Wirral Festival of Firsts

As much as we love the Wirral’s coastal walks, pubs, views, and the best Chinese in the region, one thing it’s pretty rubbish at is festivals. From literary to music, Arabic to African, Liverpool gets ’em all.

But things are changing: starting Saturday, Wirral’s Festival of Firsts kicks off, and the following nine days is packed with stuff to rival anything in the city. Centered around Hoylake – one of west Wirral’s buzziest little towns, and barely half an hour’s train ride from Liverpool Central, there’s a selection of great cross-cultural stuff happening.

Best of all, as well as a large helping of free events, the bits you’ll have to pay for (barely anything more than a fiver) all goes to the Claire House charity, one of Wirral’s finest. Which all adds up to an unmissable festival. The full programme’s available on the website, but here’s our seven highlights for you.

Saturday 6th July
Poetry Proms

A huge free poetry event across the resurgent New Brighton: venues like the Floral Pavilion, Tallulah’s Bar and Fort Perch Rock become hubs for poets and bards getting their tongue round some lovely prose. So basically Sound City, but for poetry. Or something. Free, from 1pm.

Saturday 6th July
Pagoda Chinese Youth Orchestra

A rather great way to start the festival, with the oldest (and, er, youngest) orchestra of its kind in Europe. You’d usually catch this kind of booking at the Philharmonic or Capstone Theatre, but this Saturday the supremely talented kids head to the lovely St Luke’s Church in Hoylake. 2pm, £5.

Sunday 7th July
River Niger Orchestra

Expect brilliant, joyous African pop from this multicultural collective who’ve played festivals right across the globe. Hoylake Chapel, 7.30pm, £6.

Tuesday 9th July
‘Under Beechwood’ by Kevin McMahon

This rather enticing sounding play re-imagines Dylan Thomas’ legendary ‘Under Milk Wood’, but transports it to the Beechwood Estate in Birkenhead. Melrose Hall, Hoylake, 7.30pm. £5.

Saturday 13th July
Live Music Day

Hoylake’s pubs and bars are filled with the region’s bands and artists at a cross-venue music event: expect SevenStreets favourite Natalie McCool bringing her powerful gloom-pop to town, as well as the likes of The Mono LPs and The Coral DJing. Various venues, from 1pm. Free.

Saturday 13th July
Mersey Sound

Young Hoylake-based composer Rachel Nicholas premieres a composition inspired by the sounds of Merseyside, and brought to life by Mersey Sound Ensemble. There’s also short works by other emerging local composers plus established contemporary composer, Howard Skempton, makes an appearance. 7.30pm, St Luke’s Church, £5.

Sunday 14th July
Art on the Prom

The Festival of Firsts’ closing party is a day-long shindig on Hoylake promenade and the Community Centre, where a raft of artists, painters, photographers, jewellery makers and poets will be setting up shop and showing off their wares. Includes exhibits at the Holiday Inn, Lifeboat Museum, and in the Parade Gardens. Free, from 10am.

Wirral Festival of Firsts
Starting Saturday 6th July
www.festivaloffirsts.com