Book your Flash Festival tickets now!

Trinity College BristolCelebrating its fourth year, Flash Fiction Festival 2023 spreads out over three intensely creative days in July. The in-person version of the festival unfurls ofrom 14th-16th July, welcoming fabulous flashers including Kathy Fish, Nancy Stohlman, Ingrid Jendrzejewski, Carrie Etter and Tania Hershman.

The weekend takes place at Trinity College, Bristol, and is packed with inspiring workshops tackling every aspect of flash fiction, from ‘Writing Climate Change’ with Deb Tompkins, to ‘How to Haibun’ (a form of prose poem) with Roberta Beary and Lew Watts.

I’ll be inviting writers to ‘Unlock your fairy tale toolkit’ in my workshop where fairy tale motifs offer the chance to shine new light on modern day darkness.

These are just a few of the wonderful offerings tempting you to sign up. See the website to find out what else is happening.

The festival team, headed by director Jude Higgins, make this a weekend of imaginative adventures, attracting some of the loveliest writers ever to dip a toe into the art of flash writing. Join the throng before all spaces fill up!

Book your flash festival admission here.

Ahead of this weekend-long fiesta of flash, Jude is organising a night of readings in the Gallery room at St James Wine Vaults, Bath, from 7pm on Saturday 20th May.

I’ll be reading my story ‘The Finch in My Sister’s Hair’ from my 2022 short fiction collection The Stairs Are a Snowcapped Mountain.

Jude promises cake and other nibbles. The event is free and un-ticketed, but there will be a raffle raising funds towards a reduced-cost place at the Flash Fiction Festival.
I hope to see you there!

Escape to Port Eliot

Port Eliot Festival cr Michael Bowles

All photographs used in this post are taken by Michael Bowles

Port Eliot Festival brings together some of the best creative talents around and plonks them in the midst of a magical sprawling garden party. Irresistible.

Enticingly, they say: “Our home is your playground for one magical weekend and nothing makes us happier than seeing you explore the Estate. Whether you’re swimming in the estuary, catching a literary star on the Bowling Green, rocking out at the Park Stage, canoeing on the river, catching an intimate gig in the church, watching a cooking demo on the Flower & Fodder Stage, a fashion show or dancing ‘till the wee hours in the Boogie Round – our home is yours for the weekend.”

It all kicks off on 25th July, running till 28th July, at St Germans, west Cornwall.

This year’s speakers, performers, mixologists and visionaries include Simon Armitage, Lily Allen, JoJo Mehta, Ben Okri, poet Iona Lee, Stephanie Theobald, Hafsah Aneela Bashir, Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project, and so many others.

Don’t miss Frisbee Tree Golf, a new show by Ben Moor.Port Eliot woodland cr Michael BowlesFind full details of all the mysterious and mind-boggling goings-on.




Submit your sculpture to the RWA’s new exhibition

RWA Open 166 Photo by James Beck

RWA Open 166. Photo by James Beck

Following a hugely successful annual Open Exhibition in 2018, the RWA Galleries in Bristol are branching out with a brand new Open Exhibition devoted to sculpture.

They say: “We’re inviting artists to submit their work to our Sculpture Open Exhibition in 2019. We’re so excited to be giving our gallery space over to the art of sculpture and all the disciplines within it.”

The exhibition will run from 12th March until 2nd June 2019, and you have a chance to be part of it.

“Submissions are welcome from artists from any stage in their career and all work is for sale, making it the perfect opportunity for artists to be discovered by collectors, galleries and the general public.”

This is an exceptional opportunity to showcase your work alongside some of the most renowned sculptors working today (including Invited Artist Ana Maria Pacheco) within the grandeur of the RWA’s grade II galleries.This year’s selection panel include internationally-known sculptors Ann Christopher RADaphne Wright and Kate MccGwire.

The deadline for entries is 5pm on Thursday 7th February 2019.

You can find the full details here, but here are a few of the rules:

  • Artists of all ages and experience are invited to submit
  • Submissions must be no more than three years old
  • Submissions must be for sale
  • No more than three works may be submitted per applicant
  • Work cannot have been exhibited previously at the RWA
  • A submission fee must be paid for each entry (find details of prices here) other than those by RWA Academicians
  • All works must be submitted online via the RWA’s Online Exhibition Submission System (OESS)

Good luck!

Ride the art in Vilnius

Painting Routers art initiativeHave you ever taken a journey on a piece of art? Now you can take an epic ride on one of Vilnius’ trolleybuses covered in contemporary art. Running for the second consecutive year, the Painting Routers art initiative has transformed five trolleybuses into Vilnius, Lithuania, into canvases painted on by five teams of well-known young artists from Lithuania and Estonia.

“The novelty of using public transport as art lies in the subjectivity of painting and its corporeal and incorporeal duality rather than  in the trolley’s medium as something new and unexpected,” explains the project’s coordinator Darius Jarusevicius. “The aim of Painting Routers is to question the stable  identity of painting and the sustainability of its corporeal actualisation, and to highlight the nomadic nature of art.”

The idea of Painting Routers sprang from art duo Polyrabbit.Duplicate (Inna Shilina and Darius Jaruševičius). “Our painterly practice is based on duplication and the repetition of our own paintings on different mediums: animation, digital  appearance, corporeal surfaces with very different densities and situations of exposition,” says Darius. “It was a dream of the Polyrabbit.Duplicate duo to find means of creating visual art in non-static public spaces. When we hit on the trolleybuses was the answer, it became clear that it would be good not only for our own painterly practice, but for contemporary painting in general, so we invited more artists to join in.”

Painting Routers art initiative

Artists involved in the project for 2018 include Goda Lukaitė, Donata Minderytė, Monika Plentauskaitė, Alexei Gordin, Kazimieras Brazdžiūnas, Vita Opolskytė, Kristina Ališauskaitė, Rosanda Sorakaitė, Kristi Kongi, and Rosanda Sorakaitė.

This year’s Painting Routers initiative aims to encourage dialogue on the #metoo movement, femininity, sensations, and sexuality. “A real-life social media wall will revert back to digital when people share their experiences of the Painting Router works, creating a cycle,” says Darius. “Taken out of the galleries, the art becomes accessible to everyone.”

The trolleybuses will be riding  the streets of Vilnius until October 2018, offering plenty of time to spot all five works and ride each one as the mood takes you!

More information about the project and about tourism in Vilnius visit



Get ready to sparkle

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition)

Adam Closs Magic Eye 3 detail (not part of the exhibition, but an artwork that evokes circus 🙂

The RWA will launch their new exhibition Sawdust and Sequins on the weekend of 24th and 25th March 2018, and it sounds fabulous. It marks the start of a spectacular exhibition that will run until 3rd June at the RWA Galleries in Bristol.

The exhibition will showcase historic and contemporary art that offers up a sense of the UK’s circus heritage and Bristol’s thriving circus scene.

The exhibition coincides with Circus250 – a nationwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of circus in the UK.

The opening weekend will transform the stately gallery buildings on Queen’s Road with  with performances from Circomedia Academy of Contemporary Circus and Physical Theatre, with aerial displays, acrobatics, aerial displays, have-a-go workshops and creative activities for all ages to get stuck into.

It’ll all be happening on Saturday 24 March 10.30am–3pm and Sunday 25 March 11.30am–3pm. Find out more here.

Got an event, exhibition, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.

The power in portraiture

Untitled 2 by Hatty Butler

Vigorous brushstrokes, spray paint and mixed media give Hatty Butler’s portraits an uncommon vitality. They have statements to make and personalities to exude, and little time or patience for the uncertain viewer.

“I’m drawn to painting people because the idea of representing someone in a new form fascinates me,” says Hatty, who studied BA Hons Fine Art at Bath Spa University. “I love creating an image of someone and bringing it into a whole new dimension, giving the individual a new life. The concept of bringing a likeness of the person the painting yet adding a contemporary, energetic aspect is, for me, hugely exciting and inspiring.”

The scale of the pieces is immense: it’s as though their fizzing force of character has transformed them into giants.

Hatty Butler, artist

“The energies and emotions I aim to capture of those just under the surface, those that we may try and hide in day to day life,” Hatty says. “It’s all about those feelings of vulnerability and a stripped back version of our existence.”

Pink Is For Me Too by Hatty Butler

Pink Is For Me Too by Hatty Butler

She adds: “I am also passionate about portraying individuals that may be overlooked or criticised by society for being different. We live in a society where the abnormal is sometimes laughed at and my aim is to alter these outdated views. Art can be the most innovative and compelling means of providing change within our society. I challenge the viewer, encouraging them to look deeper into the painting than just the portrait itself, to raise internal issues and try to comprehend them.”

Hatty’s own mood shifts drastically while she is painting. “At the start of creating a new piece I feel a mixture of excitement for the unknown, yet also apprehensive how it will turn out,” she admits. “I never plan ahead what direction the piece will take – it grows and evolves as time goes on. I love the freedom of adding pastel and spray paint once the finer details have been completed. It is a liberating and fulfilling experience.”

April by Hatty Butler

April by Hatty Butler

She’s become an expert at melding the observed and invented in her work.

“I tend to makes initial sketches from life and then work from a series of photographs,” Hatty says. “A lot comes from my imagination too – my work is a representation of the subjects inner being, I only focus slightly on the external likeness. For me it is more about externalising the internal.”

I Am Strong, I Am Proud, I Am Me by Hatty Butler'

I Am Strong, I Am Proud, I Am Me by Hatty Butler’

To do this, Hatty needs to set aside her own immediate feelings. “That’s the greatest challenge of trying to represent the internal through painting the external – I need to be able to be honest and not portray my own internal emotions,” she says. “The work needs to represent the characteristics of the subject initially.”

Being an artist, Hatty says, offers a wonderful sense of freedom. “To live a creative life is such a special thing and while it comes with its struggles I wouldn’t have it any other way,” she says. “I relish having the freedom to express myself and spend every day doing something that I love. I love what I do, creating things that did not exist before, that are unique and that touch other people. As an artist, I see the beauty in things that are often overlooked. Without art the world could be a very boring place. It’s so important that we take a moment to appreciate what’s around us.”

To see more of Hatty’s work, visit, and look out for news of upcoming exhibitions.

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley (at) I’m also happy to receive reviews of books, exhibitions, theatre and film. To submit or suggest a review, please send an email to judydarley (at)



Garden of culinary delights

The Florist interior by Judy Darley

If you knew and loved Goldbrick House in Bristol, you may be aware that a new company has finally taken root in this amazing building, reopening its doors just over a week ago. With a light and airy flower-strewn interior, The Florist makes the most of the eclectic spaces in that hub, with café corners, a bar with DJs after dark and a stunning restaurant all ready for you to explore.

Stairways and walls are decorated with prints and presses of petals, feathers and leaves, while silk blooms pour from ceilings. It’s rather like stepping into a gloriously extravagant potting shed.

But it’s the menus where The Florist really excels. Already well-established in Liverpool, their Bristol location seems set to become equally popular. Lunchtime cocktails, you ask?  While Mr J perused the Anthology of Ales, I delved into chapters devoted to divine concoctions, opting at last for Rhubarb In Bloom (£8.50), a fruity blend of Slingsby rhubarb gin, rhubarb and ginger liqueur, green apple liqueur raspberry syrup and ginger ale. Gorgeous.

The Florist olives by Judy Darley

We nibbled on taut green olives while choosing our main courses. As a fan of small plates and lots of varied flavours, I found the deli board (£11.50) irresistible – brilliantly you get to mix and match an assortment of four mini plates, or more if you’re extra hungry, to create your perfect plate.

The Florist Deli plate by Judy DarleyI opted for chilled chalk stream trout, mango and lime cerviche (sweet and tenderly meaty), a Dolcelatte cheese, poached pear and candied walnut salad, a generous wedge of firm Manchego sheep cheese (which I’ve been in love with ever since discovering it in Spain), and an indulgent serving of macaroni cheese, made with a 2-year aged Shorrock Lancashire. Every mouthful was a mini-adventure as hot and cold, sweet and savoury, components mingled on my tongue.

Mr J ordered the cod, king prawn and chorizo kebab (£11.75) with harissa chips and garlic oil, the latter poured with a flourish by our waitress through the perforated dish at the top to drizzle the fish, meat and chips in a fun bit of table theatre.

The Florist Lavender Thistle by Judy DarleyAs icy rain assaulted the windows, I resolutely pretended it was summer and sipped the Lavender Thistle (£7.95), chosen from the English Flower Garden section of the cocktail menu. Marrying Brockman’s blueberry gin, blueberry liqueur, lavender bitters and vanilla liqueur, and with a tangible hint of Palma Violet about it, this was the perfect accompaniment to my dessert. I’d decided to go all out on the floral theme and selected the elderflower meringue with caramelised peaches, dinky cubes of clear prosecco jelly, dabs of rich red raspberry coulis and a scattering of toasted almonds (£5.50). Light, luscious and perfectly indulgent, it was the ideal finish to a meal that had toyed with every tastebud without weighing me down.

The Florist Elderflower meringue dessert by Judy Darley

Mr J went with the waitress’s recommendation and wallowed happily in a warming sticky toffee pud, complete with toasted a sesame and peanut sauce topped with vanilla ice cream (£5.95).

It’s impressive to find a place that can create two very different meals for two utterly different palettes, and ensure that every bite, sip and lick is delicious. The secret to The Florist’s success lies in thoughtfully sourced, ultra fresh ingredients put together with care to create a dining experience that will feed all your senses.

Find The Florist at 69 Park Street, Bristol BS1 5PB, tel: 0117 2034284,

Got an event, venue, challenge, competition or call for submissions you’d like to draw my attention to? Send me an email at judydarley(at)iCloud(dot)com.







Storyfied art by Amanda Cozens

Hare by Amanda Cozens

I fell in love with the fairytale quality of Amanda Cozens’ paintings the moment I laid eyes on it. They draw to the surface the kind of imaginings prompted by tales read and told to me when I was a child, but far from being fey, the women featured in her work are forces to be reckoned with. Hints of ancient myths run through them, providing the sense of stepping into the centre of a scene with much more to come.

Narrative is something that comes naturally to Amanda. “Inspiration sometimes comes from something going on in my own life – a theme I’ve noticed and automatically ‘storyfied,’” she says. “Narrative is a strong personal survival skill as well as being important in my work so it’s inevitably going to bleed into a new piece. Often I’ll feel drawn to paint a certain animal or creature and it ends up quite totemic.”

Twins by Amanda Cozens

Twins by Amanda Cozens

A survival skill? That’s true for me too, but I’m intrigued to discover Amanda’s version of this. “I have the sort of mind that has always learned and problem-solved through making things into stories,” she says. “It’s second-nature just like some people are very numerical or practical. Even in art school, when my works appeared to be quite abstract, in my mind they were still very strongly rooted in the narrative I had experienced with them.”

Toads by Amanda Cozens

Toads by Amanda Cozens

I’m curious to know the kinds of things that run through Amanda’s head as she’s working on a new piece of work.

“I get totally immersed when I’m working on a new piece,” she comments. “It’s hard for me to let go. I think in pictures and I see myself beneath a great invisible, fast moving river than runs just at the height of my upstretched hand. Beyond its membrane is, well, everything. Life, inspiration, branches and tendrils of seemingly unrelated narrative and colour and texture. I dip my hand in and see what I can catch!”

Octopus by Amanda Cozens

Octopus by Amanda Cozens

Amanda studied fine art at Falmouth School of Art. “Kife drawing was my baseline really, the tool I used to develop my language and something I return to again and again.”

She describe her process as “acrylic overlaid with drawn pigment”, which she explains means the following:

“I layer thin and thickly applied acrylic paint over drawing, and then draw over those layers,” she says. “I love using watercolour pencils for this, meaning I always have the option to blur and waterdown any line. I incise lines by scratching into the paint and often pare back using wire wool.”

Amanda hopes to provoke layers of ideas and feelings in her viewers.

“I love that they may stir a long-forgotten memory or collective unconsciousness and trigger a connection that may not have been there before – a catalyst for some personal narrative that I may never be  party to,” she says.

The Messenger by Amanda Cozens

The Messenger by Amanda Cozens

For Amanda, honesty is the most important aspect of her work. “Being genuine is vital,” she says. “Art is the space I hold for myself where I can be the most authentic amidst the other work of mothering and being responsible and fitting in adequately and bills and all the other marvellous things in life.”

Amanda can often I often be found at arts trails or markets with prints of my work as well as clothing that she makes. “I’ll be at Bristol Folk House Flea Market on 23rd July.”

Keep an eye on what Amanda’s up to and see more of her glowy art at

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley(at)

Beyond the curtains

Levitated solar etching by Debbie Lee

Levitated solar etching by Debbie Lee

I encountered Debbie Lee’s extraordinary solar etchings, paintings and prints at the RWA Galleries in Bristol. Taking up almost a full wall in the downstairs gallery, it felt a little like having drawn aside a heavy velvet curtain and discovered a wonderful circus of the shadows taking place.

“I’m a visual artist based in Dorset, and work in paint, print and animation,” Debbie explained when I got in touch to find out more. “In recent years I’ve made a series of mini etchings which have been exhibited around the UK and in France and Spain. They explore themes of magic and illusion.”

Debbie has linked the artworks together using an imagined narrative and bound them into a limited edition artist’s book entitled ‘Tread Softly’. “I like the containment that a book offers and the intimacy of studying each illustration secretly. I’ve made larger paintings of these miniatures and I hope to exhibit the prints, paintings and book together.”

Tread Softly artist's book by Debbie Lee

Tread Softly artist’s book by Debbie Lee

Debbie often works in print, and enjoys the social aspect of the print studio. “I sometimes invite other artists to my studio to print and share ideas while we work side by side,” she comments. “I have always made prints alongside my paintings and have visited many print studios during my travels to India as a commonwealth research scholar, as well as in Chicago and Tasmania. When I first moved to Dorset with young children, I found going to Poole print studio a great way to meet local artists and I have been teaching solar etching there for a number of years.”

Find out more about solar etching.

Debbie draws inspiration from “surrealism, outsider art and philosophy, psychological theories and fairytales. I like to paint on coloured Indian khadi paper. I am interested in the different process of working in miniature and large scale pictures. Sometimes I take a part of a miniature Indian painting and magnify it so that the brush strokes are physically present and the shapes become abstracted.”

Previously, Debbie worked as an art therapist with children, and still values this process in the work she makes today. “I will often start a number of pictures simultaneously, sometimes with my daughter making random marks on the paper, and exchanging the pictures between us working with large brushes and sponges which I later develop in my studio. I like the idea of developing attachment through drawing and painting with my daughter during this process.”

Sadness by Debbie Lee

Sadness by Debbie Lee

Debbie has also found support though joining creative parent projects. “We work together and encourage each other to retain our artistic practice,” she says. “Resources like this provide an archive of material for new creative parents to draw upon and a platform for parent artists to show artwork. Last year I was asked to contribute a creative piece of writing in celebration of grand mothering.”

In 2016 Debbie teamed up with other artists to experience collaborative ‘play’ on a massive scale at the Hansard Gallery in Southampton. “This has led to further collaborations with group members,” she enthuses. “Ideas from this experience evolved into a series of images offering a psychological inspection of women caught behind the scenes.”

Whispered by Debbie Lee

Whispered by Debbie Lee

The body of work they produced was also influenced by the novella The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, one of my personal unsettling favourites. “It charts the female protagonist’s attempts to manage altered mental states after childbirth,” Debbie says. “Isolated by her physician and husband and told to ‘rest’ her creativity, she hallucinates disturbing figures in wallpaper patterns.”

The series of artworks produced in response to the novella also ties in with the phenomenon of pareidolia, an intriguing topic that formed the basis of one of my recent writing prompts on SkyLightRain. “I projected wallpaper and invited the group to draw out images from the patterns and made a stop motion film of the process which inspired future paintings,” Debbie says.

Drawn Curtain still image by Debbie Lee

Drawn Curtain still image by Debbie Lee

Exploratory play is key to Debbie’s imaginative process. “I like to experiment with animated drawings – drawing over one drawing and erasing it over and over to create the sense of movement,” she says. “I find this a satisfying way to bring memories to life using collected sound tracks and images. It has also been a good way to take my work to a wider audience and this year I have had my animations, including Drawn Curtains, screened in Chicago and at the RWA.”

These processes provide a foundation for Debbie’s larger paintings. “For me these are windows to my imagination (Sadness),” she says. “I enjoy the physical activity of working on a large scale and I enjoy the playful processes I go through to create them. I try to create a believable world from my imagination.”

You can see more of Debbie’s work and find out where she’s exhibiting on her website

Are you an artist or do you know an artist who would like to be showcased on Get in touch at judydarley (at)



Invigorating imaginations with At-Bristol

Nephew exploring At-Bristol by Judy DarleyAt 10am yesterday, my eight-year-old nephew was the first person to enter At-Bristol. For the fleetest of moments, he had the whole, magical place to himself. The expression on his face was one of awe, but also faint panic. As a child with ADHD, being presented with limitless possibilities can be daunting. Swiftly he focussed on his favourite exhibit and we hurried over to feed a skeleton and watch his energy levels rise and fall.

This is just one of countless interactive exhibits at the Bristol hands-on science centre, and before long we were moving on to listen to music through our teeth, play with pint-sized parachutes, and test our reflexes in countless ways, as rain drenched Millennium Square beyond the plate glass windows.

Glass Microbiology by Luke Jerram1

Glass Microbiology by Luke Jerram

I crept way for a few moments to take in Luke Jerram’s stunning Glass Microbiology exhibit – breathe in a moment’s peace among the viruses sculpted in glass and head back out into the mayhem where my husband was helping the nephew milk a pretend cow.

Exploring the Solar System Planetarium show

Exploring the Solar System Planetarium show

We’d deliberately timetabled in a couple of shows in the Planetarium to allow the nephew and ourselves a bit of quiet time. I’m also partial to a bit of space travel, and the 3D shows offer a sense of swooping through the solar system. We visited Venus (too hot, very stormy, not the best place for a holiday), and Saturn’s Rings (too cold, but very beautiful), before swooping back to Earth (just right, and the most beautiful of all). We spent time on Mars and Pluto, and learnt about atmosphere, gas giants and that Neptune is the most glorious shade of blue.

Nephew in Planetarium by Judy Darley

The Planetarium is also on the floor with some of the most engaging displays, in my opinion. The Aardman area animation is ideal for children and adults who like to doodle, while an impressive wind drum provided the chance to build structures to mimic a sycamore seeds spin. We discovered the cause of the Bermuda Triangle’s many ship disappearances, and entered a tilted room where perspective skewed in a pretty magical way.

Constructing roadways

Elsewhere the nephew devoted himself to building roadways for plastic balls, spun metal disks and proved himself to be impressively adept at creating bubbles within bubbles within bubbles. Just watching him get to grips with his surroundings was a masterclass in harnessing a fizzing mind to gain the most rewarding experience possible.

Exiting the science centre into sunshine, the research continued as we headed up to College Green and discovered the tree full of shoes (close to the cathedral, in case you’d like to see it for yourself), met a shy juggler (the nephew’s many questions seemed to alarm him somewhat!) and discovered that it’s possible to skim pennies on the water surrounding the fountain – four skips across the surface from one side to the other.

At-Bristol is a marvel for curious minds, giving adults a way to access their own inquisitive side and nourishing children’s natural sense of wonder. The clamour and chaos is all part of the mix, but if you get in tune with that, you’ll emerge prepared to reinvent the world.

Find out more about At-Bristol