Exhibition is bigger, brighter and better!

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THIS YEAR’S open art exhibition at Luton Hoo Walled Garden promises to be the best yet.

The theme is Gardens and Landscapes and entries for the show – taking place this weekend (March 16 - 18) – have come from as far afield as Edinburgh and Folkstone.

Co-ordinator Charlotte Phillips said: “We’ve had more than 330 pieces put forward for consideration, almost twice as many as last year.

“The range of work is fantastic, from oils and watercolours through to fused glass, sculpture of all kinds, ceramics, photography, textiles, linocuts and drypoint – all inspired in some way by garden and landscape.”

Renowned Chalton botanical artist Sandra Wall-Armitage, heading up the team hanging the artwork, said: “People have looked at the theme in quite a creative manner. It’s not all stereotypical flowers.

“We’re trying to raise the standard so that the Walled Garden becomes a recognised and acknowledged centre for the arts.”

When the Luton News was given a sneak preview yesterday, we were shown a vivid cross section of the amazing talent that will be on display, including hand-stitched thread paintings by Annie Miller, a circular mixed media canvas entitled Inner World by Cecilia Gatehouse and a colourful acrylic called Town Into Country Walk by Helen Jones.

Local schools are also well represented – more than 20 from Luton, Harpenden and St Albans have sent in contributions.

They were asked to create ideas around The Secret Garden, which celebrates its centenary this year and which will connect with the Walled Garden’s book festival in May.

Breachwood Green School’s imaginative installation artwork was a joint effort showing a crazy paving path lined with vegetables leading up to a baseball-capped character reading a gardening book.

Charlotte said: “The enthusiasm of the children is wonderful to see and one of them, St George’s Harpenden pupil Jenny Hawken, designed the cover of the exhibition catalogue.”

She added: “The show is a terrific opportunity to acquire some original art.

“There will be so much interesting material on display, there’s sure to be something that will appeal.

“It’s a good way to support local artists and help our restoration programme.”

Charlotte is passionate about the project with which she became involved six years ago.

“It started as a family initiative,” she said. “The Walled Garden was so derelict and we wondered what do to about it.”

Now every penny raised gets ploughed back in and Charlotte is keen to see the Edwardian greenhouses restored. “But we’ll need to raise at least £4 million for that,” she said.

The Walled Garden will be open during the exhibition so visitors will be able to see the wonderful progress that has already been made restoring this horticultural treasure, designed by Capability Brown for the third Earl of Bute in the late 1760s.

It will be open on Friday (March 16) from noon to 7pm and on Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.

Entry is free but donations for the restoration will be welcome.