Torchlight parade to return as Preston plays host again to Lancashire Encounter Festival

An arts festival designed to bridge the 20-year gap between Preston Guilds will hit the city's streets again in September - and will not cost the council a penny.

By Brian Ellis
Sunday, 1st May 2022, 3:35 pm

Funding for the return of the Lancashire Encounter Festival is being borne by £77,000 in grants from Arts Council England and Lancashire County Council.

It will be only the third time that the full Encounter event has been staged in Preston since it was first piloted in a shortened form back in 2015.

The biennial festival, which showcases arts, culture and communities, was held in 2016 and 2018, but cancelled two years ago due to the Covid pandemic.

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A giant roams the streets in the 2017 Brief Encounter Festival.

Now organisers are working full steam ahead to bring a programme of events "celebrating the breadth of the county's diverse cultural offer."

Preston Council has just received confirmation that a £70,000 Arts Council grant has been awarded, along with £7,000 from LCC.

"The Lancashire Encounter Festival is the key cultural event for Central Lancashire and drives the development of the county's arts and culture," says a report by the city council.

"Bringing the city of Preston to life, Lancashire Encounter transforms key locations in the city centre into colourful bursts of creativity."

Colourful costumes in the Torchlight Procession in 2018.

After the disappointment of the 2020 cancellation, the organisers managed to put on a "Brief Encounter" event over three weekends last September.

The highlight was a torchlight parade and firework display as a "thank you" to Lancashire's key workers who had soldiered on through the pandemic.

The festival attracted 36,000 visitors in 2018 and 43,000 people in 2016. Organisers are hoping to top both of those as the city centre is "transformed into a vibrant hub of activity."

Back in 2015, when the council launched its first pilot event, Tim Joel, head of culture, museum and arts, said: "In 2012 (Preston Guild) 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.

A curious contraption from the 2018 Lancashire Encounter Festival.

"The focus of Lancashire Encounter is around it being a festival for the region, 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.”