What’s going on in Wells?
PUBLISHED: 07:00 28 November 2014
CLARE KINGSBURY-BELL establishes that Wells is not just for Christmas.
he medieval city of Wells may be the smallest city in England, but it has a thriving social diary.
In addition to regular events such as the twice weekly market in the city centre, the narrow streets and eclectic mix of architecture play host to a plethora of notable events. The annual carnival will soon be taking place on November 14, with huge floats making their way slowly through the city intertwined with inventive and vivid street performers. The kaleidoscope of colourful lights against the dark sky, mixed with music and dance, makes this procession of floats a sight not to be missed and an exciting atmosphere to be savoured.
Christmas craft markets are held at Wells Town Hall on 12, 19 and 26 November, as well as 3 and 10 December.
The same creative team behind the successful Flower Festival in 2013 at The Bishop’s Palace are reuniting to create The Winter Festival from December 3-7. The Palace will be transformed with floral art displays, the gardens lit up like never before and there will be a range of workshops and demonstrations to enjoy, as well as an indoor Christmas shopping market and plenty to eat and drink. The Palace will then close for January and reopen mid-February.
The town’s festivities culminate with the Wells Rotary Reindeer Parade on 7 December. Father Christmas will parade through the city in his sledge led by the world-famous group of reindeer. The procession winds through the High Street to the moat where the Christmas lights will be switched on.
The remarkably unspoilt 13th century Wells Cathedral is worth a meander around on any day of the year, but there are some key dates when it is an extra treat to visit and the festive offering is particularly impressive.
In December, the Somerset Community Foundation, in association with Somerset Life, is hosting Sing for Somerset at Wells Cathedral. The Foundation connects those who believe charity begins at home with the people who need a helping hand. The concert begins at 7pm on December 11. (See more on page 141).
The ever popular candle lit concerts take place on 20 and 21 December. The Cathedral Choir performs seasonal music, interspersed with readings, with the surroundings lit by thousands of candles. A traditional carol service led by the choir, plus bible readings, will be held on 23 December at 6pm.
Wells Little Theatre is home to local thespians who have been entertain ing audiences in the city for more than a century with their stage productions. Their festive offering is the firm favourite Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, which is being performed from 13-20 December.
The new year sees a series of promenade concerts during which the audience is encouraged to move around the open space of the cathedral, cleared of all chairs, and experience the sound of this extraordinary building. These take place on 16, 23 and 28 January.
Easter sees Wells City Band strike up for a special concert on behalf of the Mayor of Wells. Taking place at the Town Hall, the event will raise money for the mayor’s chosen charities. Cllr Chris Briton is the 641st Mayor of Wells and his charities are Heads Up, which is a local voluntary organisation offering support and activities to people with Mental Health problems and Promise, a Somerset county-wide mentoring and advocacy service for young people aged between five and 19 years old who are experiencing difficulties at home, in care, or with education and training.
In 2015 Wells and Mendip Museum will be evolving and changing the WW1 exhibition. The Wells Remembers exhibition is part of a four-year project supported by a grant of £8,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War: then and now programme. Visitors will experience the sights and sounds of the trenches, see and learn about curious and disturbing artefacts and discover the stories of individuals from Wells and the surrounding villages, with displays covering the homefront and the fighting fronts. The project is a partnership between the Wells and Mendip Museum, City Archives, Blue School, Wells Cathedral School, Wells Cathedral, Bishops Palace, Wells Journal, City Council and the Royal British Legion and, as well as HLF’s funding, has received a matching contribution from local donors.
For 2015 the Wells Little Theatre thespians are staging Spend Spend Spend from 18-23 May. The show is a musical with a book and lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene and music by Brown. The story starts in 1961 when Yorkshire housewife Viv Nicholson wins £152,319 in the football pools. When a reporter asks her what she plans to do with her new fortune, she replies ‘I’m going to spend, spend, spend’! which is exactly what she did. Her rags-to- riches-to-rags-again story takes her through five husbands, expensive sports cars, fur coats and jewellery, a battle with alcohol and bankruptcy.
Wells Film Centre has a programme of Live Event Cinema to offer throughout 2015. January sees Treasure Island by the National Theatre through to Love’s Labours Lost by the Royal Shakespeare Company in March and Carmen in July by the English National Opera.
A2 Gallery in the High Street is thought to be the only permanent contemporary art gallery in Wells and displays the work of local artists David Parfitt RI, Martin Bentham RWA, Mike Bernard RI and Moish Sokal.
Along with these traditional favourites, they like to challenge convention by showing more modern work by artists like Zac Greening, Sara Dudman and Debbie Locke – artists who push the boundaries of visual art and stretch the mind, but who still retain a strong aesthetic appeal.
At the end of January, A2 Gallery will be hosting an exhibition of work by A-level students from the Blue School in Wells. They are also planning a show with artists Sara Dudman and Debbie Locke, the winners of this year’s open exhibition, at Easter and before holding the annual open exhibition in the summer.