The charming waterside village of Wivenhoe has, for many years, hosted a well-regarded art trail. This twice-yearly event in May and November is run on a not-for-profit basis, with everyone from established artists to emerging new talents taking part; the only stipulation is that the artist lives in Wivenhoe.

Wivenhoe has long held a creative reputation since the ‘50s. Francis Bacon, Dickie Chopping and Dennis Worth-Miller, stalwarts of the notorious Wivenhoe Art Club set a strong foundation. This, along with the introduction of the progressive University of Essex in the late 60’s, impacted artistically and academically, making Wivenhoe a richly diverse hub along with its port and shipyard heritage. Together with its beautiful riverside location and marshland habitat you can see how this small town became a creative gem on the Essex, Suffolk border.

What stared off as a group of six makers in the sleepy fishing village of Wivenhoe has rapidly grown into an eagerly awaited event of approximately 30 artists and makers showing in more than 20 studios and venues. All are sited within a square mile of quaint streets of fisherman’s cottages, making it a delightful celebration of creativity and an opportunity to see artists in their working studios.

Great British Life: Jane Watson (painter and collage artist) and Maureen Hume, ceramics. Credit: Noah CarterJane Watson (painter and collage artist) and Maureen Hume, ceramics. Credit: Noah Carter

Makers range from textiles to ceramics, jewellers to collage, bookart, to photography, painting to sculpture. The quality of work is outstanding. At least four participating artists have been included in the RA Summer exhibition and one represented on Grayson Perry’s Art Club. Many sell their works all over the UK and internationally.

For a small town with just a handful of shops, it still manages to boast three art galleries and with the University of Essex just a mile up the road there is an air of vibrancy to what could, at first glance be viewed as a sleepy riverside town. Each year we are astonished and delighted with the local support that we enjoyed and our reputation has now developed to include a much wider audience, with many making a weekend of it to ensure they see absolutely everything that Wivenhoe has to offer.

Keen to encourage the next generation of artists, each year we try to improve and enhance the trail experience. Each May Trail, we encourage the next generation of creatives in the town by getting the two local primary schools to join in on the trail. Pupils produce beautiful, laminated art works which were hung on the railings and amongst the trees of the local churchyard, St Mary’s.

So, what do we do between shows? Most of our makers are not just making for the next event. Many participants teach or have national and international shows and exhibitions. But there’s nothing quite like flinging our studio doors open in our home town and sharing our practice with our community and beyond.

Running an art trail needs a multifaceted approach and our talented band of six founder members play to their strengths. From promoting, organising, poster design and much more, we appear to have found our strengths and play to them.

Great British Life: Alison Stockmarr is a collage artist and her work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy in one of their summer exhibitions. Credit: Noah CarterAlison Stockmarr is a collage artist and her work has been exhibited at the Royal Academy in one of their summer exhibitions. Credit: Noah Carter

It’s by no means plain sailing, but in our deliciously, dishevelled, creative way we appear to pull it off each time, continuing to go from strength to strength. Many traveling from far and wide for what is always a uniquely creative event.

This May we commissioned Wivenhoe based, professional videographer Noah Cater to document out trail, well worth a look at this whistle stop tour to give a true flavour of what to expect.

As for the future, we continually try to improve the trail each year and this year is no exception! With the environment in mind, we have partnered up with the Network Rail Partnership, incentivising visitors to attend by train.

Wivenhoe Station is perfectly positioned in the centre of our town. Arriving by train minimises congestion and offers the opportunity to visit the numerous watering holes along the way, with the opportunity to explore our many pubs and eateries. A warm Wivenhoe welcome awaits… you won’t be disappointed.