Wimblecomm Spotlight – Merton Arts Festival

Merton Arts Festival, formerly known as Merton Arts Trail, was founded in 2010 when two local artists came together with the idea of creating an art trail. After a successful year in preparation, the festival officially launched in 2011 and is now going into its 9th year of operation. Based across the entire borough of Merton, this festival encourages people to Discover Art and Discover Merton this September. Genevieve Etienne-Farrell speaks to Wendy McTernan, one of the festival organisers, to find out more.

Merton Arts Festival has been running for quite some years now. Tell me more about its journey to date.
Since the launch of Merton Arts Festival, it has run every single year, and artists open houses and studios have remained its prime focus. After 2015, the original Co-Founders Wendy Bliss and Chrissie Craig were looking for someone else to take it over which is when myself and Ben Nicolas got wind of the opportunity. Alongside Claire Morgan, we formed a successful team of 3 and took over the festival in 2016.

We introduced a theme for artists to explore in their works – Lost & Found in 2016, Reflection & Transformation in 2017 and then Taking Liberties in 2018. As well as this, we curated themed shows across the borough, and hosted a range of workshops, demonstrations and talks for the community to get involved with. For our upcoming festival, we have collaborated with local community groups and Hillside Church who are doing a month-long arts festival linking in with MAF. They will be providing talks on both Sundays of the festival (22nd September and 29th September 2019,) and at different locations within Merton, artists are providing three workshops and demos teaching you How to Make Ink from Oak Galls, How to Make a Silver Ring, and Throw a Pot on the Wheel.

This year we also have a slightly different team but have welcomed back one of the original co-Founders Wendy Bliss which is rather exciting. With next year being our 10th year anniversary, we are hoping to do something special to celebrate the occasion.

Quite amazingly, MAF is run entirely by volunteers. How do you manage to keep volunteer input so consistent?
Thankfully we have a dedicated team of volunteers, and together we have kept the festival running for 9 years. Most of the volunteers are artists themselves and exhibit at the festival, whilst others simply have an interest in art and the community, as well as some expertise that adds to the team. Moving forwards, we are hoping to raise sponsorship to fund a Project Manager who will work amongst our great team of volunteers helping us to grow MAF and make the behind the scenes work that bit more seamless.

What makes Merton Arts Festival different?
Entrance to all venues is completely free so people don’t have to pay to get involved. We want Merton Arts Festival to remain a grassroots event that is open to everyone, so we encourage everyone to get out into the borough and explore. At local libraries across the borough, Fielders Art Shop in Wimbledon, and other public places, you can pick up a free brochure outlining this year’s trail and all our activities.

How can people, artists and potential volunteers get involved?
On our website, we have a newsletter sign-up; for art followers who are interested in being kept up to date with all things MAF, and for artists which enables them to join our mailing list and be kept up to date with information on how they can exhibit at MAF. We take pride in being a very inclusive arts festival and welcome any artists to get in touch whether they are well-known international artists, or local emerging artists hoping to get more of their work seen. With no restriction on the number of artists that we have, please do not hesitate to email us.

Aside from celebrating your 10th Year Anniversary next year, what else does MAF have in store for us?
We are working on creating area hubs within the borough to build stronger art communities for our artists. The vision is that artists within these hubs can get together throughout the year, and not just during the festival, to create their own events. These hubs will be location based and we have named the first four Wimbledon, Broadway, Wandle and Merton.

As we look forward to this 9th year of Merton Arts Festival, and its ongoing work to strengthen the arts communities within Merton, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved with this team and keep Merton creative. Visit their website at https://mertonartsfestival.org for more and keep updated with them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Let’s continue to discover art, and discover Merton together this weekend and the next (21st – 22nd September and 28th – 29th September,) as Hawes & Co signposts alert us to the next stop on the trail.

Written by Genevieve Etienne-Farrell

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