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The Leigh Art Trail Celebrates Its 20th Anniversary
The annual Leigh Art Trail has become an important part of the town’s cultural calendar. Now in its 20th year, the 2017 event is being held from Saturday 10th – 17th June, and will showcase the talents of over 70 selected artists and designer-makers in around 55 venues in this little corner of Essex. In what has now become typical art-trail tradition, in the region of 15,000 visitors will be able to view the work free of charge in the makers’ studios, local galleries, shops and restaurants.
Just 40 miles from London, Leigh-on-Sea has evolved into a unique mixture of independent shops, restaurants, wine bars, galleries and working studios. The town has enjoyed a long relationship with the arts; its tidal mud flats and views of the Thames Estuary have inspired generations of painters. Today Leigh-on-Sea is home and inspiration to a growing number of artists from John Wonnacott (who was commissioned to paint a portrait of the Royal Family in 2000) to Paul Karslake, brother of Jo Wood (whose work hangs in both contemporary London galleries and restaurants).
The Leigh Art Trail offers a unique opportunity to walk around the town and sample the amazing creativity and diversity of work including painting, sculpture, ceramics, textiles, photography, printmaking and jewellery produced by artists living and working in Leigh and the surrounding areas. Visitors are able to meet and talk to the artists and watch demonstrations at selected venues. It also provides a boost to the local economy, with the shops, restaurants, wine bars and pubs in the vicinity benefiting from the thousands of people coming into the town for this unique event.
Local fine art photographer, Bronwyn Oldham, is the trail’s Chairperson. After participating successfully in previous years, she wanted to devote some time and energy to a cause that’s dear to both her fellow artists and the local community. “Leigh has long been home to a large artistic community. It was set up in 1997 by local artists, Richard Baxter, Peter Eden, Terry Sellers and Mark Bradford, and the aim was to put artists in touch with each other and present their work in and to the community”, she explained. “It made a massive impact, as they hadn’t realised the wealth of talent and creativity on their own doorstep.”
“This group has really helped shape the character of the town. There are now around 30 artistic businesses in Leigh, compared to only a couple twenty years ago. In fact, Leigh has more creative businesses than St. Ives in Cornwall, which is possibly why Leigh is known as the St Ives of the East. Many artists now boast that they have exhibited at the Leigh Art Trail, which acts as a springboard to showing their work elsewhere across the country.”
“One of the most inspiring aspects of the trail is that it is organic, and it brings together many like-minded people. It gives new artists a platform to exhibit and promote new and original art, encourages the exchange of ideas and dialogue between artists, as well as increasing networking in the community. Whilst the majority of the artists will be familiar to patrons of the trail, many new artists will be exhibiting for the first time. Having established strong links with the local community it will also feature work from the Project 49, Open Arts and local schools.”
The trail is a not for profit, volunteer run, community engagement organisation. When an artist sells work as a result of the trail they pay a commission back to the trail to help fund the event for the following year. It is also funded by an artist membership fee of £60 per year, with a bursary from Leigh Town Council. For the first time in 2017 we will also be holding a silent art auction to help raise funds – each artist has kindly donated a piece of work which will be auctioned off to the highest bid with all money raised going back into the trail to support its continuation.” she said.
“The Art Trail gets stronger and more exciting every year”, Bronwyn continued. “It's fantastic to see the town buzzing with people and it brings in visitors from all over the country helping to place Leigh well and truly on the map.”
“The trail has encouraged so many more artists into the Leigh area and it has really stamped its mark within the arts industry. It also allows artists to get involved with community projects and education. Some artists take up residence in local schools - where they encourage students in areas of art such as sculpture, pottery, photography and digital art.”
“It's all about making art accessible to everyone, after all everyone has a talent - they just need to tap into it. If you can find your talent in art, you may well be able to make a living from it - and what better way to make a living than to be doing something you love?” she concluded.
This year sees the return of Sculpture Street, a community project where for one weekend only (June 10-11th), an ordinary quiet, residential street in the town, will be transformed into a street of inspiration. www.sculpturestreet.co.uk will be showcasing artists work in the resident’s gardens, creating a magical spectacle of. The event is free to visit, all the work is for sale and provides art lovers an opportunity to buy pieces at affordable prices.
There will be plenty of opportunity for community participation during this year’s landmark anniversary. Local schools will be making artworks to be exhibited, and there will be a launch event as well as many other activities including guided walks, performances and artist led workshops.
For full details of this year’s Art Trail, which runs from June 10th to 17th, be sure to check their website at www.leigharttrail.com, where you can also find details about how to apply for next year’s trail.
Ends. Leigh Art Trail 1997 - 2017 Celebrating 20 years of Creativity www.leigharttrail.com
Notes to Editors:
For further information email Ian James, Publicity Co-ordinator email@example.com or07768871875
The press launch for this year’s event will be held in the town on Thursday 8th June at 7.30pm. If you wish to attend please contact Bronwyn Oldham at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07968 054207