Why a popular Yorkshire fishing village will be showing its artistic side

Now in its seventh year, the Staithes Festival returns this weekend as the popular fishing village once again shows its artistic side.

t has beguiled generations of artists and photographers, lured there by its warren of narrow streets and cottages clinging to the hillside, boats bobbing in the harbour and the ever-changing light.

Back in the late 19th century, Staithes was home to two dozen painters who took their inspiration from the impressionists Monet, Cézanne and Renoir, and called themselves the Staithes Group. Their most famous collaborator was Dame Laura Knight, and while most tourists beat a path to nearby Whitby, the picturesque fishing village might just give its noisy neighbour a run for its money this weekend as the Staithes Festival returns.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Now in it seventh year, the festival has grown steadily and it’s anticipated that as many as 7,000 people will descend on the village over the next couple of days to enjoy the event which this year features the work of around 170 artists.

Staithes from Cowbar by Rob Shaw.

The idea for the festival came from Allison Milnes, who with husband David owns the Staithes Gallery, after they visited a fishing village near Edinburgh where for 20 years they used the holiday cottages for artists to exhibit their work.

They wanted to do something similar in Staithes and so the festival was born.

Rob Shaw is a Staithes-based artist and one of the organisers. “The artists are using nearly 100 cottages in the village. They rent the cottage for the long weekend and in agreement with the owners they then display their works for the public to come and see,” he says.

And it’s big business. Last year £120,000 worth of artwork was sold during the course of the weekend. Which perhaps explains the clamour to be involved.

“I know that some of the cottages are booked up two years in advance because it’s grown that much it’s become difficult to get a cottage for the weekend,” says Shaw. “We’ve had artists from as far away as Spain and London, but we go to local artists first.”

The festival taps into its artistic heritage. “It’s always had a pull for artists. It’s a unique place to paint, there’s a certain kind of light that you don’t get in other parts of the country.”

Shaw should know for it was 
in Staithes where he first picked up a paintbrush and did his 
first painting and started him 
on the path to switching his 
career and becoming a full-time artist.

He’s a landscape artist who specialises in oil paintings, and Staithes is a favourite subject.

“It’s different every time you look at it and because of the design of the village you see something new every day,” he says.

“There’s nothing better to my mind than getting up in the morning and painting and a festival like this is a great way of getting work out there.

“The community is really supportive of what goes on, everyone gets involved whether it’s selling crabs or just chipping in here and there.”

And there’s all manner of artists exhibiting their work.

“We’ve got three dimensional art, we’ve got a local blacksmith artist called Katie Ventress, and there’s everything from fabric art to oil paintings and watercolours, as well as ceramics and jewellery. There’s a lot to see.”

Staithes Festival takes place tomorrow and Sunday. For details visit www.staithesfestival.com