Festival Theme for 2016: "From this Land"

The theme of the 2016 Spring Festival “From this Land” seeks to highlight the curious and attractive qualities of Suffolk : its capacity to absorb new ideas and new people; and its ability to nurture innovation and creativity within a beautiful landscape setting.

The 2016 Spring Festival Programme celebrates the coming together of the visual arts with food, farming, writing, education, furniture making and other traditional crafts through the following events.

The Festival Exhibition

The Festival Exhibition includes new paintings, drawings and sculptures by more than 30 local, regional and international artists, including : Stuart Anderson, Melanie Comber, Daisy Cook, Marchela Dimitrova,  Laurence Edwards, Alice-Andrea Ewing, Richard Elliott, Meriel Ensom, George Farrow-Hawkins, Tobias Ford, Jason Gathorne-Hardy, Emma Green, Jelly Green, Maggi Hambling, Roger Hardy, Mercury Hare, Craig Hudson, Nienke Jongsma, Tory Lawrence, Ffiona Lewis, Otis Luxton, Caroline MacAdam Clark, Freddy Morris, Becky Munting, Tessa Newcomb, Sarah Pirkis & Ruth Stage.

More information about their work can be found in the  Festival Artists section of the website. It is particulary exciting to be able to welcome Maggi Hambling’s magnificent painting Rite of Spring, 2015 and The Carrier by Laurence Edwards. The latter, a life size bronze sculpture spanning 18ft, stands along the north boundary of the farm. Emma Green will be showing a painting and sound installation about nightingales in an old granary above the Farmyard Classroom. The sound installation presents a an ambient recording of a nightingale singing at a small Suffolk Wildlife Trust nature reserve in Bromeswell near Woodbridge. It has become a pivotal component of this year’s Festival Exhibition, bridging the gap between the farm and the broader Suffolk landscape. Poignantly, it also raises awareness of the nightingale – an increasingly rare visitor to the UK and the subject of Richard Mabey’s beautiful book “Barley Bird” [Suffolk dialect for nightingale] :

“It’s early May, a nightingale moon. I’m perched in a narrow lane above the Stour valley in Suffolk, listening to the birds. The landscape is already drained of colour, caught in that moment between light and dark when distances and outlines blur. I try to focus on the tumulus of scrub in front of me, but it seems to be dancing with phosphorescence. I know this is just my eyes playing tricks, but it gives the undergrowth an oddly insubstantial feel, quite out of keeping with the brilliant clarity of the song that is pouring from it.

It’s my first nightingale of the year, and a colotura bird into the bargain. It has a clipped, Latin style, full of deft phrases which are turned this way and that and drawn out into short, fading tremolos. As the moon rises, changing from hazy orange to platinum white, the singing becomes more assured. The sound is astonishingly pure and penetrating, broken with teasing, theatrical silences. I realise I am rooted to the spot, standing in the middle of the lane and barely noticing the cars edging past. ”     

From Barley Bird by Richard Mabey [Full Circle Editions, 2010].

The “Barley Bird” will be on sale in the Festival Shop. The above opening paragraphs stand out as a remarkable introduction to a book – but also to the beauty of the Suffolk countryside.

“Writing at Great Glemham” : Farm Suppers and Festival Talks with Literary Themes

A new project for 2016 is the launch of a small writing residency programme “Writing at Great Glemham”. A major point of inspiration for this project has been the rich vein of rural literature that runs through the Alde Valley and East Suffolk, most notably represented by the works of George Crabbe, HW Freeman, George Ewart Evans and Ronald Blythe. It is a great privilege to be able to be able to welcome four nationally and internationally recognised authors as the project’s first Writers in Residence : Hugh Thomson, Richard Mabey, Edward Posnett and Paddy Bushe. My hope is that this will provide the seed for a small centre for writing and rural literature at Great Glemham – for a short period the home of George Crabbe and his family. Four Farm Suppers are being held in the writers’ honour, with carefully crafted menus prepared by renowned Suffolk chef Peter Harrison. All four writers will also be taking part in the Festival Talks, which take place each Friday during the Festival season.

The Suffolk Chair Collection

The Suffolk Chair Collection was started in 2006 to help preserve and promote chairmaking in the Alde Valley and East Suffolk. It focuses on traditional Ball Back chairs and a range of contemporary designs created by local chairmakers. Over the past three years the venture has grown significantly. It now works with and promotes seven local chairmakers : Stewart Goldie-Morrison, Raymond Hopkins, Dan Hussey, Owen McClatchey, Jim Parsons, Dylan Pym and Tim Whiting. The Collection offers a re-editioning service, whereby customers can commission new Ball Back chairs using 19th century originals as a design reference collection. It also funds the creation of new Festival Chairs and offers a commissioning service to clients for new contemporary designs of Ball Back chairs, made by the craftsmen with whom it works. The most recent commission was for 14 elm Ball Back side chairs made by Jim Parsons for Festival clients – possibly the single largest set of matching Ball Backs made in the county in the past decade. It has been exciting to see this project begin to take root and grow. For more information, visit the Suffolk Chair Collection part of the Festival website.

Pop-Up Open Studios

The Pop-Up Studios are arranged around the farm’s back yard. They come to life for the Spring Festival and are offered to local woodworkers as part of the Alde Valley Spring Festival’s residency programme. Participants for the 2016 Spring Festival include : Jim Parsons [chairmaking]; Jonny Briggs [green oak framing]; Owen McClatchey [furniture / chairmaking]; Raymond Hopkins [table and stoolmaking]; Otis Luxton [guitar making]; Tobias Ford [knife foundry]; and Stewart Goldie-Miller [chairmaker and stickmaker]. Local chairmaker Dan Hussey will also be joining in on selected weekends. Sculptor Alex Johnson will be working on large scale pieces of oak in the new Lambing Barns. 

The Big Spring Picnic

The Big Spring Picnic will take place on Saturday 14th May around what we hope will by then be the longest picnic table on earth – made from home-grown and home-milled Suffolk oak. The original idea was to build a table big enough to see from space - to celebrate the remarkable food and landscape heritage of the Alde Valley and Suffolk Coast. Last year the table was extended to a massive 125m – but this proved not long enough ! So this year we are in the process of extending it by a few more metres to attempt a world record. Come and join us on the 14th . Booking is essential : just go to the Big Spring Picnic section of the website. The table is also celebrating 55 years of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and its Living Landscapes initiative which envisions :

“a place in where people, farming and wildlife can thrive, bringing people and wildlife closer together and sharing Suffolk’s natural heritage”.  

We recommend you Bring Your Own picnic sourced from local shops – you can find some suggestions for good places buy food and drink in the Food Adventures section of the website. The event is very kindly sponsored by Aspall. Landscape partners include: Saul Hunt, Drywood Milling, Kiwi Fencing, BOTANICA, Mickey Salter, Charlie Steed, George Crane & Great Glemham Farms.

The Festival Shop

The Festival Shop is a pop up venture that sells books, greeting cards, walking sticks, pottery, Simply Snape Jacob sheepskins, baskets by Peter Dibble and bags by Maison Bengal and Studio Vandertas.

For 2016 the Festival Shop is also stocking a selection of bespoke handmade products made at White House Farm as part of a new “Made in Great Glemham” range . Items in the “GG” range include : selected handmade outdoor bags by Studio Vandertas; handmade knives by Tobias Ford; Cracket Stools and Glemham Benches by Raymond Hopkins; and Great Glemham Chopping Boards made by Leszek Zielenski using oak, elm, sycamore and beech wood from the farm.

Farmhouse Tea Rooms   

The pop-up Tea Rooms are located in the farmhouse dining rooms. They are open at weekends and on Bank Holidays from 10am – 6pm, serving a range of cakes and savoury pastries made with local ingredients by chef Peter Harrison. Teas, coffee and cordials are also offered for sale.

The Spring Festival Residency Programme

The Residency Programme at White House Farm was started in 2014. Its aim was to encourage creativity in a rural setting – and on a working farm. The scheme drew inspiration from “A Painters’ Place” by Abbot Hall Gallery, Cill Rialaig in Eire and artists in residence from The South Lookout Tower in Aldeburgh. Since its inception, it has welcomed over 20 artists, writers and musicians to the farm to stay in the farmhouse or work in the seasonal pop-up open studios. The residency programme has also led the Spring Festival to start representing certain artists in their practice and development. These include : Roger Hardy, Craig HudsonAlice-Andrea Ewing and Freddy Morris.

International Links ~ from Suffolk to the Heart of Borneo

The Spring Festival works with a model of development in which food, local landscape and the arts are treated as core components of sustainable economic growth – alongside renewable energy technologies and high capacity information communication technologies. Its first international link up has been with a pioneering community-owned food and cultural festival in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, East Malaysia – Pesta Nukenen dan Kebudayaan Kelabit. If you are free on the last weekend in July 2016, the Kelabit Highlands are the place to be!

White House Farm ~ Home of the Alde Valley Spring Festival

White House Farm is part of the award winning Great Glemham Farms partnership. For four weeks it supports the Festival through a programme of open farm events – including Farm Nature Walks, a Kindergarden field and public access to the barns and Big Spring Picnic Table. It also works with Natural England to manage a range of Higher Level Stewardship conservation schemes, including wild bird seed headlands, bird nesting boxes, orchard restoration, ditch & dyke restoration and grass margins on arable fields.

A Farmyard Classroom offers educational workshops for young children through a collaborative venture Flourishing through the Arts and a farm market garden was established in 2015. White House Farm is also the home of Alde Valley Lamb flock (www.aldevalleylamb.co.uk).

I do hope you will be able to come and join us here at White House Farm during the Spring Festival. The Festival Exhibition and many of the other events take place in and around the farmyard barns and farmhouse – so a view of the countryside is never more than a few feet away from the works of art on show. There is no entry charge and there is free parking for cars – although we very much encourage visitors to stay locally [see Places to Stay] and come by foot or bike. The nearest train station is 5 miles away at Saxmundham. Families and children are very welcome – but no dogs please. White House Farm is a working sheep farm.

With best wishes for the coming spring and summer,

Jason Gathorne-Hardy [Festival Director]

For more news please visit the Festival Blog.

With thanks to our Sponsors / Supporters for 2016

The 2016 Alde Valley Spring Festival has been very generously supported by Aspall Cyder www.aspall.co.uk and The Suffolk Coast DMO Festivals and Events Fund www.thesuffolkcoast.co.uk

For more information about local food and drink as well as local accommodation, please visit Food Food Adventures and Places to Stay.

There are good pubs locally at Great Glemham, Sweffling and Rendham; and excellent pubs, cafes, restaurants and food shops in Framlingham, Saxmundham, Leiston, Snape, Orford and Aldeburgh.

Note : Health, Hygiene & Safety

The farm has two farmyard toilets and additional portable toilets on site for the Big Spring Picnic weekend. There is wheelchair access to most barns in which works of art are on show. There are First Aid points and at least on First Aider is on site during opening hours. Please note that monitored wifi CCTV is in operation on the farm drives and around the farmyards at all times for security and safety. All children must be accompanied at all times whilst at the farm. Visitors are also kindly asked to keep to public access areas at all times – and do not bring dogs to the farm or Festival events : White House Farm is a working sheep farm with livestock in the fields.


  • A talk by Maggi Hambling :

    6pm for 6.30pm start. Saturday 7th May in the barns at the farm. Email the Festival for ticket sales.

  • New for 2015/16:

    A poetry residency link between the Spring Festival and Cill Rialaig in Kerry, Eire.

  • Thank you to our sponsors

    Aspall Cyder and Suffolk Coast for supporting this year’s Alde Valley Spring Festival !

  • Come and visit the farm on foot or by bike:

    Free parking for cars – share journeys if you can. Children and families welcome – no dogs please.


  • Pop Up “Hedgerow Tea Rooms”

    Open at Weekends serving cakes and pastries supplied especially for the Festival by chef Peter Harrison.


  • Try out local pubs :

    The Crown Inn, Great Glemham; White Horse, Sweffling; White Horse, Rendham; The Crown and Golden Key at Snape; The Ship Inn, Blaxhall are all within 4 miles.


  • New for 2016 :

    A sound installation of a nightingale singing by Emma Green; “The Carrier” by Laurence Edwards; “Rite of Spring” by Maggi Hambling and over 200 curated works on show in the barns....

  • Spring Festival 2016

    This year’s Spring Festival launches on 23rd April for 4 weeks with a rich programme of Farm Suppers, Festival Talks, Open Studios and Meet the Artists sessions....

  • The Big Spring Picnic takes place on Saturday 14th May.

    BYO picnic sourced from local shops in Framlingham, Saxmundham, Leiston, Snape, Aldeburgh & Orford ! Booking essential – limited places....

  • New for 2016 :

    ‘Writing at Great Glemham” – a series of Writing Residencies linked to Farm Suppers and Festival Talks.

  • Don’t forget local market days :

    Mondays at Campsea Ashe auction rooms [with tea room]; Tuesdays at Framlingham; Wednesdays in Saxmundham – and Snape Farmers Market on the first Saturday of the month.


  • New for 2016 :

    “Meet the Artists” informal guided talks on Sunday afternoons during the Festival from 3-4.30pm.

Works for Sale

We have some wonderful works by artists that exhibit at the festival currently for sale. Details >
The Festival Shop

Stocking a range of unusual cards, books, walking sticks and other handmade items made on the farm & by local artisans. Details >
The Suffolk Chair Collection

The Collection of original early – mid nineteenth century Ball Backs has been set up as a design reference collection. Details >

Icon Painting in the Alde Valley

For more information....
Details >
Food Adventures

We have listed some of the Alde Valleys outstanding food businesses.
Places to Stay

The Alde Valley and East Suffolk are full of good homestays, holiday cottages, B&Bs and hotels.
email us - click here >

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