Beccles Society of Artists is an art society, based in Beccles in north Suffolk, which is dedicated to the furtherance and enjoyment of art. Most, but not all, members are practising artists and a popular annual exhibition is held each year in August. The Society meets monthly at the Waveney Centre in Beccles for talks or demonstrations by professional artists or other experts in art and associated fields. If you are interested in becoming a member of the Society, please sign up here.
Sculpture in the Valley at Potton Hall on the edge of the Blyth Valley was a dramatically different venue to our previous homes at Earsham and Raveningham in the Waveney Valley. The area immediately behind the coastal Sandlings region of East Suffolk is one of sloping landscapes, dense woods, flower meadows, little streams and open heathlands. Potton Hall’s 10 acre site gave access to all aspects of this diversity and the creative installations – sometimes consciously but also perhaps unconsciously – responded to this variety in form and shape. What emerged for me was a feeling of creative generosity from the 40 participating artists, whether in the form of conceptual, abstract or figurative art, all of which were well represented.
Something else that emerged over the period of the exhibition was the involvement of other creative disciplines, something to which we have not given too much thought during earlier Trails. True, Mel Horwood has run dance workshops at previous venues, but the one that she organised at Potton Hall ended up being particularly expressive – even therapeutic – for the smaller number of participants involved. Members of the Suffolk Poetry Society also came together to compose and perform in situ poems written directly in response to the artworks which affected them, with startlingly original and moving results. Finally, and for the first time, we contacted local musicians to come and informally busk near the café in order to create more of an ambiance, especially at weekends. Their contributions were quietly appreciated by customers and passers-by alike, and the musicians themselves enjoyed the opportunity to strut their stuff after such a long period of not being able to play for live audiences.
Another important aspect was the willingness of Waveney & Blyth Arts’ members and friends to give generously of their time and energy to help manage the resulting ‘show’. I calculate that somewhere in the region of 55 volunteers gave more than 500 hours over a period of four weeks and five weekends. And these figures do not take into account the enormous number of paid and unpaid hours spent in preparing for the Trail – meetings, phone calls and emails; contacting artists; booklet design and marketing activity; making technical alterations to the website box office; preparing templates for recording daily actions, bookings and sales; preparing information and safety notices and numbered posts; organising volunteers and researching the constantly changing Covid requirements. It was an enormous effort!
And what do we have to show for it?
Well, most importantly the pleasure of receiving a huge number of positive comments from visitors, all of whom commented on the quality and variety of the art works and the beauty of the setting. This translated into ticket sales to nearly 2,000 visitors as well as one of our best sales of artworks since our Trails began – good for W&BA and good for the artists who sold their work! And also good for John and Priscilla Westgarth (our hosts at Potton Hall) who benefitted from a massive increase in visitor numbers, especially to their Yurt Café, with the result that they experienced a significant increase in footfall and café sales.
However, the exciting news is that John and Priscilla have decided to offer interested artists an extension to the sculpture trail in the form of a ‘Silent Auction’. This is taking place over the next two months ending on 12th September when sales will be confirmed to the highest bidders above the artists’ declared reserve prices. In the event 20 artists showing 35 sculptures/installations are taking part in this arrangement which will include new works in addition to ones already previewed during Sculpture in the Valley. So, tell your friends and neighbours about this extension and encourage them to discover the delights of Potton Hall and experience the continuing ‘afterlife’ of all our creative efforts!
Site Manager for the Trail
Richard lives in Suffolk.
Drawing and works in pencil, ink and pastel.
Also mixed media.
Half way through the year now, the summer solstice has passed and the on-off summer lurches on. The days will begin to shorten. Swifts are screaming through the garden as they prepare to leave us. Every year, they fly up at the eaves of the house and perch briefly on the gutters. I assume they are checking out nest sites for next year and will probably be first time breeders at three or four years old. Swifts seem to define our summers but then one morning I realise they haven’t been heard for a few days. They were still here this week but as July moves on so will the swifts.
July’s other great winged visitors are the dragonflies and damselflies. I made a lockdown pond and, although small and still settling into itself, it has been blessed by four different species. The first to arrive was a male Broad Bodied Chaser – known for quickly colonising new ponds. It is very territorial and sits on nearby perches to keep an eye open for rivals, every few minutes doing a quick tour and back to its sunny spot. After a week a female arrived, brown to his blue, and was soon laying eggs into the water. Chasers lay what are known as Exophytic eggs, round eggs that are deposited directly into the water and lie just below the surface.
The next visitor was the Common Blue Damselfly. Tiny little darts of blue hovering around the pond – there were five males on several days. One female arrived and, protected by her successful suitor, laid her eggs. Damselflies lay Endophytic eggs, oval shaped eggs laid directly into plant stems or rotting wood.
Now I have a new pond already expectant with three species of these amazing creatures. Eggs usually hatch within a few weeks but it will be 2-3 years before the life cycle completes and the larvae emerge to become the dragonflies that grace our summer. Just before dawn on a warm July day the nymphs will emerge from the pond and around12 hours later the adults take to the wing. With fossil dragonflies being found from over 300 million years ago this is a story that keeps unfolding.
Damselflies are smaller and at rest close their wings whereas the larger dragonflies rest with their wings open. Damselflies have more of a fluttering flight, seeming delicate and more fluid in character. The more robust dragonfly can be an aggressive predator and its stiff wings can be heard as it comes up to inspect you or rushes down a green lane looking for insects. Masters of aerobatics they can move each wing independently allowing them to hover, fly backwards and turn sharply. They can also fly at speeds of up to 30mph.
There are 57 species recorded in the UK but only a dozen are more commonly seen. They are rich in imagery and name. Darters, chasers and hawkers describe the main groups of dragonflies and their colours are jewels: emerald, azure, sapphire and ruby. Imagine the rippled reflections of sunlight on water and you will see the glory of these winged insects as they sparkle across a wetland.
I have a fancy for a dual life
so I can taste the water
and the air. I’d like to try
being ugly, overlooked
and where I can hang out
with fish and frogs and feel
caress of ripples, share
the bubbled oxygen that
diving beetles bring,
and the sun clear through
a skin of water. But then –
oh joy – to creep up some
tall stem of reed, clasp to it
under summer sun, to shed
the damp and blackened me
and there, plant slung,
unfold a mirror to the sky,
pump up my wings,
shiver out of water
– and to fly.
When you visit Halesworth make sure you visit the Museum, housed in the Victorian Railway Station.
For more than twenty years volunteers have been collecting and researching the history and archaeology of this fascinating corner of Suffolk.
Spend some time with the displays which will take you across 10,000 years, from the earliest settlers in the Blyth Valley to the busy hub of malting, brewing and agriculture which was the town in Victorian times.
Clare Curtis and Sara Painter 2 – 29 July at Craftco in Southwold.
Meet the Makers Saturday 3 July at 12 – 4pm
40 High St, Southwold, Suffolk
We asked visitors to Sculpture in the Valley to let us know their favourite artwork and this year it went to James Barrett-Nobbs for his wonderful Butterfly.
Here are the other winners in their categories.
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD FIRST PLACE – £250
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD SECOND PLACE – £175
CINDY LEE WRIGHT
For TREE OF LIFE
PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARD THIRD PLACE – £125
For A SIEGE OF HERONS
CURATOR’S AWARD – £250
For PHASE ONE
CURATOR’S AWARD – HIGHLY COMMENDED
For BEST INTENTIONS
CURATOR’S AWARD – HIGHLY COMMENDED
I am a writer, textile artist/bookbinder with a keen interest in fables, folktales, myths, and exploring ancient places.
I’m an enthusiastic walker also, and my writing is inspired by the many journeys I’ve made; from visiting mysterious places and ancient churches to observations within the woods, of wildlife, and of walking in nature.
My textile/bookbinding work is an extension of this. I mostly work in silk, with each piece being hand-dyed, painted and embellished.
On a cool June afternoon, seven poets gathered at Potton Hall to visit the Waveney & Blyth Sculpture Trail and trace its path of artistry and inspiration.
“Be inspired!” was the exhortation from Suffolk Poetry Society, of which they were all keen members. And indeed they were inspired!
Some had visited the outdoor exhibition previously and some had visited the website photographs to gain their inspiration. The poems, some of which you can read here, responding to the sculptures and installations, all demonstrate the magnificent individuality, the creative quirkiness of the human mind, its intuitive sensitivity and its sense of humour. The poems also demonstrate a poet’s love of language and how art in whatever form it manifests connects the heart of the viewer and listener to the heart of the creator and his motivation, to his thoughts, materials and, in this site-sensitive exhibition, to the location of the piece or installation.
Another Use Of Chicken Wire
After The Bitterest Pill by Nick Ball
The plastic bottles are empty, the tins are without
their food contents and the beer cans have been drained.
Soon they will be welcomed at the re-cycling centre.
And that is how it should be.
But in the real world that nice garden over there,
that beauty spot by the river or that playground
provide spaces for the chuck-it, ditch-it, drop-it brigade.
After all it’s not on their patch, not in their backyard.
The environment isn’t their problem; it is someone else’s.
They’re not responsible for the greenhouse gases,
the threat to the ozone layer, the climatic changes
or the export of litter to third world countries.
So where does this leave us, the ones that care. How do we
get the message across? Tell them to Keep Britain Tidy,
Take Litter Home or Bin It. More fines? More sanctions?
Or maybe Nick Ball has shown us the way?
That chicken wire is shaped like a cod liver oil capsule.
Perhaps we could all take a responsibility tablet once a day-
after breakfast maybe. So, come on GlaxoSmithKline.
Come clean, go green.
After Litter by Dide Siemmond
I’ve just thrown away a finished pack.
I hope the pills have done their job,
those cocoons of potent drugs,
small sarcophagi nestled in foil.
I press them out, swallow in one gulp
with a glass of cold water from the tap.
Sometimes they refuse to leave my mouth
or get stuck half-way down my throat.
I have to schedule the day to take them
at the right time, one hour before a meal
or two hours after, evenly spaced between
morning and night. No sign of side effects.
I take for granted their power, fling away
the empty shell without serious thought.
After Cynosure by Mark Goldsworthy
Her smooth rounds,
her voluptuous curves
relaxed with a sigh into the marble.
This marble has waited for eons
to express the sigh of a woman
who has waited for eons
to relax into marble.
And time still passes by
without stopping to comment
or to make its mark.
No further mark to make.
Find out more about Suffolk Poetry Society here.