Leigh Art Trail returns and it’s a kids' special!

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Our town is about to go art mad as the Leigh Art Trail returns on Saturday June 8 for its 23rd edition, promising more ways than ever for children to take part in a week-long celebration of creativity.

This year the Trail launches the Children’s Art Trail (CAT), while a massive competition for local primary schools sees more than 1,000 entries displayed at Saint Pierre School on Leigh Road.

Families should head to Leigh Library, Two Tree Gallery, 70 The Broadway or Saint Pierre to collect a CAT pack, which highlights some special venues for children to visit and space to answer questions about the amazing art on show there.

Organiser Julie Parker explained: “Kids can visit the venues in any order they like and do the whole lot in one day, or spread it over the week. Then they drop their sheet back to us for the chance to win a prize!

“Look out, too, for the CAT selfie points along the route. Trail artists have donated 12 fun CAT stands to use as props by anyone who fancies sharing photos of themselves enjoying the Trail.”

Children from primary schools across the area have been busy in the build-up to the Art Trail with competition entries on the subject “Landscapes of Leigh”. Their creations have poured in, much to the delight of exhibition curator Jadie Oberholzer. 

The Saint Pierre art teacher said: “It’s shaping up to be a lovely event and a huge celebration of the arts. The response has been superb. We’ve got painting, drawing, collage, 2D mixed media and photography - more than 1,000 pieces!

“We encouraged the children to use their favourite places and activities, historical landmarks, local culture and especially nature as sources of inspiration. The results are wonderful and I’d urge people to come and see for themselves.”

Entries have been received from pupils at Barons Court, North Street, Chalkwell, Friars, Fairways, Blenheim, Darlinghurst, Edwards Hall and Saint Michael’s. 

The giant display at Saint Pierre is open to the public on the weekends at either end of Trail week (June 8-9 and June 15-16, 10am-5pm Saturdays, 11am-3pm Sundays). Free art workshops for children are available at the school during the same hours.

Among other surprises awaiting visitors is the biggest public art installation the town has ever seen in the Library Gardens. The Leigh Art Trail’s Wendy Scotland said: “That’s the work of Andrew Haines, who brought us the incredible Sculpture Street in 2017. 

“I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us in the Library Gardens. He’s not given us much idea what it is, other than it’s big!”

  • The Children’s Art Trail hubs are Leigh Library, Two Tree Gallery, 70 The Broadway and Saint Pierre School. Drop by to collect a CAT pack any time during Trail week (June 8-15).

  • Entries by primary school pupils for the “Landscapes of Leigh” competition are on display at Saint Pierre School and can be viewed on the weekends of June 8-9 and 15-16 (10am-5pm Saturdays, 11am-3pm Sundays).

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Glimpse into a brutal and beautiful world

Nicola was given remarkable access by the family to take her intimate images

Nicola was given remarkable access by the family to take her intimate images

Powerful images telling the story of a family whose life has been turned upside-down by caring for their disabled child are at the heart of a remarkable new project by Leigh artist Nicola Parry. Her photo-documentary will be displayed during the Leigh Art Trail in June.

Nicola’s work offers a glimpse into a world normally hidden from view, as the Wrights look after 13-year-old S, born with severe brain damage, and his two younger brothers. The family invited Nicola into their home to highlight the immense challenges they, and thousands of others like them, face day to day.

“I’ve been in and out to observe and document their life on camera - from washing and eating to socialising and shopping,” explained Nicola.

“It has been humbling to observe parents who have a life they never expected, which involves feeding tubes, pumps, physiotherapy and endless hospital visits. The simplest of everyday activities takes incredible time, organisation and energy.”

Nicola works in special education but says she could never have fully imagined the impact of caring for a child with life-limiting disabilities at home. “I realise I have a responsibility through my work to help affect change,” she said.

And S’s mother Rachel, who campaigns for equality and support for families of disabled children, was happy to be involved in a project which illuminates the issues her family face. 

“From our first encounter with Nicola, I saw her desire to capture the reality of life for families like ours and trust began to form,” she said. “I guess I hoped that we would get a couple of good images we could display at home. What we have gained is so much more.

“I no longer value the perfectly formed family photos, but those images I didn’t notice Nicola taking while life was in full swing. I was surprised by the depth of the story found in each picture.

“Flicking through the images I am captivated by what I see. In so many ways, we are like any other family, yet our reality is painfully different. Nicola gently reveals the juggling act we have come to call normal. Her images give a backdrop to our remarkable and beautiful yet brutally complex life.”

  • Nicola’s photo-documentary project will be displayed at Polar House, 103 Rectory Grove, Leigh-on-Sea, during the Leigh Art Trail. Please find attached images.

  • The 23rd Leigh Art Trail showcases the work of more than 70 artists in local shops, cafes and businesses from June 8-15.

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leigh photographer nicola parry

Art Trail's Alfie is a National photography star!

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The artistic talent of a Leigh teenager has caught the eye of legendary photographer Martin Parr, who has chosen an image by Belfairs Academy pupil Alfie Winters to be exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery.

“Stoned & Plastered” - a shot of a man standing outside an ornament dealers near London’s Columbia Road - was selected from hundreds of entries and now takes its place in Parr’s acclaimed exhibition “Only Human” at the gallery just off Trafalgar Square.

Alfie, whose photographs will also be showcased locally in June during the Leigh Art Trail, said: “I’m beyond speechless. I truly cannot believe that at 15 years old I have my image on display in such an iconic gallery in London. The fact that Martin Parr has even looked at my photos is amazing enough.”

It is easy to see why Parr was drawn to Alfie’s work. Parr’s “Only Human” show at the National Portrait Gallery focuses on wry, affectionate observations of Britishness and British identity. Many of Alfie’s photographs share the humour and quirkiness of Parr’s - a remarkable achievement considering the youngster is still doing his GCSEs. 

“I mostly photograph street scenes,” added Alfie, who has never studied photography at school and is completely self-taught. “I’ve always been obsessed with people-watching, which perhaps is an odd thing for a 15-year-old boy, but that’s me!

“The picture came about on a trip to Brick Lane. It just looked like an interesting scene that needed to be captured, so I quickly got out my phone and shot the photo while walking by. 

“I posted it on Instagram and the National Portrait Gallery sent me an email saying I’d been shortlisted. That was a shock. Then two days later, while I was in class at school, they got in touch again to say my photo was being framed and put on display.”

On top of that achievement, Alfie is about to become the youngest ever artist to exhibit on the Leigh Art Trail, having been selected this year from nearly 100 new applicants.

Mixed-media painter Emma Bell, from gallery 70 The Broadway, said: “Alfie first applied for the Trail when he was 14. We had no idea how old he was, but it was obvious he had a natural eye and he was one of the few photography applicants not presenting images of the estuary.

“There was an inconsistency in the style, which made me think he was young. I invited him to show in my gallery and he really impressed me with his attitude and his body of work. He came to meetings on his own, was always prompt and polite, he asked questions and welcomed advice.

“I’m thrilled his talent has been recognised by Martin Parr and soon visitors to the Leigh Art Trail will be able to see what all the fuss is about, too.” 

Alfie’s photograph that caught the eye of legendary photographer martin parr

Alfie’s photograph that caught the eye of legendary photographer martin parr

There’s a fantastic buzz for 2019

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Excitement is building for the 23rd Leigh Art Trail, which takes over our town from Saturday, June 8, showcasing the beautiful work of more than 60 painters, ceramicists, sculptors and photographers.

A host of surprises await the thousands of visitors who pour into Leigh each year for the popular event, including the launch of a dedicated Children’s Art Trail and the biggest public art installation the town has ever seen in the Library Gardens.

The Leigh Art Trail’s Wendy Scotland said: “There is a fantastic buzz for 2019 as our community’s shops, cafes, churches - and even railway stations - become pop-up galleries for eight days.

“We’re especially looking forward to seeing what Andrew Haines - who brought us the incredible Sculpture Street in 2017 - has in store for us in the Library Gardens. He’s not given us much idea what it is, other than it’s big!”

The Art Trail is an opportunity to explore Leigh and meet the artists, discuss their work and watch demonstrations. Details of which artists are exhibiting and where to find them are revealed in the free Trail Guide, which is already available across Leigh.

Wendy added: “People can discover where their favourite artists are going to be and also see the exciting artists who are new to the Trail this year. We have 11 of those and we can’t wait to introduce them to our visitors.”

The Children’s Art Trail (CAT) is a new venture to get youngsters more involved in the week.

Families should head to Leigh Library, Two Tree Gallery or 70 The Broadway and collect a CAT pack, which highlights some special venues to visit and space to answer questions about the amazing art on show there.

CAT selfie points are dotted along the route for those who fancy sharing photos of themselves enjoying the Trail.

Once again, the Trail features a Secret Auction. Every artist has donated a piece of work and these will be on show and awaiting bids in the venues. The Trail is a not-for-profit organisation and all proceeds go towards keeping alive this highlight of the Leigh cultural calendar.

Wendy said: “It’s a case of pick your favourite piece, fill in a card, post it in the Secret Auction box and if you’re the highest bidder on Saturday, June 15, you’ll be going home with a stunning piece of original work!”

For those who want a more hands-on experience during Art Trail week, a series of events is lined up. There are two contrasting workshops in the Library Gardens - street art with Scotty Brave on Sunday June 9 from 1pm, and watercolour sketching on Friday June 14.

The Leigh Art Trail Guide has details on all the other activities going on throughout what promises to be another wonderful week.

For more information, contact Leigh Art Trail publicity coordinator Joe Scotland at leigharttrail0@gmail.com