Smiles and silliness at Otley’s Festival of Kindness

SMILE and silliness were on the menu with Otley’s very first Festival of Kindness.

With its themes of benevolence towards oneself, benevolence towards others and benevolence towards the planet, the three-day festival offered uplifting events for everyone.

The Otley 2030 extravaganza focused on mental health and wellness, with hands-on workshops from therapists and wellness counselors who volunteered their time for free. But having fun and making people smile was also an important part of the festival, with a “Direction of Stupidity” designed to make people laugh with a variety of activities in the market square. The festival offered 52 free events designed for all ages and abilities, over three days.

Putting it all together was an overarching theme for learning about climate change. The festival discussed and highlighted practical ways in which Otley can move forward, paving the way for a zero carbon, fair and nature-friendly city.

The Festival began with a riverside opening ceremony, led by Thanda Gumede, who recently performed at the Proms. His Otley Over-60s choir, ‘Singing for Pleasure’, with local musicians, led a group of about 60 people in a Zulu Peace Song, a version of ‘This Land is your Land’, adapted for Otley by the ‘local writer Jan Fielden, and the climate change anthem,’ We must wake up ‘.

Otley comedians Audrey and John gave a performance of “We Have a Hole in Our Bucket,” which lit up the market square on Saturday morning.

Two music concerts were held at the Otley Social Club, one of which featured three promising young groups from Otley, Kites, Men in Glass Houses and Graffiti.

Families also particularly enjoyed The Art Vending Machine, where they could exchange a piece of art for a surprise piece of art, chosen from the vending machine. Kids and adults alike enjoyed making origami cranes of cuteness, sticker art with Alex Eve, Mumming and Dadding workshops with Victoria Smith, and children’s author and illustrator, reading workshop and drawing of Rosie Eve. There was also a range of physical wellness events for adults and children, hosted by Otley’s therapist Cath Bush. A drum circle, led by Matt Evans, was the final on Sunday afternoon.

The Otley Courthouse hosted seven “mixed” speaker events, available online and in person, hosted by Jen and Richard of The Woolpack, with assistance from John Christmas and Gerry McNeice of the Courthouse. The audience also enjoyed the Asylum Monologues – a performance by three locals of a play commissioned by Amnesty International which is based on asylum seekers telling their stories of torture, suffering and attempts to find safety in this country. Lectures on the attraction of wildlife in the garden, natural defenses against floods and anti-pollution works in the quay and the importance of access to green spaces were also offered.

The Festival weekend saw the launch of two important ongoing projects.

The Otley Access Group is working with Councilor Paul Carter to investigate and change the access issues encountered in Otley by people with motor disabilities.

A Kindness Rug created by Vickie Orton, will grow to represent hundreds of Otley groups and individuals, with messages of kindness and designs woven into a rug, which will eventually be on display in Otley’s public buildings.

A spokesperson said: “Otley 2030 would like to warmly thank 15 local volunteers, Otley Courthouse, Woolpack Music & Arts Studios, The Otley and Yeadon Labor Party, (for using the rooms), many speakers, (who have donated their time and expertise for nothing), the Otley cafes and stores for accepting our publicity material and supporting us online, and of course all the musicians and bands in Otley for their wonderful music. ”

For more information on events like the festival, or to get more involved with Otley 2030, sign up for the regular newsletter at or send an email to [email protected]

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