From late April to late May the almost hidden village of Great Glemham hosts one of the most delightful arts events imaginable.
Jason Gathorne-Hardy is not only a well-known artist but also a countryside steward at his farm. Each year artists from Maggi Hambling RA to local craftspeople making chairs in traditional style with a contemporary twist, potters and basket makers present their work in the spring festival he organises at White House Farm. There are gourmet food and musical evenings as well. The food is locally grown organic fruit and vegetables with meat from Kenton Farm. In the farmhouse there are home made cakes, lunches and drinks, also of a high standard.
We came upon it last year by chance and almost missed it this year because the signs on the roadside were very small. Leaving the A12 between Marlesford and Farnham is entering an almost different world. No heavy vehicles, caravans or racers-to-the-sea: a country lane leads to a junction near the church, where a sign directs you along an even smaller lane. Even there it’s easy to mistake the entrance.
Once found, the way in offers a field for parking so reasonable weather is essential if you don’t want the wheels to sink into mud. We were lucky this year as last and took the path in past the house. As it was not long since lunch we skipped refreshments and went into the first of several barns that house the exhibition.
There is constant activity around the barns, in the yard and on the edge of fields. Trees are being hewn into suitable sizes for sculpture; old farm implements and withies await reclamation and use. A film of mid-twentieth century farm work and workers is being shown. On certain days there are school activities available as well.
Sculpture ranges from table-top items to life-size and above. Maggi Hambling, who opened the festival this year and was due to give a talk one evening, also had work from twice A4 size to monumental breaking wave paintings such as she showed at the National Gallery last year. Several of the artists and potters also have work in the gallery at Snape Maltings, a few miles away, so anyone who misses the festival can see them there.
In keeping with the spirit of the festival there are countryside books, ranging from the work of mid-twentieth century Harry Becker to David Gentleman’s recent and lovely portrait of a year in his home village not far off.
Visitors have a chance to see people at work in open studios and to take a walk to the river Alde or to see the rare breed animals on the farm. There is a play area for children so silver travellers can bring grandchildren or be part of a three-generation visit. Nothing is hurried: as the film demonstrates, this is life as it was once lived. A check on the map even showed us we could return home without once meeting A12 traffic.