Category Archives: Arts and Culture


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




This year’s Art Trek will see artists throwing open their doors in a celebration of the visual arts across North Devon. The long-established and eagerly anticipated event runs from 15 September to 1 October.

There are participants taking part in villages and towns across North Devon, and the venues range from professional galleries to homes and artists’ studios. Visitors can find all the information they need in the Art Trek brochure which is out now or by visiting the Art Trek website at

The event boasts over 40 artists in a range of disciplines. Each venue is mapped out and visitors can create their own itinerary for the weekend, day, afternoon or even a spare hour after work! There is even the chance to enjoy a demonstration or take part in a workshop in many of the venues.

There are a huge number of art styles on including paintings of abstract forms, portraits and landscapes; there are prints using a variety of techniques including screen printing. Sculptors also feature in the event, many working in a variety of media.

The crafts are well represented including a pop-up show featuring exhibitors specialising in vintage, vintage inspired and upcycled products. This year’s Art Trek also involves the work of a number of talented ceramicists and glass artists as well as local photographers.

The full list of participating artists are:
Bideford: Eilean Eland; Pete Newell; Deborah Last; Fiona Matthews; Joanna Sellors; Hilary Paynter; Richard Strachey; Robert J Phillips; Cressida Lowery; Michael Storrs; Janis Glover; Bert Bruins; Devon Pop-Ups
Weare Giffard: Claire Scott
Northam: Mary Myers
Braunton: Mark King; Jan Sears
Ilfracombe: Francesca Owen
Muddiford: Lauren Goldie
Barnstaple: Robert Cordingley; Penelope Florance; Alexandra Tacey; Park School Alumni; Mike Woollacott; Grizel Lutmann-Johnson; White Moose
West Buckland: Jackie Payne
Swimbridge: Ruth Bateman; Danni Bradford; Ellie Miller
Great Torrington: Helen Bailes; Barbara Bird; Susan Martin; Carol Rowland; Beaford Arts
South Molton: Deborah Hastings; Sam Pickard; South Molton Pannier Market
Grilstone: Mitch Pilkington
Molland: Luna North
Kings Nympton: Tony Williams
Umberleigh: Colin Allbrook
Atherington: Peter Stagg
Burrington: Kate Burrows
Chulmleigh: Robert Ennis; Gaenor Barker
Bondleigh: The Sculpture School

For more information pick up a brochure which will be available from White Moose, Barnstaple, participating artists and at outlets locally or visit the Art Trek website

Photo: Grizel Lutmann-Johnson’s studio.


The Landings is an innovative site-specific dance project that exists because of the death of Alan Kurdi, a three-year-old Syrian boy who drowned trying to reach Europe in September 2015. From mid-September to early October 2017, The Landings offers a rare performance journey accessed by walking the 5 km by 2 km hinterland of fields, drainage channels, tracks, sunken lanes, railway lines, small copses and shore between Blue Anchor and Minehead towards dusk. Here you will find a cast of 20 performers aged 5 to 70.

Entering the site via different points, the audience will journey in small groups. They will discover multiple pathways offering moments of choice, as everyone decides which performance encounters to stay with, and which to leave behind. Thus, The Landings can be seen more than once, depending on how audiences navigate through the land.

Thanks to the generosity of partners, landowners and tenants, such as the Steam Coast Trail, West Somerset Railway, Minehead & West Somerset Golf Club, Dunster Beach Chalets and local farmers, The Landings opens up familiar landscapes in a new way. Whether in little-used copses, walking forgotten farm tracks or traversing isolated railways crossings, these settings will be used to touch upon themes of frustration, loss, disorientation, regret, hope and an urge to keep going, despite the unknown ahead.

At the end of each performance, everyone will be scooped up and returned to West Somerset College Farm, just outside Minehead, for a bowl of hot soup beside a glowing fire.

The Landings has been created by Bossington resident, Sarah Shorten, Artistic Director of Stacked Wonky. She has been making intriguing and high-profile site work/commissions for over ten years, including Trafalgar Square, The Museum of Childhood in collaboration with The V&A Museum and, most recently, Liberator, a “box-set” of four site-specific episodes performed in the Vale of Porlock in 2015, which sold out shortly after the first episode premiered.

She says, “It was a shocking moment when the photograph of Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body shuttled across the media two years ago. The Landings is a personal response to that. I wanted to know if it was possible to create a compelling and emotional audience journey, in proximity to a cast of performers on the move, reflecting the need in all of us to land somewhere. To do this, I am using a fascinating landscape close to home.”

The Landings combines a wide and eclectic team of local collaborators, including designers, costume makers, photographers, sound artists, farmers, historians, railway enthusiasts, harbour masters and technicians who have pulled together to create this large-scale performance. The cast comprises 12 professional dancers and 8 children, aged 5 to 11, from Timberscombe First School and Minehead Middle School, some of whom have been working with Stacked Wonky for over 3 years.

The publicity for The Landings states “Once again, be part of something extraordinary, as echoes of a recent tragedy reach our shores”, something Sarah hopes will ring true with the audience. The Landings premieres on Friday 15 September – all performances start and end at West Somerset College Farm, just off the A39. It is hoped that some of the audience return to see The Landings more than once – each time it will be different, depending on the choices made whilst walking.

For further details, visit

As summer ends, strangers will land.
We watch.
Everyone must decide.
What to hold on to, what to leave behind.”

Photo by Rod Higginson


Wiveliscombe and surrounding villages will celebrate with creativity and performance as the 10 Parishes Festival returns this month.

The printed guide that features all participants is now available locally and once again features the talent of Bathealton artist, Aga Karmolinska. The surrealist style of the guide continues and this year’s cover highlights a major theme of the festival, the B3227 road that stretches from west of Taunton through many local parishes.

Over 70 artists participate in this visual and performing arts spectacle which was founded in 2003. Nynehead Court will again host a joint exhibition in the Orangery which has been a popular venue in the past. One artist at Nynehead will be Yvonne Whittamore, who creates her artwork using dyed silk, yarn, moss and woodland floor discards.

In addition to the wide range of artist exhibitions, there are a number of performances for which tickets are already on sale.

Wellington-based JW3 (The John Walker Band) present ‘Stars and Stripes’, at the Victoria Rooms, Milverton on Saturday 9 September.

Taunton Thespians return with a sample of Shakespearean pieces, presented in a rehearsed reading at Cotleigh Brewery also on the first day of the festival, Saturday 9 September, and repeated at St Luke’s Church in Langley Marsh on Sunday 17th, the final day.

The remote and picturesque St Michael’s Church in Raddington features with the Clayhanger String Quartet and soprano Alison Routh performing by candlelight on Saturday 16th.

The Soldier’s Tale is a renowned drama written in WW1 with music by Igor Stravinsky & Libretto by Charles Ferdinand Ramuz. This will be performed at Wellhayes Vineyard, Clayhanger on Saturday 9th.

The House of F returns with another exceptional creative exhibition and workshops. Visitors can expect Feral Forest Fairies in Magical La La Land at Kenley near Waterrow.

The Ashbrittle Big Sing with Yvette Staelens in the village hall gives the chance for all family members to join in, also on Sat 9th.

A new event this time is the Photomarathon which is a funny, exciting and creative photography competition with a twist, a bit of a challenge: participants have to take 8 photos of 8 topics in the correct order over an 8-hour period.

After the Photomarathon, all the images are collated and printed, before a panel of judges meet to decide the winners. All the photos then go on show in a free public exhibition.

The Photomarathon will take place on Sunday 10th September, the day of the street market and carnival procession. The Exhibition will take place on 16-17th September at the Community Centre (West Street).

The theme for this year’s carnival procession is ‘Go Wild – Back to the Jungle!’ and organisers are once again expecting much interaction in this community spectacle.

For more information and booking for the many festival events visit


Number Seven Dulverton is delighted that Nicola Davies will be visiting them as part of her national celebrations marking her twenty-year career publishing the most inspiring and awarding-winning books. 2017 saw her 50th title roll off the press. Some of you may remember her from presenting the BBC’s Really Wild Show alongside Chris Packham and Terry Nutkins.

Aided by her publishers, Walker Books, Nicola has swapped skills from writing to illustration and has created an eye-catching window display which was first shown in Crickhowell.

It is currently on show at Number Seven where Nicola will be signing books, sharing stories and future publishing plans on Friday 1 September from 11am until 1pm; all are welcome. Among her most recent titles are Lots, King of the Sky, Tiny and A First Book of Nature.

Nicola is a natural storyteller and has some amazing experiences to share alongside an in-depth knowledge of all things zoological. Her gift is in making these facts so accessible to all ages and her books are a great testimony of her skill.

For further information do contact Davina Jelley or call 01398 324457 or visit the website:


“I always thought it was an otherworldly and magical location, a place where imagination meets reality, and I can think of nowhere more fitting to perform in,” enthuses the Creative Director of the Pleasure Dome Theatre Company, Helena Payne, who is putting on a series of theatrical outdoor performances at the iconic Valley of Rocks on Exmoor this summer.

The Importance of Being Earnest is being staged from 8 – 26 August and Lorna Doone from 29 August – 2 September. Lorna Doone was an obvious choice; a local story woven into the very fabric of the Exmoor landscape. The Importance of Being Earnest is perhaps less so. However, Helena liked the idea of trying something completely different. “The play is a parlour farce where the characters engage in glittering witticisms and immaculate manners, so why not stick them on a cliff edge, amongst the goats and buffeted by the elements to see how they cope? By making bold decisions, we force ourselves to be more creative. We are looking forward to staging both plays enormously.”

The Pleasure Dome Theatre Company is a young, professional collective keen to bring accessible, open-air entertainment to both the local community and the many holidaymakers visiting Exmoor. The company also provides outreach programmes and offers local opportunities to work within a professional company to aspiring youngsters and enthusiastic older members of the locale alike.

Helena spent her childhood summers scrabbling up and down the Valley of Rocks, creating plays and dreaming of pirates and fairies, so when it came to finding an outdoor location in which to perform, there was no contest.

Jennette Baxter, Development Manager for Visit Exmoor, welcomes the productions. “We are delighted the company has chosen Valley of Rocks as its setting this summer. The dramatic productions combined with the sheer theatricality of the landscape is a real draw for visitors and local alike.”

Tickets cost £15 per adult, £10 for under 16s and over 65s and £45 for a Family Ticket. Shows start at 7.30pm (or 3.00 pm for the matinees) but visitors are free to arrive at any time to explore valley or enjoy a picnic in the sunshine. A percentage of every ticket sold goes towards CareMoor  for Exmoor.

People can book tickets online by going to the PDTC home page and click on the links (easy to see) – they can download the tickets to their smartphone or print them off. Alternatively, if they prefer to pay by cash, they can pop in to one of the National Park Centres where their tickets can be booked through the online system.

Please note: It can get chilly in the evening, so bring warm clothing, blankets and cushions.

If rain is due, the production will be moved to Lynton Town Hall (updates will be available on the Pleasure Dome Theatre Facebook page
More info:

PHOTO: Valley of Rocks by Mike Watson, from our autumn 2014 walking feature.


Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, is proud to present a week of Art inspired by the Somerset countryside in its house and grounds this August. The Somerset group of professional artists, Gallery4Art, will be showcasing their contemporary artworks in a colourful exhibition from Monday 7  to Friday 11 August. Entry will be free to view the work and paintings, and prints and sculpture will be available to buy at affordable prices.

“Gallery4Art never fail to put on a dazzling array of interesting art – we just wish we could take it all home with us.”  Visitor to G4A’s 2016 Halsway exhibition.

Running alongside the exhibition will be a day of workshops so you can try your hand at techniques used by the artists. On Tuesday 8 August you can choose from experimental screen printing with Jim Munnion, textiles with Sarah Meikle, wire and mixed media sculpture with Mel Deegan, wildlife willow sculpture with Sophie Courtiour or whimsical watercolour painting with Alison Jacobs.

The workshops cost £65 per person and this includes materials. No previous experience is required, and full support and advice will be given by the artists who are all experienced tutors. For more information and details on how to book go online to

To book on workshops or activities please phone Halsway Manor (this is recommended as places fill fast) on 01984 618274