On the trail of art in Hadleigh


EXG OCT 13 ART - Credit: Archant

Hadleigh, near Southend, has an enviable artistic history with the town’s castle having been famously captured in oils by John Constable in 1829, as well as many other reputable artists since. Today, those traditions continue as the town boasts a thriving arts community, which this month plays host to the Hadleigh Art Trail, drawing the final curtain on the 2013 Essex Summer of Art.

Now celebrating its third year, the Hadleigh Art Trail was originally created by the Essex Legacy team around the Olympic and Paralympic Mountain Biking event held in the town in 2012. The trail, which will see the work of 50 artists displayed in 30 venues around the town, includes both amateur and professional work from painters and photographers, sculptors and ceramists, even filmmakers and poets, and is now in the hands of local artists to continue the legacy. Sue Willis is co-ordinating the event, supported by her fellow artists based in the Old Fire Station, which, with its focus on community, is in itself a fitting legacy of last year’s Olympics.

To enable the town to host an Olympic event, a £1m rejuvenation of the town’s Old Fire Station was completed. It was first used as an Olympic visitor centre and is now an artist’s studio. Sue describes The Old Fire Station as the hub of the art trail, as it will once again take centre stage by offering a number of the free art workshops, demonstrations, taster sessions and artist talks taking place over the ten days the trail is open. Meanwhile, the appliance hall will host an All Trail Exhibition, open daily throughout the trail event, which will give visitors the opportunity to view a piece of work by every participating artist but in one location.

While all of the artists have a relatively short distance to travel, with around three-quarters of those participating from the Castle Point area, for Sue, this demonstration of the talent from the region is very important.

One of the artists participating in this year’s trail is Epping-born Barry Andrews, who is now based in Hadleigh. Barry’s paintings are primarily works in oil and depict representational themes and metaphors of change along the banks of the industrial River Thames.

Alongside this, Ian James, who likes to capture the essence of Old Leigh, has been a freelance photographer for 35 years and has spent the last 20 years combining his freelance work with fine art photography of east coast seascapes and landscapes. Ian and his wife Josephine, a fellow artist, will both be exhibiting during the trail from their home art studio located in Hadleigh.

Madelaine Murphy, however, brings something different to the exhibition. A sculptor with a history in teaching ceramics, Madelaine has worked in raku for more than 15 years and likes to explore the glaze surfaces through a range of sculptural and figurative work.

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Sue concludes: ‘The whole event very much has a community feel. The amount of interest and support locally has been tremendous. We’ve received an abundance of support, especially from local businesses. This event really brings the community together to celebrate art.’