FANCY exploring the old Marks & Spencer building in Warrington town centre to see what has become of it since it shut its doors? Or have you been intrigued by the transformation of The Parr’s Bank in Winwick Street?

Warrington Contemporary Arts Festival is about to throw open the doors to both of these venues because one of the themes of this year’s programme is shedding light on the town’s unique and undiscovered spaces.

The Golden Square M&S store closed four years ago but thanks to Manchester’s Castlefield Gallery, it currently has a new lease of life as a temporary workshop and studio space under the name ‘New Arts Spaces Warrington’.

It is part of a north west scheme to breathe new life into commercial properties that have been vacant for a long time and now the public are being invited to see what it is all about as part of the launch of the WCAF 2021.

All parts of the building have been used by the town’s artists since early 2020 as a testing ground for new projects and visitors will have a unique opportunity to look around the former store, meet the artists and ask questions on October 22 and 23.

There will also be a special one-off event in the basement of the building – a multimedia experience created by Julia Griffin on November 27. The visual artist’s work will combine projection mapping and immersive performance to take advantage of the unique venue.

Warrington Guardian: WCAF open exhibition 2020 winner Lauren Tucker and Tuckshop Dance Theatre welcome you to Neverland - a dance and storytelling experienceWCAF open exhibition 2020 winner Lauren Tucker and Tuckshop Dance Theatre welcome you to Neverland - a dance and storytelling experience

A number of events in the programme are also taking place at The Parr’s Bank, the recently renovated Grade II listed Natwest in Winwick Street which dates back to 1877.

There will be a performance there by the award-winning Not Too Tame – a theatre group which aims to break down barriers to the arts by taking its shows out of conventional venues.

Parr’s Bank will also be the venue for a dance triple bill with new work by Joseph Reay Reid, Lauren Tucker and Sarah Bateman choreographed especially for the festival.

Warrington Guardian: Project space gallery openingProject space gallery opening

Another focus of the multi-venue festival, now in its 11th year, is creating opportunities for emerging talent in Warrington and celebrating the town’s diverse community.

Over nine weeks, WCAF will be giving the area’s creatives the chance to showcase new work for the first time.

It is part of a new vision in line with plans to redevelop Warrington’s Pyramid Arts Centre led by Culture Warrington, the charity behind the event. Organisers particularly want to support artists who have previously had little support and opportunities due to the pandemic restrictions.

Warrington Guardian: Tina Ramos Ekongo will present her first solo exhibition as part of this year’s festival.Tina Ramos Ekongo will present her first solo exhibition as part of this year’s festival.

Leah Biddle, Cultural Manager at Culture Warrington, is leading the festival. She said: “Ninety per cent of the people creating or presenting work for this year’s festival are either from Warrington, or live or work in the town. It’s great to be able to support our talented artists by creating paid opportunities and platforms to showcase their work and provide a springboard for their future careers.

“Using new, undiscovered, and alternative venues will allow us to challenge audience’s perception of the arts and create intrigue around some of the incredible locations – whether that be the beauty of The Parr’s Bank or the incredibly atmospheric basement at New Art Spaces Warrington. We have created a diverse festival this year so there really is something for everyone and hopefully the community will support their artists and performers and try something new.”

The full line-up of WCAF 2021 can be found here.

For more information or tickets visit

Warrington Guardian: The poster for the arts festivalThe poster for the arts festival