Category Archives: Arts and Culture

‘A BALM FOR THE SOUL’: TWO MOORS FESTIVAL BRINGS LIVE CLASSICAL MUSIC TO WIVELISCOMBE

Exmoor Weekend: 2-4 October – St Andrew’s Church, Wiveliscombe (and Dartmoor Weekend: 26-27 September – St Pancras’ Church, Widecombe-in-the-Moor)

The region’s unique Two Moors Festival will return this autumn, with world-class classical music concerts held in line with current government guidelines.  It will be the first time many of the internationally recognised artists involved have returned to the stage since lockdown.

The classical music events will take place with limited, socially distanced audiences across two weekends: 26-27 September on Dartmoor and 2-4 October on Exmoor, in beautiful church venues in Widecombe and Wiveliscombe.  All concerts will be one hour in length with no interval.

The artists involved have thoughtfully created programmes that are joyful, uplifting and a balm for the soul after lockdown.

Tamsin Waley-Cohen, Artistic Director of The Two Moors Festival, said: “I am delighted to be unveiling our programme for the 2020 Festival, my first as Artistic Director.  I was one of the Young Musician Competition winners in the very first Festival 20 years ago and have had the pleasure of returning often since then, seeing it grow and flourish.  This year, we will of course have all relevant measures in place to make it safe and enjoyable for all, in line with government guidance. The Two Moors Festival was born out of the foot and mouth crisis and, on our 20th Anniversary, as we find ourselves weathering another crisis, we offer a festival of celebration, bringing the shared, joyful experience of live music back to the Moors, and lifting people’s spirits.”

Over the past two decades, the Two Moors Festival has evolved into one of the most distinctive classical music festivals in the world.

Included in the Festival’s lineup of musical talent this year are performances from brilliant and insightful rising star pianist, Elisabeth Brauss (pictured); jazz star and a BBC New Generation Artist, Misha Mullov-Abbado; and internationally renowned tenor, Nicky Spence, with the great lieder pianist, Chris Glynn.

Ticket booking is now open.

For information on  ticket sales and event safety, please visit www.twomoorsfestival.co.uk

THE REGAL THEATRE RECEIVES THE QUEEN’S AWARD FOR VOLUNTARY SERVICE

The Regal Theatre’s volunteers have been honoured by being awarded the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK and equivalent to the MBE.

At the Regal Theatre more than 200 volunteers provide all the drive and skills not only to sustain a 90-year old building with 400-seat auditorium as fit for modern purpose, but to run every aspect of its busy calendar of richly varied events.  The theatre is entirely run by volunteers who work a total of 70,000 hours a year – equating to around £200,000 – in pursuit of their ethos ‘For the Community, By the Community’.  Their work enables the Regal to present 150 events to audiences totalling some 25,000 a year, in a varied programme which including theatre, ballet, opera, concerts, films and live screenings.

Volunteers manage, maintain and run the Regal building to meet rigorous security and health and safety standards and operate the advanced technology of a new GDPR compliant ticketing system on the box office.  They administer the Friends of the Regal scheme, with more than 1,500 members, and the Regal Film Society, which is one of the largest film societies in the country with nearly 600 members. They also produce and distribute regular publicity material and newsletters.

Volunteers operate complex light and sound equipment for stage productions and a digital cinema package of the type installed in commercial cinemas for film performances and live screenings and design and build complex stage sets.  On performance nights they provide a highly-trained theatre manager, a front-of-house team and run a full bar.

“The Regal Theatre volunteers are immensely proud to receive the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service,” says Regal Theatre chair Victoria Thomas.  “This really is a great honour and comes at a time when it is most needed.  Under the lockdown the theatre has now been shut for nearly three months and, although we have been doing a lot of work behind the scenes, it will be an immense challenge to find our way back to operating at the level at which we left off.  We will need all the goodwill and support of this special community to help us get back on our feet and the Queen’s Award will undoubtedly give us a terrific boost.”

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Recipients are announced each year on 2 June, the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation.

In other Regal news, work to improve the fabric and safety of the Theatre has continued apace despite the lockdown in preparation for reopening.

The long-term project to replace the theatre roof has continued throughout closure and the complex scaffolding structure was completed on 22 May.  Work began the following week to remove the existing roofing material and the installation of new roofing material is scheduled to begin on 8 June.

Inside the Regal decoration and maintenance has continued, and the theatre has been awarded a grant of nearly £20,000 to develop the basement area into much-needed additional dressing rooms.

Regal volunteers are looking forward to welcoming audiences back to the Regal when it is safe to do so, and the theatre’s successful re-launch depends hugely on the support of the community.  In the meantime, local residents can support the Regal by joining the mailing list either by telephoning 01643 831343, emailing mail@regaltheatre.co.uk or visiting the website at www.regaltheatre.co.uk.

INAUGURAL EXHIBITION AT MUSEUM OF BARNSTAPLE AND NORTH DEVON’S NEW WING

The Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon has opened the inaugural exhibition of its new wing.

The exhibition, named ‘Imitation of Nature’ is being held in the main gallery and showcases the paintings of F.R. Lee, the most successful artist to ever come from Barnstaple. Born in 1798, he graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts, later becoming elected member in 1838. He is a contemporary of John Constable and collaborated with Sir Edwin Landseer and Thomas Sydney Cooper.

Musuem curator, Alison Mills, says: “The new wing has been installed with the latest technology to atmospherically control the gallery at exactly the right temperature, humidity, lighting, etc. This new system means we are now able to have objects on loan from other galleries for the first time, which is very exciting for us.

“For this exhibition we have worked hard to bring together over 30 of Lee’s paintings both from private lenders and museums including Tate Gallery, Victoria & Albert Museum, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Royal Academy of Arts, Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum, South West Heritage Trust, The Amelia at the Amelia Scott and North Devon Athenaeum, alongside our own collection.”

There are two events planned in conjunction with the exhibition:

  • 5 December, 5.30-6.30pm: “F.R. Lee: His Place in History” – a free talk given by Professor Sam Smiles and Professor Peter Howard
  • 21 November, 10am-3pm: Landscape drawing workshop for adults led by artist James Young, costing £15 (materials included)

Spaces for both the talk and workshop are limited, so please contact the museum on 01271 346747 to book your place.

The exhibition runs until 18 January 2020.

Top: ‘View from the River’.

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.