A look ahead to Ulverston’s Printfest 2017

Rainstorm, Windermere, an etching & aquatint by Jason Hicklin

Rainstorm, Windermere, an etching & aquatint by Jason Hicklin - Credit: Archant

A festival celebrating one of our most popular art forms is staged this month in the South Lakes, writes Mike Glover

Sally Bamber, Printfest chairwoman, Keith Bamber, treasurer, Tina Balmer and Judy Evans with the Lau

Sally Bamber, Printfest chairwoman, Keith Bamber, treasurer, Tina Balmer and Judy Evans with the Laurel & Hardy statue outside Coronation Hall in Ulverston - Credit: Archant

PRINTFEST is back and this year the showcase for some of Britain’s top artists will be bigger and better than ever.

In the last 15 years, Ulverston has become the established home to one of the UK’s foremost printmaking festivals and this month’s Printfest 2017 will have more artists exhibiting, more artworks for sale and more awards for artists than ever.

The weekend event offers visitors the chance to purchase work by the best of Britain’s printmakers – plus a few from overseas – and meet the artists to learn more about this ancient art. The show attracted more than 1,600 visitors in 2015, boosting Ulverston’s economy and raising its profile.

Printfest chairwoman Sally Bamber explained the magic of this form of art. ‘Printmaking is a form of achelmy, a celebration of ink on paper, the joy of looking at the world back-to-front.

Avocet Siesta, a linocut by John Hatton, who is based near Lancaster

Avocet Siesta, a linocut by John Hatton, who is based near Lancaster - Credit: Archant

‘Printing plates are created with cutting and marking, altering the block by erosion on zinc or copper, or bringing elements together to make a collagraph plate, or mixing grease and water on a stone plate, with numerous more methods used to give you an impression.

‘It is a democratic way to spread an image, to make multiples that make it affordable, it’s about each impression being hand-made and unique. It’s about good quality art made available for everyone.’

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With 15 consecutive successful years exhibiting at the town’s Coronation Hall, the Printfest Team took a break in 2016 to take stock and re-evaluate. ‘The appetite and enthusiasm shown by both artists and visitors demonstrated to us the demand to make sure that Printfest 2017 must happen,’ said Sally.

During the break several committee members felt the time had come to leave the group to concentrate on other parts of their lives. ‘We would like to thank all of them for such a great contribution,’ said Sally. The new team behind Printfest includes Judy Evans, one of the Printfest founders alongside Tina Balmer, Valerie Madden and Sally Bamber, with her husband Keith Bamber as treasurer and returning member Janet Benefield, the wife of the original chairman Chris Benefield, who died in 2015.

Printfest now has a high profile patron, Tim Robertson, who has a life-long involvement in the arts, working with, among others, Anthony Gormley and Grayson Perry. Since 2015 he has been director of the Royal Society of Literature. ‘Tim’s contacts, experience and contributions to Printfest will be invaluable,’ said Sally.

Tim said: ‘I feel honoured and excited. Printmaking has always struck me as one of the most fascinating and engaging forms of visual art. I’m so pleased to see printmakers get the showcase they deserve, with a home in the delightful town of Ulverston and a reach wide beyond.’

Printfest has decided to mount its 2017 festival without seeking Arts Council money. ‘We made the decision that Printfest 2017 needs to be as self-funding as possible with support from local businesses and organisations that are like-minded, love the arts and would like to get involved,’ said Sally.

‘When you take something on like this, something already strong with a wonderful reputation, you find yourself wanting to do even better; to increase the number of artists, increase the number of visitors and increase the value of sales at the exhibition. Our first step was to increase the number of awards to artists.’

This year are ten and the most prestigious, Printmaker of the Year 2017, awarded to Jason Hicklin, a member of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers who lectures at City & Guilds Art School in London.

Printfest was founded in 2001 by print-making artists Judy Evans and Ronkey Bullard, with the help of Chris Benefield, who owned The Tinners’ Rabbit in Market Street, Ulverston.

This year’s festival will open with a talk by the Printmaker of the Year and Printmakers’ Printmaker, on Thursday, April 27, starting at 6pm in the Supper Room at Coronation Hall, Ulverston.

Friday, April 28 is a private viewing day, by invitation only but the event is open to the public on Saturday, April 29, from 10-5pm and Sunday, April 30, from 10-4pm. The entry fee is £4.

For more information, visit www.printfest.uk