Guildford Borough has been taking part in The Big Draw Festival since 2012 - and each year their events engage hundreds of people to come together and celebrate creativity in all its forms! Last year’s events in Guildford wholeheartedly embraced the theme of ‘Play’, offering free, accessible, high quality and creative activities run in partnership with local arts practitioners and venues. We were lucky to catch up with Hannah Dix to find out more about what's in store for this year's Big Draw Festival 'Drawn To Life' in Guildford...
Hi Hannah! Thanks so much for chatting with us today. Guildford Borough Council has been taking part in The Big Draw Festival since 2012! How have your events changed over the years and how do you keep things fresh in your programming?
Our event format has stayed pretty much the same in that we work with partner venues and a local artist to run a workshop inspired by the Big Draw's annual themes. Over the last 7 years we have widened the Guildford Borough Big Draw workshop offer to include not just venues in the town centre but across the entire borough including outdoor venues such as Newlands Corner. We have partnered with existing community events to provide creative and fun activities that they would not normally be able to offer. We have also introduced a workshop for adults over 18, which has certainly introduced a new dynamic to our Big Draw events.
These changes have been made in response to feedback from participants and partner venues. They are also in line with one of the themes of our Arts Development Strategy Taking part – widening participation. Our Big Draw events have been kept fresh over the years by the feedback from participants and partner venues as well as always being on the lookout for new artists and unusual or interesting partner venues; for example, this year we are running a Big Draw workshop on a canal boat!
As the Guildford Borough Arts Officer, would you say Guildford is a particularly ‘arty’ place? Or are your annual Big Draw Festival events an anomaly for the town?
Guildford Borough is a very creative place! We have several festivals and events that take place throughout the year such as the Guildford Fringe Festival, Guildford Arts Summer Exhibition and Guildford Shakespeare Company’s annual programme of performances. We also have a thriving community arts scene and a number of professional venues in the borough that programme a variety of work ranging from music, to comedy, to performances and also workshops for people to take part in.
Last year’s events in Guildford wholeheartedly embraced The Big Draw Festival 2018 theme of ‘Play’, offering free, accessible, high quality and creative activities run in partnership with local arts practitioners and venues. Could you tell us a little more about your 2018 events?
We offered 10 workshops as part of last year’s big draw that included:
Drawing with natural materials from the landscape such as dyes made from bark and chalk.
Using the roll of the dice to decide what media and colours to use
Painting with a salad spinner and creating designs using dipped toy cars, trucks and balls
Creating a giant movement mat with participants hands and feet
Using tissue paper to design and create a collaborative stain glass window
Pendulum art mark making with a swinging paint pot.
How will Guildford be exploring this year’s theme ‘Drawn To Life: Creativity & Wellbeing’? Moreover, how does this theme resonate with your life and work outside of the Festival?
This year we are exploring the theme 'Drawn To Life' by providing the opportunity for people of all ages to come together and take part in fun and accessible arts activities that they may not otherwise have the chance to do.
Arts and Health is one of the 4 themes of our current Arts Development Strategy so creativity and wellbeing is central to a number of the initiative and projects I lead on.
As our high streets change, and we see increasingly more UK shopping districts with empty shop fronts, how do you see the continuing role of community groups, libraries and artists in ‘re-activating’ these spaces?
I think that community spaces have an important role to play in the place making process, helping to bring people together and support them to collectively reimagine and reshape/reinvent these spaces. Making them relevant to local communities is crucial in contributing to people’s health, happiness and well-being.
What reasons would you give tourists to visit Guildford? More importantly, why should they come during your Big Draw Festival events this year?
Guildford is a vibrant market town in the heart of Surrey with first class shopping, restaurants and attractions. The town is steeped in history and culture - you can step back in time and learn about Guildford's past or explore the surrounding countryside. The lush meadows by the River Wey are perfect to walk in or enjoy a picnic!
10 reasons to visit Guildford:
Historic heritage - You will see buildings through the ages from the medieval Castle Keep, the Tudor Guildhall, Jacobean Abbots Hospital and Georgian Art Gallery.
Countryside - From Guildford High Street you can see the green and wooded Mount rising to the south of the town. You can walk along the towpath of the River Wey or head for the famous North Down Ways.
Views - Climb to the top of Guildford's Castle Keep for the most spectacular view of surrounding countryside. Other places we recommend for the best views are Newlands Corner, Box Hill, Leith Hill and The Mount - these make perfect picnic areas too.
Memorable stay - Treat yourself to a luxury stay in Guildford town within walking distance of all the shopping and heritage or you can escape to the countryside in a hotel surrounded by lanes for walking or cycling.
Art and culture - Join the Guildford Town Guides for a public art walk or head for Guildford House Gallery in the centre of town to see their constantly changing programme of exhibitions.
Having had many years’ experience coordinating successful Big Draw events, do you have any words of wisdom to pass on to anyone considering organising their own Big Draw event? Moreover, what are some of the biggest challenges you have faced/overcome in organising these events?
I have been lucky there have not been that many challenges! I am lucky to work with great participating venues and talented artists. My top tips are:
Plan a workshop where people get to take something they have made away with them.
Big Draw workshops are generally drop in style workshops so the artists need to plan their activities so that people can stay for the whole workshop or just 20 mins and still achieve something.
Consider your age group and be clear who the workshop/s is/are amend at in the publicity. If there are tricky elements for smaller children, then say adults will need to support them.
Think creatively - small budget big ideas, can your participants contribute towards a big piece that will create an Instagram moment as well as learn hands on creative fun?
Always make sure children and young people under the age of 16 are accompanied by an adult.
Thank you Hannah and the team at Guildford Borough Council!
Guildford Borough Council is one of our Big Draw Festival 2019 Sponsor Partners.
Have you been inspired by Hannah's interview and The Big Draw Festival 2019 theme: #DrawntoLife? Why not join our global Festival in 2019? Registration is now open! Find out more about the benefits of becoming an organiser here and other ways to support The Big Draw's mission here.