Two weeks of art and discovery on the Purbecks

THE  multi-arts festival on the Purbecks,  running from Saturday 26th May to Sunday 10th June, began as an open studios event, but now has expanded into a celebration of the visual arts and crafts in one of the country’s most beautiful areas, but also an exciting programme of concerts, talks, poetry, film and workshops.

The theme of this year’s PAW is Movement, conjuring up “a multitude of interpretations from our artists,” says Charlotte Heath, who chairs the festival committee.

The main focus remains open studios, the opportunity to see more of Purbeck than its spectacular coast and scenery, and to discover the wealth of painting, print-making, photography, sculpture, ceramics and pottery, jewellery, textile art, glass, furniture, woodworking and graphic design which happens in workshops, studios and old farm buildings.

Ideally, you will want to spend several days, armed with the full colour brochure, following your own trails across the area, but if you have only one day, head for historic Rollington Barn, where there is a collective exhibition by this year’s PAW artists, and a cafe to refresh you. The barn is not normally open to the public, so this is an additional attraction.

As well as the established professional artists and makers, PAW also encourages young artists, with schools encouraged to develop art works on the festival theme. Some 500 young people have been taking part in workshops including mosaic, ceramics, dance and 3D this year, and the results will be at Rollington Barn.

The events programme brings some of the biggest names in early music and the classical world to venues across the Purbecks. From the Gabrieli Consort to the matchless Natalie Clein, there is music for all tastes.

The concerts begin with the Gabrieli Consort at Wareham’s Priory Lady St Mary church, on Saturday 26th May at 6.30pm. The programme, conducted by Paul McCreesh, is Visions and Mystics, 20th century choral masterpieces by Vaughan Williams, Finzi, Britten, Walton, Howells and Parry.

On Sunday 27th May at the Swanage School at 7.30pm there is a Purbeck Island Discs with Lord Jim O’Neill and broadcaster Jon Snow, and on Monday 28th, poetry is centre stage with the Purbeck Poets performing a programme called Global Wording at the Globe Inn in Swanage at 8pm.

Get out in the fresh air at Scotland Farm, Norden, on Tuesday 29th, to learn about Terry Jenkins’ work restoring old carts, wagons and traps in a 17th century barn.

On Thursday 31st, Tim Arnold, chief instructor of the Royal Military School of Music, gives a talk, Unravelling Brass Mysteries, at Harman’s Cross village hall, at 7.30pm.

The English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble will be at St James Church at Kingston on Friday 1st June, at 7.30pm, with a programme called Echoes of Venice, music from the 16th and 17th centuries by Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Grillo and others.

There are two concerts on Saturday 2nd June – talented young mezzo soprano Grace Lovelass gives a lunchtime recital of arias and art-songs at St George’s Church, Langton Matravers, at 12.30pm; and at 6.30pm at Lady St Mary Church, Wareham, I Fagiolini make a welcome return to PAW with Monteverdi: The Other Vespers, a recreation of the 1620 Vespers for the Feast of the Nativity of St John the Baptist (the better known Vespers were composed in 1610).

The Durufle Trio will lead a workshop on Tuesday 5th June at 2pm at St Mary’s Church, Swanage, and the flute-viola-piano trio will give a concert of works by 20th and 21st century British composers at the church at 7.30pm.

Wareham Corn Exchange is the venue on Wednesday 6th June at 6pm, for “a colourful partnership” of music by Purbeck community groups, including talented young musicians and a drama group from the Purbeck Centre.

Isadora, at the Rex Cinema, Wareham, on Thursday 7th June at 7pm, is a celebrated film biography of the free-spirited American-born dancer Isadora Duncan (played by Vanessa Redgrave). The film was directed by Karel Reisz and was nominated for several BAFTA and Academy Awards.

On Friday 8th June, Swanage Jazz Machine will lead a workshop on improvisation at The Centre in Chapel Lane, Swanage, from 6.30pm. All welcome, whether to participate or just listen. The workshop will be followed by a concert at 8.15pm.

The brilliant young Fieri Consort will lead a singing workshop at Wareham Parish Hall on Saturday 9th June at 12.30pm, and in the evening, the consort will perform The Unknown Traveller, at 6.30pm at Lady St Mary Church. The programme includes Italian madrigals that were “Englished” by an unknown gentleman, that were published in a 1588 anthology Musica Transalpina.

The final event of Purbeck Art Weeks is a sold-out recital by cellist Natalie Clein and mezzo-soprano Olivia Rey at Encombe on Sunday 10th June. Natalie will be back in the Purbecks at the end of August for the Purbeck International Chamber Music Festival, of which she is artistic director.

For full details of Purbeck Art Weeks, pick up a PAW programme or visit

Pictured: The English Countryside by Helen Biles; Kitty Hartnell in her metal work studio; Durdle Door by Maria Burns; Old Harry Rocks by J Hawke; a ceramic sculpture by Rachel Fooks; the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble; the Fieri Consort; Natalie Clein, photograph by Neda Navaee.