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Arts & Entertainment - Reviews

Rabley Summer Exhibition: seventeen artists showing talents nurtured at the Rabley Drawing Centre

Amanda Ralfe: 'Wiltshire landscape'Amanda Ralfe: 'Wiltshire landscape'Rabley Drawing Centre is renowned for high quality exhibitions throughout the year, but I wonder how many people are aware of the thriving workshop sessions which are going on in the surrounding studios.

This year's summer exhibition of fine art prints features 17 artists, some like Arran Miles, Penny Furbisher and Suzy Miles have been working with Rabley since the early days in 2004, while others are new or occasional participants. It is an excellent show where every piece is visually strong and all are showing great skill and technique.

If you are not familiar with the variety of printmaking techniques this is an excellent show to visit.  You won't find any explanations, but look at the work where it is clear to see the diversity of the discipline.

Compare the etched and inked lines of Beetroot by Serena Nickson to the block colour in the relief prints of Penny Furbisher or the delicacy of the chine colle used by Alison Grant against the bravado of a Jean Stibbon monotype. These verbal descriptions don't do justice to the contrasts which every artist in this exhibition is able to show within each piece of work.

Two of the artists have been selected for this year's Royal Academy summer exhibition. Amy Jane Blackwell is an accomplished printmaker who works as a technician to some of the UK's top artists. At Rabley she shows two small pictures, curious and compelling to look at and much more than they might at first appear.

Suzy Miles' 'Burning Bush' captures the vibrant colour of the willow tree in her garden, seeming so ridiculously flamboyant, you know she has been looking at and absorbing its reality.

Susie Whimster: 'Song of the Rain, Series 1'Susie Whimster: 'Song of the Rain, Series 1'The detailed work of Amanda Cornish uses photopolymer gravure where photography and printing collide - in this case to create a stark close up of natural forms like dark recently discovered black and white stills from a lost folio.

Two monoprints by Susie Whimster are light and full of air and atmosphere. These beguiling pieces appear to drop off the gallery wall in their weightless quality.

Rabley Drawing Centre is much more than just a gallery where you visit to stare at the wall.  Director Meryl Ainslie has created a friendly community where anyone can go and work with her excellent collection of tutors - however inexperienced an artist you might be.

The beauty of this exhibition is that it shows in the right atmosphere high quality work can be achieved. It is on for a short time but I recommend you go and look, marvel at the work and even buy something.

The exhibition is open from Thursday, June 30 to Sunday, July 3 from 110.00am to

Rabley Drawing Centre, Rabley Barn, Mildenhall, Marlborough, SN8 2LW (01672 511999.)  Further details on the Centre's website.

And there are more examples of the works in the Exhibition here.


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MantonFest rocks as fans defy elements and surfeit of food, beer and wine, and enjoy a great day out

“What shall we play now?” The question posed by John Steel, drummer with the Animals and Friends and the surviving member from the band’s inception in 1957, as they came back on to the stage at MantonFest for the encore.

Of course, it was the one number that they hadn’t played, the number that fans had been shouting out for the previous hour and a half:  ‘The House of The Rising Sun’, The Animals greatest worldwide hit from 1964.  Maybe ‘We've Gotta Get Out of This Place’ as encore would have been more appropriate, but the rocking crowd who had stayed and survived the showers, excesses offered by the Ramsbury Breweries beer tent and numerous excellent food outlets (“I need another Hog Roast” exclaimed Pete at about ten o’clock. “I’ve only had three so far, I’m not hungry, but I need another…..”) were in no mood to let the band go without that number, and they weren’t disappointed.

The Animals and Friends closed MantonFest 2016, a great line-up mixing big names - Dr Feelgood’s set was electric, sparking the crowd’s energy level of excitement with their mix of ‘Down by The Jetty’, ‘Roxette’, ’She Does It Right’ and other hard-driving classics - to the many excellent local bands on the bill such as Straight Six, regulars for several years and now playing their swansong performance, Barrelhouse, The Banned (even topping their last year’s stunning debut performance), The Clive Collective, Empty Gestures, Ukey D’Ukes, Smiley’s People, Skedaddle and The Harry Miller Band - a great new act who kicked off proceedings at the other end of the day.

A laid-back and relaxing mix of a music festival with a stream of accomplished sets and a family day out, with whole families from babes in arms to great grandparents setting up their own picnics wth gazebos, chairs etc all in a field that acted as a natural auditorium with everyone, everywhere being able to see and hear what was going on.  Swindon PA Hire provided the sounds and lights, and unusually for a local festival the quality of the sound system meant that everyone could enjoy all the performances.

“A great day” exclaimed Roger Grant, chairman of the organising Committee, “All the profits will go to ‘The Brighter Futures’ radiotherapy appeal at the GWH, not sure yet how much as we haven’t had a chance to count it all but it’s a good amount”.  And he promised to let us know how much when he had.

And next year? “The only promise we can make is that it will be at least as good as this year” said Roger, adding that “it’s a wonderful way to create a great fun day out for the while family whilst raising money for a fantastic charity”

Top that - not even The Animals and Friends, Dr Feelgood or any of MantonFest’s 2016 line-up could come close!

Click on pics to enlarge....

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Orchestra celebrates first decade in style

Marlborough Concert OrchestraMarlborough Concert OrchestraMarlborough Concert Orchestra celebrated its 10th anniversary on Saturday with a packed concert at St Mary’s Church.

The audience were treated to a wide range of music from the orchestra’s repertoire, including Rossini’s Overture from Il signor Bruschino, Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 in D Major, Tchaikovsky’s Marche Slave, Delibes’ Le roi s’amuse 6 airs de danse, Tahiti Trot (Tea for Two) by Shostakovich, and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Overture on Three Russian Themes Op 28.

During the interval, concertgoers were treated to Russian cocktails and William Tell cake on the lawn, while the performers gathered for their annual photocall.

The orchestra’s next major concert is on Saturday, December 3 at St Mary’s Church with a programme including Brahms’ Double Concerto in A minor, Op. 102 with Irene Enzlin and Mathieu van Bellen, along with Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Haydn, Rachmaninov’s Vocalise for Orchestra, and Weber’s Invitation to the Dance.

For more information, log on to

Mayor Noel Barrett Morton and other guests enjoy a garden partyMayor Noel Barrett Morton and other guests enjoy a garden party


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Review: St Katharine's School Art Week

Milo at the 'Shedstallation', which was decorated with the names of pupilsMilo at the 'Shedstallation', which was decorated with the names of pupilsMilo (9) reports from Art Week at St Katharine’s School

All this week I have just been doing my favourite subject, art, at St Katharine's primary school.

First I made a prayer flag. The Nepalese use elements of the earth on the cloth, and people hang them up high in the Himalayas. My element was fire.

We started on a draft sheet then went on to the real thing. I made a bright multi-coloured sun. We next spray painted our names on the school shed. I asked if mine could be right at the top, and I spray painted the 'M' in my name.

Shortly after, I went back in the class and everyone was drawing a dragonfly. We drew the dragonfly step-by-step in our sketch books. When I was almost finished Mrs Arnold, our teacher, told us to stop.

I was really proud with my dragonfly. We started a frog but shortly after the first stage I had to go to singing lessons; when I returned everyone had nearly finished.

On Tuesday, Penny's mum (Penny is a classmate) came in and showed us a colourwheel and how to draw fruit with a good background colour. Afterwards we made our clay tiles inspired by pictures of a pond, taken by Mrs Arnold.

On Wednesday we drew two other step-by-step sketches. The first was a bird - I think - a black bird. The second, a king fisher - I was very proud with both of them.

On Thursday I could paint watercolours on our kingfisher, dragonfly or frog; I nearly finished my dragonfly. We also weaved sticks with wool. I made a frame but most of the time I had to help everyone on my table. Luckily I finished but I was exhausted!

On Friday we drafted a Greek pot. We were meant to charcoal it on orange sugar paper, but I never got to that bit. Then we looked around our school pop-up art gallery with all the children's work created in St. Katharine's that week.

So all in all, a very busy week.

I've probably forgotten a lot of art I enjoyed. Just goes to show how busy I've been.

Origami fishOrigami fishPlaster cast leavesPlaster cast leavesPond life sculpturesPond life sculptures

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REVIEW: The school at Lockeridge - from icy cold winters to the arrival of the first BBC computer

A Village Education - The History of the School at Lockeridge by Ruth Lamdin (2015)


The building looks much the same as it did in the 1870s - though it has been expanded and, of course, modernised.  But what goes on inside Lockeridge School and the lives of its pupils has changed dramatically.

This is Ruth Lamdin's second history of a local school.  Her first told the story of the now defunct East Kennett school.  This book travels two miles from East Kennett to follow Lockeridge's village school as it developed over 120 years - up to the point the two schools were joined in a federation.

One of the advantages of the coming of universal education is that it allows us to take a close look at social history at a truly local level.  The history of earlier schools in the Parish of Overton cum Fyfield is now largely lost.

Ruth Lamdin, who lives locally, records: "In 1858, thirty infants were taught by an old woman in a cottage kitchen in Overton."  Twenty years later and the state was involving itself in their education.

She has mined the school log books kept so carefully by the head teachers at the school in Lockeridge and now held by the Wiltshire and Swindon Archives in Chippenham.  They record the arrival of a supply of "Pens, Ink, Paper, Pencils, Chalk and Penholders" in 1883 to this entry in 1983: "Today I collected the school's BBC computer from County Hall."

The Forster Education Act of 1870 made it possible for children aged from five to thirteen to be taught in 'elementary' schools - compulsory schooling to the age of ten became law in 1880.

From the decision to build a school in the village to its opening took just over four years.  That certainly beats the long and tortuous gestation period for Marlborough's new primary school!

In 1870, the impetus to start the school came from the government's decision to make a grant of £208 towards the £1,008 tender price for the building.  Another impetus was the Agricultural Children Act (1873) which ruled that children between eight and ten could only work on the land if they had received a set number of hours schooling.

Despite this law, there was in the school's early years friction between the need to educate and local farmers' need to employ young, cheap and agile labour.

The curriculum, Mrs Lamdin makes clear, originally concentrated on the Three-Rs with a strong element of religious instruction.  The introduction of a wider range of subjects - from carpentry to embroidery - was both gradual and erratic.

However from one entry in in the archived reports it looks as though one of the roles for PE - or 'drill' - was to keep the pupils warm in winter:  "January 1891 - Weather is so bitter that children are grouped in the middle of the room and do drill between every lesson to keep warm."

The first heating at the school - a Tortoise Slow Combustion Stove - was installed in 1899.  It is good too to be reminded that rural Lockeridge only got electricity in 1947 and mains water in the 1960s.  School meals began in 1943 - when family life was badly affected by husbands' absence in the services and wives were working in the fields.

A photo from the book: the playground in the 1940s - when hoops were made of woodA photo from the book: the playground in the 1940s - when hoops were made of woodRuth Lamdin takes the history in easy to follow themed sections.  So under 'Health' we learn of early efforts to improve the health and wellbeing of pupils through interventions at school - from dentistry, to measuring their weight to, in 1941, the start of a programme of immunisation against diptheria.

One of the most interesting aspects of this story is the role of women on the school's staff. The first head teacher, Miss Elizabeth Axton (from Salisbury Training College and on £50 a year) began with 43 children and was assisted by a 'monitor' - Eva Wallis. But eighteen months after the opening with pupil numbers rising, Miss Axton wrote "...the Managers consider it desirable to have a Master."

There was no other female head of the school until Mrs Goode appeared in 1940 - when men were in short supply.  When she retired in 1948 the Managers again wanted a headmaster.  But from 1881 to 1983 all but two of the assistant teachers were female.

Ruth Lamdin wonders why men were preferred.  At East Kennett most head teachers up to the last quarter of the twentieth century were women: "However, judging by the annual reports at Lockeridge, the men do not seem to have had noticeably more success than the women in raising standards."

The author gives life to the smiling - often grinning - faces that look out at us from the group photos - official and unofficial - that illustrate her book. It is a book that tells us an important part of the history of the local area.

Both books can be bought from the author: 

the Lockeridge history is £6 and the East Kennett history is £5 - or £10 for both - plus postage and packing.  

She can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 01672 861550.

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Review: Ashley Fripp brings brilliance - and some devilry - to his St Peter's Church recital

Ashley FrippAshley FrippThe penultimate recital of the Fourth Series of ‘Brilliant Young Musicians in Saint Peter’s Church’ saw a welcome return visit by Ashley Fripp. He first played in Saint Peter’s church in September 2012 - in the first series of these recitals.  

Ashley studied at the Purcell School and has recently graduated with distinction from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where he was awarded the Premium Prix and the Lord Mayor’s Prize.  He has played in most of the great concert halls in Europe as well as the Carnegie Hall in New York, and, as a ‘rising star’, he has received many awards, as well as winning third prize in the Leeds International Piano Competition.

A very enthusiastic and appreciative audience was proud to welcome him back to Saint Peter’s.

His recital opened with JS Bach’s Second English Suite in A Minor.  The suites of dances are known as ‘English’ possibly because they were commissioned by an English patron, but that is not certain. English dances, they certainly are not.  

An amazingly precocious prelude introduces the dances which begin with a stately and courtly allemande, courante, and a sarabande before finishing with three much more bucolic peasant dances, two bourees (a dance from the Auvergne) and a gigue, which possibly did originate in Britain.

Ashley’s mastery of the Bach counterpoint was magnificent while in the first of the bourees he highlighted the hints of a bagpipe and then captured the whirling energy of the gigue.

Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit was in complete contrast. These three dark and mysterious works were inspired by poems written in the 1820’s by Aloysius Bertrand. ‘Gaspard’ is a sinister figure, the name being derived from the Persian  meaning  ‘ treasurer’, or ‘keeper’ of dark things. May be Gaspard is the Devil himself. They are ‘Gothick’ tales very much in the style of Mary Shelley.

Ondine is the beautiful water sprite who leads the captivated to the dark and cold waters of the lake. The seductress is portrayed in shimmering chords and rippling arpeggios.  Le Gibet, the most macabre of the three poems, portrays a gallows silhouetted against a flaming sunset, the cadaver helplessly  swinging in the evening breeze. The mournful tolling bell from the city nearby, a single monotonously repeated B flat, helps create the ghastly image described in the poem.  

The third piece, Scarbo, describes the night-time mischief of a goblin, who appears, then disappears, scratches the wall, leapfrogs round the room before finally disappearing. Perhaps it is the malignant Scarbo who is the Devil himself.    

Ravel brilliantly portrays the macabre horror of these three pieces. Not only were they brilliantly played, but Ashley read each of the poems before playing the appropriate piece. What a difference that made to the audience’s understanding of the work.      

The second half of the concert was given over to works by Franz Liszt. Ashley began with Les jeux d’eau a la Villa d’Este.  On his visit to Italy Liszt had seen the glittering fountains in the garden of the Villa d’Este at Tivoli, and this work dramatically evokes both the sound and sight of these fountains.  Technically very challenging, Ashley’s mastery of the glittering arpeggios and shimmering chords captured the light reflecting off the cascading water on a summer’s day.

This was followed by the Sonata in B Minor. Completed in 1853 it remains a tour de force for any pianist.  Although it is written in sonata form, the movements do relate one to the other, so it seems to be one continuous movement.  It is full of darkness and light...good and evil.

The work begins with a foreboding descending scale, and the movement is punctuated  by a repeating phrase which sounds like a satirical laugh, perhaps the Devil himself. All the darkness is dispelled in a glorious theme, like an expansive burst of sunshine which Ashley played with sheer joy.

The second movement has a gentle and reflective chorale-like theme of blissful eloquence played with such lyrical delicacy. The final movement, an allegro, begins with a furious fugue based on the laughter theme, to which all the previous themes return in a virtuosic and manic recapitulation which had Ashley bouncing up and down on his stool.

Finally the work dissolves into a gentle benediction, the diabolical laughter theme growling away, subdued by the forces of good. What a conclusion:  the descending scale fading to a single staccato note, and then silence.  

The playing was superb, showing not only a technical mastery of Liszt’s demanding work, but also a mature understanding of the conflicting themes of darkness and light. It was indeed some of the finest playing we have heard in this church. Ashley amazed us all with his formidable memory and his seemingly effortless technique.  Please come again.

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Ruby Squares: Marlborough area embroiderers' mark their 40th anniversary with an exhibition

[Click on image to enlarge it][Click on image to enlarge it]Centre stage - literally - at the Marlborough and District Branch of the Embroiderers' Guild exhibition at the Kennet Valley Hall in Lockeridge, are the embroidered squares members were asked to make to mark the branch's fortieth birthday.  

Preparing for the Ruby Birthday last autumn, Chairman Yvonne Miles challenged members to create ten inch squares using ruby red with a splash of another colour.  The results are stunning as a mass exhibit - and intriguing as you look more carefully at the individual squares.

In some ways this extensive exhibition charts embroidery's progression from complex stitching towards what they now call 'textile art' - using many different techniques and materials. Although this still uses many basic embroidery methods and stitches - it can provide a freer and more liberating creative inspiration.

Indeed there is some talk of trying to persuade the central Embroiderers' Guild organisation to change its name to reflect this wider use of new and different techniques and the growing appeal of 'textile art'.

On permanent display in the Kennet Valley Hall is the Guild's 'Upper Kennet Valley Embroidery' - the Hall is where the branch holds its monthly meetings.   For this exhibition another major work has been loaned by the Friends of Savernake Hospital.  In 1981 Marlborough area embroiderers created a striking display depicting great and influential women - details pictured below.  

Coco ChanelCoco Chanel Barbara HepworthBarbara Hepworth Amy Johnson Amy Johnson

The hanging was created by a group of ladies under the guidance of a tutor, Kay Norris, who taught at Chippenham College.  But further than that little is known about the hanging - and branch members are keen to find out more.  If anyone has any information about the origins of this hanging they are asked to contact the Branch.

Thirty-five years later the choice of women and the techniques used give us a fascinating glance back in time.  It certainly begs the question who would the members choose for a repeat performance next year and what would a new display look like?

Detail of Nichola Vesey Williams' 'New York, New York'Detail of Nichola Vesey Williams' 'New York, New York'The branch has a Young Embroiderers Group with members between six and eighteen years. 

Their 'Tree of Hands' in the exhibition [detail at left] is really eye-catching and shows a strongly imaginative use of materials.

One wonders how 'embroidery' and 'textile art' will have developed by the time the branch celebrates its fiftieth anniversary.

The exhibition is open today (Sunday, April 24) and on Monday till 4.30pm.  Full details here.

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