• The programme of events in Taunton and the surrounding area must be the envy of many locations around the country.
  • The lively arts and culture environment brings with it a sense of wellbeing and economic prosperity.
  • But we shouldn't rest on our laurels.
  • CLLR CAROLINE ELLIS, Somerset West and Taunton Council portfolio holder for culture, takes a look at what's on offer - and asks what more people would like to see.

THE letter from Helen Moore of West Somerset Arts about creating a new festival for Taunton rightly flagged up that we have some extraordinary cultural assets and that culture is playing a major role in economic development and prosperity in Taunton.

But let’s not assume we are any kind of a backwater or that folk here aren’t thinking big - that would be a million miles from the truth.

Taking our great arts events to the next level is exactly what so many brilliant artists, musicians, orchestras, dancers and theatre groups are doing here in Taunton and I would be delighted to support new initiatives that could go international.

After all our flower show, our cricket club and our beautiful surroundings already attract people from around the world so any number of festivals could be possible.

Looking at the amazing array of festivals which already take place in the town, thanks to the dedication, ingenuity and hard graft of groups based here, we have: Taunton Live and Taunton Pride (a big success) courtesy of the wonderful Go Create and partners; Taunton Literary Festival brought to us by the awesome Brendon Books; Arts Taunton’s fab TYCA (Taunton Youth Culture & Arts Festival); Winterfest not to mention the Taunton Flower Show. This year, despite Covid, we have enjoyed Trish Caller’s inspired “BrewHaHa” Comedy Festival at Taunton Brewhouse followed by regular Comedy Nights at CICCIC and big shows at Wellsprings. Next year Tim Hill aka Sound of the Streets is planning a longer Street Music Festival following a successful ‘taster’ on Castle Green.

Across the wider district we have the amazing 10 Parishes Festival, Dunster Festival, Dulverton by Candlelight, Dunster by Candlelight, Minehead Music Festival, Simonsbath Festival, Stogursey Arts Festival, Watchet Live Music Festival, 1940’s/Vintage Festivals in Dulverton, Minehead and Watchet and of course artists across the district participate in Somerset Art Weeks with open studios and exhibitions.

Many of these do indeed attract visitors from far afield – and it is cultural events and activity that has helped keep our high streets and town centres in business of late. All this is IN ADDITION to the year round programme of fantastic culture (art exhibitions, dance, music, theatre etc) offered at Taunton Brewhouse, Tacchi Morris Arts Centre, Wellington Arts Centre, Hestercombe, the Museum of Somerset, the Regal Theatre in Minehead and brought into village halls and pavilions in rural communities courtesy of Take Art and amazing local promoters.

I have no doubt that East Quay, Watchet’s fabulous new arts centre will garner international interest given its ambitious programme. Next year will hopefully see the return of our carnival processions in all their glory and a new festival too: Wellington Film Festival.

We also have an amazing amateur dramatics scene, world class arts/performing arts education at further and higher education level. There is so much on offer it is hard to keep up!

Is there enough for young people? Nope. Not yet. That’s why we are working on plans to build a cinema and multi-purpose venue on Firepool and backing TYCA and other youth projects. Does everyone regardless of where they live and how much money they have get the same opportunities? Nope. Not yet, so since winning control of the council we have adopted a new Cultural Strategy which prioritises opening up opportunities to a wider range of people so everyone can have access.

I pay tribute to the inspired individuals, groups, communities and businesses who make all this happen and welcome ideas about how this could be taken even more quickly to the next level – that’s what we want to achieve.

I would love to hear what County Gazette readers think about culture in Taunton and indeed the wider district – what things do you most enjoy? What would you like to see more of? Do you experience barriers to taking part in or accessing culture? If you take the time to be in touch I will respond to each and every one of you and factor all views into our work on arts and culture over the next 18 months and future planning for the proposed new Unitary Council. By listening and working together we can put Taunton on the map even more firmly than it already is! Write to me at or email

Cllr Caroline Ellis - Portfolio Holder for Culture,

Somerset West and Taunton Council, The Deane House, Belvedere Road Taunton TA1 1HE Cllr.C.Ellis@somersetwestandtaunton.gov.uk