As time ticks away before the iconic Ironbridge cooling towers are demolished, an exhibition showing pictures of the landmark through the years will be on display during the Festival of Imagination.
Organised by former local press photographer Dave Bagnall, The Electric Landmark exhibition pulls together some remarkable images he has taken, demonstrating how this historic feature of the Gorge has left an imprint on the area for a generation.
The free exhibition will be on display at Coalbrookdale Gallery from September 21 through to October 4 as part of the Festival of Imagination, a celebration of the Ironbridge Gorge past, present and future.
Local people, community groups, visitors, artists and photographers have all been inspired by the towers since their construction in the 1960s – and now this inspiration can be seen in the form of unique pictures captured from various locations around the area.
The towers and the Ironbridge Power Station are set to be demolished by the end of 2019, so the festival may be one of the last chances for people to come and see this landmark from the Gorge while they’re still standing.
“My interest in the towers themselves started when I went up to the top of the final tower as it was being completed to take pictures for the Shropshire Star newspaper,” said Dave.
“I went up in a lift, and as you can imagine that was actually quite a hairy experience.
“Over the years they have grown on me and I have photographed them an awful lot of times. They are a bit like hide and seek as you walk around the Gorge, one minute they’re there and the next they’re not.
“Whether you love or hate the towers, there’s no denying they are a pretty weird thing to see in a green valley like this and the pictures I have taken show how they have been a backdrop for the Ironbridge Gorge for a whole generation of people, and as they’ll soon be gone now feels like a good time to pull this exhibition together.”
The Festival of Imagination launches at the weekend and runs from September 14 to 29 with a variety of activities taking place.
From poetry, arts, crafts, music and film to futuristic virtual reality, coracles and world record breaking bridges, the Gorge will be a hive to fun and activities.
The festival kicks off on Saturday evening with of folk music and street food at the Maws Craft Centre at 6.30pm. Tickets are £11 and there is plenty of undercover seating and free parking.
Also starting on Saturday and running for the length of the festival is an exhibition of the work of the Ironbridge Coracle Trust, including the plans for the new Coracle Centre at the Greenwood Centre.
Some of the objects which used to be in the old shed including the famous witch. The exhibition is free at the Greenwood Centre.
The Festival Hub at Dale End Park will include a large yurt which will be hosting a variety of events as well as a bar and areas to relax in. From performances to special screenings the yurt is certainly going to be the place to be throughout the length of the festival.
The Gorge’s retailers, tradesfolk, businesses, organisations and clubs will be breaking out on to the Wharfage and into the Square when they take over the road between 11am and 4pm on Saturday, September 21.
Spearheaded by the Ironbridge Gorge Business Consortium the free day will show off and provide a family day of fun, activity, food and music for visitors.
The event will include brewing, busking, puppetry, paella, supercars, competitions and street entertainment in what will surely be one of the highlights.
Councillor Carolyn Healy, Telford & Wrekin Council’s cabinet member for visitor economy & the world heritage said: “We really can’t wait for the festival to get underway. It’s taken a lot of planning to extend the World Heritage Festival across two weeks, but it will all be worth it. This is going to be the perfect celebration of the Ironbridge Gorge’s story.
“It’s is a unique and remarkable place and it’s only right we do something like the Festival of Imagination to mark this.”
The Festival of Imagination is organised by Telford & Wrekin Council and Discover Shropshire & Telford, the official destination for Telford, Ironbridge and the county of Shropshire, with funding from Arts Council England’s Cultural Destinations Tourism Fund.
The funding means there can be a jam packed fantastical programme of events and activities which will appeal to every interest, providing a fully immersive experience where visitors will be transported both emotionally and physically along the rich expanse of the Gorge.
To see a full list of events and to book visit www.ironbridgefestival.co.uk