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Birdwood residential area in Cambridge hosts first ever Bird Box Gallery Visual Arts Festival




A new art event, the Bird Box Gallery Visual Arts Festival, has opened in Cambridge.

Artist David Bennison finds the best place to display his work. Picture: Keith Heppell
Artist David Bennison finds the best place to display his work. Picture: Keith Heppell

Running until the end of July, residents from the Birdwood residential area in Coleridge will host the work of 20 local and national artists in their front gardens for anyone to see.

The Bird Box Gallery concept was started 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 in the first lockdown I was listening to the kind of things closing down all around, and I was inspired to think about how we could show our work and other people’s.

"We decided to go through with it. So from there on, I think 18 people entered from all around the country, from within our community, from the ages of seven to 70 – and recently somebody from India. So it’s been quite a phenomenal success, in our eyes.”

Artist Molly Wallis places her display in one of the hedges on the square. Picture: Keith Heppell
Artist Molly Wallis places her display in one of the hedges on the square. Picture: Keith Heppell

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

Roger, 53, an artist for “30-odd years” who also runs the art foundation course at North Herts College in Hitchin, continued: “We both use Instagram and we got a mention from a young artist called Matthew Burrows who runs the Artist Support Pledge, which has gone global during the pandemic.

“He mentioned us on his Instagram feed and from that, we went from 60 followers to around 700 in a day. We got people from all over the world asking to exhibit in our front garden. We’d always had ideas about doing a festival – and we multiplied the idea.

From left, Roger Healey-Dilkeson with Jane Phillips, chair of the residents association, as they check on the display by Soraya Caraca, a student at ARU. Picture: Keith Heppell
From left, Roger Healey-Dilkeson with Jane Phillips, chair of the residents association, as they check on the display by Soraya Caraca, a student at ARU. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We’ve been awarded some funds from the council to put 20 boxes in people’s front gardens around this area where we are – the Birdwood Area Residents’ Association (BARA). So we’ve got 20 artists, some are from around the country, some are literally next door...

Maria Kilker works on building her 'bird box'. Picture: Keith Heppell
Maria Kilker works on building her 'bird box'. Picture: Keith Heppell

“These boxes will all be situated in front gardens and basically it’s a trail, so there’ll be a map and there’ll be a website to help people guide themselves around it.

“It’s really eclectic and we just want to show as many people’s work as possible – there’s no style, there’s no type of work we like, you don’t have to have a massive CV.

The Bird Box Gallery art project on St Thomas's Square. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Bird Box Gallery art project on St Thomas's Square. Picture: Keith Heppell

“It’s really for the community to enjoy what’s going on.

“The Birdwood Residents’ Association were really keen to do it just to open up the community and get people talking and taking pride in the streets around this part of Cambridge.”

Sarah Healey-Dilkes with the display by Soraya Caraca, a student at ARU. Picture: Keith Heppell
Sarah Healey-Dilkes with the display by Soraya Caraca, a student at ARU. Picture: Keith Heppell

Roger said he was grateful for all the help received from the likes of the Birdwood Residents’ Association and Coleridge Community College, which ran a competition. If it is a success, it could be repeated.

Find out more about the trail by visiting instagram.com/birdbox_gallery/.

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