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Arts & Entertainment

Eighty artists show their work ahead of summer Trail

Ollie Freeman with Angry OakOllie Freeman with Angry OakThe work of around 80 artists who will be taking part in this year’s Marlborough Open Studios trail has gone on display at Marlborough College’s Mount House Gallery.

Visitors to the free exhibition will be able to enjoy works by a range of locally-, nationally- and internationally-renowned artists, in media ranging from oils and watercolours to pottery, ceramics, photography, and calligraphy.

Open Studios chairman Lisi Ashbridge said: “Fifteen artists are either new to the scheme, or are returning after a break, so even for art-lovers who visit every year there’s something new to see.”

Among the fresh talent is Bryony Cox, who was awarded this year’s Marlborough Open Studios bursary. Bryony, who graduated from Falmouth University in drawing in 2014, will be sharing Studio 25 with sculptor Lisi and landscape artist Meriel Balston at Meriel’s studio in Alton Barnes.

Mary Wilkinson with her Devon seascapesMary Wilkinson with her Devon seascapesRecently, she travelled throughout Asia to document and draw people and their environment. Her work at the exhibition in inspired by the continent.

Also new to the trail is land- and seascape artist Mary Wilkinson. A fine art graduate who has been painting professionally since 1989, her oil paintings are inspired by the landscapes of Devon.

She will be exhibiting with painter Rebecca Spicer and maker of hand-made books Julie Smith at Rebecca’s studio in Mildenhall.

Commanding an eye-catching spot above a fireplace at the preview exhibition is a painting by Ollie Freeman. Angry Oak - a painting inspired by a tree he passes on a daily basis near his Etchilhampton studio – is a smaller example of his work: his pieces usually measure six feet across.

Preview exhibition curator Michael Angove and Open Studios chairman Lisi AshbridgePreview exhibition curator Michael Angove and Open Studios chairman Lisi AshbridgeThe former architect is inspired by solid shapes. As an associate artist, his studios are not generally open as part of the trail, but by appointment – details can be found in the art trail brochure.

The preview exhibition will be open to the public between 10am and 5pm from tomorrow (Friday, April 21) to Friday, April 28. 

The Open Studios trail returns for four weekend runs on July 1 to 2, 8 to 9, 15 to 16, and 22 to 23.

For full details visit


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Work of 80 artists goes on show ahead of Open Studios summer trail

MoS Preview Show 2017MoS Preview Show 2017The work of 80 Marlborough area artists will go on show at the Mount House Gallery next month ahead of the famous Open Studios trail in July.

The Preview Show - now an annual event in its own right - gives art-lovers the chance to see works by a range of locally-, nationally- and internationally-renowned artists, in media ranging from oils and watercolours to pottery, ceramics, photography, and calligraphy.

The exhibition will be open to the public between 10am and 5pm from Friday, April 21 to Friday, April 28.

The Open Studios trail returns for four weekend runs on July 1 to 2, 8 to 9, 15 to 16, and 22 to 23.

For full details visit


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Young actors make a splash at drama festival

The cast of Pond LifeThe cast of Pond LifeA group of young actors from Pewsey have made a real splash at a drama festival – topping three out of five award categories, and winning every prize for which they were eligible.

At the Woolstore Theatre’s One Act Play Festival in Codford on Friday, Pewsey Vale Amateur Dramatic Society saw off four rivals to come home with the Adjudicator's Award for outstanding teamwork, drama, and technical achievement.

There was also a plaudit for writer and director Nettie Baskcomb Brown, who won Best Original Script, and a trophy for Milo Davison, named Best Young Actor at the festival.

Pond Life - inspired by a real-life pond created by Nettie – tells the story of some water plants, who are joined in their new home by creatures including snails, dragonflies, and bees.

When naughty Newton the newt brings a swarm of water boatmen – including the destructive and carnivorous backswimmers – the occupants call on trigger-happy Frog to save the day.

While on the surface Pond Life is a play about the environment, and the balance of delicate eco systems, but there’s an analogical undercurrent about refugees and immigration – why people leave their homes to live somewhere else, and how host societies adapt to integrate new people and ideas.

The 40-minute play was written specially for a cast of 10 to 13 year olds. Nettie Baskcomb Brown told the audience of a preview show at Pewsey’s Bouverie Hall last week that many plays written for young people are ‘issues-based’ and unsuitable for younger actors and audiences.

The next public airing of Pond Life will be at 70th Harold Jolliffe One Act Play Festival at The Memorial Hall, Royal Wootton Bassett on Saturday.

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From cuneiform to graffiti – Swindon Festival of Literature has all writing bases covered

Matt HollandMatt HollandAs Swindon Festival of Literature inches towards its quarter century, different methods of written communication – from the oldest to the very recent – will be celebrated this year.

Unveiling the 2017 programme at Swindon Library today (Thursday, March 16) festival director Matt Holland mused on how the way we use writing to communicate our thoughts is changing.

“In a digital world where the currency of topical commentary can be successfully and powerfully compressed into 140 characters – definitely a great method of instant communication – the book is still doing remarkably well,” he said.

“People still love books: the artefact, with its cover and pages and special feel, not just because of the durable technology by which the book is produced, but because of the slow, careful, and undemonstrative attention to clarity, detail, and depth of thought that you really only find in a book.”

Looking back to the earliest form of writing, developed more than 5,200 years ago, Matt announced that Irving Finkel, cuneiform tablet director at the British Museum, would be coming to Swindon to talk about the first written words, etched into pieces of clay by the ancient Mesopotamians.

And a contemporary form of written communication - graffiti art - will be explored as part of a Hip Hop themed evening at The Tuppenny: a new host venue for the festival. Graffiti writer and cultural historian (and who’d have thought yesterday’s ‘vandals’ would be today’s ‘cultural historians’) will be discussing the Four Elements of Hip Hop: graffiti, DJing, MCing, and breakdancing.

Those Four Elements could almost be the (First) Four Elements of Swindon Festival of Literature: writing, talking, music and dance. The festival might be primarily about books, but it’s always a platform for other art forms, as demonstrated by some wonderful storytelling by dancer and musician Bafana Matea who - like hip hop - came to to Swindon via New York, with African roots.

Dancers from The Wilkes AcademyDancers from The Wilkes AcademyPerforming for the festival launch audience, Bafana, with Michael Fergie and dancers from The Wilkes Academy, brought to life the story of three Aboriginal girls and their experiences as members of the ‘stolen generation’, where children were forcibly removed from their families in early 20th century Australia, a story immortalised by Doris Pilkington in her 1996 novel Rabbit Proof Fence.

The festival, of course, has a Fifth Element: thinking. Matt asserts that one of the festival’s ‘hidden agendas’ is the exchange of ideas. And there’s plenty in the programme to provoke deep thinking: Marcus du Sautoy, author of What We Cannot Know, wonders whether it is possible that one day we will know everything, while Brian Clegg, author of The Reality Frame, asks whether science is taking us closer to the essence of being human.

Thirty years after he was captured and held hostage in Lebanon, Terry Waite will seek to shed light on the human condition in a discussion about his latest work, Out of the Silence, while comedian Francesca Martinez, who has cerebral palsy, asks simply: What the *** is Normal?

Politics always plays an important part in the festival, and with Labour currently lurching to the left, the Conservatives veering to the right, and all of us living in Brexit Britain, Mr Centre Ground, David Owen, will discuss Cabinet’s Finest Hour, and explore how close Britain came to seeking a negotiated peace with Nazi Germany.

For some light relief, there’s cookery with Milly’s Real Food writer Nicola ‘Milly’ Millbank, poetry at the Swindon Slam, a 5k Freedom Run around Lydiard Park, and the Children and Families Day on Sunday, May 7 with spoon puppet making, Hilda’s Happy Hut, and child-friendly talks by authors Jack Cooke (The Tree Climber’s Guide) and Rina Mae Acosta (The Happiest Kids in the World).

The festival starts at 5.30am on Monday, May 1 with the Dawn Chorus - singing, storytelling, juggling and music set against a backdrop of the rising sun over Lawn Woods – and ends as it began today, with music from poet-musicians Tongue Fu, and female barbershop singers Barberelle, poetry from Vanessa Kisuule, and stories told by Rachel Rose Reid, at the Festival Finale on Saturday, May 13.

In all, there are 50 events designed to entertain, inspire, and engage the brain over 13 days. For a full programme, log on to


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Marlborough movie lovers getting chance to watch film under the stars

The Lost CinemaThe Lost CinemaMovie lovers are to be given the chance to enjoy open air cinema in the grounds of Marlborough College.

Followers on the The Lost Cinema Facebook page are currently being polled to decide which film should be screened. Front-runners include The Breakfast Club, Bridget Jones’ Baby, Labyrinth, Dirty Dancing, and Top Gun.

The event will take place on Saturday, July 15 from 9.30pm.

Other events are taking place at Westonbirt School near Tetbury, St Michael’s Park in Cirencester, and Stanton House Hotel near Chippenham.

For more information, visit


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Theatre-lovers invited to dip into Pond Life

Young actors from Pewsey will be performing a one-act play at the Bouverie Hall on Wednesday, March 22 before taking it on a short tour.

Written and directed by Nettie Brown of Pewsey Vale Amateur Dramatic Society, Pond Life is performed by PVADS’ multi award winning Youth Theatre.

The play is set in a newly planted pond, with all the young actors playing amphibians and insects. Life is good - but the delicately balanced ecosystem is threatened by an influx of new creatures.

Will the Newpond residents fight to retain their quiet way of life, or is there another way to deal with the crisis?

Pond Life will be performed on Wednesday, March 22 at 7.30pm. Entry is free, with donations to support the Youth Theatre welcomed.

Pondlife will be showing at Woolstore Theatre, Codford on March 24, and at the One Act Play Festival in Wootton Bassett on April 1.

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Away with the fairies – woodland trail is coming to Pewsey

Pewsey Fairy TrailPewsey Fairy TrailFairy folk are heading to Pewsey, and visitors will be able to visit their tiny houses during the village’s first Fairy Trail.

Trees along the woodland walk called The Scotchel will be adorned with tiny doors and windows made by local children.

The trail will also feature a wishing well, art by local artists, and magical messages from the fairies.

The trail will be open to visitors between 11am and 3.30pm on Sunday, April 23. Attendance is free.

For more information, log on to


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