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Photos and Article by Matt Bigwood

Gordon Phillips, founder of Wotton Arts Festival, was granted the Freedom of the Town of Wotton-under-Edge in a ceremony outside the Town Hall on St Georges Day during which he was presented with a commemorative scroll.

Gordon, who established the Arts Festival in 1971, is only the second person to receive the award the first being Town Crier George Carpenter.

“I feel completely flabbergasted to be honest,” he said. “It is difficult to take in. You just get on and do something (admittedly for 50 years) and you don’t expect to get the freedom of the Town. If anything, I think I’m suffering from what they call ‘Imposter Syndrome.”

Gordon set about organising the first festival in the early 1970s: “At the suggestion of a Swiss friend I was thinking about a festival in Wotton. I called a meeting in 1970 for all those interested. There were representatives of the band, dramatic society, choral groups and artists. The result was a festival in Spring 1971 centred around the first Sunday in May when traditionally the town band plays on Wotton Hill.

“Each year from then I have organised a similar event in the town. It has developed and matured. I often call it a ‘DIY Festival because I have done almost everything involved at some time from making and putting up posters, printing tickets to hanging art exhibitions, conducting, writing programme notes, organising musicians and speakers, and composing music to be played.

“Over the years we have had many international performers and the Bristol Ensemble regularly performed. 2020 was to have been our 50th festival. We had planned a fortnight of events (usually two weekends and the days between) then Covid hit.

“The 50th was to be my swansong, time to hand it on to others. Nothing ever works out as you plan!”