Back to Basics: AIRR restyles its blog to the tune of the Wirksworth Festival


AIRR is a family run, fair trade, ethical boutique based in the rolling hills of the Derbyshire Dales. Our home in Wirksworth is a warm, close knit community with a strong fair trade, ethical ethos – it is the kind of place where everyone says hello. Wirksworth has been key in developing AIRR and when we considered restyling our blog we were instinctively guided by the power of its inspiring local community spirit.

Over the coming weeks we will build up a host of features which focus on the power of community, sustainable living and on the growing fair trade, ethical revolution.

As the annual, community run, Wirksworth Festival enters its second week this first post celebrates our roots in this magical, unique, market town.

Since 1979 historic Wirksworth has been blessed by this true community led arts festival. The second weekend of September sees the opening of the 2 week long festival with the Arts and Architecture Trail weekend – the town literally 4-1-art-architecture-trailthrows open its doors, its nooks and it’s crannies to the world.

The central exhibition this year is curated by Geoff Diego Litherland and Dermot Punnett and features work from talented local artists including AIRR’s very own Olivia Punnett! Houses, shop fronts and community venues also become temporary art galleries and work from over 150 artists is displayed.

For the next 2 weeks the AIRR boutique window is hosting the fabulous work of Joy Pitts (, a Nottingham based textile artist who turns thousands of clothing labels into complex works of art like the Ram seen in the picture (yes, this ram is really made from clothing tags!)

            Joy Pitts adds a spot of country sparkle to AIRR’s window

Accompanying the weekend and carrying on through to 25th September 2016 is an inspiring programme of performance and events. Throughout the weekend musicians serenade visitors in gardens and in the streets, tempting, delicious street food stalls are found everywhere and the Town Hall plays host to world class music, theatre, drama, cabaret and comedy. In the first week we have seen the Sleeping Trees Theatre’s, Sci-Fi and comedian, Holly Burn, both performing fresh from the Edinburgh Festival. Cabaret Boom Boom gave us an evening of fun and laughter on Friday night, the St John St theatre gave us a fantastic family friendly performance outside the church, the Mugenyko Taiko Drummers wowed the audience on Saturday night and we still have comedian, Shazia Mirza, Soothsayers and many others to look forward to this week. (Click here to see the performance programme)

The St John Theatre Image by: Chris Wedd Photography
                                            The St John’s Street Theatre.                                                                                      Image by: Chris Webb Photography
                                        Sunday night’s ‘Gig on the Roof’


This is not an advert for the Wirksworth Festival though – however much we do think you should come and visit us – it is a note about how the people of Wirksworth made this happen and despite over 3,000 visitors arriving this year it retains an ethical ethos rooted in collective effort.

The origins of the festival lie partly in the need to regenerate the town as the historic quarrying industry declined but from the start, it was the strong community spirit that drove the festival’s success.

First developed on behalf of the Town Council by Councillor Charles Richards, the Trail Weekend was developed later by a group of local artists hoping to celebrate the unique magic of the town and its unusual proportion of talented creative residents. Still today financial support from the Town Council is increased exponentially by a core team of 30-40 dedicated talented local people who work with a wider volunteer team of 150. Crucial too are those who open their fabulous homes as galleries and let us nosey round!

This creative, voluntary spirit seeps into the bones of the festival and there is always such a positive atmosphere surrounding it – many people say hello as you pass on the street and with so many familiar faces volunteering there’s a real feeling of camaraderie. For visitors this is clearly infectious as you regularly catch snippets of conversation about how beautiful the town is and the possibilities of moving here! There is also a ‘leave no trace’ philosophy with recyclable materials used for most food and drink stalls – going by the waste left after the traditional Sunday evening ‘gig on the roof’ this also reached our visitors. This also translates through the art work too with many artists and makers using reclaimed wool and used objects for example.

The festival has always prompted thought about our connection to the world more broadly and this year the central theme has focused on our connection to nature. The central exhibition, Nature: Here and Now, features an exciting mix of art work in a range of mediums. Put together you cannot escape the feeling of connection to the natural world. The festival is particularly privileged this year to have Wolfgang Buttress’s accompaniment to The Hive, named Beam, set in the majestic St Mary’s Church. The Hive which is situated in Kew Gardens is a space created in the image of a bee hive and uses a link to an actual bee hive to alter lighting and sound. It holds a spotlight on declining bee population and, whilst on a smaller scale, Beam intimately relates to this by using projection and music.



The Hive is in Kew Gardens until November 2016

To find out more about The Hive click here


Wirksworth also has an active Amnesty Group which has been successful in alerting local people to global issues over the years and in guiding local people on how we can make a difference. Wednesday evening’s performance did just this as ‘A Story to Tell’ brought attention crucially back to the refugee crisis. The performance featured students from Derby University reading words from accounts of refugees and local resident Jo William’s blog on her trip to the Jungle in Calais.  Local fireman, Brendan Woodhouse, gave a really moving account of saving lives off the coast of Lesbos as boats arrive with hundreds of refugees each day.

You can listen to Brendan’s compelling story here on Radio 5 Live.

The performance placed important emphasis on how the media has phased out coverage and gave the packed Town Hall clear instructions on how we can help.  Money is important still but blankets, warm clothes, sleeping bags and tents are all other ways in which we can help individuals’ survival, especially as winter approaches. Local fair trade store, Traid Links, even stood up to pledge to deliver any to donations to Derby Refugee Solidarity group for transport to Calais. Whether people join the Amnesty group, donate money or goods, following the talk there was the definite feeling that the community had been energised.

At a time when many of us are feeling increasingly downhearted about the problems of the world and how we can help, this rural festival in the hills has refocused us back to the power that a community can have in making a difference. We hope that our new style blog will build on the community we have here in Wirksworth. Through our own fun and informative blog posts we hope that we can inspire change which contributes to a more sustainable, ethical world.

We’d love to see you in Wirksworth sometime soon but in the meantime please read more out more about AIRR or check out our new fair trade clothing brands online at .

Please follow us on Twitter or Facebook – @AIRRClothing

Follow our blog – and add us to Feedly

If you’re someone who likes to plan ahead the 2017 Art and Architecture Trail weekend will take place on 8th & 9th September 2017!

Thank you for reading and we hope to see you again soon.


All at AIRR xx


  1. Jez Bolton

    Excellent blog contextualising the history of the festival. Thanks for: crediting Charles Richards, including relevant YouTube links & highlighting the Amnesty event – “A Story to Tell”. Thank you.


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