MORE than 27,500 people attended this year’s Inside Out arts festival, hosted at five outdoor locations across Dorset.

The biennial international arts festival, which was held over from 2020 because of the Covid pandemic, returned last month with a rich and varied programme of free-to-attend art installations and performances across the county.

Hosted by Dorchester-based outdoor arts producer Activate over two weekends from September 17 to September 26, the festival presented 104 performances featuring 24 UK and international artists alongside opportunities to join in for 1,280 participants.

“Inside Out Dorset has always been about presenting innovative and challenging art as a collective experience in extraordinary locations,” said Inside Out Dorset co-artistic director Kate Wood.

Dorset Echo: Performers wowed audiences at the arts extravaganzaPerformers wowed audiences at the arts extravaganza

“This year that aim has felt particularly pertinent. The pandemic cost us a great deal, as did the effects of leaving the EU, but we overcame many of those challenges and are enormously grateful to the artists, our funders, partners and volunteers – not to mention the overwhelmingly positive response of the public who attended in their thousands – for their help and support in getting the festival on.

“It just goes to show what can be achieved when people pull together in response to adversity.”

Among the many highlights were the installations of artist Luke Jerram’s astonishing Gaia at Moors Valley Country Park and Forest and the Symondsbury Estate.

The seven-metre scale model of Earth made using NASA photography prompted thoughts about climate change and humanity’s effect on the planet in many of people that visited the installation, either in person or among almost 3,500 that viewed video footage online.

Dorset Echo: 'It's incredible': Residents impressed Gaia at Inside Out Dorset Picture: Bradley White'It's incredible': Residents impressed Gaia at Inside Out Dorset Picture: Bradley White

In each location, it was supported by an artwork trail of site-specific events and performances responding to the climate emergency and our use of the land.

With street performances of outdoor circus and dance in Poole and Christchurch, the festival was brought to a spectacular finale in Weymouth where people came out in their droves to witness two performances of the promenade show Sense of Unity featuring the UK-based Worldbeaters drumming team and the mesmerising giant puppets of Dundu, from Germany.

Thousands flooded the streets to watch the story unfold and reach its climax in front of the Jubilee Clock.

One audience member commented: “I hope to see more like this. Watching people’s faces you could just see the magic it created.”

Inside Out Dorset will return with another jam packed arts festival in 2023.