Festival hailed as “village’s turning point”

Artist Pete Dennison outside Lyth Butchers on the High Street
Artist Pete Dennison outside Lyth Butchers on the High Street

AN ARTS festival that was held for the very first time last weekend has been hailed as an “astounding success” by the organisers, who hope the event could become a turning point for the village.

Cafes and pubs in the village have reported record trade as visitors came to witness the inaugural Staithes Arts and Heritage Festival.

Ruth Bader with Nudes in oils at Potters Cottage

Ruth Bader with Nudes in oils at Potters Cottage

“The festival has far exceeded our expectations,” said marketing and fund-raising organiser Barbara Govan. “The official feedback will give us facts and figures about how it has already begun to boost the local economy. But beyond that there is a huge and immeasurable feel good factor that has been created here for Staithes, that we will not let go. We need to consult about 2013 but I think it is safe to say that this is just the beginning.”

Artists exhibited in more than 40 venues around Staithes, most of them in homes loaned by villagers who noted that they had never seen the village so busy.

Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, spent the first part of his visit to the festival on Saturday as the subject of a live portrait painting event and said: “This festival is a resounding success. It is really going to put Staithes on the map as a destination with so much to offer. I would like to see it viewed as ‘the coolest place in Yorkshire’.”

Festival-goers witnessed the first showing of a new heritage film with a large crowd taking part in the outdoor screening of the film on a three-storey wall at Kipper’s Corner. Watchers were seen to shed a tear as family members and relatives from years-gone-by were featured on screen.

Staithes Arts Festival

Staithes Arts Festival

There was a wide range of other attractions put together especially for the festival, including a display and sale of magic lantern slides depicting life in the village, including images of the Staithes Group of artists from the 1890s. Collection owner Rod Jewell said he was overwhelmed by the interest in his images and said: “I had a number of visitors who were able to identify faces, locations and, most importantly, exact dates which I thought I would never pin down. One gentleman who had come from outside Yorkshire spotted a relative in one of the images quite by chance and has been able to give great background information. None of this would have been possible without the festival. There was a real buzz and keen interest and I’ll definitely be back next year.”

Elsewhere, an exhibition of shipwreck salvage was held at the RNLI boathouse, guided walking tours of the village were held, and food stalls sold local delicacies.

William Chatwin visited the festival and said: “We thoroughly enjoyed the festival. It was without doubt the best of all such festivals that we have attended. It was the originality that we loved with the pop up galleries and unusual film show settings. This gave the festival a really intimate and friendly feel and everyone that we came into contact with seemed to be sharing the same experience.”

The festival closed with a Grand Finale on the Staith organised by Brian Butcher, who co-ordinated music for the event. The extravaganza included flamenco guitarist Mark Boden, The Men of Staithes and Whitby Community Choir.

Artists Garnet Dore with a pair of subjects and their portraits

Artists Garnet Dore with a pair of subjects and their portraits

To view photos, footage, news and comments from the festival visit www.facebook.com/StaithesFestivalofArtsHeritage.

For more information about getting involved with next year’s festival email info@staithesfestival.com.