Emsworth Arts Trail offers art discoveries over two September weekends

Emsworth Arts Trail founder Marian Forster is delighted to rejoin the trail as it resumes after the lockdowns.

Marian Forster painting in her studio
Marian Forster painting in her studio

Rather than its usual spring slot, the trail will run this year on September 11-12 and 18-19.

In all, 95 artists will be taking part in venues across the town in a celebration of Emsworth’s vibrant and diverse art scene,

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Last year, inevitably, was a blank with the trail unable to go ahead. It was a year Marian was intending to sit out anyway, little suspecting that everyone would be sitting it out as well, But now she is back. Marian will offer painting and printmaking at 32 Kings Road, Emsworth, PO10 7HN from 10am-6pm on each of the trail’s four days. Birds, from penguins seen whilst in Antarctica to local harbour birds, are this year’s recurring theme, Marian says.

The Emsworth Arts Trail began in 2001, with just ten artists exhibiting in their home studios.

Over the last 20 years visitor numbers have grown and grown, with art lovers arriving from far and wide. The 2019 event saw 99,000 individual visits recorded over the two weekends.

“What happened back at the time,” Marian says, “is that Havant had a very good arts development officer. She instigated nine days in May, bringing together art and dance and music and so on.

“I thought it might be a good idea to develop an arts trail because there are so many artists in Emsworth. She got back to me immediately and thought it was a good idea and so we had the first one. It was just the one day. I think it was a Saturday, and it was just the ten artists. I think 20 artists had work in the community centre, and shops and businesses had works as well. And we had a gazebo in the square, handing out trail guides. It was all very well received, and I think everybody was surprised that it did so well.

“The council organised it for quite a few years and then the arts development officer changed and it was all pushed from pillar to post in the following years until they ran out of funds. And so we took it over, I think, in 2011.”

The reason it works so well, Marian believes, is because it is all within Emsworth: “You don’t have to travel by car. People can just cycle or walk to the next venue. It is easy. And also, Emsworth is a beautiful location.”

For the visitors, it can be so much less intimidating walking into an artist’s studio than it is walking into a gallery. The public likes to see the studios and the artists like to chat and meet art-lovers. It all works perfectly... except that this year it comes with the challenge of negotiating a different time of year.”

Whether they go back to April/May next year is something the artists will discuss: “We will ask the artists their opinion. The big problem is that we have the Emsworth Artists’ big exhibition in the summer, usually over the August Bank Holiday, and so this is a bit close to that. It is a bit near the trail.

“But September could be good. We are nearer to Christmas so people could be thinking about Christmas presents. We will have to see...”

The printed trail guide is available in shops around Emsworth and includes a map so you can plan your visit. There is a wide variety of work on show – painting, printmaking, photography, textile art, wood, ceramics, jewellery, glasswork, sculpture and new for this year, a blacksmith. See emsworthartstrail.org.uk.