Transformation of city in Lancashire Encounter

The People's Canopy, set to come to Preston in September as part of Lancashire Encounter

The People's Canopy, set to come to Preston in September as part of Lancashire Encounter

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A new festival launching in Preston next month is to be a celebration for the whole region, according to organisers.

Designed to bridge the 20-year gap between Preston Guilds, September will see a pilot of Lancashire Encounter, hoped to become a biennial event from next year.

Giant red canopies are to be cycled from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) into the middle of Preston for the special weekend from September 25.

And leaders hope, eventually, the county will be able to compete with the likes of Manchester and Liverpool for major cultural events.

Preston Council’s events manager, Tim Joel, said: “In 2012 there was a real energy in the city of people coming together, and we felt we couldn’t wait another 20 years for that to happen again.

“The focus of Lancashire Encounter is around it being a festival for the region.

“It’s rooted in Preston and will be taking place across the city in September, but it’s very much about us connecting the cultural highlights of Lancashire together with a long-term vision that Lancashire could move towards a position where we could work together and achieve the big events that Manchester and Liverpool are achieving, like the Liverpool puppets.”

A call was launched for artists to take part, and 19 commissions have been awarded.

The “imaginative” festival will run alongside Pride and Run Preston. Events will include music, theatre, a salsa dance-off, burlesque, henna, puppet-making workshops and a giant revolving life boat.

Elaine Speight, who is based at UCLan and co-runs the In Certain Places project, explained the concept of the People’s Canopy, designed by the People’s Architecture Office in Beijing.

Ten giant canopies will create corridors through the centre of the city, and Elaine said: “What’s special about the canopies is they are huge structures but they concertina and they are on bike wheels, so the idea is you can cycle them to different locations.

“A lot of people had mentioned cycling, particularly the Guild Wheel, so we felt this was a really nice approach.”

The canopies will be in place at UCLan for freshers’ week, before being cycled into the city, and organisers are looking for volunteers.

The festival is hoped to “build a solid case” for an Arts Council England bid for a biennial event.