Stogursey Arts Trust was formed in November 2017 to represent and support the Arts within the local community, forming a hub for exhibitions, performances and events in around the beautiful village of Stogursey, which lies between the Quantock Hills and the West Somerset coast.
Our purpose, constituent groups and partners
The organisation provides a catalyst for the development of new community and social interest groups to use the Arts as a focus for regeneration.
The groups of volunteers are not all artists, but through their engagement with the Arts, we are observing other partnerships/friendships developing. For example there is a Book Group, a Film Club, a Stogursey Band, the church bell ringers and to support the generation of new work from the visual art community, we have developed The Arts Group Stogursey (TAGS). This drawing group meets regularly for practical creative activities.
We have established a network of links to other Arts organisations, such as Bridgwater Arts Centre, Somerset Film, The Lynda Cotton Gallery, the Engine Room (Bridgwater), Contains Art, Theatre Melange as well as upwards of 130 artists and performers. These links have opened up the local artists’ horizons and enabled us to run a series of ‘educational’ entertaining platform talks.
Fundraising coffee mornings have become more creative, with themed events such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and the Vintage Tea and Coffee Events, which have a popular retro theme attracting a lot of voluntary ‘creative bakers’ to contribute.
How we do things
This is a voluntary organisation, which engages local community and interested supporters. There are no salaried staff. Money raised by the organisation is reinvested to procure capital equipment, which is intended to support exhibiting artists and performers, both during the planning cycle and in mounting the annual visual and performing arts festival. Some of this equipment is strategically utilised through out the year by the wider arts community; providing activities and opportunities for additional fund raising events, enabling our sustainability going forward.
Our business plan as such, is reviewed on an annual basis being outcome focused on the need to respond to the changing needs of artists, craft/makers and performers, which are variable given the planning cycle culminating in the Stogursey Arts Festival.
In its very basic terms, our business plan aims to raise money for the project’s sustainability, publicity and publicity materials, signage and guides, printing of tickets, admin, travel and postal expenses.
We raise money through the following:
• Fundraising events
• Festival ticket sales
In seeking out and encouraging the engagement of artists and performers from within the community, this strategy shows benefits; establishing pride and a sharing of the artistic talents within the community and indirectly strengthening the village’s identity within the Arts.
The focus on the annual planning cycle, with regular arts focused events and information published through out the year, including the ‘viral effect’ of a strong social media site, enables us to raise the profile of Stogursey as a music and visual arts destination venue for the benefit of both local residents and visitors to the village of Stogursey.
Responding to the community
In the first instance we would describe ourselves as a listening organisation, which welcomes creative ideas and contributions towards our objectives. These ideas and contributions are sent to us directly, having been gathered from our monthly ‘ask’ for ideas in the local Stogursey News (paper). They are discussed at committee meetings with open-minded criteria, but with a view to ensuring covering costs and having some element of creativity and link with the Arts. For example a local pop up catering firm approached us to put on an Italian themed dinner. One of our criteria, is to consider where we can help support small/emerging local businesses and we turned the event into an Italian Renaissance Banquet, with contextual games in between each course.
The School approached us with an idea for the children to dress the St Andrews Well annually. This has subsequently developed into a thought-provoking project for the children who produce an installation piece with support from their teachers. Similarly the local flower-arranging group contribute with a small grant from the Trust to buy better quality and more exotic blooms to test out their creativity and exhibit this at the Festival. The outcome has been, that this group have now incorporated their Flower Show successfully within the Arts Festival.
We keep a record of public feedback from the audiences who attend our events, all of which say how much they enjoy and appreciate the work of the Trust in what it displays, performs and produces through the Arts Festival and its work throughout the year.
Quality, selection/invitation and curatorial practice
Our musical director is responsible for the selection of the musicians/performers and has over 40 years experience of performing and plays a number of instruments.
Performers are selected based on a programme, which has breadth and variety, but for beginners we run workshops such as the ukulele workshop.
Many of our contributing artists come with their own peer esteem. For example in 2017 the opening event hosted a platform talk and performance from the award- winning composer Steven Faux, combining visual arts and music. He has won numerous awards for pieces such as Reindeer Girls
David Attenborough’s Life of Birds (BBC1), which was nominated for an Ivor Novello Award for ‘Best TV Music’. Drain the and ‘Best Television’ at the International Wildlife Film Festival (2008) and
Vivian Ellis Prize
He has been a
In 2018 the Trust began a collaborative partnership with Music on the Quantocks to bring world-class musical concerts to the village, taking advantage of the amazing acoustics in St Andrew’s church.
We have a sub group of our Festival Committee, which is responsible for curating and hanging exhibitions. This team are made up practicing artists with additional contextual expertise in their fields. One is a former Dean of the University of the Arts London and who has exhibited at Tate Britain, another is retired senior lecturer in Fine Arts from Kingston University and the third is a Primary School Head Teacher. They form a non-selective panel, but carefully curate the exhibits in order for the works of both professionals and amateurs to be seen together, maintaining an inclusive, democratic approach, which supports excellence across backgrounds and ages.
The effect of this approach provides encouragement to aspiring artists and new ways of looking for the professionals (much in the traditions of influence and critical discourse, such as that of Alfred Wallis’s contribution on modernism in the Seven & Five Societyʼs exhibition of 1929, hung alongside Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood).
Personal benefit to individual Artists/Performers
The philosophy behind the Arts Trust and the development of the Arts community has grown out of the wide-ranging, expertise, interest and collective belief of its members. This has resulted in forming a strategy for the programming of events and activities, which has a strong educational ethos. We believe that it is important not to just put on a ‘show’, but to get the audiences, performers and artists to move forward through learning through the experience of engaging with the Arts.
With this in mind we deliberately exhibit more challenging work each year, regularly considering changes to what we have designed, to be an informative programme of events and activities, with aspirations beyond what a traditional village audience may expect. This approach is quite deliberate/strategic and we believe that our management of this has not only benefitted the artists and performers, but has created a more positively, engaging community with the Arts. We do not believe this engagement to be incidental. Equally we have had offers from local artists to build installations in the church having begun a tradition of this type of work, moving forward from craft and watercolour exhibits, which we now curate in a more sympathetic, intimate venue.
: winner of ‘Best Use of Music’
Commissioned by National Geographic,
: was a finalist in the Panda Award at Wildscreen (2010).
finalist twice in the prestigious whose judges include Don Black, Time Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber.
In 2017 we initiated the Light Up Stogursey project where households around the village and parish join in to make some form of domestic lighting display in their front windows, forming a lighting trail through the village during the Arts Festival week.
Many of our local School children had never visited an Art exhibition so we now run a regular introduction to the work displayed, which supports learning and understanding of art in context. We are currently working with Studio Hans Schwarz at the Lynda Cotton Gallery to establish an annual bursary for students intending to go onto study Art and Design in Further and Higher Education.
The Arts Group Stogursey (TAGS) has seen both amateurs and beginners trying out new techniques and approaches within their work and there is evidence that they are clearly learning through the mentoring approach that this group offers. It is hoped that the new Book Group and the Film Club will take on this underlying ‘lifelong learning’ ethos/approach and we will see further critical discourse developing through the respective focus of these groups.
Selection of artists/performers for support
As we maintain a non-selective approach and wish to celebrate the talents of all our artists and performers, we offer strategic support on a case-by-case basis, (all-be-it within the limits of our budget) to encourage and enable them to engage in contributing to the Arts community and the Festival. This support has ranged from helping with travel expenses to providing the materials for artists to run workshops for wider audiences where appropriate.
The Arts Group Stogursey (TAGS) is an inclusive group. If an individual artist needs support, they are welcome to join in and the members share their knowledge and expertise based on the needs of the individual. The Music workshops are enabled through donations and again are open to a range of abilities.
Promoting Individual Artists/performers
In past years we have had several posthumous retrospectives promoting the work of individual artists, in some instances working with a local gallery who represents their archive of work. We also see the exhibitions as an opportunity for individual submitting artists to promote their work. For example: we have used the Festival in the past, as an opportunity for individuals to ‘signpost’ their Open Studios in conjunction with the Somerset Art Works (SAW organisation) .
We have regular updates on ‘what’s on’ in the Stogursey News, a local newspaper, which is also on line. We offer artists space to promote events they are running on our Stoguresy Arts Facebook site and in addition to social media we have promoted artists/performers and the Festival through articles and interviews on BBC Radio Somerset, Lamp magazine, Evolver magazine and Somerset Life.