Saturday, December 9, 2023

Q & A: With The Belper Arts Trail

This year’s Belper Arts Trail returns on Sunday 30th April and Bank Holiday Monday 1st May.

Nestled in 55 locations around the town, visitors will be able to discover over a 140 artists showcasing a diverse mix of fine art, printmaking, photography, glass, ceramics, textiles and jewellery.

With over 3000 visitors to last year’s event, organisers Kelly Nixon and Suzanne Parnell have had to work hard to build upon their success. Nailed sat down with them to ask what makes this year’s Trail special and the challenges they have faced along the way.

Tell us about this year’s festival, what’s new and what’s changed from last year?

This is the biggest Trail so far – we have 144 artists overall and 55 venues with lots of new artists and 10 exciting new venues. We are really pleased that more and more people are coming onboard – we could easily have had over 150 artists but we would need even more venues for that to happen – so watch this space for next year!

We are also very pleased to be working collaboratively with Creartii and Fleet Arts. Creartii is a new art space which will be opening on Green Lane and is the brainchild of Rachael Wayne. And we have already started working with Fleet Art’s new director, Jane Hardstaff, and are very excited about promoting their relaunch.

Captain Dan and the Children’s Trail will be slightly different this year and performances will be based in Ritz Bingo – we are trying to save the shops from overload!

Music is also a bit different this year as we are working with Graham Marriott of Derby Arts and Loz Shaw from Fleet Arts. There is a focus on emerging artists and the main stage will again be in The Memorial Gardens.

We do have more happening in the streets this year with singers, performers, poetry and a special welcome to Derby Djembe Drummers.

What’s been your biggest challenge as organiser?

As it gets bigger each year there are a number of challenges, but the main one is the increasing number of artists. Do remember that we started off 4 years ago with just 70 artists and we have now more than doubled that.

Just dealing with the volume of people has become the biggest challenge in administering, answering queries and putting together our website where each artist has their own page. Each artist can have 5-6 images which means dealing with over 700 images and making them fit for purpose. We also put the trail guide together and this year we have had to stretch it to 32 pages to cope with the amount of content.

We will definitely have to look at things differently next year to alleviate the pressure.

Since you started organising the Arts Trail, what has been your most memorable experience?

We have quite a few of these but these are our favourites:

Kelly: Seeing Captain Dan last year as a kind of pied piper leading over 70 people out of The Memorial Gardens and off in search of buried treasure – and not everyone was a small person!! Also the fact that so many kids had dressed for the part and even brought Captain Dan gifts was fantastic.

Also, just seeing people come along in ever increasing numbers is amazing – each year we have doubled footfall and last year that was in spite of horrible wet and cold weather.  People turning up in droves in dripping kagools! Makes you realise what you have created.

And the icing on the cake and Suzanne’s most memorable: At the close of the Trail we came home, dumped everything and called a taxi to go to the pub!!

The taxi driver asked us about our day – so we told him! As we stopped to get out he just said “what you do is fantastic and brilliant for Belper…have this one on me!” Wow.

Which artists work are you personally excited about this year?

We are both looking forward to seeing Colin Halliday in De Bradelei. Colin came 2 years ago, but not last year. We have found him a fantastic space this time which we are really excited to use.

And then we have one each:

Kelly: I am really looking forward to Barry Bulsara –  his quirky Star Wars and geeky Sherlock screen prints are right up my street.

Suzanne: I have my eye on Why Not Wood. This is really wood turning with a difference. I won’t explain – you will just have to see it for yourself, they are absolutely stunning.

The Trail venues will be open from 10.30am till 4.30pm as artists and makers exhibit in shops, cafes, community halls, churches, houses and public spaces.

You can pick up your Trail Guide to help plan your visit from venues around Belper at a cost of £3 and they will be available from mid-April.

For more information see their site here.

One thought on “Q & A: With The Belper Arts Trail

  • Jan Sheppard

    A good read
    Well done once again for organising another Belper Arts Trail

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