The Art Walk Clitheroe displays the craft and culture of the Ribble Valley town
PUBLISHED: 00:00 18 February 2019
A thriving arts scene, talented people and the re-launch of a popular trail are putting Clitheroe on the creative map.
There was a time when wine, sausages and cheese reigned supreme in Clitheroe. The popular Ribble Valley Food Trail gave visitors a compelling reason to keep coming back.
And while food and drink continue to be a big draw, a thriving arts scene is now garnering the pretty town a reputation as a hub for creativity too.
‘Arts are a big part of what is happening in the town,’ said Keith Parkinson, a former teacher who runs Atelier Arts with Beverley Chapelhow. ‘There are so many artists creating wonderful work and it is brilliant to see this getting more attention.
‘There are lots of wonderful reasons to come here but I don’t think art has been a primary reason for visitors. We think that is changing now. For us it’s about bringing people to Clitheroe and then showing them what great talent and what interesting artists there are to discover and enjoy.’
The pair met while taking evening classes in art at Blackburn College and worked on several large scale community projects that helped spark an arts scene in Blackburn.
Keen to get a space to expand their own passions for creating and to help promote the work of other artists, they set up in Clitheroe.
As well as providing exhibition space and a place for artists to sell their work, Atelier Arts also hosts workshops and classes and they have been involved in popular initiatives such as the Pendle Hill HLF Project, a scheme aiming to conserve, improve and promote the hill’s landscape and heritage.
‘We want to inspire people and be inspired ourselves,’ said former hairdresser Beverley. ‘We set out to build a community of artists with the aim of promoting art in the town and the Ribble Valley and I think we’re doing that. We get a lot of enjoyment from it.
‘Art can change lives, it can soothe the soul and it brings people together. We want to be able to work on projects and develop ideas that would continue to do this. We’d love to have an artist’s pod on Pendle Hill where we could take people to be in the landscape. But we have all sorts of ideas and we hope we can do them.’
Atelier Arts has also been involved in Art Walk Clitheroe, a circular route which highlights the town’s galleries and showcases the artistic talent on offer.
Another venue on the route is The Keep, owned by multi-media artist Tony Bentley and wife Julia. Tony has wanted to be an artist since he was a young boy but was persuaded by his uncle, also an artist, to first try something that would provide financial security. But in late 2016, Tony left his job as a graphic designer to pursue his dream.
‘Art was always something I did in my spare time, trying to fit it around my jobs,’ said the 46-year-old. ‘It came to the point where if I didn’t take action and get on with it, it was never going to happen. When this shop became available, I had to go for it.
‘And I’m so glad I did. Clitheroe has been a wonderful place to be as an artist. There is a busy community of so many people creating stunning art. That’s an exciting environment to be in as an artist.’
Tony’s striking sculptures, paintings, design work and photography have caught the attention of several galleries and his large scale murals feature on the walls of Amnesty International offices and the Co-op’s head office in Manchester. He opened The Keep, in the shadow of Clitheroe Castle, as a way to show his own pieces but also to give other artists an outlet to display and sell their work.
A major catalyst for the town’s arts scene was the launch of the Ribble Valley Sculpture Trail at Brungerley Park. This wonderful patch of woodland and flower-rich grassland between the park and Cross Hill Quarry was launched in 1993. It was the first sculpture trail in the county, triggering other areas to create their own, and is one of the Ribble Valley’s most popular visitor attractions.
The trail has now been re-launched and features 22 unique artworks connected to the local environment and its rich heritage from some of the best artists in the UK.
This includes a striking Sika Deer by renowned Simonstone sculptor Clare Bigger and six pieces by celebrated Pakistan-born ceramicist and artist Halima Cassell, who also lived in Blackburn. Katherine Rodgers, arts development officer for Ribble Valley Borough Council, has been integral to the trail’s success.
‘The aim was to make art accessible and create a free, cultural activity for people to get outdoors, keep fit and enjoy the park,’ she said. ‘Some of the artists featured have gone on to enjoy international careers and critical acclaim, which is wonderful.
‘The trail changes as the seasons change and it’s wonderful to see how it fits into its environment and to see people enjoying that. It’s used by the community and local schools, too, who use it to learn about nature and get outdoors.’
Katherine also runs the craft hub at the Platform Gallery which has played a major part in the town’s artistic evolution. She loves the thriving cultural scene in the town.
‘Clitheroe has a lot to offer in terms of arts and culture,’ she added.
‘We have our fantastic galleries and studios but also a wonderful live music and events calendar and great local bands.
‘We’re lucky to have a town full of such creative people and some driven people who organise interesting and fascinating events. The arts and culture is at the heart of what Clitheroe is about.’
Not run of the mill
The Ribble Valley Food Trail kick-started the town’s reputation for stellar food and drink but Holmes Mill, home to Bowland Food Hall and Bowland Brewery, has been responsible for a boost to the industry in recent years. Opened in 2016 in a former derelict mill, it is constantly reinventing itself. As well as the food hall and brewery, it has the Spinning Block Hotel, the Bistro Bar and Grill, and the Beer Hall. It was named Britain’s Best Pub Conversion by the Campaign for Real Ale and the food hall was named Retailer of the Year at the Lancashire Life Food and Drink Awards in October last year. ‘We’re always looking for new ways to attract people,’ said sales and marketing director, Heidi Kettle. ‘This doesn’t just apply to the mill but to Clitheroe too. We’re thrilled with how successful Holmes Mill has become and we hope we have influenced the amount of visitors coming to the town with our presence.
‘More businesses have appeared from the walk here from the railway station and we really hope that’s something we’ve helped with. We’re proud to be in Clitheroe and proud to have a business that people enjoy.’ Next month, Holmes Mill will play host to the Taste Lancashire Food and Drink Conference which will bring together producers, retailers, buyers, chefs, hoteliers, food and drink entrepreneurs and exporters, as well as key influencers, delegates.
The event, organised by Marketing Lancashire and taking place on March 5th, will challenge, inspire and celebrate Lancashire’s £1.04 billion food and drink economy to which Clitheroe and the Ribble Valley makes such a valuable contribution.