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Wednesday, 16 November 2016 13:20

paperscissorsbook by Highlights Contemporary Craft Tour 2016

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Highlights Rural Touring Scheme have returned to the Gallery at The Witham with their Contemporary Craft Tour 2016. This year they have brought yet another stunning exhibition to Barnard Castle showcasing the best of current paper-cut and artist's books. From exquisite hand-cut paper to the latest laser-cut techniques; ambitious sculptural paper works, installation and intimate book works.

The artists explore a variety of themes with a deft stitch here, a sharp scalpel there, coated with a generous helping of wry humour. The exhibition shows work by British and internationally celebrated stars of paper-cut and artist’s books as well as exciting emerging artists and an exceptionally talented artist from Teesdale. Exhibiting artists include:

Rob Ryan, Mayumi Arakawa, Linda Toigo, Priya Pereira, Andy Singleton, Chloe Wing, Clare Lindley, Jan Hopkins, Christian Barnes, Elizabeth Shorrock, Annwyn Dean, Les Bicknell, Florence Boyd, Alison Waters, Elizabeth Willow, Claire Peach, Nicky McNaney, Shannon Bartlett-Smith, Marta Daeuble, Joanna Robson.

Below are a few images highlighting a selection of these fantastic and fascinating works. The exhibition expands beyond the Gallery into Barnard Castle's library closes this Sunday at 3pm coinciding with The Witham's Designer Makers Market (which will take place on the 19 and 20 November:

by Sarah Mayhew Craddock
Visual Arts Coordinator

Friday, 04 November 2016 16:51

Barnard Castle Art Society Annual Exhibition

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The Barnard Castle Art Society Annual Exhibition is now up in the Gallery at The Witham... and it looks great! There's a real variety of works on display from some truly fabulous felting (not in the least bit twee, but beautiful gradations of colour making up a delightful, painterly, yet appropriately textured, seaside scene), to perfect pastels with palettes and compositions that echo those of Dutch Still Life paintings, to charming, semi-abstract mixed-media works on canvas. In short, there's something to delight everyone in this exhibition including a display that explains what it means to be a member of the long established Barnard Castle Art Society. Here are a few images to whet your appetite, though the nature of the works, some of which are behind glass, mean there's no substitute to coming to the Gallery and seeing the display for yourself!


The Barnard Castle Art Society Annual Exhibition continues until 4pm on Thursday 10 November 2016. The Gallery is open 10am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is free.

by Sarah Mayhew Craddock
Visual Arts Coordinator

Having gone to see Mavis Sparkle on Wednesday, I was very excited to see what David Gibb could offer the audience today. On stage resembled something of an unconventional orchestra pit – a guitar, a banjo, a keyboard, an accordion and a soprano saxophone adorned the stage. As 11 o’clock struck, David Gibb came out from the curtain, and introduced himself. He had grown up in Derby, but now lived in Oxford – quite a way to come. Right from the word ’go’ he did not fail to entertain us. We started off doing the all-important warming up, in the key of C. Oli Matthews was then introduced to us, and the duo played a couple of numbers; David on the acoustic guitar / singing and Oli on the clarinet. The first of these was called ‘From A-B’, and involved audience participation, singing a few bars from the chorus. After Oli had switched to the soprano saxophone, they went straight on to play ‘There’s a Dragon in my Bedroom’ which made us all laugh. Oli then left us to take a break, whilst David asked us all our favourite animals. He then told us a story from his childhood, when his family had a dog who could do all the standard tricks but just wouldn’t perform them for David. He explained that this was because he was six, and their dog was seven, and so higher than him in the pecking order. A song about this experience followed which included woofing and howling from the audience. David then got his banjo out, and we had fun listening to the English Folk song he played, whilst making the sounds that our favourite animals make.

David then invited Oli back to the stage and they played ‘Climb that Tree’, which is the title track for his second album. For this song, we had actions. Oli was back on clarinet and David was on the keyboard. Next David jumped back on his trusty guitar, with Oli on sax to deliver the penultimate song. It was called ‘Colours of the Rainbow’ and we had actions for this one too. Finally, it was time for the last song. The guitar and accordion were played, which provided a really nice blend of sound. The song was titled ‘Sailing 1, 2, 3’ and the words were from a poem which David had found in a book. This was a great closing to the show, and everyone had had fun.

It was an inspiring performance with many laughs. Oli and David are brilliant musicians, and David in particular has certainly achieved his goal of developing “brilliant music for children with lots of actions and singing along.” There was simple construction to all these songs, but that made the performance very effective. It was amazing. David Gibb will be performing at the Sage, Gateshead on the 21st October 2017, and I strongly urge that you go and see this wonderful musician for yourselves.


I have to say, when I walked into the concert hall of the Witham, on Wednesday 26th October, I was excited by the cleaner’s station in front of me, complete with mop & bucket. I was amused by the added touch of the recognisable ‘this floor is wet’ yellow signs. The soundtrack playing was a wonderful mix of jazzy classics, including ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and ‘Reach for the Stars’. The seats were already pretty full, and the room got busier and busier. We all eagerly anticipated Mavis Sparkle’s arrival.  

As she entered, Mavis began to sweep the floor and entertainingly created quirky items out of litter on the floor. She also made sure to clean up the audience - we needed disinfecting and then dusting. She announced that, because of cutbacks, this was her last day of the job here. She also told us about her lifelong ambition to see the Northern Lights, and how they sparkle through the sky. Her obsession with glitter becomes more and more obvious throughout. Cuckoo disturbed us, telling her that it was Tea Time. She marks this occasion by using a makeshift flag pole from a broom. After hearing about her life as a little girl, she demonstrates how she may not have the best things in life, but she has certainly made her life the best it can be.

We are then introduced to Spike the hedgehog, who is fed worms for his tea. During the last moments of tea time, Mavis shows us snippets from her father’s old magic show. She also tells us the story of how her parents met. There is a rather magical moment before Cuckoo once again interrupts us, telling Mavis that it was time she started mopping. After another flag was hoisted up; it was time to begin.

This scene was certainly one of my favourites because the bucket wanted to have some fun and would never go where Mavis wanted. There was wonderful choreography in this and the facial expressions of Eve Robertson (Mavis) really made the performance. After the floor was mopped and fun had been had, it was time for another reflective moment. Mavis told the audience about how packing up this job reminded her of the last ever time she packed up her parents’ show – the Sparklers. Through the use of shadows, lighting, and of course, magic, she told us the story. This made her remember her mum’s wish for her, which led to her deciding to make a big career move. Mavis decides to move up to Scotland (taking a job she had ben umming and ahing about) so she could see the Northern Lights and fulfil her dream.

The flag read On the Move, and after Spike leaves his mini house, Mavis is of course devastated, but understands that life must go on. So she gets out her helmet and gets ready to ride away on her cleaning station. But who is laying in her helmet, but Spike and so there is a happy ending after all.


After watching Mavis Sparkle, I was definitely inspired and had a smile on my face. The production was truly magical and all the children in the room, young and old, had had a great time. Thanks must go to Eve Robertson, who portrayed Mavis to us so well, and to Joss Matzen, who controlled the lighting, and designed the set. The whole team behind M6 Theatre Company should be very proud of their creation, and I do hope I get to see another show in the future. 


Edgar Degas once said, “Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.”
It can be all too easy for artists to work away in their studios for months on end, so involved in their creative practice that they barely find time to come up for air. As such, the process behind their work often goes entirely unrecognised or acknowledged.
BBC Four created a fascinating and revelatory documentary series, What Do Artists Do All Day? That consisted of televised portraits of leading artists, offering insights into their working lives and creative process. With so much wonderful talent on our doorstep, literally, we decided that The Witham should do the same, or similar...
We decided to shine a spot light on our Studio Artists in this pop-up exhibition, inviting them out of their side-street studios on Hall Street, and into The Gallery that fronts on to Barnard Castle’s busy Horsemarket. The artists have been invited to display finished work, work in progress, materials, tools, equipment, and even to work out of The Gallery using it as their studio space for the duration of the exhibition as and when is convenient for them.
This exhibition highlights the work of three of our Studio Artists; Glynis Manning of Hotch Potch House Upholstery, Steve Parkes of Wood Works, and leatherworker Nik Hutchinson, who have created a wonderful, engaging and interactive display for visitors to enjoy. Do pop along to this temporary exhibition and explore our studio artists' worlds of wood, upholstery, textiles and leather, and perhaps meet one of the artists before the exhibition closes on Saturday 29 October.

The Witham has five artist studios available for rent, all located in a small block on Hall Street in a central location in the heart of Barnard Castle. The studios have 24 hour access, internet access, central heating, natural light. All of the studios are different sizes, and are used by artists with different creative practices. To inquire about hire fees and to arrange a studio visit contact

Introducing The Witham's Studio Artists - Pop-Up Exhibition continues until Saturday 29 October 2016. The Gallery is open10am to 4pm Tuesday to Saturday. Admission is free.
by Sarah Mayhew Craddock
Visual Arts Coordinator

On Tuesday 18th October, a Wind Octet from the Royal Northern Sinfonia performed. I was there to see it and can say it was very interesting. They started playing as a harmonie - 8 wind players in instrument pairs made up of two oboes, two French horns, two bassoons and two clarinets. The harmonie played Mozart’s Harmonie Musik from Il Seraglio arranged by Wendt. This was performed with ease with a really colourful bled of sound within each section. Next to be played was Chansons et Danses by D’Indy. To play this, they took away one oboe and one horn to make room for a flute. Adding a flute to this made the piece very light. Notably, the horn also blended nicely with the woodwind. D’Indy was very influenced by French folk music, and you could hear this in the piece. It really made you want to get up and dance, and the ending was very sweet. To bring us up to the interval, a wind quintet (a flute, an oboe, a horn, a bassoon and a clarinet) played Trois Pièces Brèves by Ibert. These three short pieces were very joyous and had tuneful melody lines. In the first piece, the flute and the oboe were having a conversation with the other instruments providing a backing. This was slightly comedic in fashion and made the audience laugh. The second piece played was very peaceful, and was carried mainly by the flute. This piece resulted in an enriching chord to finish. The third piece reminded me of a film score and was played with ease. There was a blend between all five instruments and the piece was playful from start to finish.

After the interval, we heard Johnathan Dove’s Figures in the Garden, which is based on The Marriage of Figaro. Dove is an opera composer normally, and these themes and variation on Mozart were simply stunning. This was played by the harmonie again. It was very lively and there were many different colours of sound, blending very well. The two horns and two bassoons worked together, as did the two clarinets and one of the oboes. The other oboe, we were told, was the lost ballerina. I thought that the two oboes worked particularly hard to produce a steady tone. To finish the concert, they played Mozart’s Serenade in E♭ major. There were 5 movements to this, which all opened with a pulsating E♭ chord. We were quickly into the main tune, which was uplifting and energetic. There was great dueting within the pairs of instruments and the whole serenade, as you would expect from Mozart, was divine.


On the whole, I really enjoyed the evening, and found it very inspiring, being an oboe player myself. I would like to thank the Witham for showcasing it, and Katherine Henry for the wonderful program notes. I do hope events like this happen again in the future.

by Evie Brenkley

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