Artists and makers from the first Spring Fling got together to launch the programme for the 20th annual open studios weekend.
The event, set up in the aftermath of the foot and mouth epidemic, now hopes to make a significant contribution in the drive to rebuild after the COVID pandemic.
Spring Fling, which takes place over the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend from 2-5 June, will see 96 participants all across Dumfries and Galloway, throw open their doors to welcome the public. This year’s event will mark a return to being a physical first event after two years in which it was largely or completely digital.
Sixteen of 2003 originals will be taking part in 2022. Nine of them (plus one of the first organisers) met up at the Gracefield Arts Centre, in Dumfries, and spoke about what has made the event so special.
Original participants still involved
Hannah McAndrew, of potters Fitch and McAndrew from Corsock, said: “I cannot believe I am old enough to have been around for 20 Spring Flings but it seems I must be. It’s rather lovely to have been there at the beginning and to still be making my living making pots all these years later when the event itself is going from strength to strength.
“Spring Fling is also hugely important for the region. We have such talented people here, complete masters of their crafts and it is fabulous that Dumfries and Galloway has become known for this intense fountain of creativity.”
Jo Gallant, a textile artist from Mossdale, said: “I feel very proud to have been involved with Spring Fling since the beginning, though when the idea was first presented I was sceptical, as other open studios events I had tried had not been particularly successful. It soon became clear though that this was something different. “It’s now a significant event in my work calendar. It has become an important event in the region with visitors, both local and from further away looking forward to it each year.”
William Spurway, visual artist from Corsock who will be exhibiting in Dumfries, said: “For the first Spring Fling we opened our tiny cottage, clearing everything into the bedroom and hanging paintings and prints in the two other rooms and the hall. Now I have a wonderful studio as part of an artists’ co-operative at Solway House. “For me, Spring Fling represents a coming together of a vibrant community of artists and makers all working towards the same goal, to make each year unique, to showcase our region as a whole, alongside the high calibre of work that is professionally produced here. Spring Fling has become a fundamental part of my practice. I look forward to the next 20 years of its life.”
Vital to get it right
Spring Fling was set up by Dumfries and Galloway Council Visual Arts Development Officer Jane McArthur and Crafts Development Officer Clare Hanna.
Clare Hanna, who now works for the Holywood Trust, said: “There had been attempts at an open studio event before foot and mouth hit the region and they hadn’t been successful. So the pressure was on, we knew we had one chance and we had to get it right. “I think the fact that artists and makers were involved in the development and helped shape Spring Fling has been a big part of its success and longevity.”
Chris Bridgman, Upland Project Manager, who is organising this year’s event, said: “It’s a real tribute to Spring Fling that so many of those who took part in the first event will be involved in the 20th.
“Back in 2003 it harnessed the strength of our creative community to help the region rebuild in the aftermath of foot and mouth. Since then it has grown and developed into an important feature in Scotland’s annual arts and cultural calendar, attracting thousands of visitors and generating millions of pounds for the economy.
“After two difficult years we hope that this specially extended 4-day Spring Fling, which takes place over the jubilee weekend, will encourage visitors to rediscover Dumfries and Galloway – and make a significant contribution to its recovery from COVID.”
2022 programme highlights
This year’s programme includes:
· Biscuit Factory Exhibition: 14 May to 24 July at the Biscuit Factory, Newcastle Upon Tyne. Twenty past and present Spring Flingers fly the flag for the art and craft of south west Scotland at the UK’s largest art, craft and design gallery.
· Spring Fling at 20: 28 May to 2 July at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. An exhibition featuring work by more than 40 past and present participants.
· Modern Makers: 14 May to 25 June at Gracefield Arts Centre in Dumfries. An exhibition celebrating the Modern Makers programme which allows young people to learn traditional craft techniques.
· Spring Fling Open Studios Weekend: 2-5 June across Dumfries and Galloway. Close to 100 specially selected artists and makers open their studios to the public.
Visitors will be able to follow six colour-coded routes taking them round studios in different parts of the region and some studios will have special evening openings and offer other attractions like demonstrations. As ever there will also be bus tours round selected studios.
There will also be an illustrated online talk by artist Amy Whiten of Recoat, about the highly successful Rural Mural project. And for those who can’t attend Spring Fling in person, there are virtual studios to explore on the website.
Brochures can be ordered from the Spring Fling website and a downloadable version will be available in April.
The organisers will ensure that all government COVID-19 guidance is followed so visitors and participants can take part in a safe Spring Fling.