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Purbeck Art Weeks 2017

Nick Churchill looks at what’s going on in and around Purbeck during the area’s annual arts festival

Julian Sawyer's evocative picture of Swanage pier is entitled 'Band of gold'

Julian Sawyer’s evocative picture of Swanage pier is entitled ‘Band of gold’

Purbeck Art Weeks, the annual celebration of visual and performing arts in and around the Isle of Purbeck, has become a staple of the regional arts calendar. From artists hosting open studios and performances by world-class musicians to film screenings and community exhibitions, the intention is to provide a programme that includes something for everyone.
The extensive programme of open studios means visitors can immerse themselves in an eclectic range of art forms including painting, printmaking, photography, ceramics, sculpture, glasswork and furniture-making. Not only will artists talk about their work, several have studios tucked away in unexpected places so that visiting them becomes a great way to see more of Purbeck. The festival hub and its central collective exhibition, which features the work of more than 100 artists, is at Rollington Barn near Corfe Castle, while the Fine Foundation Gallery at Durlston is showing work of established artists alongside that of emerging talents. Purbeck Art Weeks also has a long tradition of nurturing young people’s interest in the arts and the Young Artists Scheme will see students from many of the area’s schools involved in workshops and collaborative pieces.

I Fagiolini will perform a semi-staged version of Monteverdi's Orfeo in Wareham as part of their 30th anniversary  celebrations

I Fagiolini will perform a semi-staged version of Monteverdi’s Orfeo in Wareham as part of their 30th anniversary celebrations

Using venues throughout Purbeck, there is a wealth of performances in this year’s festival with highlights including early music group I Fagiolini’s version of Monteverdi’s first operatic masterpiece, Orfeo, in Lady St Mary’s, Wareham – a semi-staged production with the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble they first performed together in Venice two years ago.
The Atéa Wind Quintet will present a mixed programme of music from Bizet to Gershwin and there is Moving in Time, an imaginative mix of live dance and contemporary dance films that includes ‘Lost in Motion II’ with Heather Ogden, principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.

Moira Purver - Young Dancer

Moira Purver – Young Dancer

As well as illustrated talks on art, photography and music, there is a chance to get involved with Purbeck Arts Choir’s community performance piece, the choral cantata with narration, Ahoy, Sing for the Mary Rose. Directed by Jay Buckle and written by Alexander L’Estrange, it is a celebration of the rise, fall and rise of Henry VIII’s famous flagship.
Participation is central to Purbeck Art Weeks and there are many workshops, performances and events for people of all ages to join and take part in, something Swanage-based photographer Julian Sawyer wholeheartedly endorses. ‘I’m a big fan of just getting out there and having a go – you’re not going to take amazing pictures sitting at a computer, you need to be out and about in the countryside. I’m not a photography expert, but I know how to take my pictures and I’ll happily share my experience with anyone.’

Tony Kerins - Sea and Air

Tony Kerins – Sea and Air

Julian is immersed in the scenic beauty of Purbeck, photographing it for business and pleasure and guiding walks across its many landscapes. During the festival his photos will be on show at his Old Stables gallery in Swanage, where he will also host informal illustrated talks to shine a light on some of the less familiar parts of Purbeck. ‘I’ve been here for 20 years now and I love it. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,’ he says. ‘There’s so much to discover and I get the sense there are many places that a lot of people just don’t go to, so my plan is to encourage people to explore a little further.’

Maria Burns - Fox and Doves

Maria Burns – Fox and Doves

This year’s festival also features a rare screening of Jonathan Miller’s landmark version of Alice in Wonderland, made in 1966 as a BBC television play. With original music by Ravi Shankar, Miller’s fellow Beyond the Fringe alumni Peter Cook and Alan Bennett played the Mad Hatter and Mouse respectively, with Peter Sellers as the King of Hearts, Michael Redgrave as the Caterpillar and John Gielgud as Mock Turtle. Wilfrid Brambell, Malcolm Muggeridge and Leo McKern also featured, as did the young Eric Idle, albeit uncredited. Anne-Marie Malik took the title role in her only known acting performance.
All of which is perfectly at home in this most curious of art festivals.

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