Cumbria's premier printmaking festival to have biggest programme ever
LEADING printmakers from around the world will descend on Ulverston once again next spring, as the renowned Printfest returns.
The festival took a break in 2016, but with a new committee in place, it will be back with an extended programme and some fresh ideas.
Running between April 27 and 30, the weekend begins one day earlier than ever before with an opening talk on the Thursday evening, given by the 2017 Printmaker of the Year and the returning Printmakers’ Printmaker, who was awarded the title at the 2015 event.
There will also be a host of new awards for artists alongside those two existing ones, with Visitors’ Choice, The Founders’ Award, The McClures Award, The Awagami Paper Award and local artist Chris Benefield is remembered fondly by The Chris Benefield Memorial Award.
After 15 successful events prior to the break, the aim now is to be as self-funding as possible, while continuing to welcome the top names in printmaking.
Printfest chair Sally Bamber says: "After 15 years of consistent growth in size, scope and reputation, the committee voted that 2016 was the time to take a break, go back to our roots and review why Printfest was founded back in 2001.
"Printfest was to be a celebration of the work of artist printmakers and to provide them with an annual selling exhibition that was open to the public. It aimed to foster the exchange of technical knowledge across the range of printmaking techniques and to provide good quality affordable art for all.
"The work from everyone on the committee has been immense, with workshops, demonstrations, talks, forums, films and the Printfest trail as well as the main exhibition, building up to printmakers’ print sales of £49,000 in 2015.
"During the break in 2016, several committee members felt that the time had come to leave the group to concentrate on other parts of their lives.
"We would like to thank all of them for such a great contribution to Printfest, with a special mention for the remarkable Janice Benson. We have made them Honorary Friends of Printfest and look forward to seeing them at Printfest 2017.
"We have gone back to Printfest’s roots, dusted off the constitution and read it out loud, and we believe that Printfest 2017 needs to be as self-funding as possible with support from local businesses that are like-minded, love the arts and would like to get involved.
Ulverston artist Chris Benefield set up work rooms and studios at the back of the Tinners’ Rabbit on Market Street in 2000, encouraging artists to meet up, talk about their work, share practice and learn from each other.
From this emerged the idea between Judy Evans and Ronkey Bullard to set up a printmakers’ festival in Ulverston, and on the 2001 May Bank Holiday, the first Printfest took place. With 23 printmakers exhibiting and with funding from local businesses and local councils the event achieved sales of £3,000.
Over the years, artists have travelled from as far away as Japan to be part of the programme, while visitors come from all over the country. In 2015, Printfest had more than 1,600 visitors through its doors, and surveys suggest that more than half of these came from outside the Cumbria.
Sally continues: "Printfest is highly regarded by both artists and art lovers. Each year we conduct both artist’s and visitor’s surveys and receive some great comments.
"Artists particularly like the opportunity to meet other printmakers from around the country and share techniques. Visitors love to meet the artists and get that first hand explanation of how the work is actually produced.
"We look forward to welcoming some of the best artist printmakers in the land, and perhaps from further away."
In May this year, the new committee had its first meeting. Judy Evans, one of the Printfest founders remains with the team alongside Tina Balmer, Valerie Madden and Sally Bamber, with new member Keith Bamber and returning member Janet Benefield, the wife of the original chair Chris Benefield, who died in 2015.
With just over six months to go, the team is now in discussions with funders and sponsors to develop the awards further, while the website has been refurbished so that artists can now apply online.
"The applications for artists will be closed on the January 1, and we then start the exciting process of selecting printmakers," says Sally.
"This year we will be inviting external judges to join the selection committee.
"Our comprehensive marketing campaign has started, the catalogue is produced in March with advertising and social media coverage continuing until the event.
"We then just have the small job of putting up the show at the Coronation Hall.
"We are looking forward to the fun of the event, working with a great enthusiastic team, welcoming the artists and supporting them, welcoming our funders, sponsors and visitors, and the excitement of the awards presentations, as well as supporting the arts, which enriches all our lives, and being part of a fantastic festival in Ulverston at the Coronation Hall - South Lakeland’s premier and largest arts and events venue and an ever-popular community hub in this brilliant festival town."