Altrincham Arts Festival

Carole Evans was born and brought up in Altrincham before leaving for Uni. Visiting the town to see her parents over the succeeding years allowed her to see the degeneration of her hometown. Being a photographer she started to record this degeneration. To cut a long story short, it became more about regeneration as she met other artists and creative, resulting in the Altrincham Arts Festival. (This link gives Carole’s version.) Empty shops have become (for ten days at least) pop-up art galleries, performance areas, film venues and more. People have ventured to the town, bringing its shops, pubs and cafes extra business. Is this a blueprint for the future?


Carole Evans chatting to visitors at the Festival


One of Carole’s photographs. (The man reflected in the mirror intrigues me!)

One of the problem is that there are several shops each with several artists. Several times several equals quite a lot of artists (about thirty-ish). Sorry to the vast majority! Your work was excellent, but I can only mention a handful of artists. In the order I saw them, first up is Geoff Crossley. You probably know about my dislike of the majority of Artist Statements, most being full of what you avoid stepping in while on country walks. Geoff’s Statement explain his work beautifully, helping you with the why behind the what:

“In late 2010, I became the executor of my mother’s will, the two main tasks being to clear and sell the family home. … As the house was cleared, family photographs began to fall out of books and papers. These were photographs that at the time were considered inferior ends of film that had never been elevated to the family album …

“When the painters had finished decorating the house, it took on a new feel, clean, empty and ready to sell, ready for its new family. But to me it was still full of memories. Being a photographer, I did the natural thing and took photographs of the whole house in an attempt to capture memories, but the images were missing those memories. By combining the two sets of images, the current and the flotsam finds, the work shows some of the memories that lingered in my father’s house.” (The light level in this particular shop was quite low, so the quality has suffered.)



Mim Sanders’ work reminded me of Mona Choo’s work at the neo:graduates show in that the shadows were an essential part of the work.


I was a little confused by Julia Kiely’s work as I thought that the monumental paper sculptures were the main work. However, the information on the wall indicated that they would be destroyed at the end of the Festival, with the photographs she took during the production as the lasting aspect.


Again, like with Geoff, I will allow the artist the floor:

“The Mining Landscape of the Peak District, in this case Ecton Copper Mine, is the inspiration for this body of work. … My work involves the creation of large paper drawings made on location, making use of the landscape to create unique marks. These marks are photographed during the process to preserve a record of them, and the drawings are then formed into large sculptures.”

Julia expanded this to us, explaining that most of these ‘drawings’ are done wet, often involving the paper being in streams of water or being walked upon by people working in these areas.


Part of the finished sculpture, showing boot marks


One of the photographs recording the drawings

Ann Wilson’s The Dance of Life was a series of silk hangings which she had embroidered. Her work was inspired by the movement of dance, having drawn at rehearsals at the Northern School of Ballet and studied Rodin’s sketches of Cambodian Dancers and Abraham Walkowitz’s drawings of Isadora Duncan. She also had some small pieces using the quotes about dance shown in the main piece.



Detail from The Dance of Life


I can only show the work of two other artists, and they attracted me by their humour. The first of these was the ‘modern archaeology’ of Peter Knowles.



Finally I loved the use of the changing rooms in the redundant River Island shop by Teresa Wilson for the display of her figures/dolls/manikins/sculptures.




About notes to the milkman

I'm a printmaker based in the North West of England, living in Bolton and printing at Hot Bed Press in Salford. Please visit my website
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3 Responses to Altrincham Arts Festival

  1. Pingback: Altrincham Arts Festival | Mim Sanders

  2. Geoff’s photographs are haunting aren’t they? Thanks for this round-up of some of the art being shown. Like Carole I lived in Altrincham when I was younger then moved away and returned ten year later to watch the town, like many other high streets in the UK, decaying before my eyes. The renaissance of Altrincham was always going to be cultural (art, craft, performance, literature, film, food) and inspired by social entrepreneurs and here we are seeing just that happening. Well done to Carole, the artists involved and all the volunteers who’ve made it happen.

    • A huge round of applause indeed! It certainly suggests a way forward – if you can get others on board! In Bolton where I live a group of artists wrote to the new owners of a shopping centre that had a lot of empty units with ideas about getting people in for arty/cultural things. They didn’t even get a ‘thank you for your comments’ letter! The future of the high street has to be the offering of something that people can’t get online.

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