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Tuesday, 04 July 2017 13:18

The Witham and the funding challenge

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The Witham didn't make on the Arts Council's National Portfolio for 2018 - 22

I’m really sorry to say The Witham didn’t secure the National Portfolio Organisation Funding that we’d hoped to, as announced on 27th June. We put in a strong bid – the feedback from the Arts Council was very positive in response to how we deliver artistic excellence and engage our audiences. We met all the criteria required and were praised for the work we’ve achieved and our plans for the future.

So why didn’t we get it?

  • The Arts Council highlighted that we’ve never managed a large budget. Caroline rather poignantly pointed out, it’s can be harder to manage a small budget than a large one. That said, we as an organisation are a young arts centre. Compared to other organisations, we have only been going for four years in our current guise and this doesn’t give the Arts Council the proof of longevity they like to know we’re sustainable over longer periods of time. For example, Pocklington Arts Centre were awarded NPO for the first time this year and they started their journey in 2000.
  • We were able to demonstrate diversity in our programming but not as much in our staff or audience compared to other areas. This is a tough one as we can only be as diverse as the population around us and as a rural upland community, this will always be limited.
  • Competition was extremely fierce – not one new combined arts venue in County Durham received NPO funding.  


 So our next steps (after dusting ourselves off) are:

  • Our future viability is dependent on fundraising. NPO would have lifted the pressure to secure our future for four years. Without it, we have sufficient funds for the time being, having securing the Grants for the Arts money which covers much of this year but we need to be constantly continuing to fundraise to still be here in a year, two years, three years time.
  • We are going to raise funds in four ways – work with corporate partners to secure their support, place bids to various organisations to support both project work and capital requirements, increasingly raise awareness with the public of the necessity of supporting The Witham in an ongoing basis and running fundraising events (such as Christmas dos, New Year’s Eve and the Beer and Busk in August) to bring in funds.
  • The staff team will continue to work our socks off, and we will continue too to be stretched to cover the day to day running of the building as well as the programming, strategy, marketing, maintenance and fundraising. We need our volunteers more than ever now not only to help maintain the customer service requirements but also to be ambassadors in the local community to help spread the word about the Witham and about fund raising  requirements.
  • We will work towards the next NPO funding draft in 2022 (the bid will be due in 2021), continuing to work as we have to raise our profile, make new and exciting partnership, keep The Witham pulsing with excellent arts and community activity so we’re ripe for the next NPO funding  opportunity.

Thanks to those who have popped your head round the door to ask about the news and I’m so sorry it’s not better news. The team here have been reeling a little after what has been a very tough few months but we are ready to continue to work hard to make The Witham flourish and, with your help, I have no doubt we can do that.

We are not going to close our doors in the next few months and with hard work and focus, we won’t do so in the next few years but our path unfortunately won’t be as easy as it would have been had we made it on to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio.  

With your help, I know we will continue to thrive – thank you in advance for all you can do to help us.

Many thanks,

Katy Taylor and The Witham team


Entries are now open for New Light Prize Exhibition, one of the largest open exhibitions in the country with great prizes and awards, including the £10,000 Valeria Sykes Award, Emerging Artist Award and Printmakers’ Prize amongst others.

Selected works will be exhibited in the North’s most prestigious venues: the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle; Huddersfield Art Gallery; and Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Carlisle. Also, for the first time, all artists will be exhibited at the Bankside Gallery, London.


For artists born, based or who have studied in the North of England.

Deadline 31 July 2017

For more details visit


Twitter @newlightart

Instagram @NewLightArt


Hello there,

I am Dori Henderson, a rag rug maker and artist living in Gamblesby, Cumbria.

A few years ago I went on a rag rug making course at Greystoke Cycle Café and Quirky Workshops at Greystoke, near Penrith.  The course was led by Emma Tennant, who is one of the leading exponents of the craft.  Not only did I really enjoy my day, I completed my rug (a sleeping fox) at home and later sold it during my C Art open studio in 2015.  Since then I have made many more, some as commissions, and started teaching workshops of my own.

I use the loop method (where loops of fabric are pulled through the hessian from the back) for my rugs, rather than the perhaps better known proddy method (where pieces of fabric are prodded through from the front).  Both methods use a hook;  I prefer a latch hook as it is easier.  With the looped method, a pile without cut ends is produced – which makes for a harder wearing rug and a clearer view of the design.

The raw materials are very cheap! I trawl the charity shops for old wool blankets, jumpers and scarves and old tweed jackets, and also polyester fleeces for their colours and texture.  The hessian comes from my local sewing emporium; in the old days, people would have used feed sacks.

On the course you need to bring any fabrics you would like to use, and some ideas for your design.  I will provide some fabrics too and there will be enough to start you off on your project.  I will also provide, for you to keep, hessian, latch hooks, strong linen thread, and the wooden stretcher frames to which you will attach the hessian to keep the work taut. 

The project, once on its frame, takes up a fair amount of space, so it might be as well to make sure you have plenty of car boot space!

Looking forward to meeting you and creating some amazing rugs together!

Find out about the course now and book a place!


Wednesday, 05 April 2017 16:33

Wondrous Watercolours Exhibition

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The latest exhibition to bedeck the walls of The Gallery at The Witham, Wondrous Watercolours, opened to rapturous applause last Thursday, and has been bringing light and delight to visitors ever since.

Wondrous Watercolours is an exhibition of bright and beautiful paintings by watercolourists Michael Farmer, Jenny Ulyatt, and Sarah Hill, all of whom take their inspiration from the colour, light and shape that occur naturally around them. Admission to the exhibition is free, and the exhibition is open to the public 10am to 4pm Tuesdays to Saturdays until Saturday 22 April 2017. All work in the exhibition is for sale.

Michael Farmer is a watercolourist whose work is inspired by rural, regional landscapes.  Michael lives and works in Ainderby Steeple, just outside Northallerton, the county town of North Yorkshire; he shares his creative workspace, Ainderby Steeple Studios, with his step-daughter, Jenny Ulyatt, and friend, Sarah Hill, who both live in Durham.

Whilst elusive online, Michael has exhibited extensively over the years, and is a highly regarded artist with a wide number of collectors across the region. Sarah Hill and Jenny Ulyatt both come from science backgrounds, but started painting a few years ago under the tutelage of Michael Farmer, a retired architect who first developed his practice as a watercolourist adding colour to his technical, architectural drawings. Upon retirement, Michael turned his attentions away from the “drawing board”, and towards paper and palette developing his artistic practice whilst incorporating his impressive draftsmanship, and keen eye for detail, within his paintings.

Jenny, and in turn Sarah, were both enamoured by the masterful, loose, and romantic skies in Michael’s paintings. Now established artists, and arts workshop facilitators, in their own right, it is easy to see Michael’s influence on Jenny and Sarah’s work. All three artists employ a combination of expressive, suggestive brushstrokes in addition to fine detail. Their works are all beautifully balanced, in terms of composition; but perhaps most striking for artists working in watercolour, is the similarly bold, confident palette employed by each of these three, accomplished artists.

Taking the viewer by surprise, Jenny and Sarah playfully push the boundaries of this traditional medium employing fascinating techniques to great effect. Look closely at some of the works to observe delicate spotting where the painterly pigment has been lifted off the paper have been soaked up by the rock salt crystals that the artists have flecked on to their works. Similarly, Jenny has printed with bubble-wrap to add texture to some of the surfaces in her paintings; she comments, “As an artist I think of the creative painting process as being like cooking – my ingredients include sketches, photographs, memories of places, and my imagination. I find my paintings work best when these elements combine to make something that is more interesting, surprising and lively than the individual parts I started with. Like the tastiest things I have cooked, there is no recipe to follow to enable me to repeat a success.   But as all cooks know, the pleasure is not in repeating the last recipe, but in coming up with the next, and in this way I hope I continue to produce new and interesting work."

Initially approaching her creative practice from an arts therapy perspective, Sarah comments on how her work has developed, 
“I am a fairly new artist and began experimenting with Watercolour painting about three years ago when I developed chronic asthma. I found that the focus created by painting was both healing and relaxing.  Having spent a period of time in poor health I now find that I see a great deal of beauty in simple, every-day things.  I am most inspired by the little moments of colour, light and shape that occur naturally all around me and I try to represent that as best I can. I absolutely love the colours, clarity, patterns and fluidity that are so integral to watercolour painting. I try to keep things loose and fresh to allow the watercolour paints to express themselves and create the painting for me! I hope that my art is as calming for others as it has been for me."

In addition to one of Sarah's sketchbooks revealing the process behind her paintings, and the original watercolour paintings for sale in this exhibition, Sarah and Jenny also have limited edition prints and cards of their original work for sale. All purchases should be made through the Shop at The Witham.

by Sarah Mayhew Craddock
Visual Arts Coordinator

Tuesday, 21 March 2017 11:04

Last Chance to see our A Dream of the Sea exhibition

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A Dream of the Sea

New life and vitality abounds in Teesdale as bright flowers burst through the ground, lambs skip in the fields, and we welcome in the Spring Equinox all causing us to look forwards to the summer with optimism. That said, many of us in the region woke up this morning to a sprinkling of snow in high places, and there's no denying that "baby, it's cold outside!" so, I would like to invite you to step inside The Witham to thaw out and escape to the sea in an exhibition that invites the viewer to immerse oneself in all of the perspective shifting drama, fun and frolics that are enjoyed beside the sea.

A Dream of the Sea is an exhibition of fine art paintings, limited edition prints, sculptural works, and jewellery covering a range of prices making it possible for everyone to take something personal and evocative home with them - ideal for those looking for something particularly special and unique for Mother's Day.

The exhibition opened in the Gallery and Dispensary Gallery at The Witham on Thursday 2 March, and continues until 4pm this Saturday, 25 March 2017. The show has been very well received by visitors who have enjoyed indulging their senses, and daring to dream of the sea. Here's a sample of of the delightful feedback we've had in our comments book...

A Dream of the Sea aims to immerse the viewer in all of the perspective shifting drama, fun and frolics that are enjoyed beside the sea. Works range from Glenn Tomkinson's moody journeys along coastal paths in which one can almost taste the sea-spray on one's lips and feel the cold air on one's cheek as one stands before these atmospheric works, to escapist sun-drenched scenes of relaxation and saturated Mediterranean colour on the Isle of Capri by Mark Sofilas, to more imaginative works such as Katie Edwards' charming Whale Island, which reminds me of a child's first memory of a great overseas adventure. Below is a selection of works included in the exhibition. These works are by regional artists Glenn Tomkinson, Myfanwy Williams, Haydn Morris, Mark Sofilas, Katie Edwards, and Lesley Seegar.


Lesley Seeger's bright and beautiful first book, featuring her painting Beach House (above) on the front cover, is a mid career retrospective of her paintings and influences. This book, Coming Home, is available to purchase in the Shop at The Witham throughout the exhibition period, alongside other sea inspired works including sea-glass rings by Joanne Edwards, small-scale fused sea-glass and driftwood sculptures by Susan Meachen, and a variety of sea-glass jewellry presented in a treasure chest of curiosities by Lou Gilmore-George.

We hope to welcome you in to see this stunning exhibition of escapist works at The Witham before it closes at 4pm on Saturday 25 March 2017.

by Sarah Mayhew Craddock, Visual Arts Coordinator at The Witham

Wednesday, 08 February 2017 11:51

Love is in the air at The Witham

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Audrey Hepburn is reputed to have once said, "There is a shade of red for every woman." It is with that quote that I summons all Lovers and Admirers looking for that 'special something' for Valentine's Day to visit the Gallery at The Witham to take in a passionate, heartfelt exhibition composed largely of shades of red (and several shades of grey!).

Romance and Roses is an exhibition that draws upon artists' interpretations of love and romance. It continues until Saturday 25 February 2017. The Gallery and Dispensary Gallery are open from 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday, admission is free, and all works are for sale - purchases should be made in the Shop.


This exhibition aims to present interpretations of that special something at a time of the year when people are turning their attention to matters of the heart, from the serenity and balance of Sarah Robley's Love Birds, to Mark A Pearce's tulip prints depicting stamens bursting beneath passionately coloured petals. From Gary Walsh's photographs depicting the bashful inability to look a loved one in the eye - when one finds oneself blushing and gazing at our shoes, to the flirtatious playfulness of Katie Edwards' True Love, the inescapable tumbling sensation of falling down a fantastical rabbit hole, as painted by Margaret Weavill, to the sensual fluidity of paint across the canvas of Jane Young's abstract painting, Love Flows... here is a selection of art that depicts how love and romance come in all shapes and sizes, introducing itself when least expected, taking one by surprise, and taking hold with an all consuming gush of inescapable emotion.

From a depiction of a quiet walk in the woods, a last Rolo, a remembered sunset, a single red rose, or a tender caress, there is no single way to describe the intangible sensation that means so many different things to so many different people. This notion of the multi-faceted nature of love, and the evolutionary behavior of love is perhaps best illustrated in Royden Astrop's oeuvre.


Taking the seemingly straightforward motif of a love heart Astrop uses transforms its simplicity into something a whole lot more complicated, and real. Constantly pushing the boundaries in his use and selection of materials, Royden Astrop’s alchemic art practice is innovative, experimental, and often very dangerous to make.

A self-taught artist, he works across different media constantly striving to invent new techniques to create highly original, powerful pieces of art work. Although the methods he uses are often extreme, the end results are beautiful, carefully considered, and intricately worked ethereal works of art. From painting with fire, sculpting with reclaimed barbed wire, to identifying the potential in the most difficult parts of wood to work with, Astrop’s oeuvre is truly unique.

The fire paintings shown in this exhibition are created using a single red pigment, all other shading and tonal structures are formed by the fire and soot deposits on the manipulated impasto paint and surface of the support. The final painting of a single heart is both striking and fragile, and can only hint at the extreme process that created it. Equally, the barbed wire sculptures that hang high in windows and overhead throughout The Witham are new works of art created for this exhibition, and were hung by Astrops' bleeding arms and punctured palms, lacerated by the process of working with such hostile material (he assured us that his tetanus was up to date!). In his previous career as a warzone TV news cameraman, Royden traveled extensively, and his experiences continue to influence both the explosive nature of his techniques, and the resulting beautiful abstracted interpretations of his subject matter.

All artists exhibiting in this exhibition are regional. By investing in high quality, original artwork, you are supporting both The Witham arts centre, and the local economy.

by Sarah Mayhew Craddock
Visual Arts Coordinator at The Witham

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