Given that my exhibition will be in Windsor and I’ve been doing a fair bit of research into venues and so forth I thought that it would be interesting to summarise the arts scene in the town. It would be simple to go back in history and recount details of some of the great authors and poets that have lived or stayed in Windsor such as Shakespeare himself who stayed here while writing The Merry Wives of Windsor. Thomas Hardy lived and worked in the town. Poets such as Tennyson, Marlow, Longfellow etc. all stayed in or around Windsor. Some of the early Victorian photographers such as Fenton and Frith were regular visitors and guests. More relevant is the thriving arts scene which facilitates the hosting of my exhibition.
I’ve already mention The Old Court in Windsor, the local arts centre. Here it’s possible to view photography or painting exhibitions, listen to concerts, attend a play, laugh at comedy acts or be educated by lectures, all in the same week.
The local Arts Society, strapline “Enriching Lives Through the Arts”, hosts lectures and arranges visits to local arts sites of interest. SOTA, The School of Arts, holds classes for dance, singing and drama for children throughout the year. The Contemporary Arts Fair, held every year, brings together over 160 artists, printmakers, photographers, sculptors, ceramicists and selected galleries from the UK and Europe.
Windsor Theatre is a beautiful building in the shadow of Windsor Castle and hosts a wide repertoire with many productions transferring directly to the West End. The Castle itself is host to much of the Royal Collection with works ranging from van Dyck to Wedgewood and a whole room devoted to Reubens.
There are a number of art galleries catering to the tourist industry which I could have utilised for my exhibition but chose The Old Court because of its local nature.
Every year the Windsor Festival hosts music, tours, events and exhibitions as well as organising, with the Fringe (see below), a number of open houses where local artists open their houses and workshops to visitors. Associated with the festival is the International String Competition which is one of the foremost competitions of its kind in the world.
And, of course, Windsor has its very own Fringe, perhaps not as well known as Edinburgh but it is the second oldest in the UK after Edinburgh. The Festival can claim to have started under the aegis of Yehudi Menuhin whilst the Fringe can claim the active support as judges of Hilary Mantel, Fay Weldon, Kenneth Branagh, Nina Bawden and numerous others.
In summary, it’s clear that Windsor has a thriving Arts scene which has made it comparatively easy to organise my exhibition but, at the same time, it’s slightly disconcerting to be dipping a toe into an environment populated by so many prestigious names.