Twice a year, the artists of idyllic Wivenhoe open their galleries for a weekend of culture and talent.
Starting on the 25th of November, around thirty-five artists gathered across twenty venues to display their work in the most colourful get-together of the year.
While the town’s history focuses on ship building and fishing, thanks to its position on the banks of the River Colne, Wivenhoe has since become home to dozens of artists. The quaint town is framed by the sparkling river and lush green countryside, along with wet mud banks and marshes; the perfect backdrop for many-a-painting.
Lorraine George, owner of the Sentinel Gallery in Wivenhoe, shared her enthusiasm about the event.
“Wivenhoe loves a get-together!” she said, laughing. “I think artists by definition often work in isolation, so it’s hard to expose what you’re doing to people. So if we all join together, we can attract more visitors.”
Lorraine has owned her gallery for 18 months and moved from Colchester to Wivenhoe. She described herself as “the artist who can never decide what she wants to do,” referring to the wonderful variety of media she uses in her work, from acrylic to embroidery.
Expressing her excitement at being able to meet other artists in the village, Lorraine named Sarah Waters, an artist who works with porcelain and bright spots of colour.
Lorraine said, “I’ve made a friend of somebody who does something completely different to me but has similar values. I think one of the things Covid made me stand back and think about is that my life had become so much smaller, like everybody’s overnight. But actually, I thought, who did I miss talking to? Who did I want to see first when we came out the other side?
“I identified that I wanted to live somewhere I had people around me that were interested in the same things I am,” she said. “So, what I love about being here is conversations– random conversations, where people come in and say, ‘How do you do that?’ and I can waffle on!”
The November day saw golden afternoon sun light up the town, with many of the artists along the trail just as bright about the event. Wivenhoe has other attractions, of course: Henley’s award winning, world record-holding fish and chips; the Rose and Crown pub; and the charming assortment of cafes and shops along the main street. But there is nothing so attractive as the town and its surroundings themselves, especially to the artists, who flock to the jewel of the river like magpies.
Lorraine said of Wivenhoe: “It’s like being on holiday, but I live here.”
Many of the artists reside in Suffolk for part of the year, painting ‘en plein air’ outside. They all return for the Art Trail more than eager to open their studios to the public.
Lorraine and her husband run their gallery in aid of the Rob George Foundation, a charity they set up together after the death of their son. They founded it nine years ago to support young people with life threatening or terminal illness.
“This gallery is quite nice, because there’s nobody trying to earn a living out of it or make a profit,” Lorraine explained. “Any money that comes in goes to the young people that need a bit of help.”
The community of Wivenhoe thrives almost as much as the landscape around it. Alongside the Art Trail, children gathered at the riverwalk to watch Santa as he sailed past in a boat with his elves. One artist had a bottle of mulled wine in her studio ready to offer her guests.
It seems Wivenhoe is the definition of a harmonious relationship between people, art, and nature.
Find out when the Art Trail is on here.