An eventful year.
As I write the rain is falling, we are in that hiatus between Christmas and New Year, and the pandemic is continuing. What is happening in the world is similar in many ways to what was happening a year ago. With Canopy things have however changed very much. A year ago we were uncertain about the future and were unclear as to what direction to take, we decided to take a pause and to re-assess the situation in September.
To compound our problems, not long after that our paid administrator Carolyn Black’s term finished. With no funding to continue employing her (or anyone else for that matter) things didn’t look good. We did however have a few loose ends to resolve. The major one was that we had received some funding from West Dean Parish Council to run an arts event in the West Dean Centre.
In April this year I received a phone call from Sara Rickard who mentioned, very wisely in my view, that if we were to do anything then we should plan it sooner rather than later and suggested we meet to work out what to do and whether it was possible. All members were contacted, a few turned up to a Covid compatible meeting in the big barn at Noxon Farm, Bream. With the doors wide open in just above freezing temperatures, on spaced wobbly chairs, we voted unanimously to press on to make an October Arts Festival happen but managed on a totally voluntary basis.
We would at the same time offer other Covid safe activities such as Creative Walks. Over the next few weeks the shape of the event evolved. We applied for additional funding and the idea became a reality. Using a borrowed garden gazebo and a lot of enthusiasm we set up at all the local events – Bream Flower Show, Breamfest and Yorkley Community festival, telling people what was planned, selling raffle tickets, and decorating a banner to attract attention. Alongside this we had a small online campaign using our website, social media and newsletter to publicise what was going on in the Forest and what we were up to as well. All this side of things was handled with fantastic efficiency by Tanya GG, who happened to have dropped into that draughty Spring meeting in a barn with an offer to help out.
ArtsJAB, the Bream Arts Festival, ultimately comprised a parade including two local schools, engaged 15 local artists and arts organisation, creative workshops, two choirs and stunning theatrical performances. Our raffle had 20 prizes all donated by local businesses and artists which were given out with great aplomb by Mary Rose Young. We attracted over 700 members of the public despite it being on a very rainy Saturday in October. We have a great film documenting the event, which you can see here. You never know, you could be in it!
Building on the great and rather unexpected success of ArtsJAB, in May 2022 Canopy had been invited by the town council to open the new Arts Venue in Cinderford, the Methodist Chapel. Also, in 2023, an Arts Festival using multiple venues across Newent is planned. This will undoubtedly lead to some interesting takes on our unique and unusual landscape.
All in all it’s been a good year for Canopy and a great springboard to continue and develop what we do, which is to connect local artists, arts organisations and the community.
Looking forward to 2022. Happy New Year from Canopy!
Rob Olins, Chair, December 2021