SMILES and silliness were there in abundance with Otley's first ever Festival of Kindness.

With its themes of kindness to self, kindness to others and kindness to the planet the three day festival offered uplifting events for everybody.

The Otley 2030 extravaganza had a focus on mental health and wellness, with practical workshops from wellness therapists and counsellors who gave their time for free. But fun and making people smile were a huge part of the festival too, with a ‘Directorate of Silliness’ designed to get people laughing with a variety of activities in the market square. The festival offered 52 free events designed for all ages and abilities, across three days.

Bringing everything together was an over-arching theme of learning about climate change. The Festival discussed and highlighted the practical ways that Otley can move forward, leading the way towards being a carbon-zero, fair and nature-friendly town.

The Festival started with a riverside opening ceremony, led by Thanda Gumede, who recently performed at The Proms. His Otley Over-60s choir, ‘Singing for Pleasure’, along with local musicians, led a group of about 60 people in a Zulu song of peace, a version of ‘This Land is your Land’, adapted for Otley by local writer Jan Fielden, and the Climate Change anthem, ‘We’ve got to Wake Up.’

Otley thespians, Audrey and John, gave a performance of ‘We’ve Got a Hole in our Bucket’, which lit up the Market Square on Saturday morning.

Two music gigs were held at Otley Social Club, one of which showcased three up-and-coming young Otley bands, Kites, Men in Glass Houses and Graffiti.

Families also particularly enjoyed The Art Vending Machine where they could exchange a piece of their own art for a surprise artwork, picked from the vending machine. Children and adults alike enjoyed making origami kindness cranes, sticker art with Alex Eve, Mumming and Dadding workshops with Victoria Smith, and children’s author and illustrator, Rosie Eve’s reading and drawing workshop. There were also range of physical wellness events aimed at adults and children, organised by Otley therapist Cath Bush. A drumming circle, led by Matt Evans was the finale on Sunday afternoon.

Otley Courthouse hosted seven ‘blended’ speaker events, which were available both online and in person, organised by Jen and Richard from the Woolpack, with help from John Christmas and Gerry McNeice from the Courthouse. Audiences also enjoyed the Asylum Monologues – a performance by three local people of an Amnesty International commissioned piece which is based on asylum seekers retelling their stories of torture, suffering and attempts to find safety in this country. Talks on attracting wildlife to the garden, natural flood defences and anti-pollution work in the Wharfe and the importance of access to green space were also on offer.

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

The Otley Access Group is working with councillor Paul Carter to investigate and change the access problems encountered in Otley by people with motor impairments.

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

A spokeswoman said: "Otley 2030 would like to extend heartfelt thanks to 15 local volunteers, Otley Courthouse, Woolpack Music & Arts Studios, The Otley and Yeadon Labour Party, (for use of the Rooms), many speakers, (who gave their time and expertise for nothing), Otley cafes and shops for accepting our publicity material and supporting us online, and of course all the Otley musicians and bands for their wonderful music."

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