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The show must go on Chorlton Arts Festival goes virtual to stage popular event


Residents will be able to walk along the high street and enjoy the work of more than 20 local artists from home in a virtual world as part of Chorlton Arts Festival.

The show must go on Chorlton Arts Festival goes virtual to stage popular event


"Virtual placemaking is something we're so passionate about at Visioning Lab, and I'm delighted to see it working to bring people together in my hometown."
Curator Jess Symons of Visioning Lab



Chorlton artists have created a virtual town to put on the much-loved arts festival this weekend. 

Residents will be able to walk along the high street and enjoy the work of more than 20 local artists from home as part of Chorlton Arts Festival.

The town has been brought to life by Chorlton resident and curator of the arts festival, Jess Symons of Visioning Lab, along with a team of volunteers.

The annual event, which was originally scheduled to happen in May, had to be cancelled due to COVID-19. The virtual showcase will now go live on the Chorlton Arts Festival website across the weekend of October 3-4 - and is supported by patrons’ comedian and actor Jason Manford, singer Damon Gough (Badly Drawn Boy). 

Jess said: “We put a call out to artists who had already registered for the festival to get on board with our virtual idea and we had a fantastic response so, over the past two months, we have worked with them to make virtual art spaces using Mozilla Hubs for others to visit and enjoy together from the comfort and safety of their own home.

“The art hubs that have been created are communal – so when you visit one, you see other people who are visiting at the same time. Each visitor is assigned an 'avatar' - they look a bit like Lego characters. So, you can wander around the spaces much like you would in a gallery. You can arrange to meet people there and hang out in the space. It's a way of experiencing things together even if you cannot physically meet up.

"We also had a number of artists who wanted to show films so I created a Solstice as a new online 3D digital performance and meeting space. It is themed as an outdoor festival using Chorlton Ees as a backdrop. We have a big screen there so people can come in and watch films together.  It is just so funny to be standing next to a panda and duck watching human musicians performing on a large screen, all the while knowing that you are really at home wearing headphones and sitting at the computer in your front room! 

“Virtual placemaking is something we’re so passionate about at Visioning Lab, and I’m delighted to see it working to bring people together in my hometown.”

71-year-old Chorlton artist and festival director Peter Topping used his paintings of Chorlton to create the virtual world where visitors will be able to walk the high street, recognising local landmarks along the way. Other virtual spaces include a watercolour version of Chorlton Ees by artist Anna Violet and the inside of a bin by photographer Mike Beard, who wants to highlight environmental issues.

He said: “When Jess approached us with the offer to facilitate a virtual arts festival we jumped at the opportunity. Our virtual Chorlton has all the important places but also a little bit of mystery because no virtual town is complete without a secret tunnel!

“I am delighted that people can get together virtually, to stroll through their township, enjoy free performances and art exhibitions, and chat together about their experiences.”

Future plans for virtual Chorlton are to use it to promote local traders’ websites – as lockdown sees businesses’ trading hit dramatically.

For more information on the festival go to www.chorltonarts.org

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