Belper Arts Trail started today, and it is a splendid thing to experience. The whole town centre has become an art exhibition.
It has a different feel to it this year, possibly in part because of the slightly colder weather, but there’s nothing negative about it. Although the weather loses us the communal aspect of hanging about in the Memorial Gardens eating, drinking and talking over music, it added a motivation for people to move around the art more. It was difficult to assess how many people there were, because they were all moving.
The organisation is different, opening up more spaces, involving shops which haven’t been involved before, and there seem to be more spaces defined as part of the trail, with their own music stages and refreshment stands. It’s like getting to go to lots of events in one day, although they are all part of the same event.
The brochures are well designed and easy to follow, and if you want to find specific artists, you can do that quite easily.
You can’t see it all in a day, especially if you talk to the artists, which I recommend because you learn wonderful things about what they do and how they came to do it in such conversations. Like with Susan Bedford, a mixed media textile artist, who added another dimension to her already impressive work when she explained the process of photographing locations, painting watercolours of the photos, adding textiles and sewing to the paintings, and then pixelating the paintings by cutting up and reconstructing them. Or like with Stevie Mitchell, who creates simple looking prints with images and words, which when you first look at appear to be simple images with the kind of phrases that are common, until you really pay attention and see the devastatingly moving stories of ageing and dementia illustrated with the everyday parts of life. His art was a slow surprise which moved me. It moved others too, as Stevie told me that he had had people sharing their stories with him all day, clearly just as moved by his creations.
Whether you want the arty art or the craft stalls, there is plenty for all tastes. A plethora of pottery, a glut of jewellery, and a surfeit of greetings cards, are peppered throughout the trail amongst the painting, sculpture, woodwork, and unique crossovers of disciplines.
Some of the things that delighted and inspired us:
This year there are accessible toilets, although many locations are not accessible due to stairs, but many are. There is a full music schedule, and food to suit all needs, including a marvellous Indian Street Food stall in the Memorial Gardens serving very tasty vegan gluten free dosa . Neither of these dietary needs reduce how wonderful this food is, and it is served ethically in carboard trays with wooden forks.
We still have MUCH to see, and are eager to see it. The Arts Trail opens at 10am tomorrow, again running until 4.30pm.
Even Mr. Potato Head is out for it, despite the risk inherent in him being accessible to Belper people.