The Lancashire Encounter bridging the gap between the Preston Guild is to become a permanent fixture in the city events calendar.
Funding has been secured to develop this year’s event which is to be a biennial explosion of arts, culture and sound across the city centre.
Organisers have seen their budget tripled to stage the three-day celebration, thanks in part to Arts Council funding of £70,000 being secured.
Tim Joel, events manager at Preston City Council, said they would be match funding and they also had additional funding coming from partner organisations to bring the total pot to around £200,000.
Running from Friday 23 September to Sunday 25 September there’s the promise of a torchlight parade, a mass participation arts show and the red canopies are returning to the city as well.
More than 20,000 people visited the Encounter during September 2015 and organisers say they’ll be going bigger and better this year.
Mr Joel said: “This is about keeping that momentum from the Guild going. The feedback we had from the pilot event last year for Lancashire Encounter was overwhelming, more than 97 per cent of people said they would like to see it return.
“Now we have the funds available we can really work on putting on a show that brings together the diversity and heritage of Preston, and Lancashire, together through a series of workshops, shows and more.”
Related: Arty pictures from Sunday at last year’s Lancashire Encounter
Lancashire Encounter is due to be centered on the Flag Market and surrounding streets with Mr Joel saying a ‘temporary events structure’ would be created somewhere in the city centre.
He said: “We’ve taken feedback from last year’s events onboard and the canopies are going to be moved around the city – to host different events.
“There’s also going to be lots of events happening in places people would not traditionally think of going for an event – and we want to involve buildings like the Harris as a real hub for finding out information and being a focal point.”
The event also coincides with 2016 being the 200th anniversary of Preston being the first place in the country outside London to be lit by gas light.
Joseph Dunn fired up the gas light at the Catholic School in Fox Street in 1816 and this is a key theme the organisers want to see weaved through the Encounter.
“The torchlight parade is a key and popular part of the Guild,” said Mr Joel, “we’ll be looking to bring this into the events programme and it will follow a similar route to what’s used during the Guild.
“That light theme is one we’ll be looking for artists and those involved to work into their performances in whatever way they can.
“When the procession is to take place we have not confirmed yet, it’ll most likely be the Saturday but we will announce more details in due course along with how businesses and the community can get involved in it.”
Related: People’s Canopy used for the Encounter pops up in Hong Kong
The majority of the events during Lancashire Encounter are due to be free to attend, although the city council is looking to introduce a small charge for some of them.
Mr Joel said: “We want to ensure there’s open participation for all in this, and cost shouldn’t be a barrier to people getting involved and experiencing the arts.
“However, we do operate in a different financial environment and we need to make sure people understand there’s a value to the arts. So for some of the more high profile events, on say the Friday night in the main events space, we may look to have a small charge of a few pounds for the events.”
Schools, community organisations and arts groups from across the county are going to be invited to take part in the event.
Mr Joel said they were particularly looking to work with the diverse communities across Preston and Lancashire, and also those areas of deprivation where access to the arts was limited.
He also said diversity was to be a key strand of the event with faiths and cultures from across the city due to be asked to get involved and host events.
The Encounters team say they want to bring the spirit of the Guild alive with a strong volunteer team helping during the three days, and in the run up to the event.
The Guilders – a small army of volunteers – were a highlight during the 2012 Guild and Mr Joel says they are interested in people being part of the welcoming team, getting acts ready and other roles during the festival. They’ll be opening registration soon.
No line up is confirmed for the festival, but the Encounter is now part of the Without Walls network. This allows it to tap into a nationwide list of festival performers and arts group who have appeared at other festivals across the country.
Arts groups from across the city and county are also due to be involved, and the Encounters team say they will be opening up applications for performers in the coming weeks.
The Flag Market and the Harris, and their surrounding streets, are to be the focal point. Work on the Fish Market canopy is due to be complete ahead of September so is also likely to be a performance space.
Venues across the city such as the Guild Hall, Korova, The Continental and others are also being asked to get involved. Plus the Encounters team say they want to link up with Winckley Square to host events there – and also use non-traditional spaces.
Last year’s event saw a light installation in the Old Post Office building – which is in the final stages of being sold off to become a hotel – so is unlikely to be involved this year.
Both of these events are due to be part of the Encounter festival and are going ahead on their original dates and times.
Did you go to the Encounter last year? What do you think of the news and events? Let us know your views in the comments below