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Page last updated at 06:48 GMT, Friday, 3 July 2009 07:48 UK
Frome Festival's community spirit

Frome Festival 2009
The festival runs from 3 to 12 July 2009

The Frome Festival has returned with its annual mix of arts workshops, talks, live music and theatre totalling 187 events which will attract people from all over the country.

There is also a new addition to the line-up; the Arts Council has handed the organisers £5,000 to run Theatre on Tour.

Martin Dimmery, creative director, said: "It is bringing four theatre companies in total 10 performances to outlying villages and communities in the Frome area, as far afield as Gillingham in Dorset and up to Wellow near Bath, it's covering four counties.

"That money is to help subsidise those theatre events and it's hoped that next year we can take this on possibly without the subsidy and continue that as a tradition."

This money is ring-fenced so none of it will be used to fund any of the Frome Festival's other activities.

"We're very happy because this is the first time we've had recognition in terms of funding from the Arts Council.

"In previous years we've applied for maintenance grants and we've received nothing and it really is difficult these days to receive public funding for arts festivals."

'Black hole'

While the festival organisers are hoping to build a long-term legacy for the community they are keen to build on their success closer to home.

"What I am really keen to do is get people from across the Mendips. It is really funny with the Cheese and Grain, where I work normally; we look at the ticket sales and they come from all over the country, but there's like a black hole in Taunton.

"It is really strange in the Somerset community that Frome is not necessarily recognised as much as it might be elsewhere. People in Wiltshire and Dorset say what a fantastic arts scene is going on, but Taunton is yet to catch on."

Part of this is blamed on the sheer size of the county and the length of time it takes to travel from Taunton to Frome but they are still keen to get more people to see what the festival is all about.

'Tremendous people'

Despite this, organisers are highly motivated working on a voluntary basis most of the time to get the show off the ground.

"We've got a tremendous people on the ground for us to go and get subsidies and sponsorship from commercial sources. We've got a very supportive town council who give us an annual grant and we get contributions from the district and the county [councils]. They may not be huge but they are gratefully received."

Another source of help has been from local businesses, like Butler, Tanner and Dennis, which printed out the brochures for free; this would normally cost in the region of £5,000.

The community spirit of pitching in to help is also reflected in the line-up.

High calibre artists like Pee Wee Ellis, the saxophonist, who now lives in Frome, Imelda May and Mark McGann have agreed to perform at the festival for reduced fees as a way of contributing to the local community but like most events there is a tangible benefit to the local economy.

"No-one has sat down and assessed it, but one shopkeeper said in his reckoning that his takings were up £2,000 on the week. If you ask the hotels and pubs their takings would be markedly up as well.

"Frome isn't an obvious tourist trap; it is situated between Bath, Wells and Longleat but people do stop off here and the Festival raises a lot of enquiries from tourist information."

The main highlights this year include Still Black Still Proud, featuring Pee Wee Ellis, Adrian Edmondson and the Bad Shepherds and Imelda May.


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