The Harleston & Waveney Art Trail (HWAT) was initially formed in 2005 by a small group of professional artists, Noelle Francis, Jane German, Valerie Lindsell, Diana McKenna and David Page, some of whom had previously been invited to participate in art exhibitions in 2002 and 2004 organised by Lesley and David Rock as part of the Harleston & Waveney Festival. These art exhibitions were highly successful, with over 2000 visitors recorded at the 2004 exhibition, and over £7000 generated in direct sales. A co-founder of the Art Trail was Caryl Challis of the Harleston Gallery, a significant centre for contemporary arts and crafts in the region, and it was the physical hub of the Harleston & Waveney Art Trail between 2005 – 2011.
HWAT has a constitution (as a collective) and has an elected Chairman, Hon. Secretary, Hon. Treasurer, a Marketing & Publicity team and a separate Selection Committee. As we developed as a recognised group of professional artists, we have been grateful to receive regular support and funding from the Broads & Rivers Leader + Community Chest Fund, East England Development Agency (EEDA), The Norfolk Rural Community Council, South Norfolk Council, Mid Suffolk District Council, Waveney District Council and Norfolk County Council.
From only 2000 brochures printed and distributed in 2005, now up to 17,000 Art Trail brochures are distributed throughout East Anglia, and our visitor numbers have steadily risen over the years from 2,112 in 2005 to over 5,300 recorded in 2008.
Artist’s studios are located roughly within a ten mile radius from Harleston, in many attractive village locations such as Thorpe Abbots, Brockdish, Starston, Wortwell, Flixton, Earsham, Mendham, Fressingfield, Wingfield, Needham, Denton, Alburgh, Ditchingham and Bungay.
HWAT’s membership comprises around thirty artists, but we invite new artist applications every year, and some of our artists take annual sabbaticals. We also invite guest artists to participate with us on the Art Trail, often well established artists, and sometimes from outside the area. Previous artists have included Alice Palser and Alan Frewin. Our Guest Artists in 2009 were the Malta and Somerset-based artist and sculptor Derek Nice and acclaimed ceramicist Clive Davies.
- To construct an Art Trail with a maximum of 35 artist studios, proving more cohesive and intimate than county-wide open studio events.
- To provide a wide variety of fine art and crafts such as painting, sculpture, ceramics, mosaic art, textiles, photography, glassworks.
- To limit the geographic spread to within 8 miles, centred on the market town of Harleston in the Waveney Valley.
- To brand the HWAT community of artists as a professional group, its members selected by selection committee or by invitation.
- To develop the Waveney Valley as a significant cultural area, by contributing to tourism and economic development through the arts & crafts, for the benefit of the local population and visitors, and local art and craft producers.
- To extend the group’s artistic activities beyond an annual art trail.
HWAT’s activities extend beyond the annual Art Trail, in such activities as Shop Window Art in Harleston and even involvement in a major ‘public art’ event in 2008, Go Elephants! in the city of Norwich. Our own HWAT elephant was one of 12 selected out of the 53 on the trail, that were judged as the best on the Go Elephants! trail.