A Decade of Celebrating the Arts in Uckfield
– the story as told by our founder Tim Benians
The Art Trail began in early 2006, it was all a bit of a rush to get it ready in time for the Uckfield Festival in July. I worked closely with Martin Eastwood who was chair of the Festival at the time, and was keen to extend the Festival’s arts events from performance into visual arts. At the time Uckfield was considered to be a bit of an artistic ‘desert’, so it was an uphill task to change this perception.
I spent many hours persuading artists that Uckfield was ready for its own art event. That first year the Art Trail had around a hundred artists, comprising some 42 individuals, plus another 60 or so in groups. We had 25 venues as widespread as Chelwood Gate and Chailey, to Blackboys and Laughton, with many opening their own homes to visitors.
The Art Trail’s policy has always been fully ‘inclusive’, i.e. to accept artists of all abilities, from professional career artists to enthusiastic beginners. We also try to work closely with schools locally to encourage participation from the earliest ages. The challenge is to exhibit all the work in a coherent and professional way.
The Art Trail had always been entirely self-funded, raising money from the artists, supplemented by sponsorship from generous local businesses. We try to raise just enough money each year to improve our displays and public awareness, spending it as wisely as we can. Over the years we have bought banners, leaflets and posters, and rented display screens. We also manage to ‘blag’ a lot of free stuff, even getting the venues provided free of charge.
Success through Dedicated Volunteers and Sponsors
I have had a lot of help over the years, firstly from Laura Morgan, without whose tireless energy the Art Trail would not have even started! Laura was principal Art Trail organiser for many years, and subsequently with Liz Penton adding her level of patience and organisation. Tess Deverill, as well as being a skilled craftsperson and teacher, added her many years’ experience of working with schools. Jan Spry-Shute headed up the team, adding her own spin on things, which included a new venue in 2012. Lorna Holdcroft, a talented painter worked hard in 2013 to produce another successful exhibition. For the following two years Natalie Banton, a young dedicated Art Trailer added her enthusiasm and ideas to the mix.
As always, many others work tirelessly behind the scenes, all contributing to a huge team effort – and all of them volunteers giving their time and skills generously.
To see more of the history of the Art Trail over the past ten years see our YouTube video.