At one end of Garstang High Street sits a quaint building with a pretty little courtyard, step inside and you’ll find a lively hub of activity.
The Garstang Arts Centre will be a central point of the market town for village locals and hoards of visitors over the next fortnight as organisers prepare to host the vibrant annual Garstang Arts and Music Festival.
Yet it is all year round this historic hall is a hive of social activity with numerous groups using the setting to meet, learn, demonstrate, perform and display all in the name of the arts.
Many of the groups are long term custodians from Garstang Musical Productions, painting groups and needlecraft but the weekly programme is ever extending with newcomers the Garstang Ukelele group, having set up just last year.
In April, the Garstang and District Arts Society nominated new chairman Tessa Ferguson to preside over its successful running, a role which had been well served for seven years by Mary Thornber, a stalwart of the community in Garstang.
Tessa says: “Mary had been an extremely good chairman and what you need in places like Garstang is volunteers to step forward and that is what I decided to do and I just hope to keep the place thriving as it has for many years.
“The Arts Centre is all volunteer led, wonderful volunteers and wonderful committee who work hard to welcome visitors and it is a brilliant place to come.”
The centre was established under the registered charity The Garstang and District Arts Society in 1969.
It was built and opened originally as ‘The Boys Grammar School’ in 1760 and used as a place of education up to 1965.
The objective of the Garstang Arts Centre was for the “promoting an interest in the Arts throughout the district”.
The initiative was taken by Stella Platt and Frank Walmsley, with the project well supported by the Garstang Town Trust, landlords of the society.
With major investment the Arts Centre was completely refurbished and has flourished, with a practical space for anything from lunchtime and evening concerts to regular exhibitions and crafts and collectors fairs, not to mention a walk-in meeting place for a coffee and cake three times a week.
The centre is open everyday and typically the main room exhibitions are rotated every three weeks.
The space, currently homing the talented works of local schoolchildren, regularly attracts paintings, textiles and photography from an array of hobbyists to professionals nationally.
Tessa adds: “It is a marvellous space and lots of fundraising and work been done towards grants to help modernise it in recent years. We have a successful 200 club and above everything a packed programme - when you say there is something for everyone, there really is.”
From August 22 the centre will be buzzing daily with a diverse offering of music and arts for the popular festival.
It is a chance each year for members of the local community to showcase their talents to a wider audience, whilst also offering people the advantage to take up a new art or hobby with a series of workshops and demonstrations available over the course of the 10-day festival, now in its 22nd year.
The programme of events caters for all ages and interests. There are live outdoor concerts, street entertainers, dances, jazz bands and folk music
Tessa, who has lived in Garstang for 33 years adds: “It is also a lovely opportunity for people to come and visit Garstang and discover the Arts Centre for the first time - I joined the Bridge club here about four years ago, Lots of people come to all the different groups or just for a look or a cup of coffee. It keeps us out of mischief.”
The Arts Centre is open to all members of the public who wish to join any of our groups.
For a look at the exhibitions, groups and a full programme of Festival events visit http://www.garstangartssociety.org.uk/
Garstang Arts Festival August 22- 29