April 9th, 2015

The Suffolk Chair Collection

The Suffolk Chair Collection was started to help promote and celebrate chair making traditions in the Alde Valley area of East Suffolk and in nearby Mid Suffolk. Mendlesham chairs are well known within UK and are highly valued – broken chairs will almost always be rescued for restoration. Lesser known East Anglian Ball Back chairs still survive in relatively large numbers, but are less valued. Damaged chairs are often still discarded rather than repaired, representing a loss of history and heritage to the area.

At the heart of the Collection is a selection of early – mid 19th century original Suffolk Ball Back chairs. These are used as a design reference collection for commissioning and re-editioning contemporary Ball Backs for clients. The most recent commission is for a set of 14 matching Ball Back side chairs – made from Suffolk elm wood.

Another ongoing project is the “Akenfield Chair”. This design has been created as a tribute to Ronald Blythe’s book of the same name and is made from local oak and elm. The first batch of chairs was made by Tim Whiting. The total number of chairs being made has been limited to 50 : one for each character in the book and the author. Each chair has a small drawer inserted into the back of the seat that houses an early hard back edition of “Akenfield”.

Alongside a re-commissioning service, the Suffolk Chair Collection also sells contemporary Suffolk chairs by selected makers. These include “Wenhaston” carvers, “Sandling” side chairs and “Cransford” stools by Jim Parsons; “Akenfield” and Mendlesham chairs by Tim Whiting; “Polstead Folding Stools” by Dylan Pym; and “Glemham Dairy Stools”, “Suffolk Long Benches” and “Glemham Hedge Chairs” by Raymond Hopkins.

April 9th, 2015

“Shelter” by Charlie Hawkins

Something interesting is taking shape in the sheep barns ! Charlie Hawkins has been stripping hazel coppice stems from the farm’s nuttery to add to the main frame of his beautiful construction “Shelter”. Last week he completed the chassis, made from home-milled oak beams and old cast iron wheels. The next step is the addition of oak shingles and a seat tucked inside. Once completed, the structure will be installed at the end of a restored dyke in flood meadows on the farm next to the River Alde. The site is next to an old causeway and overlooks a stretch of water used by kingfishers. Beyond is Benhall Low Street and the Kell – a hillside once used for brick making.

“Shelter” will be on show and open to visitors as part of the 2015 Festival Exhibition – probably the largest exhibit ! Other structures open to the public will include a children’s camp site and a tree house also designed by Charlie for the sculptor Freddy Morris, who is taking casts of trees in a wood on the farm as part of a 2015 Spring Festival Sculpture Residency.

April 3rd, 2015

Structures on the Farm …

… some intriguing new temporary structures are appearing at White House Farm, the home of the Spring Festival. Some are inspired by the designs of architect Hafsa Bell and the work of sculptor Sarah Pirkis – recipient of a 2014 Spring Festival Workshop Residency; others by reference books such as “Shelters, Shacks and Shanties” by D.C. Beard and “Shelter” by Lloyd Kahn. And one is the unique creation of designer and maker Charlie Hawkins.

All the structures are linked by a sense of place – of being in the landscape and made with materials from the land .. oak, ash, hazel, sweet chestnut and yew; and from old recycled building materials. They provide refugia and places to rest, observe and reflect – or create. Another point of reference is the writing of Ronald Blythe in the book “At Helpston” in which he describes the habit of “dropping down” by the Suffolk poet John Clare : of being in the landscape, both observing it and being part of it.

In the woods, Charlie Hawkins has designed a work platform and pod for the sculptor Freddy Morris to use whilst on a Spring Festival Workshop Residency. It consists of a platform of oak with four yew posts at its corners, to be topped by an oak and tin roof. Nearby, George Crane and Sam Starke [Forager and Gardener in Residence for the 2015 Spring Festival] have been finishing a Field Camp for the Kinder Garden / children’s play field – made from hazel and willow harvested on the farm. In an adjoining hedge, fattened by Natural England funded enrichment planting, a prototype Hedge Hut is being assembled as a wildlife hide and hedge studio.

In the sheep barns Charlie’s own construction “Shelter” is taking shape. Clad in handmade oak shingles, it will soon be on its way to a site next to the River Alde at the east end of the farm – overlooking a restored dyke along which kingfishers hunt. It will be part of the 2015 Spring Festival Exhibition and open to the public during the Festival.

April 3rd, 2015

A Sister Festival in the Heart of Borneo

2015 sees the tenth anniversary of The Alde Valley Spring Festival’s sister project Pesta Nukenen dan Kebudayaan Kelabit – aka The Bario and Kelabit Highlands Food & Cultural Festival. Created in 2006 by community members in the beautiful Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, East Malaysia, Pesta Nukenen celebrates the remarkable food, farming and forest heritage of the Highlands – the ancestral homeland of the Kelabit race.

The Highlands represent one of the few surviving intact traditionally farmed and forested catchment areas in East Malaysia – a homeland not just for the Kelabit and their diaspora but also for some of Borneo’s rarest wildlife and its most bio-diverse forest ecosystems. The Alde Valley Spring Festival and Alde Valley Food Adventures provided core funding between 2006 and 2009. Pesta Nukenen is owned and managed by the Kelabit Highlands Kaum Ibu women’s group for and on behalf of the broader community, drawing support from youth groups, community members, corporate sponsors, the State government and Rurum Kelabit Sarawak.

For more information about this year’s tenth anniversary festival [30th July – 1st August 2015] visit bario food festival on facebook :

: https://www.facebook.com/pages/bariofoodfestival/271633572251

The nearest international airports are Kuching, Miri and Bandar Seri Begawan. To book a flight by Twin Otter to Bario in the beautiful Kelabit Highlands from Miri visit www.maswings.com.my. For an adventure in ‘The Land of a Thousand Handshakes” come to Bario in July 2015 !

March 24th, 2015

Creating a Big Picnic Table


Three years ago we started building a big picnic table at the farm in honour of local foods in the Alde Valley, sponsored by Kiwi Fencing at Snape and Drywood Ltd at Kelsale. Plans got bigger, one thing led to another, we felled a few more dead oak trees [a lot had built up in the woods over the past two decades] and the table ended up being just over 100m long.

The idea was to build a table long enough to be seen from space .. or at least from a passing plane or by a high-flying buzzard [of which there are now many in the local area]. Why ? Because the local foods and the landscape of the Alde Valley and Suffolk Coast are truly amazing. They are worth celebrating. They offer a rare but vital glimpse of just how important is the linkage between landscape, local foods and cultural identity.

The Alde Valley and Suffolk coast are blessed with an extraordinary variety of soils – from heavy boulder clay to clay-loam, loam, sand and alluvial silt or peat. This variety of soils in turn supports a remarkable range of farming practices and local produce. You name it, and the Alde Valley and Suffolk Coast probably have it ! From asparagus, potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbages, blueberries, raspberries, cherries, apples, plums, pears and medlars to rare breed beef, seasonal lamb, mutton, pork, fish, poultry and game; from jams, beers, wines, cyders and juices to cheeses, yoghurts, honey, smoked foods, salamis, sausages, hams and herbs .. the list goes on.

The 2015 Alde Valley Spring Festival has received generous support from the Suffolk Coast Ltd DMO. We are using some of this funding to expand the Big Picnic Table. A few lengths have been taken into the farm’s woodworking shop to be made into smaller indoor tables for people’s homes. This means it has shrunk to a measly 61m long. So we have been milling again and are planning to extend the table by 25m beyond its original 101m.

This should take it to about 126m, which is still a good 150m short of the farm’s boundary in one direction and at least half a mile in the other – ie there is still plenty of slack to extend. A check online says that this might make it the longest picnic table in the UK, if not Europe and maybe even the world – but that feels only fitting for this beautiful landscape and the amazing local foods that are produced in it .. and all the people working with foods, conservation and farming in the area that bring the countryside to life ! It also celebrates the tenth birthday of the Spring Festival’s sister project Pesta Nukenen dan Kebudayaan Kelabit [The Kelabit Food and Cultural Festival] in the beautiful Kelabit Highlands in the Heart of Borneo, Sarawak, East Malaysia :


We are holding a BYO Big Spring Picnic on Saturday 16th May 2015 as part of the Finale Weekend Celebrations. Do come and join in. Families and friends welcome. The table should be able to seat about 550 people – come by foot or bike, car share if you can. [No dogs please.] There will be an Alde Valley Lamb Curry for sale with salad and sour dough bread + Spring Cordial. For great places to source local food and drinks for a BYO picnic, have a look at the Food Adventures tab. Make a weekend of it and stay locally or on the coast .. the Places to Stay tab has information on B&Bs, holiday cottages, camping venues and hotels in the area.

If you join the Big Spring Picnic please also email to book a ticket : enquiries@aldevalleyspringfestival.co.uk.

Entry is free this year, but by pre-booked ticket only. Please let us know if you would like to order Alde Valley Lamb Curry.

March 24th, 2015

Spring Festival Residency Programme ~ Year 2

The Alde Valley Spring Festival residency programme was launched in February 2014. It awards residencies with accommodation for short periods of up to two weeks and longer workshop-based residencies. The residencies apply to Drawing, Painting, Sculpture, Sound / Music Composition and Writing. Residency awards in 2014 were given to : Melanie Comber [Painting], Richard Elliott [Painting], Ruth Stage [Painting], Tessa Newcomb [Painting], Clara Drummond [inaugural Drawing Residency] and Lily Hunter Green [No 1 Sound Residency]. Sculpture Worksshop Residencies were awarded to : Alex Johnson, Sarah Pirkis, Cat Vitebsky, Craig Hudson, Alice-Andrea Ewing and Freddy Morris. An inaugural Residency Award for Painting in memory of Fidelity Cranbrook was also given to the painter Jelly Green. The first Writing Residency was launched in association with Flipside Festival and was given to the award winning Brazilian novelist Tatiana Salem Levy.

The aim of the residency awards is to give artists, writers, composers and makers time away from their daily practice and routines – to rest, reflect and re-charge .. and explore new work. They take inspiration from the Cill Rialaig project in Ireland, Charleston in Sussex and the book A Painter’s Place by Abbott Hall Gallery. The farmhouse and farmyard buildings in which they take place are tucked in the rural landscape of the Upper Alde Valley. The farmhouse was once the home of Fidelity and Jock Cranbrook; and later it was also home to the librettist Eric Crozier and singer Nancy Evans. Fidelity, Eric Crozier and Nancy Evans were all closely involved with the foundation of the Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts alongside Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears. Jock Cranbrook was a close friend of the painter John Nash.The farm is a working sheep farm – home to the Alde Valley Lamb flock. As with The Alde Valley Spring Festival itself, and additional purpose of the residency programme is to keep the arts close to the land and to locate them in a working farming landscape – on the premise that a coming together of food, farming, landscape and the arts provides strong foundations and fertile ground for creativity and innovation.

Residency award recipients in 2015 include : Roger Hardy [Painting], Daisy Cook [Painting], George Farrow-Hawkins [Drawing], Freddy Morris [Woodland Sculpture Residency]. Sculpture Workshop Residencies have been given to Alice-Andrea Ewing, Tobias Ford and Meryem Siemmond. A Writing Residency has been awarded to the award-winning scriptwriter Ella Hickson, in association with High Tide Festival. An additional Writing Residency exchange is being explored with the Cill Rialaig project in Ireland, together with a follow-up link to Flipside Festival. A new Gardening and Writing Residency is being launched in March 2015, welcoming Sam Starke [a graduate of the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia]. The 2015 Fidelity Cranbrook Residency Award for Painting has been given to the painter Emma Green. Further residency links are being explored with partners in with other parts of the world.

March 24th, 2015

Preparing the Barns

The ewes and lambs left the southern farm yard last week, leaving room to start milling in the back yard. Meanwhile, in the old dairy and threshing barn, we have been preparing rooms to receive new works of art in a few weeks time. It is very exciting to be able to show a huge new work by Maggi Hambling in the 2015 Spring Festival Exhibition – a large 6ft x 7ft painting from her Walls of Water series. To make room for this, we have been installing a new panel in the threshing barn, slung between two of the main roof beams. This new panel has created a new space behind, which will house a series of new bronzes by Laurence Edwards – including two life-size pieces.

March 24th, 2015

Clouds over the Farm ~ Autumn 2014

Cloud formations above the Alde Valley and East Suffolk are usually most dramatic along the coastline. Slaughden just south of Aldeburgh is often a good vantage point – on the edge of the marshes below the molar tooth-like Martello Tower. I think weather fronts must meet here – or maybe it is banks of land air and sea air colliding high up in the sky .. for there are frequently dramatic scenes  in the heavens as storms roll in or great lips of cloud tumble earthwards.

Several times last autumn the aerial drama seemed to move inland, with huge riffles of cloud silhouetted against a deep blue sky on a late harvest day; and vast columns drifting over on a colder day in October. The latter seemed luminous at times, catching hold of and absorbing the late afternoon sunlight.

December 17th, 2014

Cornucopia ! & a Farm Supper

The autumn Cornucopia ! exhibition went well, overlapping with the annual Aldeburgh Food & Drink Festival [www.aldeburghfoodanddrink.co.uk] and new Flipside [www.flipsidefestival.co.uk]. At the farm we launched a link up between Flipside and the Spring Festival with a new Flipside Writing Residency – and were very honoured to receive Tatiana Salem Levy as the first Writer in Residence.

Since then, the seasons have rolled round and the farm has taken on its winter mantle of bare woods and wet pastures – the latter laced with evening mist in October and now crisp with frost on colder nights. By popular request we held one final Farm Supper for the year on the 4th December, with a menu of pheasant and wild blewit mushrooms, salt-Red Poll beef in mustard crust, parsnip mash and kale with medlar tart – all ingredients source from the farm or within 30 miles of Great Glemham. Our Guests of Honour for the evening were Alice-Andrea Ewing and Freddy Morris, who talked about their new work, a selection of which was on display.

This was also the first Farm and Spring Festival Residency Supper – an evening that blended food from the land with an informal presentation by artists who have been part of the Spring Festival’s residency programme. The residency suppers will continue in the New Year, with an evening about Tessa Newcomb’s painting. Thank you to everyone who came – and we hope to see many more new and familiar faces here in 2015 !

* For more information about Peter Harrison’s work visit : www.peterharrisonchef.co.uk *

May 5th, 2014

Angels in the Rafters

As in previous years, the Festival Exhibition includes a small collection of icons by Marchela Dimitrova. The theme for this year was Angels. Working from her family home in Plovdiv, Marchela has sent over a beautiful series if new icons that include several of Archangels St Michael and St Gabriel. Most of the pieces are small travelling icons, made from slivers of Glemham oak and protected by a hand made leather case. The largest work is called “Choir of Angels” and is painted on canvas.

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