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Derbyshire Open Arts in Hayfield

Celia Milligan

Friday evening on a bank holiday weekend, and the village of Hayfield is awash with colourful bunting. It’s not just the extra lie-in that villagers are celebrating; Hayfield is playing host to the Derbyshire Open Arts event, with shops, houses, farms and pubs hosting works of art from around twenty local artists. 

The annual event sees artists exhibiting across Derbyshire; this year that includes several locations in the High Peak such as New Mills, Glossop and Whaley Bridge. It has proven to be a popular tourist attraction, bringing art-lovers and tourists from far afield. 

Upstairs in the Pack Horse in Hayfield it is standing room only by 7.45pm as visitors admire the work of four local artists. 

For Celia Milligan, from Chapel-en-le-Frith, the event is particularly special as this is her first exhibition. “All 12 of my pieces were painted specially for the Open,” she says. “They all depict local landscapes including Eccles Pike, the Goyt Valley and Lantern Pike. You can’t help but be inspired by our surroundings here.”

Mel and Ken Bowden are a husband and wife team who combine their passion for painting with their working lives as the village posties; Mel has been delivering the village’s letters for 30 years, and Ken for 25. 

Ken Bowden


Mel Bowden

“I first got interested in painting when I had surgery on both feet four years ago,” says Mel. “I was off work for five months and began doodling to pass the time. When we’ve both finished our morning rounds it’s straight down to the art shed in the garden. My preferred medium is coloured inks; I love the iridescence of ink for landscapes and for painting wildlife.”

Husband Ken shares her interest in wildlife but prefers a different medium – scraper boards. “You scratch away at the black clay surface to reveal the white underneath,” he explains. The resulting black and white images on display – of a badger, an owl and dogs - are striking. Further drawings of country landscapes using coloured pencils show Ken’s interest in the detail of rural life; in one piece, two horses peer over a five-barred gate at a hedgerow teeming with foxes, insects and half-concealed coke cans. 

Hayfield artist Sue Sheppard is an old hand at the Open; this is the fourth time her work has been exhibited. Her paintings depict locations such as Chatsworth and the colonnade in Buxton, but she also has a fondness for birds. The tables beneath her paintings are populated by a range of colourful papier maché and wire-framed birdlife with names as quirky as their appearance: the Lone Ranger; Ducky; Gillian the gull; and Le Coq for a francophone bird made of a Michelin map of France. 

Sue Sheppard

Derbyshire Open Arts continues at a variety of locations across Derbyshire until Sunday, 3rd June. The Hayfield artists’ work will be on display until Monday, 28th May. A further exhibition by the Hayfield artists is planned in the Pack Horse for November. 

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