A guest blog from Emily Finney founder of Bedford Burlesque

We are Bedford has many voices. This is a blog post from one of our local heroes Emily Finney, a young woman who brought Burlesque to Bedford through her Bedford Burlesque shows.


“I came across WeAreBedford on Facebook and was thrilled to find out all about them as these guys are doing something I am really passionate about, and that is making Bedford something worthwhile encouraging art, entertainment and excitement

As a proud Bedfordian like so many of my friends I despair when people walk past me and say ‘ Bedford’s crap I cant wait to leave’ and they are right but it is my experience that this is the case in most towns of our size and instead of moaning about it I believe you should take the bull by the horns and do something about it!

I understand from a personal and business level how difficult it can be to break through the ‘Bedford Apathy’. Through my own Burlesque events, I hope I have brought some pizzazz to the town and I plan to continue to do so in every manner possible, and I want to support others who approach the destruction of the apathy in new and exciting ways!

This is exactly what WeAreBedford and a dedicated few are trying to do. I for one have been amazed how many creative people have come out of the woodwork and how many people love a community event, this doesn’t feel like a one off either, it packs a punch, grasps peoples imaginations and shows you what you can do if you just grit your teeth and have the back up of amazing people! What Kayte and Erica have done is inspire people, which is an astounding achievement and they should be very proud!

I will be there to support the event along with all of Bedford I hope. Personally am looking forward to Esquires Acoustic Stage and the Craft Stalls and can’t wait to enjoy what is sure to be a great atmosphere and a fantastic weekender.

Guys…When you do the next one, count me in.”


(Emily– MD/Founder of Emily Presents (Bedford Burlesque & Bazaar and other fun things)

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A guest blog post from Tony Somervell, exhibiting photographer and local resident

We are Bedford has many voices. This is a guest post from one of the exhibiting photographers and local resident Tony Somervell.

It all started, in my case, with an article in the Beds on Sunday (30th January 2011); “A chance comment on Facebook results in a new arts festval”.
The title caught my eye and the article inspired me, as here were two “young mums” (at 39 and 31 I think they liked that!) who were in the process of ‘gestating’ a new baby.  They had sprung across an idea, initially “quite a flippant comment on Facebook” which soon developed into a a brilliant project to create an arts festival to transform the very grey, empty shops and as yet not very well known “cultural quarter” of Bedford.
I live just 5 minutes from the Castle Quay ‘complex’ and was immediately attracted to participate in the project. How wonderful to unite artists, musicians and anyone else, in a weekend event to display our work, show the public the wealth of local culture and have lots of fun together.
Soon the prospect of displaying work excited me and  along with about 30 others, we ‘invaded’ the Riverside Grill one evening for an Information evening, eager to find out more details and sign up.  There was a real buzz about the meeting; here we were, soon to ‘occupy’ some empty shop spaces with colour and life; it felt a bit like the birth of a new political movement to change the world!
Meanwhile the comments and excitement continued on the Facebook page with photos posted of the shops where the artwork is to be displayed, and daily news of developments spawned more excitement.  As I write, enthusiasm continues to rise as new ideas are suggested, offers to do this and that are posted, and the whole thing just ‘snowballs’ on! Just the other day Kayte posted: “hi all – there are a number of people who have emailed me and haven’t heard back – i haven’t received your emails. i think the volume of emails i am receiving is jamming my email server.”  Or maybe her computer has gone into ‘overload’ with all the hours you’ve been on it!

So those who are displaying their art work (or canvas print photos as in my case, at the Swan Hotel) playing their music (I can’t wait to hear the buskers!) or acting their hearts out, this is such an exciting opportunity to join together and ‘create’.  With so much bad news going on, both locally and globally, here is an expression of a group of enthusiastic, “young” people, all buzzing to share their work and produce together a veritable kaleidoscope of creativity which will show Bedford and the whole area what we can do.  We should send Town Criers to Milton Keynes, Luton and Dunstable, there’s another fun idea!

“Oyez! Oyez! Oyez!  Bedford Castle Quay Weekender coming SOON, Don’t miss the art, the music, the fun.  Scores of paintings, hours of music, buckets of FUN!  Get to Bedford, March 19th and 20th!  Castle Quay Weekender, you’ll never forget this weekend!”

Tony Somervell is an amateur freelance photographer who is displaying some of his work at the Swan Hotel over the Castle Quay Weekender.  He set up Castle Photo Graphics early 2009 and specializes in Canvas Prints. He created Fab Fotos via Facebook where nearly 900 people currently show their eagerness to share their passion for photography, receiving feedback on their photos and learning how to take better photos.

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Map of Spaces at Castle Quay Weekender

Map of Spaces at the Castle Quay Weekender

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Programme of events at the Castle Quay Weekender

The Programme of Events at The Castle Quay Weekender

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Bedford needs you

To Make The Castle Quay Weekender happen we need artists to submit work, makers and crafters to exhibit, buskers to play and bucket-loads of helpful bright and happy people to help us to paint, prepare, make good, steward, usher, man the wheelchair ramps, direct, sell, stamp, and trouble shoot on the day.

If you think you fit the bill and are free on the 19th and 20th March and in the weeks running up to it please let us know. If you could do a half day shift you would be making a huge contribution.

Please email us on wearebedford@goodthingsltd.com for a from – let us know in the subject heading if you are an Artist, Vendor or Volunteer.

With thanks

Kayte & Erica and the ever growing We Are Bedford Collective.

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Flirting with bureaucracy

It has been an intense few weeks. We have moved from creative imagination and idea generation to the energy sapping bureaucracy. We have sorted event licences, insurance, performers contracts, forms for artists, vendors and volunteers, done risk assessments, and more. We know these are necessary and recognize that our event has probably been improved by these hoops that we have had to jump though. We need to keep our volunteers and public safe, formalizing agreements with those involved is key, and a certain level of admin is good for sanity.

It has felt hard at times. This one event has meant separate ongoing conversations with over 10 members of council staff alone. The event spans economic development, licensing, park land, environmental health, disability access, business development. And, like Rumsfeld, we don’t know what we don’t know. I am sure there are departments in the council that we haven’t even dreamed of yet that we probably should have contacted.

Let us not forget, dear renegades, that bureaucracy exists to keep things stable. It’s very reason for existence is to prevent change. So the intersection at which creative action and bureaucracy meets is always going to be an interesting one. It can feel quite thrilling. Creative compliance has become our watchword.

We are realizing that, quite unintentionally, we are becoming ‘Big Society’ in action. We didn’t mean for this to happen. But if Big Society is the going to happen others will face the same problems as we have. They will have to engage with structures that don’t yet know how to engage back. They won’t quite fit the criteria on the forms they are given, and they won’t quite be able to tick all the boxes and there will be frustrations and confusion and then the conversation begins. There will be dialogue about what lies behind the forms. And these conversations will happen between people, not between the ‘council’ and ‘service users’, and people will have to start becoming responsible for their actions and decisions. And, actually, it will probably be quite good.

Our council have been great. They may not have always known what to do with us, but they have given us enough space to carry on. And in return we have tried our best to be compliant with the rules that matter.

I heard that Liverpool, one of the governments flagships for ‘Big Society’ has written to Cameron opting out because the government didn’t help them enough. This made me laugh. It seems to me that they missed the point.

I have higher hopes for my hometown.

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Blank Canvas

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The spaces are big and bare. They are raw urban spaces, and there is beauty in that.

They have huge potential.

I have a theory that potential is what we as humans are attracted too. Babies, new romances, a plot of land, a blank canvas, these are things that we humans love, and why? Because when something is unfinished it gives us space to make our mark, to discover, to explore and uncover. It gives us room to matter.

I love these empty spaces of ours. I am thankful that the council and the landlord had the foresight and good judgement to entrust us with them.We will make our mark, even if only for a short while. Those spaces will be different for us being there. They will exist in a different way for the people of the town.



with thanks to Stuart for the images.

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