Art at home
PUBLISHED: 15:38 08 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:50 20 February 2013
Kevin Turton Gallery, Loddon Mill Arts, Old Granary Studios and Tithe Barn.
Home is where the art is
Bringing the art and the people in. Jo Malone meets families so keen to share their love of music and the arts they have turned part of their home into a performance space.
Kevin Turton Gallery
Opposite the park
Artist Kevin Turton is getting used to people popping into his home and watching him work. Hes turned an airy room into a studio and gallery, and with Open Studio, open garden events and one-off exhibitions to raise money for a local cause, he and partner Bryan Welton enjoy meeting the public.
A former cart lodge, Kevin believes his gallery was where meat from the estate was hung. Its a warm, high-ceilinged, airy, dry atmosphere, ideal for his work in acrylic gel and pastes which need to dry slowly.
Visitors are very welcome, and Kevin enjoys their browsing.
I do get good feedback. I like people to put their own interpretation on what I am painting some people will see something in a painting that I havent seen myself, he says, emphasising that he likes people to feel happy to look and leave, with no obligation to buy.
Kevin adds that some people can feel intimidated in galleries and do feel much more comfy in a more intimate environment, where the artist is working. A door almost directly into the gallery means people dont have to traipse through his kitchen and living room first not that hed mind if they did.
I just like to see people here he says, suggesting visitors call first to get his full address and to check he is at home.
Hes joined the North Norfolk Artspace, the one stop shop for art enthusiasts to find out about the areas artistic talent, and offering artists affordable, accessible, year-round exhibition space, and he anticipates that this will create an even busier path to the door of his gallery.
Loddon Mill Arts
The Mill Room
Britains top comics in the kitchen, famous violinists tuning up in the garden, internationally known cello players playing with the kids, and artists discussing the finer points of light and shadow in the barn.
You never quite know who you may bump into over a cup of tea at Loddon Mill, one of Norfolks hottest new venues for the arts but also the home of the Walter family, Andrew and Katherine with children Ben, 11, Rebecca, eight, Oliver, six, Sebastian, three, and their dog Scampi.
A lively programme of everything from the Turner Ensemble to comics James Redmond, Dan Antopolski, Ali Brice and Shazia Mirza, means theres always something going on.
Thats how the arty couple likes it.
Andrew, an award-winning sound engineer at Abbey Road Studios for part of the week, and Katherine, who juggles marketing several international musicians and teaching classical riding with looking after the family, spotted the potential of the rather run down barn at the back of Loddon Mill a while ago.
Both being very musically minded, they felt that the barn was asking to be used as a concert space.
They live in part of the mill, which has had a variety of lives since the miller finished working there about 40 years ago, including time as a chandlers, restaurant and furniture shop.
When we came, the barn was almost derelict, but we thought straight away this was a great space, comments Andrew. Both steeped in classical music, the couples background includes running what was once one of Britains biggest free music festivals, Eastwickbury, in Suffolk, so they were instantly imagining live performances.
There was a lot of work, including reroofing, sorting out the damp, shoring-up and creating a bar area. Now, thanks to the high roof, solid walls and floor, the acoustics are superb, they say, and they opened 15 months ago.
You can sit at the back and hear every nuance of the bow, says Andrew, feeling the performance space has greatly enhanced their lives as a family.
As word spread, the couple have been meeting many artists and performers excited about the new south Norfolk venue.
They include Theo Fenning, now artist-in-residence, who finds the barns open expanse perfect for her work.
It is ideal, says Theo, who exhibits whenever there is a performance. It is very difficult to find anywhere around here that can take big pictures.
A comedy night is being planned for February, and in March there will be
the UK debut of young Italian musicians, Trio Broz performing Bachs Goldberg Variations.
The family is planning more events too, hoping to work with local writers, artists, musicians and other performers, using the venue as an arts centre style venture.
There is so much talent in Norfolk, says Katherine.
She says they feel the mill is part of the community, not only because everyone knows the building, but because so many people are involved. Thats with everything from Langley Schools chairs and the piano, through Allens Music Centre in Great Yarmouth, to Carolyn Dwen from the nearby tearooms organising tea and coffee for events, and friends such as former Virgin Records marketing man Alex Bostock busy with whatevers needed too.
While keen to support talented locals, they are also proud to bring internationally famous stars to their venue.
I think it is nice that people can come here and see quite different things, says Katherine, adding that by keeping costs down, they could keep ticket prices as low as possible.
And while she and Andrew are most happy welcoming people into the mill at their home, there is one thing they like to keep to family and friends only and thats Sunday lunch!
Old Granary Studios
There is very often a get up and go factor with musicians, which means if they cant find a venue for their music, theyll create their own.
Andrew and Jill Giller went a bit further not only did they want space to play, they needed a considerable amount of room for Andrews business; restoring, tuning and hiring out top grade concert grand pianos.
Spotting the house and farm buildings available on the Raveningham Estate, and with the full support and enthusiasm of landowner Sir Nicholas Bacon OBE, a well-known Norfolk patron of the arts, they converted the old granary into a rehearsal space, studio and concert hall.
Its just across the garden from their home and means they lived, ate and breathed the studio conversion and a fair bit of building dust for quite some time.
Now, about to celebrate its 10th anniversary as a studio, its also a well-known small recital hall, where they host an annual summer series of classical concerts, jazz events, some independent productions and occasional one-off events (their teenage children Ben, Sophie and Rowan, are constantly eyeing it up as a party venue!).
Art exhibitions by mainly Norfolk and Suffolk artists organised by Sarah Cannell are held on concerts nights too, when the 60 or so patrons can enjoy dinner cooked by Jill, with service from the children.
Jill, a music teacher, and Andrew, who set out to be a concert pianist and moved to the piano technology side, say it is all about making it possible for music to be heard.
It is lovely to go behind the scenes with the artists and meet so many enthusiastic music lovers. It is very much a community minded thing for the Toft Monks area, says Andrew.
He explains that once they had the studio ready, it made sense to share it and use it as a concert venue: The acoustics are excellent, he adds.
With world class musicians and ensembles performing in the past, including Rick Wakeman, Julian Joseph, The London Mozart Players and Piers Lane, look out for the new season programme which will be out soon.
Having musicians and those appreciating them wandering through her home is nothing new for Gill Alexander, who grew up with many of her fathers friends coming over on a Sunday morning to sing and play together.
And as a celebrated jazz performer and successful artist herself, it seemed only natural to Gill that she would turn the main barn at her home in Harleston into an attractive hall for performances and workshops.
Its now more than 25 years since she held her first concert, and she still thoroughly enjoys inviting in other performers and the audience.
It is my home so I have to clear up and put things away, and then I cannot find anything afterwards. It does get rather busy, she says.
Gill loves the buzz of live music in her home, although, at 74, she says it takes her longer to recover from the whirlwind of activity before each production. Performances are usually followed by workshops in the barn too, the money from one helping to fund the other.
Gill says visitors, who can browse her paintings on display, often come back time and time again her Christmas card list now extends to about 700!
She is most happy to share her home with the audience feeling that with its solid floors and walls not much can come to harm. Musicians too are typically keen to return: It is a very good atmosphere. I get all the big names from London because they like the place, but the money is dreadful, smiles Gill. Tickets are typically 20-23 which includes the meal, and the barn seats 70.
A popular venue on the arts trail during Open Studios week, Gill has brought names ranging from Ian Shaw to Digby Fairweather to her barn, and was awarded Venue of the Year in the All Party Parliamentary Jazz Awards 2008. Full of energy and ideas for the future; expect plenty more events, activities and exhibitions from Gill.