Purbeck Art Weeks Festival will have a spectacular opening when Wareham is transformed into Venice.

The Purbeck Art Weeks Festival starts tomorrow and continues until June 8. Starting at 5pm, flags, drums, brass, trumpets, Venetian masks, gondolas and processions will combine in a free event to herald the arrival of the Doge’s barge, transforming Wareham Quay into St Mark’s Square and the bridge into the Rialto.

This open-air spectacular is followed directly by the Festival’s opening concert, when the Gabrieli Consort and Players - winners of this year’s BBC Music Magazine Choral Award - recreate the splendid coronation of the Doge as it might have been performed in St Mark’s Venice in 1585. The fun begins at 6.30pm, Lady St Mary’s Church, Wareham.

The Purbeck Art Weeks Festival has celebrated art created in Purbeck for at least 14 years. This year’s theme of Venetian Carnival will be taken up by visual, literary and musical artists all over Purbeck, drawing inspiration not only from the beautiful landscape but also from the presence of water and the special quality of light that has influenced so many artists both in Purbeck and in Venice.

Throughout the two-week festival, there will be a celebration of music and art inspired by Venice.

Claudio Monteverdi’s Songs of Love and War will be performed as part of The Passions of Venice concert by the Fieri Consort on May 31 and ground-breaking musical ensemble Red Priest will play The Four Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi (known as the Red Priest on account of his flaming red hair) in Lytchett Minster School (June 4).

On June 6 in St Mary’s Church, Swanage, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra strings and young musicians programme includes Rossini, Puccini, Tchaikovsky and the adagietto from Mahler’s 5th Symphony.

On Sunday best-selling author Antonia Fraser will be in conversation with historian Philip Mansel and – following the Venice and light theme – Derek Jarman’s beautiful film on Caravaggio will be shown on May 28.

New music, poetry and young talent will be supported in creative partnerships.

More than 80 artists living and working on the Isle of Purbeck will be opening their studios and showing and selling a variety of art, sculpture, jewellery and print-making.

The showcase exhibition venue and refreshments is at Rollington Barn, Corfe Castle.

Tickets and programmes for all events are available from the festival website purbeck artweeks.co.uk, from Corfe Post Office, tourist offices in Wareham and Swanage, and from the Festival’s mobile box office – the PAW Van.