Packed events calendar will turn Preston into ‘city of culture’

The Lancashire Encounter on the Flag Market
The Lancashire Encounter on the Flag Market
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From live music at the Harris to giant eggs popping up across the city, a bumper events programme has been unveiled for Preston.

Town Hall bosses have set out their timetable for this year, including 150th anniversary celebrations in Moor Park, an anticipated return of the Caribbean Carnival, and a Brief Encounter, a small-scale arts and cultural event to carry on the momentum of last year’s Lancashire Encounter spectacular, which saw the city transformed into a vibrant hub of activity in a weekend-long festival. The packed calendar will see some revived favourites along with new additions, with leaders hoping a comedy festival for Preston could even feature in future.

“I see culture as at the heart of what identifies us as a city”, said Coun Peter Kelly, cabinet member for leisure and culture. “It was great seeing thousands of people in the street for Lancashire Encounter - it’s just what we should be doing.”

The year will kick off with Harris Live - live music at the Grade I listed building every Wednesday - as a pilot event series as part of the re-imagining project to trial different uses of the venue.

Exhibition Artist Rooms - Martin Creed, will open at the end of this month, which will see the words Everything is going to be alright in neon lights at the front of the building.

Then the Harris Live evenings will begin, and the council’s events manager Tim Joel said organisers were considering cabaret-style seating in the rotunda, along with a bar.

He said: “Should it be successful and we get a good public reaction then it will inform our approach to other things we put on in the Harris and will tie in with the Heritage Lottery Fund project and we are hoping to be successful with that.”

Traditional egg rolling will return on Easter Monday, April 17, with workshops running during school holidays for young people to decorate their own eggs to hang on the tree in the flag market.

And six giant eggs, commissioned by a local artist, will pop up in prominent and unusual locations across the city, tying in to a social media competition encouraging people to find all the eggs and take selfies with them, before they all appear at Egg Rolling.

Throughout the summer from June to August, council bosses say there will be a “high quality, large scale event” happening every Saturday on the Flag Market and Harris, linking the two venues.

They will include familiar favourites such as Armed Forces Day - possibly with a 1940s theme - Community Celebration and the Caribbean Carnival - subject to funding -

as well as new events.

The council is to work alongside the University of Central Lancashire to celebrate the degree show in the city centre, there will be a Lancashire Youth Music Festival, a mini mela and Blaze Lounge on the Flag Market.

Tim Joel said: “We are looking to start to build on the quality of these events.

“Over past years, we have had an ad hoc approach to programming, but now we are looking to really raise the quality and scale of the events.”

Preston’s green spaces will also host headline events, including classic cars and Theatre in the Park on Avenham and Miller Parks, as well as Rockprest, Race for Life, circuses and the Caribbean Carnival on Moor Park.

Moor Park is also celebrating 150 years since opening, with events currently being planned.

In September a mini version of the Lancashire Encounter - Brief Encounter - is set to return and build on the success of last year’s festival.

Mr Joel said: “There is work to do in terms of building that momentum, developing that brand awareness and getting communities involved behind the festival, and we will be spending this year doing that.”

The Brief Encounter is hoped to continue the momentum, and “connect communities” from across Lancashire.

The Christmas programme has yet to be planned, but an approach similar to Christmas 2016 is expected.

Coun Kelly said, on top of everything already announced, he was keen to see a comedy festival for Preston.

He said: “We have them in the Guild Hall, but it gives the opportunity for fringe events.

“It is in the very early stages, but I would certainly like to see a comedy festival - why not?”