A SMALL village in Renfrewshire is to host its very own arts festival. Taking place in March, Lochwinnoch Arts Festival features more than 40 events, spanning music concerts, events for children and families, theatre performances, comedy, literature events, workshops and exhibitions.

Highlights include concerts from Orcadian folk quartet Fara, jazz chanteuse Christine Bovill and folk star Karen Matheson, and a double bill of the Moira Monologues, the award-winning shows by Alan Bissett, one of the many writers and authors who live in the village.

The festival also features visits from authors Kirsten Innes, who won The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize in 2015 for her debut novel Fishnet, and Bernard MacLaverty, who last year published Midwinter Break, his first novel in 16 years. MacLaverty, who lives in Glasgow, was a guest at the second Lochwinnoch Arts Festival back in 2002.

Community organiser Morag Thow, who began the festival the year before as a one-day book event, says: “It will be great to see him back. We got a few people together, local writers who had done some publishing, and it just built up from there. Lots of local artists and musicians then wanted to be part of it. They could see it was good fun and that it literally gave people a stage. A lot of writers, performers and musicians live in and around the village, so we do our best to involve them, even if it’s just a pub gig.”

Throw says the festival aims to be as inclusive as it can, with next year’s festival including an extra day focused on local young musicians. Though ticket prices are low, if people cannot afford paid-for events, there’s a series of free live music concerts held in local pubs.

“We try to get a lot of sponsorship, and the reason for that is, if you’re an OAP here, you can’t afford to go to Glasgow or Paisley and spend £20 seeing a show,” says Thow, who runs the festival with a volunteer committee, many of whom are local artists and musicians.

“We try to keep all the ticket prices as low as we possibly can so young people, unemployed people, older people and students can get a whole dose of a lot of different art forms, whether it’s exhibitions, performances or workshops. The workshops are all £5, and we’ve got Wendy Kershaw, an international ceramicist potter, teaching how to throw a pot.”

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Some funding has been secured from the Big Lottery for this 18th festival, Thow explains.

“They get that the festival is also about supporting rural communities,” she says. “It’s about the economic climate too, and helping to keep our local businesses going. And while it’s lovely to live in Lochwinnoch, if you don’t have a car, the public transport isn’t great, like in a lot of rural communities.”

With pupils from nearby Johnstone High and Gryffe High hosting tea rooms for performers, locals and visitors, the festival sees much of the community get involved, from churches to local shops, eateries to pubs. It’s a model that could benefit other rural communities, says Throw.

“We know we’re out here, on our own,” she says. “It’s not that we’re forgotten about, but sometimes you can feel that a bit. Nothing is going to come from higher up, so we just do it ourselves.”

There’s already a sense of community spirit among the village’s 2600 inhabitants, she says.

“Everyone’s very good at supporting each other. We have a Christmas lights group, we also do our own flowers. Most councils seem to be backing out of doing that sort of thing, but everybody piles in here. We’ve just done a refurb to the village hospice shop in time for Christmas and the festival next year.”

As well as helping support local businesses, the 2019 festival will benefit at least six charities, including the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, established by former rugby union player Doddie Weir, who was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017.

With its tagline of “the friendly festival”, Lochwinnoch prides itself on celebrating local artists and writers, bringing top names to villagers and making a sustainable, positive contribution to the community.

“We had Dougie MacLean play just after he’d played the Sydney Opera House,” explains Thow. “Here he was in our little village hall. He was like: ‘I love this!’ You want to help them feel part of the community.

“We try to encourage people, both performers and audiences, to stay on after the show, have their meal here before they go, go in and have a coffee, visit the local shops.

“It’s about our own artists – amateurs as well as professionals – helping to keep our community going, and this really helps.”

Lochwinnoch Arts Festival, March 13 to 24, Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire. Tickets go on sale in mid January and can be reserved in advance on 0786 875 2814. lochwinnochartsfestival.co.uk