Angered artists hit out at decision to force Sidmouth exhibit to stay behind hazard tape

Debbie Cole. Picture: Richard Wright

Debbie Cole. Picture: Richard Wright - Credit: Archant

Angered artists have hit out at the council after it insisted they charged admission and enclosed themselves behind ‘unartistic’ hazard tape for its latest show.

Sidmouth Society of Artists took over a corner of Connaught Gardens on Saturday (August 25) for their annual open air show but this year were told to stay behind a red safety barrier and charge visitors for the first time.

Show organiser Rebecca Lockyear said: “East Devon District Council (EDDC) insisted on putting barriers up which left everybody feeling sad, and they insisted on an entrance fee which we’ve never charged before, which is such a shame.”

She said the black and yellow tape was ‘unsightly’ and they had been forced to disguise it by putting up bunting and decided to just charge 10 pence.

Despite the restrictions, the artists were pleased with the attendance, helped by Saturday’s good weather.

In total 19 artists took part in the display, all of which worked in a variety of styles including oils, acrylics, watercolours and pyrography – burnt etching on wood.

Rebecca said: “We would rather get back to how it was, where it is just free flow, no pay, and everyone just enjoys the art and has a wonderful time.

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“The visitors have been numerous and appreciative and keep ringing up their friends to tell them to come down to Connaught Gardens because there’s some really good stuff.

“So it’s really excellent feedback.

“I would love to have it again next year so hopefully we will be back.”

Debbie Coles, one of the artists, said: “It’s bizarre. We feel like we’re at the zoo. We feel like we’re monkeys in a cage.

“It doesn’t feel very welcoming. It wasn’t very artistically done.”

An EDDC spokeswoman said the annual event occurred after the council adopted street trading to allow events of this nature to be held legally.

And, although street trading did not incur payment of fees, on this occasion the event took place on land owned by EDDC, thus incurring a small charge for use of the council’s land.

She added: “There is a legal exemption for street trading events that charge an admission fee to the public, so for this event the organisers charged a small admission fee, which allowed the exemption.”

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