Category Archives: Arts and Culture

MORE EXCITEMENT FOR WEST COUNTRY BLACKSMITHS AT HOME AND AWAY

It has been an exciting time for Exmoor-based craftsmen West Country Blacksmiths who were featured on Grand Designs last week (read more here).

For another high-profile commission, they have also recently produced over 750 bespoke stainless-steel flowers and 4,500 leaves for the prestigious Chelsea Barracks development, built on the former Army barracks which was brought by the Qatari Diar.

The blacksmiths were awarded the unique opportunity to work in collaboration with London-based designer Tord Boontje to develop the designs and make the metalwork used to decorate the Townhouse balustrades of the development.

Each balcony of the development has a different combination of 12 flowers – all commonly found in Britain. The flowers include wild roses, garden roses, winter roses, almond blossoms, carnations, peonies, cosmos, violets and anemones.

The blacksmiths received high praise for this project and were pleased to welcome a team from Chelsea Barracks to film them at work for promotional materials and a documentary due in 2020.

Designer Tord Boontje said,  “Nowadays, it’s not so common to find blacksmiths – and especially really good ones. The better the blacksmith is, the higher the quality of the craftsmanship and the more beautifully my designs will be translated. So I spent a lot of time researching blacksmiths in Britain, and visited many different workshops.

“Eventually, I struck on West Country Blacksmiths, an exciting and accomplished team of metalworkers operating out of a seventeenth-century forge in Somerset. “They are a very highly skilled, energetic young team who are a pleasure to work with. And they have a very nice way of interpreting my designs and making them into metal.”

Closer to home, West Country Blacksmiths have restored the weathervane on the bell tower of the Market House Museum in Watchet as part of the museum’s 40th anniversary celebrations.

The wrought-iron and copper weathervane has been a feature of the Watchet rooftops for over 32 years. However, both time and exposure to the sea air had taken its toll on the weathervane, damaging the copper sailing boat and corroding the metalwork.

Allerford Forge were commissioned to restore the weathervane by the museum committee and fully funded by the Watchet Market House Museum.

The craftmen removed the weathervane for a short period to allow the ship’s sails to be replaced and the remaining copperwork to be cleaned and repaired. The smiths also restored the mainframe of the weathervane by removing over 30 years of rust and paint from the metalwork, reforging missing and damaged components and weld repairing where required.

Once the repairs were completed the blacksmiths galvanised and heritage black painted the brackets and repatinated the copper top.

The weathervane was reinstalled by the team in October and it is hoped to be there for many more years to come.

The weathervane is owned by the museum and was first installed in the bell tower in 1987, replacing a plain one which is now displayed on the lighthouse in the harbour.

THE HOUSE WITHOUT WINDOWS AT NUMBER SEVEN DULVERTON

Following on from the phenomenal success of The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris, many will be intrigued to discover the next publication to feature Jackie’s distinctive illustrations. The Lost Words was recently awarded the prestigious CILIP Kate Greenaway Medal. Judged solely by librarians, the award is the highest accolade awarded to illustrators working in the UK – past winners include Raymond Briggs, Shirley Hughes and Quentin Blake.

Jackie is much in demand for public appearances due to the success of The Lost Words. She was recently centre stage at the Royal Albert Hall, painting live and reciting poems as part of The Lost Words BBC Prom. Number Seven has supported Jackie for many years and they are delighted to be hosting the launch party for The House Without Windows, published by Hamish Hamilton, away from the bright lights of London, here on Exmoor.

Two events are planned. The first is at Loyton Lodge, where a relaxing afternoon awaits with the aim of capturing the essence of The House Without Windows which is an entirely unique story of one little girl’s desire to escape into the wilderness.

Little Eepersip doesn’t want to live in a house with doors and windows and a roof, so she runs away to live in the wild – first in the Meadow, then by the Sea, and finally in the Mountain. Her heartbroken parents follow her, bringing her back home to ‘safety’ and locking her up in the stifling square of the house. But she slips away once more, following her heart into the richness of untrammelled nature and disappearing forever.

First published in 1927 and written by a child of just 12 years old, The House Without Windows is an extraordinary paean to the transcendent beauty of the natural world, and the human capacity to connect with it.

Throughout the afternoon Jackie will be painting and discussing her desire to illustrate and re-publish Barbara Newhall Follett’s book. Musical accompaniment is provided by cellist Julia Vohralik and principal violinist Katherine Shave. Julia has played with the Hallé and the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, and Katherine was leader of the English Touring Opera Orchestra. Both currently play for the Britten Sinfonia. Christopher Jelley has mown a labyrinth into the long grass and Adam Fanson, the chef at Loyton, has planned a picnic of sandwiches, colourful cakes and pots of tea. Booking is essential and tickets (£24) are available direct from Number Seven.

The second event is on Saturday 28 September and you will find Jackie in residence at Number Seven from 10am until 3pm, signing copies of her many titles. There is no need to book and admission is free. Copies of all her titles will be available to purchase, alongside a display of new illustrations created for The House Without Windows.

www.numbersevendulverton.co.uk.

SCHOOL LAUNCHES EXCITING CREATIVE ARTS EVENTS FOR NORTH DEVON PUBLIC

West Buckland School is opening its doors as a new venue for the arts in North Devon, with the launch of ARTS@WB, an exciting cultural programme of stand-up comedy, dance, music, art and drama events, open to the North Devon public. The majority of the productions will be held in the school’s fabulous 150 Arts building, where visitors will also be able to browse exhibitions from distinguished artists.

ARTS@WB has been created by the school’s Director of Music and Performing Arts, Emma Kent, who many will know from her work with the North Devon Sinfonia and who has always been a great supporter of the arts in North Devon.

“ARTS@WB is a really exciting new venture for the school and the wider community,” she said. “Hopefully everyone will find something in the programme which will whet their appetite for culture and the arts and tempt them to visit our beautiful campus to enjoy a social and thought-provoking evening.”

As well as enjoying the main attraction, visitors are encouraged to come early, pick up a glass of something and enjoy a browse around the school’s stunning 150 Arts building where there will be a number of exhibitions on display from emerging artists.

The programme is suitable for people across the age groups and there are a limited number of student tickets, priced at just £1.

Legally Blonde and Katie Derham

Highlights for the 2019-2020 programme include a critically acclaimed circus and dance performance by Nikki Rummer and JD Broussé, a comedy club night featuring Noel Brodie, Jo Coffey, Chris Leworthy and Angie Belcher, a show-stopping production of the West End hit Legally Blonde at the Queen’s theatre and an Evening with Katie Derham – an insight into the life of the well-known arts journalist and presenter of the Proms season on the BBC.

For more information, or to download a copy of the full ARTS@WB brochure, please visit: www.westbuckland.com/arts-at-wb.

TOP: “Thirsty” by Paper Birds, just one of the many exciting productions at West Buckland School as part of their ARTS@WB.

VINTAGE & HANDMADE FAIR

Preparation is now in full swing for this September’s Vintage & Handmade event on Sunday 22 September at Barnstaple Pannier Market.

The show promises to be a colourful and theatrical spectacular with a 50s circus-themed backdrop to an incredible selection of exhibitors: an eclectic mix of vintage & retro traders, work that has been beautifully upcycled or recycled and stunning work from artisans across the South West including jewellery, prints, paintings, ceramics, candles, woodwork and textiles.

Barnstaple Pannier Market will be transformed – behind the curtained entrance you will find a ring master, usherettes with trays, vintage games, a vintage lemonade stand hosted by North Devon Against Domestic Abuse (NDADA) and a live swing band.

Cool creative workshops can be pre-booked including paper-flower making and hand-stitched embroidered brooches.

There will also be food traders and a tea & coffee lounge.

Put the date in your diary, you definitely don’t want to miss this one. Dig out your favourite vintage glad rags as dressing up for this event is actively encouraged.

OUR SOMERSET STORIES: HALSWAY MANOR PROJECT

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts, has been awarded a grant of £39,000 from the Hinkley Point C Community Fund (HPC Community Fund). The grant will support ‘Our Somerset Stories’, an exciting new project to be run within four rural Somerset communities; these include Stogursey, Spaxton and Williton, with a fourth to be confirmed.

The project will see schools working with writers and artists to create new work inspired by their community – past, present and future, leading to publications, exhibitions, creative archives and new folk traditions. This will run alongside creative workshops for the wider community, and celebration events for everyone to enjoy.

Creative Lead Alice Maddicott will co-ordinate the project for Halsway Manor. She says, “We’ll be creating new opportunities for people to discover and be inspired by their folk history and heritage, and celebrate what makes their community special to them.”

Crispian Cook, Chief Executive of Halsway Manor Society, commented: “Halsway is an important resource which enriches lives of people both locally and nationally. We are grateful to HPC Community Fund for their support, which allows us to continue to develop our provision and make a difference to people living within our immediate vicinity.”

HPC Community Fund is managed by Somerset Community Foundation to help local communities mitigate the impacts of Hinkley Point C and maximise the opportunities that arise from the development for the communities (in Somerset) through schemes, measures and projects which promote the economic, social or environmental well-being of those communities and enhance their quality of life.

Halsway Manor, National Centre for Folk Arts provides a permanent home for the enjoyment, study and development of folk music, dance and culture in England. Established as a charity in 1966 and unique in the UK, it hosts over 340 days of residential and outreach activity every year, for all ages, and covering all facets of the folk arts from instrumental music, song and dance to traditional storytelling, crafts and instrument making. For more information visit www.halswaymanor.org.uk.

EXMOOR POETRY BOOK LAUNCH AT THE DUNSTER SHOW

The launch of a new collection of enchanting poems inspired by encounters with Exmoor hill farmers, along with poetry readings and a book signing by the author, are just some of the exciting activities on offer in the ‘Big Exmoor Tent’ at this Friday’s Dunster Show (16 August).

Poet Adam Horowitz received grants from Exmoor National Park Authority’s Partnership Fund and Exmoor Society to spend time on Exmoor Hill Farming Network farms signed up to the Pasture-Fed Livestock Association – an alliance of farmers committed to feeding livestock solely on grass for the benefit of nature, animal welfare and the planet.

The resulting poetry evokes both the drama of the landscape and the delicate balance between farming and nature that helps to create it, and will be available to buy for the first time as part of an expanded second edition to The Soil Never Sleeps, published by Palewell Press and available for £9.99. Also for sale will be artwork by Jo Sanders, whose illustrations depicting two Exmoor Horn sheep feature on the cover of the new book.

Adam, who stayed on two different hill farms during his time on Exmoor, said: “I helped out where I could and absorbed the beauty of the national park and the practical concerns that go in to maintaining that beauty, as well as the continued health of the soil and the land.

“My hope is that The Soil Never Sleeps – which weaves celebration of the land with the voices of the farmers and the science of farming – will play a small part in the ongoing, and very necessary conversations about the future, and continued vitality of the British landscape.”

The Big Exmoor Tent is sponsored by internet service provider Airband, who provide both wireless and fibre broadband for rural and hard-to-reach areas.  Alongside poetry, it will feature a host of activities celebrating the National Park, including birds of prey from North Devon Hawk Walks, local produce direct from the farm, green woodworking demonstrations, information about volunteering, badge-making, quizzes and free National Park pocket guides. Discover Exmoor’s amazing array of fauna and flora with the Exmoor Natural History Society, find out how to get active with Exmoor Adventures and get top tips for enjoying the area from Visit Exmoor.

Ben Totterdell, Exmoor National Park’s Interpretation and Education Manager, said: “This year marks 70 years since the legislation that created national parks, and we’re immensely proud to be one 15 that now exist in the UK. The Dunster Show is a fantastic celebration of the deeply rural ways of life that sustain these stunning landscapes and we hope as many people as possible will pay us a visit to discover all that goes into helping protect them and get top tips for enjoying them.”

Airband, who are sponsoring the Big Exmoor Tent, said they were delighted to be part of the event: “The world needs more poetry and the best poetry can be truly magical,” said Airband’s Devon Project Manager Martin Hewlett.

WILD HARES AND HUMMINGBIRDS AT THE MUSEUM OF SOMERSET

Visitors to the Museum of Somerset can discover more about the county’s animals, plants and birds in a playful new exhibition opening this summer. Based on the book, Wild Hares and Hummingbirds: The Natural History of an English Village, by the naturalist Stephen Moss, the exhibition runs from 20 July to 26 October.

Stephen is one of Britain’s leading natural history writers, broadcasters and wildlife television producers. His book tells the story of wildlife through the seasons in his home village of Mark, on the edge of the Somerset Levels. The exhibition brings together his celebrated nature writing with beautiful, original illustration by the graphic artist Stephanie Cole. Stephanie is probably best known in the West Country for her striking illustrations that decorate the interiors at Gloucester Services.

Sam Astill, Head of Museums for the South West Heritage Trust, said: “We’re delighted to be bringing together the creative talents of Stephen and Stephanie for this original exhibition. It’s packed full of fun, interactive, hands-on activities for families to enjoy during the school holiday.”

Stephen Moss added: “The book is a celebration of the British countryside and why it matters to all of us, wherever we live. It’s exciting to see it given a new lease of life and I hope the exhibition will help inspire young visitors to connect with the natural world.”

‘Wild Hares and Hummingbirds’ is part of a summer of exhibitions, events and activities at the Museum of Somerset where visitors can explore more about the natural world. Throughout the summer holidays the museum will be running ‘Wildlife Wednesdays’ with weekly themed activities for families. From 27 July to 7 September there is also a display of artworks by the printmaker Jackie Curtis celebrating the landscapes and wildlife of the Somerset Levels.

Oh – and in case you were wondering about hummingbirds in Somerset, they’re a species of hawk-moth!

The Museum of Somerset is part of The South West Heritage Trust, an independent charity that protects and celebrates Somerset and Devon’s rich heritage.

Visit www.museumofsomerset.org.uk for more information.

WEST COUNTRY BLACKSMITHS NOMINATED FOR MORE AWARDS!

Exmoor-based bespoke metalwork specialists West Country Blacksmiths have had two  separate projects shortlisted for the 2019 GAGA Construction Awards alongside projects which include Aerospace in Bristol, the London Palladium Wall of Fame Project and Crystal Palace Park Café

The two bespoke projects were fully designed and made by the highly skilled craftsmen of West Country Blacksmiths who are based at the stunning stone-built Allerford Forge, which has been at heart of the National Trust’s Holnicote Estate on the edge of Exmoor in Somerset for hundreds of years.

One of the projects shortlisted was a project undertaken for the Lillycombe Estate in Porlock, Somerset. The project required the team to design, make and install three pairs of bespoke entrance gates, two pedestrian gates and large sections of estate railing. The metalwork was designed to a traditional estate metalwork style, and produced to the very highest standards with an abundance of hand-forged details.

The second project shortlisted was a project undertaken at a residential property in Bristol (pictured), where the team designed, made and installed a large variety of metalwork, which included a bespoke balcony, rooftop railings, a gate, handrails, and garden railings. The metalwork was designed to a traditional style to be in keeping with the property, and include stunning high-quality handcrafted details including organic leaf and scroll work.

Both projects were selected in the award category of detail. Iqbal Johal, one of four judges of the GAGA Awards, said, “We received a record number of nominations this year and the 2019 GAGAs had an impressive shortlist which included the Lillycombe Estate and Orchard Cottage project completed by West Country Blacksmiths. The fine craftmanship of West Country Blacksmiths made both Orchard Cottage and Lillycombe Estate easy choices as shortlisted projects for our Awards. The variety of work, detailing and quality of finish made them stand out in comparison with the competition.”

All the metalwork was finished with a galvanised and antique acid etch finish to offer the benefits of a fully rust-proof and maintenance-free finish, whilst giving the metalwork a beautiful unique rustic look.

The ceremony, which marks the 25th anniversary of the awards, will be attended by the smiths on 7 June at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London. Previous winning projects of the awards will also be celebrated at the event, including the Eden Project in Cornwall and the Imperial War Museum in Manchester.

The award nominations come only a few months after the team were awarded the highly acclaimed Staircase of the Year Award at the Architects’ Journal Architecture Specification Award 2019. The award was given for bespoke staircase project completed for a property in the nature reserve of Sartfell Mountain on the Isle of Man in partnership with Foster Lomas Architects.

West Country Blacksmiths Company Director Kieren Roberts said, “We are very grateful for the recognition we have received already this year. We are privileged to have an incredibly talented team and together we work extremely hard to produce metalwork to the very best standards to suit all projects and design preferences. The support we get from the local community is incredible. By this I don’t just mean in inviting us to undertake work for them, but also by helping to share the work we produce and by recommending us to others; we rely on this support.”

Find out more on the West Country Blacksmiths website.

SIMONSBATH FESTIVAL EVENTS THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT WEEK

Simonsbath Festival continues this weekend and next week with three events:

Friday 24 May, 10am at Brendon Two Gates – a walk arranged by the Exmoor Society – To Badgworthy and Doone Country. Join Archaeologist Rob Wilson-North for a four-mile walk over rough moorland in the footsteps of Lorna Doone author R.D. Blackmore. An exploration of one of Exmoor’s most remote places, see Blackmore’s memorial stone and the remains of a medieval village. Dogs welcome on leads. Free entry but donations to Exmoor Society are welcome.

Saturday 25 May, 7.30pm at St Luke’s Church – A night at the Opera. Opera singers Isobel Hughes and Tom Asher (pictured). Isobel is about to finish her studies at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and is a soprano with a warm-mezzo like quality. Tom is a baritone, a recent alumni of English National Opera who studied at the Royal Northern College of Music. There will be a programme of opera arias. Tickets are £15 reserved seating or £10 unreserved seating, with a light supper available for £5 booked in advance.

Wednesday 29 May, 7.30pm at St Luke’s Church – a talk by Tim Bonner (Chief Executive of the Countryside Alliance) – From Hunting to Post Offices. Tim talks about how the Countryside Alliance continues to be the voice of Rural Britain by actively promoting and defending farming, rural services, small businesses and country sports. Tickets are £10 reserved seating or £5 unreserved seating, with a light supper available for £5 booked in advance.

Information, tickets and food bookings available by phone 01643 831451 or via the festival website at www.simonsbathfestival.org.uk

STEAM PUNK FESTIVAL COMES TO THE REGAL THEATRE, MINEHEAD

Steam Punk is a nationwide organisation, promoting events across the UK which attract crowds of people who arrive in their steampunk gear. As part of the Minehead Early May Steampunk Festival there will be two events at the Regal Theatre on Saturday 4 and Sunday 5 May.

On Saturday the Steampunk Cabaret Show will stage Victor Sierra, a three-piece band from Paris featuring Commander Bob, The Legendary Converted Princess and Big Machine. They have played at steampunk festivals in Europe, the UK, and America and have produced five well-received albums of original music.

Acting as Master of Ceremonies will be Greg Chapman (pictured), magician, comedian, juggler, unicyclist, escapologist and storyteller – one can never tell what he’ll do next!  He will introduce support acts, Doctor Gray and his Orchestra of One, Kiss Like Ether, Ichabod Steam, the beautiful Lux DeLioux and Ichabod Steam performing his new Dark Side Gothic Adventure.

On Sunday at the Steampunk Variety Show, MC Greg Chapman will appear again to introduce The Wattingers who describe themselves as Slaughterhouse Steampunk Blues.  These brilliant musicians present their original songs and videos with a dark sense of humour.  Support acts include Kiss Like Ether, The Retro Clones (one-man act supported by moving images of himself playing other instruments), and the beautiful Lux DeLioux.  (Same lovely Lux, different routine!)

Both performances starts at 7.30pm and tickets cost as follows: Adults £16, Friends £15.50, students/children/ES40s £10. They are available from the Regal Box Office (01643 706430), which is open
10am-3pm Monday-Saturday or online at www.regaltheatre.co.uk.