Festival Theme for 2013 Coming home ~ A Season of Centennials
The Alde Valley Spring Festival started ten years ago as a small four week Easter Retreat art exhibition in a cottage in the village of Great Glemham in Suffolk. In 2004 it moved about a mile down the road to White House Farm, where it has remained ever since, growing bit by bit each year. In 2009 the annual Easter art exhibition merged with another local project The Alde Valley Food Adventures to become The Alde Valley Spring Festival – a four week celebration of food, farming, landscape and the arts. The annual Festival Exhibition remains at the heart of the Festival Programme, but over the years new threads and events have woven themselves into the four week celebration. These include Pop-Up food events and a range of open farm events at White House Farm in Great Glemham, the Festival’s seasonal home - and a Regional Winner of the 2012 RSPB Nature of Farming Awards.
Food, farming, landscape and the arts are some of the qualities and activities that define East Suffolk and the beautiful Alde Valley. This blend of the arts and farming, of food and landscape is unusual : perhaps it is a consequence of Suffolk’s rich oral history and its very varied fertile soils. Poets such as Robert Bloomfield and John Clare both worked on the land and wrote about it. George Crabbe turned his pen to dry lines that captured the often harsh and brutal reality of working the land in the late 18th century – a shocking contrast to the more bucolic verses of Wordsworth. Crabbe’s works – in particular his epic The Borough – were an inspiration to later artists, perhaps most notably the composer Benjamin Britten, the centenary of whose birth falls in 2013.
Britten was born in Lowestoft and later returned to Suffolk to make Aldeburgh his home. His work now spans the world, but its themes and content have their roots deeply embedded in the Suffolk landscape – in its social history and the written word.
In the book A Tribute to Benjamin Britten on his Fiftieth Birthday (Faber & Faber, 1963) the writer and historian Kenneth Clark contributed an essay entitled The Other Side of the Alde. He ended his piece with the following sentences :
“From an early age I know that the only society that I enjoyed was the society of artists, the society of people whose minds were free, whose senses were alert, and who felt the need to communicate their joy. As things have turned out I have spent the greater part of my life with such people. But to have known them as a child, to have met them simply by crossing the Alde ! With what rapture would I have clanged the bell at Slaughden and waited for the reluctant ferry-man.”
An earlier chapter in the same book was written by my paternal grandfather, Jock Cranbrook. Called The Suffolk Countryside, it examines the changes that took place in farming in the county in the 1920s and 1930s. The writing of the two men is quite distinct, but the fact that their two subjects of farming and the arts fall within the golden covers of one book seems significant in itself – symbolic of the sometimes un-noticed cross-over between farming and the arts: between the land and the written word.
Where the horse and plough first worked the land, the tractor, pen, brush and even the musical score have all followed in their furrowed wake. This leaves the Alde Valley as a worked landscape in more ways than one. It produces an exceptional variety of foods. You name it and the Alde Valley probably has it – from soft fruit and cereals, vegetables and root crops to jams, breads, honeys, smoked meats, pork, ham, lamb, beef, mutton, poultry, game and inshore fish … ! But it has also yielded a fine crop of literature, music, traditional arts, sculpture and paintings.
Another very moving example of this cross-over between the actively farmed landscape and the arts survives in the work of the painter Harry Becker. Born in Essex, he moved from London to Suffolk in 1913 – another centenary. Based in Wenhaston and Darsham, his passion was the land and the people who brought it to life. He is probably one of England’s great impressionist painters and certainly one or our nation’s great draughtsmen and print-makers. But his work is often over-looked, hidden from view. But 2013 is becoming his year also, with a growing rush of events coming up on the horizon. Just as farm land that has lain fallow and overgrown for generations can break into fresh growth as the surface is broken by the blade and the plough, so a whole season of centennial celebrations are emerging in this coming year.
In the light of all this, it seemed appropriate to celebrate Coming Home ~ A Season of Centennials as the main theme for this year’s Spring Festival, with links to Aldeburgh Music, the new Harry Becker Society, the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts and a number of other events and projects. It is also my family’s one hundredth year in Great Glemham – and I feel both old and young. I have come home as well, in a small way, but have also learned or stumbled upon seeing things afresh. Fields that seemed flat now have slight rises in them [these pass as hills in Suffolk]; ground that once passed by un-noticed on walks now seems varied in quality and texture; views that were mundane or blanked out by thought now sparkle. Somehow the passage of time can make the old seem new. And that can be surprising.
More details about the Festival Programme are listed below and elsewhere on the website. We hope you can make it to the farm to see the Exhibition. There is free parking and free entry for the Festival Exhibition. Children and families are very welcome – but no dogs please [the farm is a working sheep farm]. Refreshments are available – and we recommend the fantastic range of places to eat, drink and stay in the beautiful Alde Valley [see Food Adventures].
With best wishes,
Jason Gathorne-Hardy ~Director, Alde Valley Spring Festival
Festival Programme 2013 : Main Events
The main event of the Spring Festival is the annual Festival Exhibition. Working with the theme of The Other Side of the Alde, the show presents over 200 new works by more than 22 local, regional, national and international artists and makers. Painters include Maggi Hambling, Kate Giles, John Jobson, Ffiona Lewis, Caroline McAdam Clark and Tessa Newcomb, with works also by Melanie Comber and Ruth Stage (winner of the 2013 Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize). New sculptures by Stuart Anderson and Sarah Pirkis will be on display alongside pottery by Alice Garland and Mercury Hare. There will also be new icons of early English and Irish saints by Marchela Dimitrova from Plovdiv – a past Artist in Residence at White House Farm. Drawings by Jason Gathorne-Hardy show seagulls in flight over Slaughden at Aldeburgh and livestock from the Upper Alde Valley. Tessa Newcomb’s work includes new allotment paintings – following on from her latest book The Adorable Plot– and newly released paintings from her previous book An Artist in the Garden, Full Circle Editions 2012. Also included in the Exhibition are a series of new chairs and benches from The Suffolk Chair Collection (details), with pieces by Raymond Hopkins, Jim Parsons, Dylan Pym and Tim Whiting – and, in particular, Tim’s new Festival Chair for 2013 the Akenfield, which will be on loan to the Sainsbury Centre in the autumn for Masterpieces ~ Art in East Anglia.
Food & Refreshments at White House Farm ~ In Association with Peter Harrison
Tea, Cordials & Light Refreshments ~ available for sale Tues – Sun, 10am – 6pm
Fresh sweet and savoury pastries made by renowned Suffolk chef Peter Harrison will be available during the farm and Festival Exhibition opening times.
Ploughman’s Lunches ~ available at the farm on Saturday 27th April and Saturday 4th May.
Homemade ploughman’s lunches will be available from the farmhouse kitchen on the above Saturdays as a new experiment for 2013. All main ingredients will be sourced from the farm or the Alde Valley. Price £10 pp; children under 15 £6 each.
A small Pop-Up shop in the farmyard stocks a range of interesting books, cards, prints, walking sticks, chopping boards, boot jacks and textiles. Baskets by renowned Norfolk maker Peter Dibble are also on display and handmade bags from Blaxhall made by Nienke Jongsma. There will also be a selection of plants from local nursery BOTANICA.
The main Festival Walks explore local food, history and landscape themes. They are held each Wednesday afternoon from 2.30pm – 5pm during the Spring Festival. Each walk costs £15 pp to include tea and refreshments afterwards with a maximum of 25 guests. With the exception of Summit Fever they all start at White House Farm. We are also holding two Garden Walks on Sunday 28th April and Sunday 5th May.
Walk I : Wed 24th April. Wild Foods in the Upper Alde Valley. Walk II : Wed 1st May. Britten & Crabbe in the Upper Alde Valley. Walk III : Wed 8th May. Crabbe's Oaks : An Introduction to veteran Trees. Walk IV : Wed 15th May. Summit Fever : An Ascent to the Top of the Alde Valley.
Garden Walks : Sun 28th April and Sun 5th May. 2.30 – 5pm. These two walks take guests to the walled kitchen garden of Great Glemham House - the subject of the book An Artist in the Garden, Full Circle Editions 2012. Tea and cakes made from ingredients grown in the garden are served back at the farm after each walk. £15 pp to include tea and refreshments with a maximum of 25 guests.
The Farm Suppers
Farm Suppers are a new farm project for this year’s Spring Festival. Each Supper celebrates a different aspect of rural arts and knowledge. They are held in the farmhouse with bespoke menus of fresh seasonal farmed and wild foods from the farm and East Suffolk – all prepared and cooked by the chef Peter Harrison
Supper I : 25th April - The Other Side of the Alde – A Celebration of the Visual Arts Supper II : 2nd May – Following the Plough - Harry Becker and the Literary Heritage of East Suffolk. Supper III : 9th May - When the Grain Runs Out ~ Woodland Management, Trees and Timber in the Alde Valley. Supper IV : 16th May - Farms and Gardens – A Celebration of Farm Education and Shared Learning.
Each supper is 7pm for 7.30pm with three courses and an informal talk + refreshments. Please BYO beer / wine. £25 pp.
On Sunday 5th May from 2pm in Great Glemham Village Hall there is a Double Bill Matinee ! A screening of the dramatica and beautiful film Chasing Ice by James Balog will be followed by the local film Digging for Victory - by Darius Laws and Nick Woolgar. The latter follows life on allotments in Ipswich. Free entry. Refreshments available.
The Big Spring Farm Picnic & Albert Herring Feast
The Big Spring Picnic : Saturday 11th May, 12 noon - 5pm on the Picnic Field at White House Farm.
By invitation / prior booking. No entry charge. Free parking. Come by bike, foot or car-share. Families and children welcome. [No dogs.] A celebration of local foods from the Alde Valley on the 101m- farm picnic table. BYO food & drink. In association with local Transition groups, local food producers and retailers, friends of the Spring Festival & Aldeburgh Music ~ launching the first Albert Herring Feast at 1pm.