A growing love of art

This amazing PT Barnum figure was found in the bear pit
This amazing PT Barnum figure was found in the bear pit

ORGANISERS of Sheffield’s Art in the Gardens are looking for growth next year after the latest event attracted crowds of about 10,000 over the weekend.

They were happy with the turnout in the Botanical Gardens, which was hit by showers on the Sunday, but are now looking at ways of providing a showcase for more artists and, in particular, for craftspeople to show their skills.

Helen Parsley with some of her work

Helen Parsley with some of her work

“We want to expand the event,” said the council’s event manager, Howard Simpson. “We are looking to have more exhibitors next year and we have got some ideas.”

One aim is to have more ‘hands-on’ demonstrations, such as those by potters and glass-makers.

More than 300 professional and amateur artists and craft workers exhibited around 4,000 pieces in the gardens in the eighth event of its kind, which brings together displays of art, photography, ceramics, textiles, print-making, wood-turning, glasswork, jewellery and sculpture.

An estimated £70,000 of art and craft items were sold, without taking into account the spin-off of sales after the event and commissions.

Last weekend’s attendance was down on the highs of 14,000 and 16,000 in the early years, which coincided with near perfect weather.

“We think the Friday evening preview was the best one yet, going by the comments from visitors, and there was fantastic feedback for the Saturday and reasonable for the Sunday, considering the rain,” said Howard Simpson.

“All round we were pleased. It was a successful event. The show seemed bigger and better this year and if there had been better weather, it would have possibly been the best.

“We had visitors from Somerset and a couple from London who said it was absolutely amazing. They came because somebody had recommended it and they said it was even better than they expected.”

At the same time, there is a desire to build on what is now a solid platform and artistic director Sharon Gill said: “We have already had a lot of artists saying we are coming back next year and I am hoping we can accommodate more demonstrations.

“We were more or less fully booked by Easter this year and the event is definitely gaining a reputation in the art world. I think it went very well.”

New this year was the use of the old bear pit by the University of Sheffield’s National Fairground Archive, which brought along Humbug by artist Anthony Bennett, and huge banners depicting the freak shows of the Victorian era by artist Mark Copeland.

The archive’s director Prof Vanessa Toulmin, who gave expert advice to actor Larry Lamb on BBC TV’s Who Do You Think You Are last week, is expected to work with the Art in the Gardens organisers next year.

The council puts in £25,000 and this is offset by income includingthe admission fee, which was £6 this year, and stallholders’ fees.

Another spin-off this year is a donation of at least £500 to three charities – The Botanical Gardens Trust, the Archer Project for homeless people and St Luke’s Hospice.

The winner of the celebrity portrait contest – the subjects were the Earl and Countess of Scarbrough – was local artist Paul Stone. Runner-up was Steve Bulleyment and third, Deborah Hook.