NHS nurse has days left to sell last tickets to Devon arts festival

Psychiatric nurse set up one-day event to help young performers affected by Covid crisis and cuts to arts

An NHS nurse who is passionate about putting on spectacular shows as well as caring for patients has invested her life savings in staging an arts festival in a Devon field.

Shelly Worthy-Eveleigh, who has worked as a psychiatric nurse for 40 years, needs to attract 750 people to the Little Big festival, which will take place on a farm near Ashburton on Saturday, to break even.

With the festival just a few days away, about 500 tickets have been sold but Worthy-Eveleigh said that even if she loses money it will have been worth it to promote artists she is keen to champion and to give people a good day out.

“I feel very passionate about the arts,” said Worthy-Eveleigh. “But cuts to funding and the Covid crisis has meant that we could lose a generation of young performers. That would be such a huge shame. I also think it’s important after Covid to find ways of bringing people together. That’s what makes us human.”

The festival is described as a family-friendly day of music, comedy, art, literature, circus and trapeze acts, horticulture, film, talks, workshops and children’s entertainment.

Originally conceived as a three-day festival, its inaugural event, scheduled for 2020, was cancelled owing to the pandemic.

This year, Worthy-Eveleigh decided to throw a one-day show with reduced ticket capacity to ensure the audience could spread out safely.

Among the performers are the poet Murray Lachlan Young and the circus performer and writer Abi Collins, who will stage her version of the television show Blind Date.

Off the Wall Aerial Dance Circus will perform snippets from its show about female circus performers called She Who Dares. There will be an “ask the psychiatrist” event for people to discuss mental health and a camera obscura to enjoy views of Torbay and Dartmoor.

It is not Worthy-Eveleigh’s first foray into shows. She has previously split her time between nursing and running stages at events such as Glastonbury and the Port Eliot festival in Cornwall.

After the event, Worthy-Eveleigh will take three days off – and then return to nursing. She is confident that despite all the challenges, the show will be a success.

“The first rule is: don’t put your own money into a show. At the time of a pandemic that seems very good advice and people told me not to, but I didn’t listen. Whether I sold 20 tickets or 1,000, the show was always going on.”


Steven Morris

The GuardianTramp

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