A strong sense of community and a remarkable number of artists are the defining characteristics as Emsworth Arts Trail gets ready to unveil its delights.
Organisers are promising an explosion of colour as the work of around 150 artists goes on show (April 28, 29 and May 5, 6 and 7).
Emsworth Arts Trail chairman Carol Price said: “What makes it so special is that you can walk or cycle it. We stay within the boundaries of the map in our brochure.
“We have got 98 this year (individuals plus groups). When we started, seven years ago when we separated from Havant, we had 26. It has grown and grown!
“And I think the other unique aspect is that we meet four times leading up to the trail so that all the artists can get together. Our last few meetings have been something like 80 people. They meet each other and some of them even start working together. One wood-turner is now turning bases for a willow-worker.
“I think there is great loyalty to the trail, and people love doing it. But I think perhaps we have now reached the maximum numbers. I don’t think we need to be much bigger. It could start to be too much. We are wanting quality over quantity.”
Another key success is that local businesses have been urged to “adopt” artists.
“The Blue Bell pub have adopted me.
“They have one piece of my work and a CV and lots of brochures, and there are 49 different businesses doing that.
“It is about pre-publicity and also during the trail, all these places where someone can pick up a brochure.”
It all adds up to hard work, but it is also great fun, Carol says: “When I retired, it would have been quite easy to sit back and think ‘Other people can do it now!’, but I retired 16 years ago, and this has kept me lively.
“I have got a great loyalty to it, and I get so much out of it, the enjoyment of so many people doing creative things all at the same time. I have got a great community, and we meet regularly from October onwards.
“When it is all over, we have a big celebration evening with a lot of wine, and we say ‘Blimey, that it’s for another year’ and then three or four months later, we are starting all over again.
“But it is fun. And I do think Emsworth is unique. Because it started in the way it did, back in 2001, there were only six artists that opened their doors.
“When we took over, there were 26, and now there are so many more. The lovely thing is that people walk around and they get inspired themselves.
“They are visitors one year, and then they think they can join art classes and we see them back as artists.”
Julie Turner is a prime example: “It is such a diverse range of artists. This is my fourth trail,” she says.
“I started as a visitor just looking around and got inspired. I originally did a creative arts degree, and this gave me confidence. I had never exhibited my work publicly beyond my degree show,.
“But because I was working in marketing, communications and advertising, I was very much involved in visual communication still. Now it is lovely to be doing this.”
Julie has also looked after the trail’s website, developing it to meet changing needs. People are wanting to be able to access the various locations on their phones as they wander around.
Julie has helped make that possible.
For other stories by Phil, see: https://www.chichester.co.uk/author/Phil.Hewitt2