Belle Vue Arts Festival launch
28 May 2021
by Katy Rink

On May 29, look out for buskers by Greyfriars Bridge, very much the heart of the festival, and say hello to the Shrewsbury Urban Sketchers too who will be there from 10.30am. 

BVAF Festival 2021 – It’s Wild!   

Belle Vue Arts Festival returns on 29 May with a WILD theme and promises to deliver a packed schedule of events for all the family throughout the summer.

With its trademark bunting on display at Greyfriars, Belle Vue Arts Festival, now in its 18th year, is embracing all things wild and that starts with the great outdoors.

This year, in-keeping with the festival theme, there’s a strong focus on supporting the Rea Brook Valley – our wonderful wilderness right in the middle of Shrewsbury town.

The festival has teamed up with the Wildlife Trust, Friends of the Rea Brook Valley Nature Reserve/Reabrook Wonders to deliver a packed calendar of events including a day of events and workshops on July 31 – look out for a clay workshop along the riverbank, bug hunting in Column Meadows and a ‘busk under the bridge’ plus den making with the Shrewsbury Countryside Team.

There’s even a silent disco Rea Brook Walk – a new way to experience the nature reserve, accompanied by music and movement, led by storyteller Sally Tonge (12 noon on Sat, July 31). And you can ‘Learn the Nelken Line’ – a simple piece of walking choreography based on the seasons, originally created by German choreographer Pina Bausch.

Ceramicist and dancer Ruth Gibson of Rea Brook Wonders, said: “We set up our volunteer group to deliver creative activities down at the Rea Brook, seeing it as a magical space to protect and look after and share as a community.

“The festival is an opportunity to do something creative together outdoors to provide activities outdoors for the whole community, young and old. My dream is to have an annual river festival down there.”

Find all the events at including the very popular festival Art & Scarecrow Trail ( July 3-4) and Open Gardens (July 4), along with poetry evenings, sketching and live music events, plus an Art & Photography Exhibition by the Shropshire Photographic Society and a chance to look around the various Barnabas Community Projects as part of a free open day event.

Artist Sue Mann is working with children from Coleham school on a pond-life artwork and Shaun Hood will be using his carpentry skills to create a giant jigsaw, based on a Matt Sewell goldfinch artwork, to be displayed at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery. Don’t miss the Brownies’ stick men – created with the help of Mike Griffiths, former art teacher at the Wakeman School - which will  be on display over the WILD Weekend on July 3 & 4.

“Expect the unexpected!”

Tom Supple, the acting chair of Belle Vue Arts Festival, said: “We went digital last year and whilst it was great to keep some sense of a festival going, we completely missed the interaction – having unusual and surprising things popping up all over Belle Vue, which is the real value of the festival.

“The different trails always bring a lot of creativity and colour. This year, the theme is WILD – it always surprises me what people come up with. We also have a fantastic tree trail, which is free to download and takes you to all parts of Belle Vue, plus also to new community tree planting areas on the other side of the railway!

“The idea is you’ll come across things and you can join in if you want to. That’s my favourite thing, not to have events too overly organised, but enough to allow things to happen.”  

Matt Sewell’s Birds of Paradise 

Artist Matt Sewell (aka ‘Banksy of the bird world’), a Belle Vue resident, is planning some big canvases for the festival. Matt’s vibrant murals of birdlife, including the white magpie, redwings, fieldfares and a kingfisher, brighten up the walls of underpasses and bridges throughout the Rea Brook Valley reserve.

He said: “I moved to Belle Vue nearly six years ago and the arts festival was definitely one of the reasons we wanted to live in the area. It's a lovely part of town and any place that prides itself on community and creativity is nothing but golden to me, so I couldn't help but get involved.

“I have painted a few boards over the years, a couple of swallows and a selection of Darwin's finches (with a goldfinch) a couple of years ago. This year I am using it as an excuse to get some experimental work out of my studio and up onto the walls between Havelock and Hawthorn Road.

“These are big paintings on canvas and are designed to be affected by the weather. The paintings feature birds of paradise that are being wiped out by habitat loss due to the expanse of the palm oil industry in the Far East - beautiful birds that are basically fading away.”

‘Rea Brook 10’ - Ten Second Films – with Andy McKeown

International digital media artist Andy McKeown will be working on the ‘Rea Brook 10’ and also ‘Cinder Path 10’ – Ten Second films projects, using footage of these greenspaces recorded by the general public.

Andy explains: “This is an on-going series of community created random montage films. Participants explore a local area and capture 10 second video clips on their smartphones and email these in (unedited). The submitted films are then continuously, seamlessly and randomly sequenced to create an ever changing ‘film’.

“For BVAF I will be capturing five minute sections of the stream for the website and hopefully have a real-time version running too.

“It’s open to anyone with a smartphone using the default video camera app (no video or DSLR cameras) and no editing. To get involved visit the BVAF website for a guide to participating. Ten second films always produces a captivating ‘film’. I don’t select or edit beyond making sure the submissions meet the brief. They are created and directed by you!”

Running throughout June and July, this vibrant community will once again be served with an Arts Festival they can truly get involved in.  

 There are loads of ways to take part - visit

Belle Vue Arts Festival poster by Rosanna Tasker Illustration

Belle Vue Arts Festival logo 2021