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Past, present and future of Ironbridge to be highlighted at festival

By Mat Growcott | Ironbridge | News | Published:

The past, present and future of the Ironbridge Gorge will be brought to life as part of a heritage festival this autumn.

Anthony Wiggins from Ironbridge Business Consortium, Rod Sheppard from Secret Severn Arts Trail, Graham Peet from the Ironbridge Coracle Trust, Sarah Bird the Destination Tourism Officer from Telford & Wrekin Council, Alex Nicoll chairman of the Ironbridge Business Consortium, Richard Eley from Darby 1779, Telford & Wrekin councillor Carolyn Healy, Jason Barlow from Virtual Reality Simulation Systems and Charlie Eley from Eley’s Pork Pies

Up to 12,000 people are expected to visit the Gorge this September for the two-week-long Festival of Imagination, a rebranding and massive expansion of the annual Ironbridge World Heritage Festival.

The events will stretch across the area, from Madeley to Coalbrookdale, Jackfield and Coalport, and will feature the iconic Iron Bridge and the 10 Ironbridge museums.

Sarah Bird, of Discover Shropshire & Telford, who is helping to organise the event, said: "People forget that the world heritage site here is ranked alongside the pyramids and the Taj Mahal, which is amazing.

"But it's not just about the bridge or the amazing furnace. We shaped the world we know today. But if people think they know Ironbridge, then they can think again. We're going to be allowing people to explore the Gorge emotionally and physically in ways that they won't have seen before.

"Ironbridge is a very special place. We have an amazing community of people here, and it's really important to look at events that have a sustainable approach.

"People normally will come onto the bridge, get their photograph, have a coffee or afternoon tea and then leave and they haven't read even one per cent of the book that is Ironbridge. We want people to come here and want to come here again."

Event will include everything from arts, craft and culture to virtual reality, music, film and poetry.

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Carolyn Healy, ward member for the Ironbridge Gorge, said: "There will be activities across the whole Gorge. People will be able to discover much more about why this is a world heritage site. It's about the story of a whole period of innovation, and that innovation still exists today.

"Businesses in the gorge are very seasonal. We're a top tourism destination, but that tourism window is quite narrow. One of the thing we're trying to do is stretch that.

"You can come to the Gorge all year and have a wonderful experience but people don't always think about that. Having an event in late September is slightly out of the main season, it gives our businesses a real boost."

There will also be the creation of a mini-festival village near Dale End Park where there will be a big yurt set up which will host lots of events and activities such as a film festival and some special food and drinks events across the two weeks.

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The festival itself has been given a complete makeover, with the new look and creative designed by Shropshire-based Nathan Rous PR.

Company director Nathan Rous said: “It’s been a lot of fun working on the new look for the Festival of Imagination. Our brief was to come up with something which appealed to audiences of all ages and reflected the really rich vibrant and amazing story of the gorge of the past, present and future. Our fantastical designs have been met with huge levels of enthusiasm. It’s going to be an incredible festival fortnight."

The festival will run from September 14-29.

Mat Growcott

By Mat Growcott
Reporter - @MGrowcott_Star

Shropshire Star reporter

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