The Festival Exhibition
On a Turning Wing
A Celebration of Birds, Flight & Migration
The Alde Valley Spring Festival Exhibition 2020
The 2020 Alde Valley Spring Festival Exhibition can be viewed online by visiting each Guest Artist’s work below. A fully illustrated catalogue is also available for each artist – please see links below. We have included in each artist’s catalogue a brief curatorial introduction to their work and the reasons for inviting them to take part in this year’s Festival programme.
The title for this year’s Festival Exhibition “On a Turning Wing” is borrowed from an anthology of poetry by renowned Irish poet Paddy Bushe. The works that have been selected are presented as a celebration of wild birds and birdlife in general : their magnificent biodiversity; their varied behaviour and habitats; the form of their flight, through both air and water; their vulnerability to habitat loss and extinction; and their extraordinary seasonal migrations.
For the past two years, in a changing world, it has felt vital for the Festival and its Exhibitions to have relevance on the ground – to have a positive impact on local ecology. In 2019, as part of the Florabundance theme, we explored the introduction of permaculture gardens to the farmyard and wild bee colonies to the fields. The intention was to deliver significant on-site gains in terms of re-localised food production, plant diversity and pollinator populations.
For 2020, the aim has been to explore real ways in which White House Farm, the home of the Alde Valley Spring Festival, can significantly improve the farmed landscape for birdlife – on the basis that we live in a shared world. It feels very important that the works of art on show in the farmhouse and barns sit within a farming landscape that is much more welcoming to birdlife. To this end, the farm has launched a series of Rebirding Projects alongside the 2020 Festival – drawing inspiration from Benedict Macdonald’s book Rebirding.
PLEASE NOTE : in response to local and national need, we have decided to donate 10% of all income from sales in the Festival Exhibition and Open Studios to three essential charities : East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices, The Suffolk Red Cross and NHS Charities Together.
The donations will come from the Spring Festival’s income share of sales at a time of great need – the income share due to Artists and Makers will not be affected.
Guest Artists for the 2020 Festival Exhibition
We are delighted to welcome new works by the following guest artists – many with longstanding connections to the farm and the Suffolk landscape. In particular, we are hugely indebted to Maggi Hambling for the loan of her spectacular new painting Cormorant with struggling fish, 2020 which was created for the Festival and is the focal piece for this year’s Alde Valley Spring Festival Exhibition.
Drawings of gulls and seabirds from Kerry and the Suffolk coast.
Paintings of bird species found at the farm from a Hedge Hut Residency.
Paintings from a Hedge Hut Residency and The 2020 Collingwood Ingram Cherry Residency.
Collagraphs + burn out bronze casts of birds nests from Suffolk and Borneo.
Isabelle Sarginson Allen
Watercolour paintings inspired by folk art representations of birds.
Birds and Music
Bird song and bird calls enliven and embellish the landscapes we live in. They bring it to life. It is reasonable to assume that from earliest stirrings of human history we have drawn inspiration from the music of birds – and sought to weave some of it into our own. Perhaps where we have failed – or are still largely deaf – is in our understanding of the intricacies and origins and meanings of birdsong : it is a thin, delicate mantle of language that laces our landscape which we more often perceive simply as sound, rather than as pure song or long-reaching, eddying communication.
A sound installation composed by Dide Siemmond and Charly Jolly for a painting of cherry blossom by Emma Green bridges this gap, inter-weaving recordings of bird song at the farm with their own compositions.
The farm at which the Festival Exhibition takes place has as its eastern boundary a small meandering inland stretch of the River Alde. This meets the broad expanse of the Alde and Ore estuary at Snape Maltings – the home of The Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts and the Britten-Pears School of Music. In the book Time and Concord John Lewis describes a journey across a stretch of coastal heathland that he took with his wife and Benjamin Britten. They stopped intermittently to listen for birds singing. Some of the calls that they heard became choruses in Scene 3 of Let’s Make an Opera – for which Eric Crozier was the librettist.*
* The children whose names were used for the younger characters in The Little Sweep all lived at White House Farm, the home of the Alde Valley Spring Festival, during the 1940s.
The arts were an profoundly integral part of the Aldeburgh Festivals – a tradition that has survived and flourished. A painter whose work featured in many festivals was Mary Potter. We are delighted to be able to include three works in the Spring Festival Exhibition : an oil painting and its watercolour study; and a print celebrating the the restoration of the concert hall at Snape Maltings after a fire – incorporating a poem by William Plomer and the image of a barn owl in flight.
The Cherry Connection
In the spring of 1920, the ornithologist Collingwood Ingram was struck by the abundance of blossom on two cherry trees in the garden of a house he and his wife had moved to in Kent in the autumn of 1919 – The Grange at Benenden. He tried to identify them from other flowering cherry trees in England, but failed. This prompted greater interest and during a subsequent visit to Japan, he again failed to find a match; but was struck by the immense diversity of historic varieties of flowering cherries in the country – and by the rapid spread of one or two more recent popular cultivars. He named the two trees in his garden Hokusai and went on to become a leading expert on Japanese flowering cherries – and the saviour of The Great White / Taihaku, which had become extinct in Japan but which Collingwood “Cherry” Ingram found growing in the home counties of England.
Eight years ago we started to borrow and then plant a small collection a flowering cherry trees sourced from Botanica Plant Nursery at White House Farm – the home of the Spring Festival. The inspiration was a veteran tree I saw as a child at Doddington Hall in Lincolnshire. Over the years we have added to the collection until it now numbers over 60 trees and over 15 varieties. In 2019 we invited the painter Emma Green a residency to paint the blossom of the cherry trees as they broke into flower – with the aim of showing these works in Spring 2020.
The link between Emma Green’s beautiful blossom paintings and birds was forged through the sound installations created by Dide Siemmond and Charly Jolly and by the life of Collingwood Ingram, whose passion for cherries grew out of his earlier adventures as an ornithologist. In a curious quirk of history, it later became apparent that The Grange in Benenden was built by my great, great, great grandfather – who may also have been responsible for planting the two Hokusai trees which Ingram saw flowering in spring 1920.
To mark the centenary of this event, we hosted a planting ceremony for Naoko Abe [author of Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram – The Englishman who Saved Japan’s Blossom] with descendants of Collingwood Ingram and members of my own family. We are deeply indebted to the Ingram family for access to material from Collingwood “Cherry’ Ingram’s Archive.
Each Year the Alde Valley Spring Festival offers a series of residencies to selected artists, writers, musicians and artisan makers. For spring 2020 we have been delighted to work with the following visual artists.
Hedgerows are a vital refuge for birds. A good thick hedge full of hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel, crab apples, ivy, brambles and roses provides food, shelter and nesting sites for song birds – and a larder for magpies, jays and sparrowhawks. To highlight the importance of hedges for bird life, the Festival offered the farm’s Hedge Hut to Becky Munting for a Rebirding Residency – with an invitation to represent in oil paintings as many bird species as possible that live on the farm. The residency coincides with a series of Rebirding Projects in the farmed landscape inspired by the book Rebirding by Benedict Macdonald. It is hoped that these will significantly boost the number of bird species that live on the farm – all captured in Becky Munting’s beautiful paintings.
The ‘Cherry’ Ingram Blossom Residency
In 2019 Emma started a residency project to the paint blossom on fruit trees growing in Great Glemham. For 2020 the Festival invited Emma back to follow the cherry blossom season at the farm, catching each variety as it breaks into flower. This residency was created in tribute to the life and work of ornithologist and cherry expert Collingwood ‘Cherry’ Ingram – see the biography by Naoko Abe. Emma’s exquisite paintings form a major part of the 2020 Festival Exhibition – together with material from the Ingram family archive and a sound composition by Dide Siemmond and Charly Jolly,that incorporates bird song recorded at the farm.
The Festival Horsebox featured in the book One Man and a Mule by Hugh Thomson. It now resides at the farm and is used seasonally as a painting studio. For spring 2020 we parked it beside a restored hedge and offered it to Tessa Newcomb as a studio to paint songbirds, farmyard fowl and wild birds from the Alde Valley and Suffolk coast. A wonderful flurry of paintings started to appear for the Festival.
Woodland Residency Part II
One of the more extraordinary results of a year long Woodland Residency for Jennifer Hall at the farm in 2017/18 was a bronze burn-out cast of an abandoned bird’s nest. For this spring we discussed a return visit to for a project that explored birds’ nests from Suffolk and Borneo; and the huge subject of migration. A remarkable collection of bronze nests have started arriving for the Festival – as well as a series of beautiful collagraphs that depict the perilous migrations of swallows and reed warblers .. and the more local movements of robins and sedate, booming bitterns.
We hope you enjoy the online version of the Festival Exhibition – and wish all our online visitors hope, love and safety.
If there are works you would like to purchase or about which you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact us.
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