ACTOR Ian McNiece, who plays Bert Large in Doc Martin, is hosting an arts festival in Taunton this weekend.

Taunton Youth Culture and Arts Festival (TYCA) will be taking place this Friday and Saturday (October 23 and 24) online.

And the festival will be hosted by Mr McNeice, who discovered his love of the arts at Taunton School.

Somerset County Gazette: Ian McNeice will host the festivalIan McNeice will host the festival

“I am delighted to be able to introduce this year’s TYCA Festival,” he said.

“I look back fondly to the start of my own artistic career which began at Taunton School and look forward to helping other budding talents take the stage.”

Somerset County Gazette: Students from the Taunton School enrichment programme, with a piece called 'Message in a bottle'Students from the Taunton School enrichment programme, with a piece called 'Message in a bottle'

Arts Taunton, organisers of the festival, decided to go completely online in July due to the coronavirus pandemic.

And the charity has spent the last month recording performances of young people ready for this weekend.

Deborah Baddoo MBE, festival director, said: “It was a time to be brave. The world change daily, and indeed continues to do so.

“But now more than ever we knew the creative industries needed supporting and young people need an outlet for all their emotions.

“Arts Taunton created a platform for the young people of Somerset to meet that need."

Somerset County Gazette: Upwards and Onwards spoken word performancesUpwards and Onwards spoken word performances

Despite many other arts organisations facing challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, Arts Taunton have put £60,000 into the performing arts industry to support this festival.

The virtual show will include dance, theatre, outdoor performances, an open mic, DJs, theatre, art and design, media make up, plays, musicals and a spoken word performance.

Melissa Coles, who is taking part in the festival, said: "Having all the makeup, lighting, stage smoke and audience in the theatre was almost like stepping into the past.

“I felt emotional and thrilled to be one of the first to perform again after such challenging times.

“Having not been on a proper stage for 18 months now, the excitement of performing to the cameramen and women, the parents of the other performers and my family was exhilarating.”

Somerset County Gazette: Fusion Choir will perform on October 24Fusion Choir will perform on October 24

Spoken word artist, Milly Jo Mcalpine, added: “I’d never written a spoken word piece before now and now I’ve been on BBC Radio.”

To watch the festival visit

Somerset County Gazette: Ian McNeice, behind the camera, being filmed for the festivalIan McNeice, behind the camera, being filmed for the festival