Top authors, musicians and more all set for WAMfest
- Credit: Laura Locke
Literature, art and music are all on the menu for the first WAMfest (women in arts and music) festival in Felixstowe, from September 3-4.
The aim is to spotlight women's art and "open doors" for them, while also welcoming men.
There will be a mix of free and ticketed events - including talks by leading authors, a wide range of music and art exhibitions in venues around the town.
Laura Locke, of Felixstowe Radio, had the inspiration for the new festival after initially hoping to stage a celebration in the resort for International Women's Day in March.
She said: "This is the first of this type of event to take place in Felixstowe and we hope it will open more doors for women to perform and create.
"As a strong advocate for women in all areas, I was disturbed to note that women still struggle to feature on the top billing of festivals and to have their art celebrated and to get their novels published.
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"We planned WAMfest Felixstowe to make a small gesture to address the balance and celebrate the contribution of women to the arts."
She added: "This project has been a labour of love for me and the WAMfest team. We are a not-for-profit group and take no wages but pay our artistes, and any surplus we will donate to the Lighthouse Women's Aid Charity."
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The Friday night launch party, with Big Mama Funk and the Ukelele Ladies, has already sold out - but you can still buy all-day passes for Saturday or book for individual events.
The day will include a range of free musical performances on The Triangle in Felixstowe town centre, including Felixstowe Harmonies, Essentially Swing and Stellar Acappella, as well as ticketed events at the Orwell Hotel, including author talks.
Well-known Felixstowe crime fiction writers Ruth Dugdall and Jeanette Hewitt will both be taking part in literary panels, including Q&As and book signings. Both are keen supporters of Felixstowe Book Festival, and are now looking forward to the town's newest festival too.
Ruth will take part in a discussion with fellow-author Amanda Hodgkinson. Both have written novels set in Suffolk.
Ruth's "domestic noir" bestseller, My Sister and Other Liars is partly set at the former Bartlett Hospital in Felixstowe, while Amanda's internationally renowned novel, Spilt Milk, is set in Suffolk between 1913 and the 1970s. Amanda is also the author of 22 Britannia Road, which has an Ipswich setting.
Ruth said: "We are going to be talking about Suffolk and sisterhood, and we're going to talk about secrets. We're really going to delve into why Suffolk inspires us."
Jeanette Hewitt, who publishes under the name JM Hewitt, will take part in the day's second "audience with authors", together with fellow-writers Cassandra Parkin and Kate Sawyer.
"The whole event is going to be awesome," Jeanette said. "It's just really nice to get out, and to do something with other authors.
"I think we are going to be talking about where we get ideas from and how we have been writing during lockdown."
The author of six published crime thrillers, Jeanette herself made the most of the enforced isolation. "I realised quite early on that we were going to be in this situation for about a year," she said.
"I thought, I am never going to get a year's free time again - and I wrote three books during lockdowns."
She signed a deal earlier this year for publication of all three books, and the first, tense psychological thriller The Life She Wants, has just been published.
Local debut author Kate Sawyer, who was born in Bury St Edmunds, will also be taking part in the panel, talking about her debut novel, The Stranding, which was published in June.
Cassandra Parkin is from Hull and has many local admirers, after her novel Soldier Boy was a choice of the popular Felixstowe Book Club.
During the day, there will be performances by musicians including international opera singer Christina Johnston and the Common Ground Band, which includes Pat Whymark, Hattie Bennett and Emily Bennett. The band takes its name from the Common Ground Theatre Company, which Pat Whymark runs together with Julian Harries, while actress Emily Bennett appears in their productions.
Hattie Bennett, from Music in Felixstowe, said she thought it would be great for the people who went along to the festival to hear the live music. "They will absolutely love it. I put on concerts and the people who come along have such a lovely time. The audience becomes part of the experience."
The finale will feature Divatown, a fun female-fronted trio formed specially for the festival. It is fronted by "head diva" Jackie Hole, known from Superthings, Groovydisco, alongside guitarist Mark Stuart and Greg Titheridge on drums and percussion.
Pop punk band Pink Lemonade, from Thetford and Attleborough will also take part in the finale. Bassist Maddie said: “We are really excited to be taking part in WAM Festival. It is very refreshing to see and participate in an event that celebrates and embraces women in arts and music to help end the gender imbalance in major music festivals.”
The 142 Hamilton Road art gallery will host an all-women week, together with Gallery Box on Beach Street, and Colombian artist Catalina Carvajal is creating an iconic mural opposite the Orwell Hotel
For more details and to book, visit the WAMfest tickets website.