Art worth climbing hills for

Urban Archaelogy 2 By Peter Ford

Urban Archaelogy 2 By Peter Ford

Art On The Hill returns to the Windmill Hill area of south Bristol on 7th-8th October, promising a wealth of exceptional creativity. I’ll be heading to 13 Cotswold Road to ascend the narrow stairs leading to Off-Centre Gallery. Printmaker and curator Peter Ford has long had me entranced with his unique view of the world, and this year he’ll also be joined by artists Dr. Michael McCaldin and Ruth Ander.

Urban Archaeology 1 by Peter Ford

Urban Archaeology 1 by Peter Ford

Other highlights I’m looking forward to include Stephen Mason’s ambiguous photography at 39 Gwilliam Street. Sixty artists have signed up to exhibit on the trail, so there should be plenty to tempt you.

Stephen Mason photography 2

Photography by Stephen Mason

Find full details and the trail map at

Reasons to visit AAF Bristol

Channel Orange by Rowdy via Clifton Fine ArtToday the Affordable Art Fair returns to Bristol. *squealswithjoy* Brunel’s Old Station at Temple Meads is already filling up with gorgeous artwork, and I can’t wait to get down there!

If you are after something special and spectacularly original, it’s a great place to go with a wad of cash or a healthy credit card in your pocket. Galleries from across the UK will be representing some extraordinary artists. I’ll be looking out for the Clifton Fine Art stand, which will feature work by the likes of Harry Bunce, Steve Slimm and graffiti artist Rowdy, who painted the vivid beauty at the top of this page.

Waiting For The Cloads To Break by Steve Slimm via Clifton Fine Art

Waiting For The Cloads To Break by Steve Slimm

The fair launches with a Private Charity View tonight from 5.30pm – 9.30pm, and is then open on Friday 9th Sept from 11am – 5pm, with a late view from 5-8pm, on Saturday 10th Sept from 11am till 6pm and on Sunday 11 Sept from 11am till 5pm.

For me the best part is simply to meander the vast space of the Old Station, traversing corridors of exceptional art and letting it set my imagination alight.

Find full details here.

A watery big adventure with Bristol Biennial

Bristol waterways cr Judy DarleyBristol Biennial begins today, with a programme of peculiar, beautiful, imaginative and immersive events taking place across the city.

I’m really happy to have been chosen as one of 12 artists taking part in The Floating, a collaborative writing project taking place on the Bristol’s waterways, and set to culminate in a series of works inspired by the boat journey. Excitingly, these will then be published “in an experimental way” along the harbourside where you’ll be able to see them throughout the week of Bristol Biennial.

The project is being masterminded by graphic designers Conway and Young and writer Amy Spencer. It’s the first time I’ve been involved in anything quite like this, and I’m buzzing with anticipation!

The Floating is just one of an array of fabulously inventive happenings, many of which are free to experience. Find out more about Bristol Biennial and The Floating.


Writing prompt – playtime

After Hours brain cr Judy DarleyPlaytime is an essential part of childhood, helping to develop skills, fuel curiosity and spark imaginations. But why should children have all the fun? Science centre At Bristol has two floors packed with opportunities to explore, experiment and marvel at the world around us, but more excitingly they’ve cottoned onto the fact that adults relish the chance to play and so hold regular After Hours evenings for over-18s only.

Sans kids, the mood is one of grown ups embracing their inner creativity, with people creating animations, investigating our own biology, milling flour, milking cows, and soaring among starfields via the 3D planetarium show.

After Hours lamb testicle

After Hours lamb testicle courtesy Bordeaux Quay

My man and I attended the Valentine’s special SEX themed night, complete with a chance to spot Orion’s penis in the night sky, nibble lambs’ testicles (they tasted a bit like really garlicky chicken nuggets, in case you were wondering) and examine the emotional centres of a human brain.

After Hours bubbles cr Judy Darley

As the night wore on, it was intriguing to watch friends walling each other into phallic towers in the Build It area, and witness the growing competitiveness of spawning enormous bubbles.

After Hours Build It  cr Judy Darley

So many possible prompts for art, theatre or storytelling! Where could your imagination take you?

For details of upcoming After Hours specials and other events, visit

If you write or create something prompted by this, please send an email to Judy(at)socket to let me know. With your permission, I’ll publish it on

Hiding out in Bloom & Curll

Bloom and Curll interior cr Judy Darley

Independent bookshops seem few and far between these days, but if you know where to look and what to look for, you’ll discover they’re far from extinct.

Bloom and Curll exterior cr Judy DarleyOne of the finest I know totters on a sweep of road just above Bristol’s Christmas Steps. Currently sans signage, it’s easy to spot thanks to the heaps of books piled inside and out.

This is Bloom & Curll, owned and run by Jason, though occasionally ‘babysat’ by his mum (her words).

What a treasure trove this is. Modern classics nestle alongside works be emerging local authors, shiny new volumes next to previously own and beloved texts.

Lanterns hang from the ceiling, toy trains sit ready on tracks (in the adult department, no less), and clocks show a random assortment of times, as though to remind you that inside this shop the only times that truly exist are those mentioned in the passages of the books.

Bloom and Curll clocks

And should you need sustenance to fuel you through your literary treasure hunt, there’s almost always a plate of Jaffa cakes near the till.

Bloom and Curll Jaffa cakes

My short story collection Remember Me To The Bees recently took up residence at Bloom & Curll, and I find myself both proud, and a little jealous that it gets to spend its days there, waiting to be discovered by some reader seeking a few short stories to transport them in the way Bloom & Curll does me.

Bloom & Curll, 74 Colston Street, BS1 5BB Bristol, United Kingdom; tel: 07786 960941.

Remember Me To The Bees at Bloom and Curll

A happy browse at The Little Shop

The Little Shop Bristol muralI’m a fan of shops crammed with unexpected treasures – artworks, handmade oddities and items you never knew you needed until you set eyes (and heart) on them. Recently I discovered the aptly named Little Shop, established on Cheltenham Road in Stoke’s Croft by artists Amber Elise and Alex Lucas.

Small though it is, it’s impossible to miss thanks to the mural of languid bunnies and pineapples.

The Little Shop exterior

In case you don’t know it, I should explain that Stoke’s Croft is one of Bristol’s most intriguing areas, with interesting cafés, quirky shops and masses of world-class street art. Well worth a wander, and a wonder!

“The Little Shop is in a great location!” enthuses Alex. “The mural adds the curiosity of the use of the building (hopefully!) and often people look through the window before entering the shop as they are not quite sure what it is. I like that curiosity and think it adds a little quirkiness to what we do. Of course, it was a different matter altogether when we were painting the mural in the middle of the night – we saw the whole 24hrs of the Stokes Croft life!”

The shop itself came about almost by chance as the two artists, who had already shared a studio space for almost four years, were offered a workspace that was previously a gallery.

“We knew that we could share a studio space, inspire one another and both had an interesting eye for other people’s artwork that is was a prime opportunity not to be missed!” explains Alex. “We have quite different tastes which hopefully appeals to a wide audience base. There’s a large spectrum of work from prints, baby grows, jewellery to woolly knitted cacti. We like the idea of appealing to lots of people’s different tastes – variety is the spice of life and all that…!”

She adds: “I think having such a small space makes you think really hard about how effectively it can be used; we wanted a thoughtful and considered space with a relaxed atmosphere where people feel comfortable browsing and exploring.”

The Little Shop

The customers, and browsers, are a huge part of the pleasure of running The Little Shop.

“It’s really lovely to meet the people that wander into the shop –everyone usually has good interesting things to say and it’s also nice to be surrounded by so many beautiful things and inspired by fellow artists!”

To source the content of the shop, Amber and Alex are happy to be approached by artists with photos or samples of their artwork/product. “As it is a very small space, we do have to be quite choosy as there just isn’t enough room to fit everything in,” says Alex. “We’re now receiving applications from artists further afield, such as Nottingham and Lancashire, and even Barcelona, which is great! If anyone is interested in being part of the Little Shop, email us at thelittleshopinbristol(at) and we’ll send you an application form and information with how the shop runs.”

The Little Shop interior

The pair like to keep the shop’s contents fresh and varied, so every eight weeks they have a change-around, ensuring a hugely diverse array of artists can be seen – it’s definitely worth popping in each time you pass!

Purple haze

Spring may have been limping in rather uncertainly, not to mention unconvincingly, in 2013, but May in the west of England has achieved something rather wonderful.

Bluebells, swathes and swathes of bluebells.

Scattering of bluebellsAt first just a scattering here and there…


…then, gathering vibrancy and density as you get deeper into the woods…

Haze of bluebells…until there are so many that it resembles a purple mist gathering around the feet of the trees.

Bluebells and spiderEven the spiders are enjoying them.

In case you were wondering, I took these photos at Leigh Woods, Bristol.