Didsbury Arts Festival

Didsbury Arts festival is a volunteer led multi arts festival celebrating creative culture in Didsbury, through working with local, national and international artists. 

We are a biennial festival. The next edition will take place from 22 June - 30 June 2019. The festival theme will be Roots. If you would like to join the 2019 team, please get in touch.




Patrick Gale

The family mystery that inspired a love story: Novelist and DAF headliner, Patrick Gale, on sex, lies – and yummy mummies!

As a child, Patrick Gale was fascinated by the story of his mother’s ‘Cowboy Grandpa’, Harry Cane, who abandoned his wife and child for a life in Canada in the early 1900s. To Gale, this family mystery was never satisfactorily explained. In his fictionalised account, A Place Called Winter, the protagonist’s homosexuality and threatened exposure become the reason for his flight and, for the author, the means of exploring complex issues around gender and sexuality.

‘All I had to go by was my grandmother’s little memoir which goes into a lot of detail about her parents’ marriage and how (her mother) Winifred had been in love with another man she hadn’t been allowed to marry. At first I thought, ok, that might have been a reason to leave, but when I looked at the reality of Canada – it was hard labour and very dangerous. For a man like Harry, who had no experience of working at all, to do that would have been almost a death sentence.’

The contrast between the stifling world of Edwardian London and the ‘agoraphobic terrors’ of the Canadian prairies is an apposite metaphor for Harry Cane’s innocent abroad for whom love, liberty and self-knowledge are won at huge cost.

‘This whole novel is about the unspeakable and my challenge to myself as a writer was to try to put into words feelings and emotions for which the hero himself has no language, because, back then, those concepts simply hadn’t been released,’ explains Gale.

Living on a farm in Land’s End, Gale is no stranger to solitude. When his research took him to Canada to track down his ancestor’s (still cultivated) farmstead, he rented a small cabin nearby. ‘I thought at first, oh, this could be really creepy, but I loved it. I loved the isolation, the complete darkness, the wonderful stars.’

A keen patron of the arts in Cornwall, where he is Director of the arts charity Endelienta, Gale is looking forward to DAF and to experiencing the unique charms of Didsbury culture.

‘I’ve heard Didsbury’s very good for books because there are lots of yummy mummies,’ he jokes. ‘I love yummy mummies. They buy hardbacks and join book clubs. I’ve also heard that Didsbury has lovely gardens. I was a year late delivering this novel because I spent the best part of half a year with my husband creating a walled rose garden – the western-most rose garden in the country - on our farm! There’s this myth that roses don’t like Cornwall but they like Cornwall very much if you give them plenty of poo and luckily we’re beef farmers, so we have an unlimited supply of manure. So I’m under some pressure this year to have an open day for the garden. I love making cake as well so we’ll have a cake stall.’

Patrick Gale will be at DAF 2015, 22 June (8pm), Didsbury Baptist Church, School Lane/Beaver Road. Tickets £7/£5 via website and on the door. www.didsburyartsfestival.org

Interview by Deborah Grace

Image by Joanne Kaberry