A brand new arts festival is coming to York this October – which aims to make the city come alive again with culture.
York Alive is a festival celebrating music, comedy and spoken word.
It’s the brainchild of York creative Miles Salter. He was director of York Literature Festival from 2008 to 2016 and fronts the York-based band Miles and The Chain Gang. He’s also a writer and radio presenter.
YorkMix spoke with Miles to find out more about the upcoming festival.
“At the moment we don’t have a really good arts festival,” said Miles.
“I think the art scene in York has actually gone backwards in the last few years.
“We had the Great Yorkshire Fringe which was great – but it got wrecked. The Literature Festival has not really fulfilled its potential in the last few years.”
The Great Yorkshire Fringe – which was York’s very own Fringe Festival – was canned in 2020 due the founder’s exasperation with the management of York city centre.
“I felt really frustrated as a York resident and as somebody who’s passionate about arts and culture. So in the end I decided to do something about it.”
York Alive will take place throughout the month of October, with a variety of live music, spoken word and comedy events.
“If you go to Edinburgh at the moment, a lot of it now is comedy, but there’s literature, there’s street musicians, there’s busking. That’s what I really love – when you have a really exciting mixture of stuff. That’s what I want to see with York Alive.”
The festival kicks off with Ruby Wax at the Grand Opera House on 28 September. It also features events from internationally acclaimed guitarist Toby Walker, York band DC Blues, poet and novelist Helen Mort, folk rock band The Waterboys, superstar Gabrielle, and much more – including performances from Miles himself.
This is just the start though. “There’s loads more we could do with it.”
“One thing we’re trying to do is work with local artists and local acts. I want to celebrate local talent.”
The name of the festival is a reflection of the cultural energy that exists in the city. “It’s like saying let’s make the city come alive even more.”
Though Miles is passionate about bringing a new arts festival to York, he’s unsure if now is the right time to do so because of the cost of living crisis.
“It might be a mistake, it might be a disaster because people are really struggling financially. It’s a really difficult time.
“But hopefully there’s enough people out there who care about wanting to be part of a city that has a really good cultural life.
“So I don’t know if now is the right time but I’m just doing something that I believe in.”
The events for York Alive will take place all over the city, in venues such as the Grand Opera House, York Barbican, National Centre for Early Music and the York Vaults.
A couple of organisations that Miles approached to be part of the festival didn’t want to be involved. “I think the biggest challenge at this stage because it hasn’t happened before.
“When you’re doing it for the first time there’s a bit of suspicion.
“But hopefully if [the festival] carries on that will change in time and they’ll think ‘actually this is a really good thing for York.'”
Miles has already received a lot of “nice comments and nice feedback” ahead of the festival.
“If I get to the end of October, and I think we’ve had good audiences and there’s been a good buzz about it – I’ll be really chuffed if that happens.”
And he has big plans for the festival for the future.
“I’m really ambitious when I do these things. If we can get the support and make it an annual thing and make it a positive thing and a big thing? That would be really cool.”
To find out more about York Alive and to book your tickets, visit the York Alive website here.