Saltaire, near Bradford in West Yorkshire, is a World Heritage Site designated by UNESCO in 2001. It is a vibrant village with a creative community, without which the Arts Trail would not exist. At its heart is the world-famous Salts Mill, converted from a textile mill to an elegant gallery, shopping and restaurant complex and home to one of the largest collections of David Hockney’s art.
Saltaire Arts Trail is a visual arts festival showcasing high quality contemporary art and craft in the village. The annual three-day event was due to take place in 2020 from Saturday, 23rd May, to Monday, 25th May, and included the Open Houses Trail, Makers Fair, special events, exhibitions and family activities. Sadly the Arts Trail is cancelled for 2020 due to Corona Virus but as an annual event we thought we would tell you about what goes on to whet your appetite for next year.
It offers an imaginative visual arts programme, celebrating the village’s rich heritage, and offering opportunities to both emerging and established artists. Over three days Saltaire becomes a magnet for visitors, with many thousands attending each year. There are commissioned exhibitions and installations, a high-end contemporary craft designer/makers fair, free creative family workshops, and of course the famous Open Houses – a village wide gallery of contemporary art in the Grade II listed homes of Saltaire residents.
There isn’t anything much to match this explosion of talent, imagination and enjoyable dottiness – the chance, for instance, to see Sir Titus Salt’s gravestone lions outside the Victoria Hall given woolly pullies as part of a yarn-bombing exercise by guerrilla knitters. Knitting and weaving were the makings of the famous industrial community whose model factory village, vast mill and associated canal and park make Saltaire a UNESCO World Heritage site. They are well worth a visit in ordinary circumstances, with the alpaca mill housing the UK’s largest collection of David Hockney’s work, and much else; but during the trail’s three days, there is so much else to discover.
Who doesn’t enjoy nosing round someone else’s house, for example? The Arts Trail gives visitors the chance to see inside many of them, all within the grid of streets whose names such as Fanny, Constance, Ada and William Henry recall members of Salt’s family. Within each, visitors will encounter the work of up to eight artists, and more often than not, the artists themselves. It is an enjoyable way of creating a gallery.
There is also a ‘makers fair’ in the Victoria Hall for those who like to take something home; craft workers have taken spaces in greater numbers than ever before in the Trail’s six years; there are more than 60 offering textiles, jewellery, ceramics and mixed media. Exhibitions include work by artists specially commissioned for the event and there’s a children’s trail plus the chance to make hobby horses, shy at coconuts or help construct a village of dens.
Overall, you sense the benign spirit of the late Jonathan Silver who brought Sir Titus’ mill back to life and showed how a community deprived of its staple industry could nonetheless be transformed. His widow Maggie, daughters Zoe and Davina and brother Robin have picked up the torch, along with influential friends such as Hockney, Alan Bennett and Tony Harrison. Saltaire thrives.
John Darby, Yorkshire Blue Badge Guide