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Dorchester Festival founder Sharon Hayden reflects on a decade of spectacular events in Dorset's County town

When I joined Dorchester Arts as Artistic Director in 2000, it was an organisation in debt with little funding; when I left in 2012, it was an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation with revenue funding of over £100,000, a thriving international festival, a seasonal programme, ground-breaking participatory arts projects, and a major player in Dorset’s spectacular outdoor festival Inside Out.

Looking back, progress has been breathtaking - for a small town to stage seven international festivals in eleven years has been some achievement. No wonder the Arts Council called us an exemplar of good practice.

We launched Dorchester Festival in 2002 with an ambitious programme of big name artists and performers - and an enduring theme The World Comes to Town.
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Dorchester Festival 2010
A year earlier in 2001 we co-founded Dorset's biennial festival of extraordinary events in extraordinary places - and named it Inside Out.

Like Dorchester Festival it has given thousands the opportunity not only to watch some of Europe's most spectacular outdoor performers - but to join them and take part. In 2010, not only did 2000+ people come to Dorchester's neolithic amphitheatre to watch Nofit State Circus, but around 400 local people joined them to have a go in the week leading up to the finale. None of these events could have happened without the wonderful support of our volunteers and the people of Dorchester who joined in with enthusiasm. The pictures and videos speak for themselves - thank you for your support over the years.
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A huge dinosaur, a brass band from Jaipur, hundreds of children in Jurassic costumes... it must be Dorchester Festival 2012
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Dorchester Festival 2010 - six amazing days in the county town
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How deep is your love ? Markmark Productions - alias Team BGee - spread their kind of love

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Circus - but not as you know it. Kawa Circus from Rajasthan at the 2012 Dorchester Festival
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It's 2012, so where would Dorchester Festival be without it's own Olympic event - hoola hooping!

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Kanda Bongo Man at the 2010 Festival - the best gig ever ?
Remember Dorchester Festival Radio ? Here's our audio introduction to the 2010 Festival
Have we got news for you ? The Fossils take on the artists in a hilarious quiz about Dorchester, chaired by Town Crier Alistair Chisholm. Broadcast in the 2008 Festival.
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East meets West: Dorchester Festival 2004 brings together performers from across Asia for a spectacle of music, dance, drama and participation.
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The finale of Parklife in Dorchester's ancient amphitheatre , culmination of an extraordinary week-long residency by NoFit State Circus in 2010