Dubbed The Chelsea of the West, Taunton Flower Show has been a regular feature of the County town’s horticultural and social calendar since the summer of 1831. Alongside the traditional competition marquees, show gardens and colour filled plant stalls the show also provides many local business, charities and organisations the opportunity to promote their work. Somerset Art Works was delighted to be invited once more and utilised this valuable opportunity to showcase their educational and community projects, a side that not everyone is aware of as the public perception and main promotion is naturally about Somerset artists, their work and their studios.

SAW’s Learning & Engagement Manager Beccy Swaine, invited artist Fiona Campbell to run wire workshops throughout the two days of the flower show, enabling her to demonstrate some of the skills that she recently shared with Taunton’s PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) students through the Young ProspectUs project. The work that they had created during Fiona’s recent visits to Bridgwater & Taunton College was on display and was a great topic of discussion with the public. On hand to explain the students’ creative endeavours was one of their wonderfully enthusiastic and encouraging lecturers, Lisa Robertson, who is keen for the partnership with SAW to continue as she has witnessed first-hand, the immediate positive benefits of the artists’ residencies and how they have impacted on her students.

It was a hot summer day and those that sought the shade of the SAW gazebo were quite patient creating their wire creatures under Fiona’s guidance – this is not a craft to be rushed, and time well spent insured successful results, just choosing which colour wire took time as there was such a selection of vibrant colours to choose from.

Also present on the stand was Somerset Art Weeks co-ordinator, Paul Newman, and it proved to be an unexpected opportunity for him to meet with many of SAW’s members, answering their queries regarding this year’s Open Studios.  With over 400 members it is not easy for him to meet with them all face to face although he strives to do his best via the area rep meetings. It is also a good place for making connections as conversations often lead to future projects, partnerships and recruiting new members.

I love the atmosphere of the flower show and the riot of purple and white Agapanthus that predominates the Plant Village; the delight on peoples’ faces as they walk away having purchased some ridiculously tall plant in an undersized carrier bag encapsulates the day for me. The other area that draws my focus is the competition tent with its surreal displays of identical vegetables and the imaginative creatures made from fruit and vegetables. I love the fact these slightly eccentric British traditions live on and it is wonderful that SAW can be part of this colourful and eclectic show that is so much part of our County’s heritage.

If you wish to know more or perhaps engage with SAW’s educational and community work do take a look at the links below.

The Somerset Open Studios 2018 guide is now out in the wild and copies can be found at Tourist Information Centres, libraries, museums, galleries and other cultural hubs as well as cafes, bookshops and other selected outlets.


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WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY by Davina Jelley


Published on August 21, 2018 // Davina Jelley