Tag: Bridport

Weymouth and West Dorset, oh so quiet Olympics?

I took friends and family to Weymouth on Saturday 28 July to see the Battle of the Winds final extravagganza of aerialists, the 2012 torches wade into the sea, the pyrotechnics and generally start enjoying Olympic atmosphere. I mmm’ed and rrrr’ed it would be a bit too crowded, but hey it’s a once in a lifetime, so off we went. 

There was plenty there, but not quite what I expected. An empty Monkey Jump Park & Ride welcomed us mid afternoon. A brand new double decker took all seven of us into town on the shiny new bypass that we are being warned not to use. Many more empty buses were waiting to Ride elusive Parked punters back to their cars.  We strolled along the spacious promenade to the Bayside Festival where our Somerset friends learned about the Jurassic Coast wonders. My kids loved being taught a few tricks by the ExtremeSports team, great guys under the tatooes and dreadlocks.  At 6.30 pm Bayside eating area had all of ten tourists having tea listening to the Acoustic Stage. At 7pm the long expected queue to get into the enclosed “Weymouth and Portland Live Site” was painfully tiny…

Great news as a visitor, plenty of space, unexpected free entry to Bayside; not such great news when talking to the locals who have invested money and worked hard for months. Why the big signs in surroundings counties of how busy it may get? Put them up when it does get busy, not before. These are the days of mobile phones, twitter, facebook, information is fast. Does St Tropez warn tourists in Lyon? NON. They let them all come, get stuck, take their money and let them queue. Tourists do come back, every year and it’s still a nightmare to get to St Trop.

Squibbers lit the Weymouth beach on 28 July 2012
Squibbers lit the Weymouth beach on 28 July 2012

I got cross with dorsetforyou. Stop caring people off I said on twitter.

“@natamagat Just informing people about changes and road closures. We want to encourage people to come down, but plan their journey 1st” they replied.

Well, West Dorset looks awfully quiet. The dreadful recent events due to floods and landslides are still fresh on people’s mind but it does not mean the whole area should be avoided. Local businesses that rely on Summer visitors need help, not scaremongering tactics.

Tell everybody how easy it is to get here (I’m told there’s even a High-Speed train from Weymouth to Bristol but it’s not advertised, go figure), that there’s lots to do in Weymouth, that Bridport has a fantastic Festival of Culture in August, that Beaminster has lots of great shops and brilliant restaurants all year round with perfect presents to take back home despite the Tunnel being closed.

Hello world, this is the year to visit West Dorset, it’s quiet and if you fancy art, culture, food (of course) oh and the small matter of Olympic sailing along our beautiful Jurassic Coast, well there are plenty of events that locals have been organising for weeks. It’s not too late to book a few days in West Dorset…

Photography on this post from Saturday 28 July in Weymouth.

 

Eolus God of the Wind under a moonlit sky in Weymouth
Eolus God of the Wind under a moonlit sky in Weymouth
Doldrum ready to intercept the winds from the Sailing Olympics
Doldrum ready to intercept the winds from the Sailing Olympics
The Battle for the Wind in Weymouth
The Battle for the Wind in Weymouth
Performing on Weymouth and Portland Live Site, 28 July 2012
Performing on Weymouth and Portland Live Site, 28 July 2012
Devon Wind machine was a cracker
Devon Wind machine was a cracker
One more full Wind Bag for Dorset
One more full Wind Bag for Dorset
robot likes the look of Event Security at Weymouth Bayside Festival
robot likes the look of Event Security at Weymouth Bayside Festiva
2012 torches into the sea for Weymouth Battle of the Winds Olympic celebrations
2012 torches into the sea for Weymouth Battle of the Winds Olympic celebrations
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What is apple wassailing all about

Last year I came across a drawing by Kate Lynch that really caught my eye, ‘Musicians at the Wassail’ when writing an article on a Sladers Yard exhibition for the Bull Hotel. It had a feel of black magic, maybe because it’s in charcoal and rather dark but I loved it for its moodiness.

I don’t mind admitting that I had never heard of Wassail so Mr Google was called upon. There was some explanation on this twelfth night of Christmas ritual, all rather fascinating for a French person. Apple wassailing sounded particularly interesting.

It seemed to be all about blessing apple trees with cider and warding off evil spirits with as much racket as possible -including guns- in the apple orchards of the South West. The most interesting site I could find was dark dorset. I particularly like his comment that ‘this custom was especially important during a time when part of a labourer’s wages was paid in apple cider‘. Well we’d all make sure we did anything possible to ensure a good crop then, wouldn’t we?

However bizarre or wonderful pagan rituals appear, there always seems to be an explanation based on Mother Nature, as is the case with Apple Wassailing. I contacted Jill Lloyd of Bridport Community Orchard who finally had the answer to my question. Why oh why so much racket? Surely you want the birds to hang around?

Oh yes, that’s why bread dipped in cider is flung in the apple trees’ branches. Oh the lucky sparrows whose orchards are being blessed. As for the noise, it’s all to do with apple loving little bugs -codling moths- who hide behind the bark in the winter, ready to leap up the trunk and into the apples later in the year.

Shoooo little nasty things, we want our apples for our cider… Bang. Bang. Bang. And (hopefully) away they go.

It is then time for a good old glass of gold nectar around the fire whilst catching up with friends on a cold winter night and watching Morris Dancers, safe in the knowledge that everything humanely possible has been done to ensure a good crop the following autumn.

As orchards have dwindled in West Dorset so has of course apple wassailing. Thankfully not all is lost. The good people at the Bridport Community Orchard have not only turned a field in the town centre into an orchard, they are also reviving this age old West Country tradition. This Sunday 15 January 2012 at 3pm, Bridport Community Orchard. Do you have a tambourine or drums I can borrow?

2012 in Bridport, a year to remember?

There’s a lot going on in Bridport and West Dorset in 2012. The Jurassic Coast is celebrating its tenth year as a Unesco listed site, the Sailing Olympics and paralympics are but a few weeks away and ‘Spirit of Bridport’ is celebrating with a Festival of Culture that promises to be a 19 day long celebration of all things that Bridport has to offer (11-27 August 2012).

Many community groups are getting together with ‘Spirit of Bridport’ to make sure the town makes the most of the Olympics on our doorstep. There’s much talk about legacy. ‘Spirit of Bridport’ is about action from the community for the benefit of all its communities and visitors.

Street theatre, pop-up cafes, a mini film festival, exhibitions celebrating our culture, gigs (of the rowing type as well as musical), special menus… Bridport is famous for great food, inspired art, inspiring creatives, quirkiness and doesn’t need much of an excuse to have a party.  When it comes to communities getting together and creating great events, Bridport has every chance of delivering.

As the 2012 Director of the Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios, I am one of the many people involved in ‘Spirit of Bridport’. From gallery owners to gig rowers, hoteliers to councillors, artists and creatives to companies who provide financial support, it’s very much a case of ‘let’s all get together and make this the best event Bridport and West Bay has ever had’.

Right, I’m off, there’s a lot of work to be done…

Nat x

Bridport Vintage Market is under threat

Bridport Vintage market has become a fun place to meet friends, hunt for a quirky object, have a bite to eat, generally soak up a fairly laid-back and bohemian yet still working class and gritty atmosphere.

Locals love it as a place to meet mates, visitors love it because they’ll meet locals.

More importantly, the St Michael’s Trading Estate, now Bridport’s Art and Vintage Quarter is not  just artists and vintage sellers…
It’s home to many businesses…

Fossils and forts: Dorset’s Golden Coast secrets

If you’re lucky enough to live near Bridport, you live on Dorset’s Golden Coast. You may not know this, indeed most people I speak to don’t seem to realise. Having said that, it’s a name that stands to reason when you stand near our coastline with its tall cliffs hiding dinosaur bones and other secrets.

It’s not all coastline though. The countryside is also hiding a few secrets in its soil. Bronze age forts turned Napoleonic watch towers… who would have thought I’d ever write about that?

If you fancy a few more details you can read my blog post on the Bull Hotel website:

Dorset’s Golden Coast

Artists at work in Bridport, West Dorset

poste en français

Spending a couple of hours chatting to artists at St Michael’s Studios today in Bridport was fun. Artists studios in Bridport and the surrounding West Dorset villages are open to the public for the week, a great opportunity to discover new talent or have a look at more established artists’ new work.

It’s always inspiring to look at art but I find the people behind the paintings, the photography or the montages equally interesting. That’s what I love about the idea of Open Studios. Seeing the artists working is quite a mixed feeling. On the one hand it’s fascinating to see the image slowly -or quickly- appear on paper, canvas or screen but on the other there is a certain feeling of intrusion.

Some are happy to keep on working, clearly in their own world, their mind inside the canvas, others would rather chat and feel a bit awkward at having somebody looking over their shoulder, and I can’t blame them. The art on show is very varied and I only saw a tiny part at St Michaels’. There are 58 venues in all and 100 artists. Pottery, textiles, furniture, woodcraft, jewellery, millinery, sculpture, digital art, screen printing… Something for everyone?

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Philomena Harmsworth working during Bridport Open Studios 2011

Artist at St Michael's Studio, Bridport
Copyright Nathalie Roberts

Bridport Open Studios’ 2011 launch

Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios is becoming quite a busy affair if the launch at the Bull Hotel yesterday was anything to go by. It was a really pleasant evening filled with artists and art lovers. All the local artists who take part in the Bridport Open Studios submitted three 6×9″ artwork which was displayed along the long walls of the Ball Room with prices almost as eclectic as the art on show.

Affordable art
Having said that there was nothing above £90 so it was all affordable, even from more established artists like Kit Glaisyer or John Boyd. Many artists were there which was great for buyers who could have a chat with them and for artists who could tempt the art lover to come and see larger work in their studio in the coming week.

How did Bridport Open Studios start?
I had a chat with Caroline Ireland who started Bridport Open Studios in 1999. Back then, she knew there were a fair few artists working locally but there was a lack of outlets for showing their work and coordination was needed to reach out to the public. A few posters around the town, some meetings, a lot of hard work and the annual event was born. It gets bigger every year attracting more and more artists and art lovers.

This year, the team who organise the Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios was headed by fellow artist Philomena Harmsworth who directed the 10 day long event. With 58 venues, some with several artists, the usual August Bank Holiday weekend was getting too short if you wanted to see all the local artists studios (or even half!).

 7 year old art lover invests in an original watercolour
My favourite part of the evening, apart from chatting with several artists and friends, was to see seven year old Sarah proudly hand her £2 pocket money to buy an original work of art from Sheila Edmunds. Sheila is part of ‘Spectrum’ a collective of talented amateur artists who will show their work in the Friends Meeting House in South Street on Saturday 21st. As for little Sarah, she was very happy with her watercolour of a dog that she tells me she will hang in her room.

Bridport and West Dorset Open Studios, 21-30 May 2011.
Brochure with participating artists’ addresses available from Bridport Arts and Crafts, tourist information centre and many shops around Bridport or online:

Sarah buys a watercolour at the Bridport Open Studios