Category Archives: Arts and Culture


One of the folk scene’s greatest performers, John Kirkpatrick, will be paying a visit to Halsway Manor shortly, to perform his seasonal show ‘Carolling and Crumpets’. He will be appearing on Thursday 7 December at 7.30pm, presenting a heart-warming, toe-tapping evening looking at the timeless rituals and folklore of midwinter England.

Mysterious and magical songs of wassailing, wren-hunting, stirring the fire and incessant feasting come dressed up in a glittering finery of sparkling tunes and cracking choruses. Add a smattering of hilarious original songs and a sprinkling of carols both familiar and unfamiliar, all stirred up with John’s usual panache and supported by his scintillating skill on squeezeboxes, and you have the recipe for a rattling good sing, guaranteed to keep the spirits cheery and the cold at bay.

“Kirkpatrick’s buoyant presence and lust for this music sounds more rampant than ever.”
Colin Irwin, fRoots Magazine

One of the most prolific figures on the English folk scene, John Kirkpatrick is a master of the free reed instrument, playing melodeon, button accordion and anglo concertina, as well as having an enviable reputation as a fine singer and interpreter of English folk music. John has performed solo, in duos, acoustic groups and electric bands; he has been a member of the Albion Country Band, Magic Lantern, The Richard Thompson Band, Umps and Dumps, Steeleye Span, Brass Monkey, Trans-Europe Diatonique, and Band of Hope, as well as numerous ceilidh bands.

The concert takes place on Thursday 7 December.  Bar opens at 7pm, performance starts at 7.30pm. Tickets are priced at £10 / £4 for full-time students. For more information visit or contact Halsway Manor: 01984 618274 ext 1 /


Four artists reconsider landscape through sound, sculpture, food, film and digital animation

This winter, Hestercombe Gallery in Somerset hosts a group exhibition in which four artists reconsider the physical world through sound, sculpture, food, film and digital animation, exploring how technology has changed our relationship to landscape.

The exhibition emerged as the result of a longstanding collaboration between artists Natasha Rosling, Alexander Stevenson, Alistair Grant and Simon Lee Dicker – who instigated and took part in a series of artist residencies across the Orkney Isles.

Travelling, researching and responding across the archipelago, the artists spent time in a remote bothy, a lighthouse, a beachside golf course and a burial chamber. Working individually, they each developed distinctive connections with the islands’ human stories and extraordinary geography.


Odyssean: Topographies is not a conclusion to the project, but an opening, in which the artists reflect on their experiences, experiment with ideas and processes, generate new lines of enquiry and share questions common to their practices.

Large-scale sculpture, installation, animation, film, sound, workshops and events will be presented across the house and gardens of Hestercombe. The exhibition will also respond to its surroundings: a landscape at once historic and contemporary, highly managed and equally wild.

The exhibition programme includes a seminar in late January, on artistic research and new approaches to landscape. The event will include performance, food and collective discussions around mapping invisible and imagined spaces, and the idea of remoteness, both physical and emotional.

Odyssean: Topographies is open daily 11am – 4pm, from 18 November 2017 until 25 February 2018. The preview for the exhibition will take place on Friday 17 November.

The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England and Gane Trust.

Exhibition and event listings
Exhibition Preview
17 November 2017, 6–8pm
Free, all welcome

Odyssean: Topographies
18 November – 25 February, open daily, 11am-4pm
Free to members or £10.45 for an adult ticket (concessions available). Ticket includes entry to the House and Gardens.

PHOTO: Rackwick Bothy.




Exeter Cathedral is set to host a large-scale performance of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ epic ‘Sea Symphony’ that will raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) and help save lives at sea.

Members of choral societies in Exeter, Exmouth and Wellington will be joined by the musicians of the Exeter Symphony Orchestra for the celebratory performance, which will take place on Saturday 25 November at 7.30pm. They will be led by the music director of all three choirs Laurence Blyth.

Sue Ryan from Wellington Choral Society said: “Ralph Vaughan Williams is ranked among the finest symphonists of the twentieth century and so this is a big event for all three choirs and we want to raise as much as we can for the wonderful work the RNLI does. We certainly have a much greater appreciation of this and the costs involved since our recent visit to Exmouth Lifeboat Station – fascinating.”

Last year, RNLI lifeboat crews across the UK and Ireland rescued 8,643 people and saved 431 lives. It costs over £485,000 per day to run the RNLI, and the charity relies on donations from the public to continue its lifesaving service.

Chair of Exmouth RNLI’s fundraising team Don Hodgkinson says: “With a combined choir of 200 voices drawn from Exeter Choral Society, Exmouth Choral Society, Wellington Choral Society and the Exeter Symphony Orchestra, this is set to be a wonderful occasion. The RNLI relies on kind donations from the public to continue its work saving lives at sea and we are very grateful that these choral societies have chosen to support the RNLI.”

The concert is sponsored by The Vaughan Williams Charitable Trust, and there will be a retiring collection in aid of the RNLI.

Tickets are on sale at £15, £12 & £10 with accompanied under-16s free, from Exeter Visitor Information (tel. 01392 665885), online or on the door.

PHOTO: Musical Director and Conductor Laurence Blyth with Exmouth RNLI volunteers, courtesy Farwood Photography.


Pilgrims’ Way present a new album and show packed full of highwaymen, robbers, and brigands, their stories told through traditional English folk song and 1980s disco.

Avoided at all costs, scorned and mocked, these villainous figures have fascinated and alarmed the good people of England for years. Now they’re making an album about highwaymen.

Pilgrims’ Way are often accused of stealing a living, so for this, their third studio album, it made sense to draw from the rich seam of the highwayman ballad. From the derring-do of Robin Hood bashing the bishop, via Dick Turpin’s doomed attempt to obtain legal aid under a Tory government, to ‘The Box on her Head’, the dramatic and unforgettable tale of a young lady with a box on her head, the album covers centuries of inflated stories, glorified violence, sexual innuendo, and the common man breaking all the rules in a desperate bid to put right what once went wrong, and hoping each time that his next leap will be the leap home.

Incorporating over 40 instruments, a dozen songs, and a riotous feel-good energy throughout, this is a magnificent tour-de-force by a band at the absolute peak of their overdraft.

Expect energy, choruses, and gold-brocaded Hussars’ jackets galore! The powerhouse five-piece arrangements will send you home dancing, and with an overwhelming desire to hold up and rob some stagecoaches.

Halsway Manor in Somerset provides a permanent home for the enjoyment, study and development of folk music, dance and culture in England and draws on traditions from across Europe and beyond. Unique in the UK it hosts over 340 days of residential and outreach activity every year covering all facets of the folk arts from instrumental music, song and dance to traditional storytelling, crafts and instrument making.

Tickets are priced £10 / £4 for full-time students. Phone 01984 618274 or buy online:


Following on from the success of last year’s photography competition, the Quantock Hills AONB and Duke of Edinburgh Awards are running the competition again.   The AONB team say, “We love the Quantock Hills and we know you do too, we really what to see the wonderful images and films you have captured whilst on your Quantock adventures. It would be great to get as many entries as possible from all ages, encapsulating what this beautiful landscape means to you. If you need inspiration you can always view last year’s entries on the Quantock Hills AONB Flickr page

“This year we are very kindly being supported by Taunton Leisure, who are donating prizes for the winning entries in each category. Also all photographs and films will be exhibited over the Easter holiday at the National Trust’s Fyne Court Music Room.”

There are four categories you can enter your masterpieces into, two extra ones for this year!

  1. Best Landscape Image – must be of the Quantock Hills but can be taken anywhere
  2. Best Expedition Image – must be of a Duke of Edinburgh expedition, ideally on the Quantock Hills
  3. Loving the Great Outdoors – any image that you think fits the category
  4. Film entry – fits any of the above but is a film no longer than 30 seconds

A maximum of three entries per person per category is allowed, and if you want to enter an image in more than one category you can.

Jeff Brown, Somerset County Council’s Duke of Edinburgh Award Manager, says: “The Quantock Hills provide the setting for thousands of young people on their first Duke of Edinburgh’s Award expedition.  This 2 day, 1 night adventure will provide a physical and mental challenge as well as teaching practical life skills; navigation, countryside code, route planning, campcraft, teamwork and leadership.  This competition will allow them to share all their experiences, good and bad, so don’t forget the photos of; sore feet, walking through horizontal rain, the World’s best hot chocolate cooked on a Trangia at the end of day 1, or the feeling of pride when you complete your first ever expedition.”

Chris Edwards, Manager, Quantock Hills AONB Service says: “So many fantastic amateur photographers are inspired by the Quantock Hills and we regularly see really great photos on Facebook and Flickr so do submit your best Quantock images to this competition and we will showcase them in an exhibition and on social media. We may even use them (accredited of course) in documents we produce – celebrating your impressions of this nationally protected landscape in a more lasting format.”

The deadline for submissions is 5pm on 23rd February 2018.

See the Quantock Hills AONB website for full rules and details on how to enter

By submitting an entry to the competition you are giving permission for the Quantock Hills AONB Service and the Duke of Edinburgh Award to use your photo or film in their marketing material, displays, leaflets, magazine and newspaper articles (produced by third parties) cards, calendars and other forms of publicity at our discretion. Your photo or film will be credited to you.

PHOTO – Previous landscape winner by Frank Clatworthy


Number Seven Dulverton is thrilled that renowned illustrator Jackie Morris has found time to visit Exmoor during her current national tour celebrating the publication of The Lost Words. This stunning book highlights the words that are sadly disappearing from our dictionaries to be replaced by contemporary terms for our increasingly technological world.

The Lost Words stands against the disappearance of wild childhood and is a joyful celebration of nature words and the natural world they invoke – without ‘Acorn’ there would be no woodland habitat, no owls roosting, no carpet of bluebells.

Award-winning writer Robert Macfarlane has written the most mesmerising acrostic spell-poems which are accompanied by Jackie’s distinctive watercolours creating an enchanting book that captures the irreplaceable magic of language and nature for all ages. Readers may be familiar with his best-selling titles ‘Landmarks’ and ‘The Old Ways.’

Throughout the day a collection of Jackie’s prints and originals will be on display, copies of the book will be available for sale and Jackie will be on hand to sign copies. She will also be reading and demonstrating her adept skills with watercolour and brush.

For further information do contact Davina Jelley 01398 324457

DATE: Friday 27th October 11am – 4pm
TA22 9HB


The North East’s finest, the Andy May Trio, will make a rare appearance in the South West when they visit Halsway Manor as part of their short National tour. The trio will perform on Sunday 15 October at 8pm.

The Andy May Trio are three award-winning musicians from Newcastle – Northumbrian piper Andy May (Jez Lowe and The Bad Pennies, Baltic Crossing), guitarist Ian Stephenson (Kan, Baltic Crossing) and fiddler Sophy Ball (422, Bottle Bank Band). Together they play high-energy instrumental folk, inspired by the music of their native North East.

A typical performance might include traditional tunes from Northumberland, newly-composed material by all members of the band and an introduction to the pipes, all delivered with a warmth and humour which is sure to draw in both folk aficionados and newcomers alike for a dazzling show filled with virtuosity and energy.

There’s a certain connection only heard between musicians after many years’ playing together; after more than a decade’s music making together in various guises, the tight interplay and sense of fun between these three friends is sure to delight.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been established as a charity since 1965. Nestling at the foot of the Quantock Hills Halsway Manor provides a year-round programme of events and activities in traditional folk music, dance, song, storytelling, folklore and related arts and crafts. There’s ample free parking onsite, a bar and – of course – beautiful atmospheric settings for concerts with wonderful acoustics, and a chance to catch-up with the artists over a drink afterwards!

Tickets are priced £10, with a concessionary price of £4 for children and full time students of any age. Call 01984 618274 (option 1), email or buy securely online at


Washford’s Cleeve Abbey is set to be home to spectacular Ancient Greek production this autumn, courtesy of innovative and immersive theatre company, Four of Swords. The spectacular Cleeve Abbey near Washford will be host to Medea from Thursday 9 – Saturday 11 November 2017.

Freely adapted from the Greek masterpiece by Euripides, Medea is the ultimate heroine, villain and victim, all rolled into one! The Cistercian abbey of Cleeve is usually a haven of peace and tranquillity but this is all set to change as the dark and dastardly Medea takes centre stage. The play, which is suitable for audiences over the age of 11, will enchant and terrify through gut-wrenching performances, spine-tingling choral singing, and a finale featuring the Sun-god himself!

Sarah White, Four of Swords co-founder and the actress playing Medea, explains that the company is known for avoiding traditional theatres in favour of unique staging in unusual locations. “Audiences at a Four of Swords show are positioned up close and personal, right in the thick of the action, with events unfolding all around. We design our productions to be excitingly interactive but without the need for audience participation. First and foremost our work is about creating multi-sensory, unforgettable experiences.”

The Greek myths are a staple of storytelling, and the characters which they contain recur again and again throughout history. “These tales are ancient, but incredibly relevant,” explains director Philip Kingslan John, “Medea tackles themes of nationalism, colonialism and xenophobia, as well of course as the unfair treatment which Medea receives on account of her gender.”

Myths and legends feature on both primary and secondary school curricula, and Euripides’ Medea is a staple text at A-level and university. Four of Swords has built up an impressive portfolio of outreach work, and will be complementing its production with workshops at schools, colleges and libraries.

Tickets for Medea at Cleeve Abbey are £15. For these or more information on the company’s educational work and its Argonauts-related workshops visit

“an exuberant production from the excellent Four of Swords”
The Stage on Jason and The Argonauts (2015 production)

Cast and Production Credits:

Adapted & directed by: Philip Kingslan John
Starring: Sarah White, Ben Miall Yates, Charlie Coldfield, Benjamin Akira Tallamy, Philip Kingslan John, Joanna Hruby, Duncan Taylor
Stage Manager: Rhiannon Wood
Music arranged by: Benjamin Akira Tallamy & Jonathan Kirby
Produced by: Four of Swords

Jason & The Argonauts / Medea Tour:

Wed 25 – Sat 28 October 2017 – Western-super-Mare, N Somerset, Theatre Tropicana
Marine Parade, Weston-Super-Mare, N Somerset, BS23 1BE
Jason & The Argonauts: 2pm / Medea: 7.30pm

Wed 1 – Sat 4 November 2017- Beer, Devon, Beer Quarry Caves
Quarry Ln, Beer, Seaton, East Devon, EX12 3AT
Medea: 7pm & 9pm performances

Thurs 9 – Sat 11 November, Washford, Somerset, Cleeve Abbey
Abbey Rd, Washford, Watchet, Somerset, TA23 0PS
Medea: 7pm & 9pm performances

More dates to be confirmed: Check website for details

PHOTO by Matt Austin


Initial plans are now underway to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the publication of Lorna Doone by R.D. Blackmore in 2019. The novel set within Exmoor was first published in 1869 and has never been out of print. Its popularity is witnessed not just in its book form, but in countless films, on television, in songs, a musical and even a Lorna Doone biscuit. The story incorporates wonderful descriptions of the most remote and rugged parts of Exmoor, real events such as The Great Winter and the Monmouth Rebellion, plus folk traditions of the notorious Doones and the highway man Tom Faggus.

The Dulverton edition of Lorna Doone, courtesy of The Exmoor Society.

The 150th anniversary year in 2019 provides an opportunity to celebrate the link between Exmoor and the novel, celebrating the culture, landscape and heritage of Exmoor.

Partners, including the Dulverton Heritage Centre, Exmoor National Park and Visit Exmoor, are considering a year-long themed festival around the Lorna Doone anniversary that can be integrated into existing events and activities, as well as being a catalyst for new initiatives. These can be aimed at a range of audiences from local communities, visitors and new audiences.

The Guildhall Heritage Centre in Dulverton is already planning a major exhibition which can act as a focal point and signpost visitors to other events and initiatives such as the development of a Doone Trail, guided walks, photography and arts events and much more.

Jennette Baxter, Development Manager for Visit Exmoor, welcomed this initiative. ‘This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate our stunning landscapes and our links to this world famous story. We hope that tourist providers and attractions, local groups and communities will join us in thinking how they can be involved in these celebrations. We have many months to organise this special event but it is not too soon to bring people together to find out their ideas.’

Anyone who has ideas or who is interested in being a part of this project is invited to contact Katrina Munro on 01398 322236, in the first instance to feed into a workshop being planned for October.

PHOTO: A Lorna Doone Pageant that was held in July 1930. The Exmoor Society was given the photograph by Leonard Henderson in 1993.


Watchet will, once again, be a key destination during Somerset Art Weeks Festival 2017 (23 September to 8 October), the annual, county-wide art trail celebrating the visual arts. Three venues in the centre of Watchet are open daily and the town is a great base for exploring other West Somerset venues, clustered nearby around Crowcombe, Washford, Williton and Old Cleeve and westward to Minehead and Exmoor.

‘New Wave’, an exhibition curated by Toni Davey, at Contains Art’s gallery, on Watchet’s harbourside, promises to be a highlight of the festival. In a reunion of alumni from West Somerset College, the exhibition presents the work of more than 30 professional artists, designers and makers who are carving out successful careers in a range of creative fields, after beginning their education in the Arts at The West Somerset College. Work is linked through themes suggested by Katsushika Hokusai’s iconic woodcut print ‘The Great Wave’. A must-see for young people contemplating a career in the arts the show also invites reflection on the future of art education in England.

Alongside New Wave, Contains Art opens its studios, with work on view by resident artists Sue Lowe (printmaking), Georgina Towler (painting), Valerie Berry (ceramics and painting) and guests Cecilia Leete (jewellery) and Adam Grose (painting and print).

Just a short walk away, in Anchor Street, Watchet’s planned new Radio Museum is the venue for five more local artists: Jill Newton (illustration), Scarlet von Teazel (multimedia), Martyn Lintern (sculpture), Jenny Barron (painting) and Jan Martin (printmaker) present work exploring the world of broadcasting and communication under the exhibition title ‘Echoes … Currents…’.

All work is on sale at reasonable prices, but visitors are welcome to just browse and chat, finding out more about the artists working in and around the town.

Several events during the fortnight help to celebrate the creative festival:

Friday 22 September, 6 – 8pm, is the launch event for ‘New Wave’. All are welcome to come to Contains Art to meet artists taking part and enjoy a glass of wine and a relaxed look at the exciting work on display in the gallery and studios.

A community event on 23 September, 2-5pm, offers papermaking and paper-craft activities for children and families, plus music, food and drinks for all enjoy. This forms part of the ongoing heritage project, involving a number of Watchet organisations in celebrating the history of Wansbrough Paper Mill. The heritage exhibition, launched last week, continues on The Esplanade and in the Watchet Market House Museum throughout September.

Also on Saturday 23 September the artists at the Radio Museum have an evening opening, from 6pm. All welcome.

Sunday 1 October is Watchet’s regular, monthly Street Fair. There will be stalls on The Esplanade selling crafts, produce, food and snacks. Visitors are welcome to relax in Contains Art’s courtyard during the day.

On the evening of Tuesday 3 October, at 7.30pm, presentations and talks about the New Wave exhibition will offer further insights into the work on show, the artists represented and the case for the Arts in education. At Watchet Methodist Church Schoolrooms.

During the final weekend of the festival, 7-8 October, venues are encouraged to offer Family-Friendly activities. In Watchet a town trail guide, with questions and puzzles to solve, will be available on Saturday 7 October to take families on a treasure hunt walk around the town, encouraging curiosity about all the many things that artists do.

All in all there is something for everyone in Watchet during Somerset Art Weeks 2017.

Find out more:
Radio Museum: T: 07802 761993 W:

All three Watchet Art Weeks venues are open daily throughout the festival, 11am to 6pm.

School and group visits are welcome, please let Contains Art know in advance. An education pack for New Wave is available on request.

The Arts Weeks Festival Guide is available now at Contains Art and Watchet Visitor Centre or can be downloaded here.

Pictured: ‘Identity’, digital print, Sarah Ward, New Wave at Contains Art Gallery