A new arts event, the Bird Box Gallery Visual Arts Festival, will open in Cambridge tomorrow (July 4).

Artist David Bennison finds the best place to exhibit his work. Photo: Keith Heppell

Until the end of the month, residents of the Birdwood residential neighborhood in Coleridge will welcome the work of 20 local and national artists to their gardens before anyone can see them.

The Bird Box Gallery concept was launched last year by Roger and Sarah Healey-Dilkes, as a creative response to the pandemic. Roger, 53, said: “We’re both artists and involved in the arts, and on the first lockdown I was listening to the kind of stuff that was closing all around, and I was inspired to think about the way we could show our work and other people.

“We decided to go all the way. So from there I think 18 people came in from all over the country, our community, ranging in age from seven to 70 – and recently someone from India. So it was pretty phenomenal success, in our eyes.

Artist Molly Wallis places her exhibition in one of the hedges in the square.  Photo: Keith Heppell
Artist Molly Wallis places her exhibition in one of the hedges in the square. Photo: Keith Heppell

The original idea was to have a gallery in the form of a box in the hedge of Roger and Sarah’s garden, and to provide a unique and Covid-safe gallery space – open 24 hours a day.

Roger, 53, an artist for “about 30 years” who also runs the Art Foundation course at North Herts College in Hitchin, continued: “We both use Instagram and got a mention of a young artist called Matthew Burrows who runs the Support Pledge artist, which went global during the pandemic.

“He mentioned us on his Instagram feed and from there we went from 60 followers to around 700 in one day. We have had people from all over the world who have asked to exhibit in our front garden. We always had ideas for a festival – and we multiplied the ideas.

Left to right, Roger Healey-Dilkeson with Jane Phillips, President of the Residents' Association, as they view the exhibit by ARU student Soraya Caraca.  Photo: Keith Heppell
Left to right, Roger Healey-Dilkeson with Jane Phillips, President of the Residents’ Association, as they view the exhibit by ARU student Soraya Caraca. Photo: Keith Heppell

“We have received funds from the council to put 20 boxes in the front gardens of the people around this area where we are – the Birdwood Area Residents Association (BARA). So we have 20 artists, some come from all over the country, some are literally next door …

Maria Kilker is working on the construction of her
Maria Kilker is working on the construction of her “nest box”. Photo: Keith Heppell

“These boxes will all be located in the front gardens and it’s basically a trail, so there will be a map and a website to help people find their way around.

“It’s really eclectic and we just want to show off the work of as many people as possible – there is no style, there is no type of work that we like, you don’t have to have a massive CV … It’s really for the community to appreciate what’s going on. The Birdwood Residents Association was really keen to do this just to open up the community and get people talking and being proud in the areas. streets around this part of Cambridge.

Sarah Healey-Dilkes with the exhibition of Soraya Caraca, student at ARU.  Photo: Keith Heppell
Sarah Healey-Dilkes with the exhibition of Soraya Caraca, student at ARU. Photo: Keith Heppell

Roger said he was grateful for all the help he received from the Birdwood Residents’ Association and Coleridge Community College, who held a competition. If it is successful, it could be repeated.

Learn more about the trail by visiting instagram.com/birdbox_gallery/.

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