From tiny seeds the most extraordinary things occasionally grow and
Stroud Valley Artspace is one of those unimaginable expressions, prolific
A little over ten years ago, I met two artists going door to door, looking
for studio space. In my wildest of fantasies I could never have imagined
that this chance encounter was the very beginning of what would evolve
in a short space of time, to become Stroud Valleys
an annual arts festival involving hundreds of artists, musicians, poets
and film makers, many of whom have deliberately chosen to make the Stroud
Valleys their home.
Stroud has never been a cultural backwater, its historic connections
to the arts and to free thinking intellectualism are there for all to
see. But it is also a town deeply rooted in industry, manufacturing
and engineering inventiveness, initiated through the production of wool.
The buildings of its past prowess, visible throughout the valleys, are
witness to that. And somehow it is the marriage between the practical
and the idealistic that has created such fer tile ground for artists.
it is only over the last ten years that this creativity has been crystallised
and made visible in the many and varied manifestations that make up the site
From billboards to engine sheds, empty shops to units on industrial
estates, vacant houses and countr y footpaths, the site
festival has over the years seen ar tists and performers
colonize an unusual assortment of temporary spaces. And alongside
these one off projects, a central part of the festival has always
been built around Open Studios; an opportunity for anyone to visit
the inner sanctum, the artist’s home, whether in terraced
streets, or the most romantic of country cottages.
It is easy to blithely condemn an arts festival in the ‘country’ as
insignificant and parochial, but in this case that would bewholly unjustified.
Over the last few years nationally respected curators have been involved in the
selection of parts of the programme to which internationally significant artists
have increasingly wanted to contribute. SVA is not simply about studios, but
about putting in place an ethos and structure which can help artists achieve
excellence. However the organisers of SVA both rigorously and correctly protect
the right of anyone to be involved in the programme, from opening their studios
to the public, to developing projects of their own. This is an inclusive umbrella
with international ambitions. And it is that which makes this event unusual and
unique. The diversity of work is testimony to youth, experience and imagination
which best describes the varied flowerings of the many creative people
living in these valleys.
This year in particular marks a very significant moment in the evolution
years of planning,fundraising and huge local support SVA has finally
moved back to the beautifully refurbished John Street Studios. For the first
time SVA will have a home which matches it's ambition and a base from which to
plan bigger and better projects.
But for all the energy and colour the site festival, brings to the area, the
real legacy of SVA is in the bringing together of an artistic community which
is alive and active throughout the year. What you see for a few brief weeks in
June is one moment in a calendar of events that punctuate every week and every
season. For an artist, living in Stroud need no longer be an isolating
experience, when on the doorstep there is an organisation with the networks and
oppor tunities in place not only to help develop their work, but the platform
to see their own practice in the context of a wider, even international, community.
Long live the revolution!
Neville Gabie 2007
Trustee for Stroud Valley Artspace