Alde Valley Spring Festival returns to celebrate the Suffolk landscape
- Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown
It may be a little late this year but after the trials of lockdown artist and festival curator Jason Gathorne-Hardy is just happy that the Alde Valley Spring Festival can receive any visitors at all.
The festival, which is based in Great Glemham, has always been very much about artists and the landscape, and the way that we, as people, interact with our environment. Last year, the eclectic art and traditional crafts exhibition had to go online and take a more remote approach to our sense of place in the world.
Jason admits that the events of the last 18 months has prompted a complete re-evaluation about the way that they do things. “We have had to turn the whole thing inside out in order to keep the festival distinctive sense of self while also keeping people safe.”
The result is a festival that still has its roots in the Suffolk landscape and loves to celebration traditional rural crafts but also has one foot in the virtual world of the 21st century.
The exhibitions are still hung and displayed in the barns and farm buildings of Jason’s White House Farm but it is also viewable online via the newly created web gallery called Galloper-Sands which will promote the exhibitions and the art work to a new digital audience.
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“From May 15, people can come and visit the Festival in person but we are having to limit numbers and make sure people have allocated times. So we are not going to be able to accommodate everyone who would like to come or that we would love to welcome.
“So this led to some head scratching and we came up with the idea for Galloper-Sands, a digital gallery that could not only manage the bookings but also showcase the artworks to a wider audience.”
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He said that during lockdown he realised that the Alde Valley Spring Festival was more than celebrating the arts – although that was an important element – it was about providing a welcome to people who were coming to experience something memorable in a unique setting, anchored by the Suffolk landscape.
The digital gallery hosts both contemporary collections by living artists as well as providing a home for historic collections – particularly the work of Suffolk artist Harry Becker. All works are sourced from the Loftus Family Collection which received much of Harry Becker's estate.
Becker grew up in Colchester and was celebrated in his lifetime for his etchings and lithographs, which feature in many museum and gallery collections around Europe. He was less well known at the time for his field sketches and drawings - and his paintings.
He died in Wenhaston in 1928 having spent his final years watching the people at work on the land and sketching the changing seasons. Select items from the Loftus Collection are sold via Galloper-Sands gallery along with items from the contemporary collections.
Jason added that looking back at Suffolk’s artistic heritage over the past 100 years, he was struck by the fact that the majority of Suffolk’s major artists were women. “There’s quite a strong matriarchy there which would be good to explore in the next couple of years – and this female dominance continues today with Maggi (Hambling), Mary Newcomb, Mary Potter, Margaret Green and then we have the younger generation – people like Ania Hobson and Jelly Green, so it’s fascinating. It feels a very potent thing.”
He said that the Festival is creating a series of residency programme and approaching and engaging with artists to create new work which responds to and engages with the landscape and then once the work is complete the Festival would commission a writer to respond to the work, so it functions “almost like a musical duet.”
“We wanted to push things so as people pushed and delved into the work, the more it revealed, if that makes sense?”
Among the artists whose work is being shown this year are: Sarah Butters (Across the Plough); Perienne Christian (Tales from a Transitory Land); Melanie Comber (The Walks Land Residency); Emma Green (The Cherry Ingram Blossom Residency); Jennifer Hall (The Woodland Residency), Becky Munting (The Rebirding Residency); Tessa Newcomb (Everything You Need) and Jason Gathorne-Hardy will be exhibiting On A Turning Wing, a collection of seabird drawings captured at Slaughden.
There will also be an extensive collection of handmade traditional Suffolk furniture for sale.
“It’s a festival that celebrates the true nature of Suffolk. People aren’t standing up and shouting about the world they are there, behind the hedge, just getting on with things and that’s what the Alde Valley Spring Festival is all about.”
Catalogues of the current collections are available through the Galloper-Sands website. Visitors can book private viewings of the Galloper-Sands Collections through the website. Each booking allows a group of 1-6 guests a free viewing of more than 70 works of art and crafts for one hour.
After the viewing guests are invited to stay for a picnic or explore some of the public footpaths and private nature walks at the farm.
“What I love about Suffolk is that you can turn down a long winding path which looks completely ordinary to discover that someone has been creating something rather wonderful decades. We really do live in a wonderfully creative county.”