THE new Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane, Cllr Roger Gardiner, commenced his official year of engagements at the town centre launch of Basingstoke Festival 2014.

The latter event, which is now in its third year, takes place all over the borough from Friday, June 20 until Sunday, July 13, culminating in Basingstoke Live.

Fire-breathing creation The Dragon Heart Beat by Positive Productions, which was brought in from Brighton by Basingstoke’s Proteus Theatre Company, made its way from the bottom of Wote Street to Market Place’s Willis Museum, led by a team of talented young dancers from Kelly Hopkins’ North Hampshire Academy of Dance.          

Kelly enthused: “We were thrilled to perform for the launch. It was a great experience for the children. We are so looking forward to performing on June 29 on the Festival’s family day.”

Crowds of shoppers and supporters gathered to take in the spectacle and to pick up a Festival brochure.

Basingstoke Gazette:

The Mayor commented: “What a fantastic introduction to Basingstoke Festival!

“The event is going to be amazing fun, and it’s something which really deserves to be supported. I hope everyone gets hold of a brochure and takes a look at what is happening.”

Proteus artistic director Mary Swan added: “As always, Proteus are committed to making Basingstoke a place of high quality culture and the Basingstoke Festival a vibrant success.

“An array of high quality free acts will perform at the Top of Town and in the Malls as part of the Festival, including Motionhouse Dance Company and Scratchbuilt Productions.

“During the Family Weekend, ‘busk stops’ throughout the town centre will showcase national and local talent.”

Also in attendance were representatives from other key arts organisations in the town, including Anvil Arts’ Matthew Cleaver and Jenny Stevens, the area’s community museums curator for Hampshire County Council.

Jenny revealed that the Willis Museum will play a key role in the Festival, offering exhibitions including a special event by the Friends of The Willis Museum in celebration of the Morris Singer Foundry.

Festival coordinator Julia Tymukas concluded: “The noise, smoke and drumming from the dragon, accompanied by the dancers of North Hampshire Academy of Dance, created a fantastic atmosphere.

“It was great to see the audience clapping and dancing with the performers and it was so positive to see such interest in all the great events that make up Basingstoke Festival 2014.”