Category Archives: Arts and Culture


by Jenny McCubbin
For Bridgwater Choral Society

Saints and satyrs, cantatas and psalms – Bridgwater Choral Society is preparing a wide-ranging programme of twentieth-century music for your enjoyment at their next concert on Saturday 6 May which takes place at 7.30pm at Bridgwater Baptist Church.

Sir Arthur Bliss (1891-1975) was a composer and conductor who embraced modernism. He composed music for ballet, film and later for television, and became Director of Music at the BBC where he was instrumental in setting up the Third Programme after World War II. His Pastoral was inspired by a trip to the classical landscape of Sicily in the late 1920s. He collected and set to music an ‘anthology’ of pastoral poems, arranged in the form of a day moving from first light through to evening. The setting is for choir, mezzo-soprano, flute, timpani and strings. Elgar admitted to being a little ‘puzzled’ by some of it but suitably flattered that Bliss had dedicated the work to him!

Benjamin Britten (1913-1976) composed St Nicholas in the form on a cantata in nine scenes, describing the life, faith and miracles performed by St Nicholas, Bishop of Myra, patron saint of children, sailors and travellers. The piece is for choir, tenor soloist, and children, and was premiered in 1948 at the first Aldburgh Festival. We are fortunate to welcome back tenor Dominick Felix as soloist, and to have members of the Taunton School choir joining us for this performance.

Both Bliss and Britten were influenced by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) and we complete the programme with his Two Psalms for choir, organ and strings.

Please join us for the celebration concert on 6 May in Bridgwater.

The concert will take place in the Bridgwater Baptist Church (not St Mary’s as previously  advertised). This beautiful Grade II listed building was built in 1837 by Edwin Down and features a stunning classical frontage with pediment and cornice of Bath stone. It is located in St Mary Street, Bridgwater TA6 3LY.

Tickets are £10 and are available on the door or via our website Tickets are £10 for adults (under-16s go free but must be accompanied by an adult) or £8 for the Friends of Bridgwater Choral Society.



Work to provide a new seating and information area next to the Verity sculpture in Ilfracombe is complete.

The project to re-landscape the area around the sculpture to provide a larger viewing platform, seating and lighting was finished last week with the installation of a new information plinth.

Damien Hirst’s 20-metre sculpture was loaned to North Devon Council by For Giving CIC in 2012. The information plinth is located at the foot of Verity and provides visitors with information on what the statue is all about.

Ilfracombe Harbour Master, Rob Lawson (pictured), says: “Completion of the re-landscaping works have provided an exceptional new viewing area for the statue.  The materials used, both in colour and texture, have enhanced the Verity experience and I feel privileged to be able to see this iconic landmark every day.  Verity will continue to provide much interest and discussion for the many visitors who come to see her and I would like to thank Mr Hirst for his continued support of Ilfracombe.”

Work started on the final phase of the project in November 2016. Since Verity has been installed she has become a popular draw for tourists and this work will further enhance the Pier area and improve the visitor experience.


The Regal Theatre, Minehead have been very lucky to book the  European Union Chamber Orchestra for Wednesday 5 April.  Directed by Eva Stegemann, the programme will comprise three Mozart works:– Serenade in D K.185, Oboe Concerto K.314, and Adagio for Cor Anglais, as well as Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings.

Soloist Nicholas Daniel (Oboe And Cor Anglais) has played on every continent  and appeared  with leading orchestras across the globe and in the BBC Proms.

EUCO has performed in 73 countries  in major concert halls and Festivals, broadcast on television and radio across  Europe and the USA and had several UK concerts broadcast live on BBC Radio 3.

Performances begin at 7.30pm and tickets costing up to £18 are now available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), 10am-3pm Monday to Friday, 10am-1pm Saturday.

Also coming up:

Friday 31 March at 7.30pm

On Friday 31 March the ever popular Deane Big Band returns to the Regal Theatre with a good time for all as they bring in some toe-tapping big band classics from the swing era. The band will be playing lots of Glenn Miller hits, as well as some by Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Buddy Rich and Duke Ellington.

Chris Franks will sing songs like ‘Come fly with me’ and ‘ Let’s face the music and dance’; Chris does not have blue eyes like Mr Sinatra – but he does sound just like him!

Hannah Deason-Barrow will sing about that ‘Old Devil Called Love’ but don’t worry – everyone will end up ‘Feeling Good’.

With two great singers as well as a full 17 piece big band – it will be a big sound and joyful evening.

Performances begin at 7.30pm and tickets costing up to £9 are now available from the Regal Box Office.



Musicians from four Devon schools had the chance of a lifetime to perform alongside some of the country’s leading instrumentalists in an inspirational concert of work by modern composers. The concert was the culmination of a series of workshops between the London Chamber Orchestra and pupils at Blundell’s, Blundell’s Prep, Uffculme and Exeter Cathedral Schools.

More than a 100 young musicians performed in the main part of the concert which was the piece Simple Gifts by Paul Edlin. The fourth movement of this was generated during improvisation workshops with twelve Blundell’s musician ‘mentors’ and then by working with pupils from all the schools to put the whole piece together. The concert also featured choristers and vocalists from Uffculme, Blundell’s Senior and Prep Schools and all musicians performed under the baton of Christopher Warren-Green, the LCO’s principal conductor. Other pieces performed included Appalachian Spring by Aaron Copland by the LCO and Blundell’s Chamber Orchestra and Shaker Loops by John Adams, performed by the LCO.

The project began in November when eight LCO musicians spent the morning giving flash mob performances at Blundell’s Senior and Prep Schools and at Uffculme School and introduced young pupils to the instruments of the orchestra. In the afternoon, the three schools took part in chamber music masterclasses as well as brass ensembles and jazz groups, culminating in an informal concert.

The work with the LCO has been 18 months in the planning, hosted by Blundell’s School and with the initial starting point that the project should unite the community and involve other local schools. The legacy will continue into another concert at Cadogan Hall, London, in May, when lyrics composed for Simple Gifts by Blundell’s musician mentors will be sung by hundreds of students from around the country as part of a larger LCO music project.

PHOTO: The four schools in concert with the London Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Christopher Warren-Green.


Watchet’s second year of colourful Street Fairs begins on 2 April, with music from the Dark Town Strutters, kids’ trapeze and silk and rope drop in workshops from incredible local performer, Lyn Routledge, mouth-watering street food from Broomsquire and Little Van Rouge, fruit and veg, art, craft, local produce and more, all spread across the Esplanade.

The committee is also excited to announce that it has reggae band, Dojo, booked for the May event. Their new single, ‘Bethel’ has been championed by David Rodigan on Radio 1 Extra.

The Street Fairs are run by Watchet Coastal Community Team, who are working to develop tourism and economic growth in the town. They will run on the first Sunday of every month from April through to October.

Last year’s inaugural Street Fairs were a huge success, and led to a threefold increase in the number of visitors to the town.

Cllr Rosemary Woods said, “We’re really excited to be embarking on the second year of Street Fairs. They were a lot of fun last year, and made a big difference to the town, bringing in plenty of visitors. We also aim to support local start-ups, and the evidence is that last year’s events were a real boost for people.”

The Fairs are funded by the central government national initiative, Coastal Communities, which aims to boost Britain’s coastal towns. 118 Coastal Community Teams were created last year and given a share of £1.18m to help drive forward coastal areas growth.

Watchet Coastal Communities Team, which is the organisation behind the Street Fairs, is made up of local people, businesses and organisations in Watchet and includes Town Council, District Council, Watchet Chamber of Trade, Onion Collective CIC, Conservation Society, Market House Museum, West Somerset Railway, Watchet Boat Owners Association and other local business representatives.

Pitches are priced £15- £20. To book a pitch contact Molly Quint on 01984 632592 or email:

For more information go to the Watchet Street Fair Facebook page at:


On Wednesday 29 March the Pantaloons theatre company return to the Regal Theatre, Minehead with Pride & Prejudice.                                       

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen’s witty and romantic masterpiece is one of the best-loved stories of all time, dealing with the most important questions in life!  Will Mrs Bennet manage to offload her numerous daughters in record time? Will Lizzy and Darcy actually get together? Will creepy Mr Collins just go away please? The literary classic gets the full Pantaloons treatment in this beautifully hilarious and delightfully innovative new adaptation.

The Pantaloons is a young and dynamic theatre company which recaptures an aspect of drama which modern naturalistic theatre has lost: the riotous energy of the clown.  The company has been immensely popular at the Regal Theatre in the recent past and their visit is anticipated for the opportunity it gives for an enjoyable and hilarious night out.

Performances begin at 7.30pm and tickets costing up to £12 are now available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), 10am-3pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 1pm Saturday.


Simonsbath Festival 2017 is just around the corner and this year boasts a fabulous line-up of events.

Concerts include The Lyra Ensemble with sublime choral music from the Russian Orthodox Church (May 14), 1920s jazz from London’s most stylish vintage jazz band The Dime Notes (May 27), the supremely talented violinist Tamsin Waley-Cohen with her new quartet Albion (June 3), the vibrant sounds of Latin America from Kabasa (June 10) and another knock-out show from the irrepressibly talented Pop-up Opera (June 17).

Exciting new archive material has recently come to light about the Knight family, who created the Exmoor we know today, which will be the subject of two talks by ENPA’s Rob Wilson-North and Graham Wills (May 24 & 31), while Robin Ravilious, the widow of the great photographer James Ravilious, will give a presentation about her husband’s work chronicling everyday life in rural North Devon during the 1970s and ’80s (June 7).

North Devon farmer and film-maker David Kennard talks about the ups and downs of life with his sheepdogs at Borough Farm (May 10), there’s an extensively illustrated talk by local deer expert and photographer Jochen Langbein (May 17), Jane Austen’s heroines are brought vividly to life in an award-winning theatre production Austen’s Women (June 14), while TV’s Matthew Fort takes us on a sun-drenched trip around the Italian islands (June 21).

And make sure you hunt out the Sketch Boxes to make your mark for Simonsbath Festival . . .

To book tickets telephone Marian Lloyd on 01643 831451 or email To receive a full colour, printed festival programme email or phone Victoria on 01643 831343.

You can support the festival by becoming a Friend of Simonsbath Festival and enjoy ticket discounts and priority booking, just email Polly at or call 01643 831302, and you can follow the festival on Facebook and Twitter or visit the website.

PHOTO: The Albion Quartet.


An exhibition of works by the Camden Town Group opens at the Museum of Somerset in Taunton on Saturday 25 March. ‘A Fragile Beauty: Art on the Blackdown Hills 1909 to 1925’ captures the beauty of this Somerset and Devon borderland in a period when the First World War was changing English society forever.

The Camden Town Group, led by Walter Sickert, was named after the London district where many of the artists lived and worked. Initially they painted contemporary urban life, but later they were drawn to the countryside, especially the Blackdown Hills.

Inspired by the example of the impressionists and post-impressionists, artists such as Spencer Gore, Charles Ginner and Robert Bevan created Somerset and Devon landscape paintings of great freshness and immediacy.

“They came to Applehayes, Clayhidon, as the guests of Harold Harrison, an estate owner and amateur artist,” Tom Mayberry, Chief Executive of the South West Heritage Trust, explained.

“The Blackdown Hills were remote and artistically unexplored when they arrived there and their paintings are a wonderful celebration of landscape. Though the world they knew was so different from ours, many of the landscapes and buildings they painted have hardly changed.”

‘A Fragile Beauty’ is the first major exhibition at the Museum of Somerset to rely entirely on loans from other museums and from private collectors. Loans include Spencer Gore’s ‘Applehayes’ (pictured) from the Ulster Museum, and Charles Ginner’s ‘Landscape with Farmhouse’ from Manchester Art Gallery. The exhibition also includes works from private collections that have rarely been seen in public.

The museum has worked with the fine art auctioneers, Lawrences of Crewkerne, who, together with private donors, and the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty (AONB) have very generously sponsored and supported the exhibition. A varied public programme of associated events is being delivered, including opportunities to enjoy the specially protected landscape of Blackdown Hills AONB as it is today.

‘A Fragile Beauty’ has been created in partnership with the Somerset-based curators and art historians Denys Wilcox and Richard Emeny. The exhibition runs from 25 March to 8 July and entry is free of charge.


Celebrated but Seedy: The Life of Walter Sickert
Thursday 27 April, 7.30pm, Museum of Somerset

A talk by Richard Kay, art historian and Director of Pictures at Lawrences, Crewkerne, on the life of Walter Sickert. £15 per person with cheese and wine. Booking required via the Museum 01823 255088.

Family Fun Day
Saturday 29 April, 11am–4pm, Museum of Somerset

A free family fun day based around the history, heritage and archaeology of the Blackdown Hills – the landscape which inspired the Camden Town artists.

‘Talk and Tea’: The Blackdown Hills – A Landscape of Patterns and Pictures
Friday 12 May, 2.30pm–3.30pm, Museum of Somerset

Linda Bennett, Blackdown Hills AONB Manager, will give a talk on the landscape of the Blackdown Hills and why it’s special. £5 per person.

In the Footsteps of the Camden Town Artists
Sunday 18 June, 10.30am, Clayhidon

Explore the landscapes and buildings of the Blackdown Hills which feature in the paintings of the Camden Town Group. Local naturalist, Gavin Saunders, will lead a walk through the valley around Applehayes and Ringdown in Clayhidon to look for echoes of the artists’ work. Suggested donation £5 per person. Booking required via the AONB 01823 680 681.

IMAGE: Loans include Spencer Gore’s ‘Applehayes’ from the Ulster Museum.

Find out more on the Museum of Somerset’s website.




Kind regards,



Artist Shan Miller is famous for her life-size portraits of pets, rare breeds and rural life and exhibits widely both at home and abroad, most notably in Cornwall and Cumbria with her celebration of the farmyard instigated by the NFU.

Shan has family connections with a local hunt and it is in commemoration of this that she has created the huge painting of hounds illustrated. As she explains, “I would love to find a good home on Exmoor for this very evocative and powerful piece, which, at 8 feet tall, is a real talking point and would create a unique focal point.”

Based in North Devon, her studio and gallery is an imposing, three-storey former grain mill close to the renowned Tarka Trail and is available to view by appointment. Nearby, at The Puffing Billy Cafe (a restored railway station) 28 of her impressive, larger than life canine portraits are on display, demonstrating her compelling and commandingly maverick style, which highlights the muscle and power of the animals, a veritable feast of fur.

For more information about Shan and her work please go to her website at


Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts is pleased to announce that applications are now open for ‘Halsway Young Folk – Intro’.  Developed from their popular ‘Hothouse’ project, this week-long Easter residential (Mon 3 – Fri 7 April) is designed as an intensive but fun introduction to traditional folk music for musicians and singers aged 12-18.

It is led by a team of professional folk artists – Will Lang, Nicola Lyons (4Square), Archie Churchill-Moss (Moore, Moss, Rutter) and Ford Collier (The Drystones), with a dedicated pastoral tutor to make sure you’re well supported while away from home.

Prior experience – as either a singer or musician – is essential, but it’s ok to be new to ‘folk’. It’s intensive and hard work at times, but the team at Halsway guarantees you’ll have fun and make new friends too.

During the week you will operate as a performance company: taking warm-ups together, developing technique in music and performance, learning repertoire, and creating new interpretations of traditional material. There will also be down-time to socialise and enjoy being part of an exciting new company of performers! At the end of the week you’ll have the chance to perform what you’ve learned to an invited audience. And if you’re hooked on folk, you can attend the ‘Halsway Young Folk – Intermediate’ course in the summer, which culminates in performances at Sidmouth Folk Week!

To book a place, please contact Halsway Manor or visit to download an an application form. Each place costs £19, which includes full board (accommodation and all meals), tuition and all activities. Places are limited and will be allocated on a first come, first-served basis.

Bursary places may be available to young people with exceptional talent or for whom the opportunity would be especially beneficial, but whose financial circumstances would otherwise exclude them from the programme. Email if this is something you would like to discuss.

Further ‘Halsway Young Folk’ courses in 2017 include Junior for ages 8-12 (Tue 22 – Thu 24 Aug), Intermediate for ages 13-18 (Mon 31 July – Sat 5 Aug) and Advanced for ages 16 – 25 (Mon 21 – Sat 26 Aug