Saltaire Festival - crowds flock to World Heritage site

Saltaire United Reform Church

Saltaire United Reform Church - Credit: Joan Russell

The historic village of Saltaire was buzzing with visitors towards the end of the summer and photographer Joan Russell was there to capture some of the sights of one of the most successful people’s festivals in West Yorkshire

Salts Mill.

Salts Mill. - Credit: Joan Russell

The Festival

Saltaire Festival each year brings together many thousands of visitors to enjoy some of the best live music, street entertainment, fresh food, cookery demonstrations, arts and crafts as well as open gardens, pop-up events in private homes and not to forget an opportunity to explore the model industrial community not far from Bradford, itself.

The festival began in 2003 and has steadily grown to become a much anticipated event in West Yorkshire attracting something like 50,000 visitors and it is run completely run by volunteers with the backing of generous sponsors including Bradford Council, the Salt Foundation, Salts Mill, the Arts Council, the National Lottery and the tourism authority Welcome to Yorkshire.

One of the new and exciting events held for the first time this year was the Saltaire Festival Arts Adventure which is a programme of outdoor arts new and established work from artists working around the region.

It takes about £60,000 to stage the festival which hasn’t an entry fee and this year organisers turned to crowd funding for help and successfully raised a target of £1,000 needed to pay for essential people and equipment such as security and first aid as well as PA systems and staging.

Volunteers are vital to the success of the festival so if you want to get involved don’t hesitate go to for more information.

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About Saltaire

There is no denying Saltaire created by Victorian textile magnate, Sir Titus Salt, is special. Don’t take just our word for it. In 2001 UNESCO declared Salt’s creation a World Heritage Site, putting it on a par with the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. However, unlike many of the other sites on the UN list, Saltaire is no dusty ruin, monument or museum. It is a living village where you can still buy a house or send your children to school. The vast mill – Salt’s ‘Palace of Industry’ – is still at the heart of everything though these days it is filled not with clattering looms but the click of computer keyboards in high tech offices as well as art galleries shops and cafés with plenty to keep visitors occupied.

Titus Salt was a philanthropist with a paternalistic interest in the welfare of his workers but he was also a hard-headed Victorian businessman. His choice of a greenfield site on the Aire was not entirely based on fresh air for the mill hands. There were sound business reasons too. Land in the then-rural Aire Valley was much cheaper than in booming Bradford but he knew he needed good communications too so the mill is planted firmly between the railway and the Leeds-Liverpool canal, ensuring ease of access to raw materials and to the market for his finished cloth.

Today the canal is a leisure waterway for boat enthusiasts and pleasure trips and provides a traffic-free access for walkers and cyclists along its tow path. There is a pleasant circular walk of a little over five miles up the canal to Bingley, returning via the Aire while in the other direction the Aire has a sculpture trail along its banks. Find out more from the visitor information centre

Earlier this year the movies returned to Saltaire with a new film season, including classics such as An American Werewolf in London, Pan’s Labyrinth and Withnail & I being shown at Victoria Hall.

Saltaire was built as a ‘dry village’ with no alcohol sold or served but that changed many moons ago and is now the site of multi-award winning Saltaire Brewery which has received international recognition for two of its bottled beers. Both Saltaire Pride and Saltaire Celebration Ale were awarded silver in the European category at the 2014 World Beer Awards. Saltaire’s Celebration Ale was launched only in January this year and was specially brewed to celebrate the Princess Royal’s visit to the brewery to officially open the new fermentation area.

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