The Thinking Drinkers are probably the only act to offer drinks during a performance. Now they are bringing their new show The Legends of Liquor to Hebden Bridge Arts Festival.

The show on July 4 at Hebden Bridge Little Theatre will take the audience on an amusing trip around the role of alcohol in their lives, taking in its history and how it has affected different cultures, as well as offering some small samples of booze.

It’s the brainchild of drinks writers Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham who look at how alcohol can be a good thing in the world when drunk in moderation. The message is delivered in some silly and leftfield performances.

“What we as drinks writers have always found is that alcohol quite often finds itself in the cross hair of society’s do-gooding gun so it is often blamed for a lot of our ills,” notes McFarland. “And rightly so in many, many ways,  but education seems to be the way to counteract that rather than banning it, or making it harder to get hold of.”

Making their point that moderate boozing can be positive they look at historical figures who liked a tipple including Churchill, Alexander the Great and even 12th century nun Hildegard of Bergen who, despite her vows, was the first to write about the female orgasm.  Of course, some of the most famous drinkers get a look in too.

“People like Ernest Hemmingway was a massive rum drinker and that inspired a lot of his prose and he propped up the bar at La Floridita in Havana, Cuba. He was a big daiquiri cocktail fan as well when he lived there.

“You’ve got Andre the Giant, one on the best wrestlers to ever walk the earth, and he was a big beer drinker. When Andre was 12 he was 6 ft 5 and 250 pounds and his dad struggled to take him to school because he couldn’t fit him into the car. They lived just outside Paris so he asked his next door neighbour to take him to school on his truck and that neighbour was Samuel Beckett.  So Samuel Beckett used to take Andre the Giant to school and they used to talk cricket.”

As some of the historical figures are introduced the audience will sip small samples of the drinks they like including gin, whiskey and a nice bourbon.  The message is that drinking can destroy great talents like George Best, but in moderation booze can also inspire.

“People wouldn’t go to a food festival and go up to the patisserie chef doing a demonstration and say you are being irresponsible because there is an obesity crisis here,” says McFarland. “It’s about moderation and the more people know about something the less likely they are to abuse it.”

In addition to the Thinking Drinkers, Simon Amstell, Kevin Rowland, George Monbiot, Martin Parr, John Shuttleworth and Tiger Lillies are just some of the artists helping Hebben Bridge Arts Festival celebrate its 21st birthday. Hebden SIMON AMSTELL Looking in mirror_High Res_Please credit Richard Grassie

As well as big name acts, the festival, which kicks off on June 27, offers special community events, including two days of free street entertainment from world class artists and events tied into Le Tour’s Yorkshire Festival.

Hebden JS Sea Shot - Photographer Keith MorrisonFestival director Helen Meller says: “Twenty-one is a significant anniversary which we would never have made without the support of our community, so we wanted to offer a programme that not only had some special one off events, but reflected the strengths of our town. This year thousands of people will be in town as Le Tour comes through Hebden and the spectacular street entertainers we have booked will give them something exciting to see as they wait for the Peloton.”

Former Never Mind the Buzzcocks presenter turned stand-up Simon Amstell plays a one-off gig at the town’s historic Picture House on  July 2 and on the same night Dexy’s Midnight Runners’s frontman Kevin Rowland is in conversation with Hacienda DJ Dave Haslam at the Trades Club.

Fans of the macabre will enjoy a bespoke greatest hits set from Tiger Lillies (fresh from a sell-out season of Lulu – A Murder Ballad at West Yorkshire Playhouse) on July 6 in the Picture House.

Internationally-acclaimed photographer Martin Parr began his career in Hebden Bridge and the festival has a free exhibition in the Town Hall of his photos chronicling Hebden when it was in decline after the local mills closed.

Guardian writer George Monbiot offers his views on the world in the Hope Baptist Church on July 3, and dance fans can groove along to world music with Live Aid presenter Andy Kershaw at the Trades on June 27.

The Yorkshire Festival event includes Bicycle With Barefoot in the Town Hall on June 28 with Hebden-based Stumbledance Circus’s Cart Before Horse on June 29 and Bike Story in Calder Holmes Park the same day.

By Paul Clarke


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