Art on show at festival

Derbyshire Open Arts Festival 2011 - Holymoorside Village Hall Jennie Merriman
Derbyshire Open Arts Festival 2011 - Holymoorside Village Hall Jennie Merriman
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Artists in Derbyshire have been praised for putting on exhibitions to rival the nation’s top galleries.

Thousands of people flocked to shows across the county during the annual Derbyshire Open Arts Festival.

Exhibitor Natasha Astara, chairman of the organising committee, said: “We have had a brilliant turnout this year. Based on the figures still coming in, we estimate approximately 18,000 visitors over the three-day weekend, an increase on last year’s attendance of 16,000.”

The most unusual venue was in Bakewell Parish Church where 450 visitors viewed a 6ft helium filled balloon art installation, created by Wirksworth artist Anna Mowbray, accompanied by a sound piece created by Natasha Astara.

Natasha said: “I am delighted by the response to the contemporary art. I think we gave the Tate Modern a Derbyshire alternative.”

Unusual crafts exhibited around the county included weight-driven pendulum clocks in contemporary designs made by Bruce Aitken at The Old Tram Depot in Matlock. Bruce (52) said: “The weekend was a delight; a total of 64 visitors over the three-day period, including some interesting new professional contacts and craft enthusiasts who had travelled some way to see me.

Bruce (52) has been making clocks to his own designs since the early 1990s. He said: “Over the time I’ve been doing this, I have come to feel that our relationship with time itself needs re-examining - a quick glance at clock hands usually tells us to hurry up, time is running out; my clocks invite the viewer to look behind the hands.”

At Dronfield’s Peel Centre, Julie Whitham was among the exhibitors. She said: “We had a busy weekend, We were raising money for Ashgate Hospice by selling refreshments and raffle tickets as well as displaying our artwork.

Julie (37), who lives in Coal Aston, has been making animal sculpture, wall art, bowls and clocks She said: “I have always loved art and design and studied the subject at Chesterfield College after leaving school.”

Exhibitions at Holymoorside Village Hall and Cromford Mill were also popular destinations for art lovers, each venue attracting more than 1500 visitors over the bank holiday weekend.