthly Street Fest food festival on the Friday night and Heritage Open Days, which will involve the library, Astley Cheetham Art Gallery and local churches being open to the public.

Weave, which is funded externally by Historic England, Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, will build on Stalybridge’s Greater Manchester Town of Culture legacy as well as the High Street Heritage Action Zone. EEA will work with The Bridge and Global Grooves to collaborate with local residents in a series of outreach activities and workshops.

The event will include ‘Cotton Carnival’ performances in which the community can get involved – from percussionists and dancers to volunteer crew on the day. People can register their interest in getting involved here:

Tameside Council Assistant Executive Member for Culture, Heritage and Digital Inclusivity Cllr Sangita Patel said: "This is such an exciting project to take a new look at the high street, attract visitors and bring people together in a home grown, community celebration for everyone to get involved in and enjoy. It is also a wonderful opportunity to build on Stalybridge's Town of Culture legacy and celebrate local arts and talent.

“I’m very much looking forwarding to welcoming Farrah and showing off to a wider audience what Stalybridge has to offer.”

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said:  “Our high streets aren’t just places to shop- they are places where we can come together and celebrate, to have parties and enjoy carnivals. This is what Hi! Street Fest is all about and as the finale to our High Streets Heritage Action Zones’ Cultural Programme, it will be our largest cultural event to-date. 

“We know that cultural events on our high streets increase a sense of pride in local places, encourage people to visit their high streets and connect with their local community. That’s why these projects are so crucial. A giant fox on a scooter visiting six locally-created puppets to celebrate the identity and history of high streets is not something to be missed!” 

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