The Stonemason’s Festival 2008

9 June, 2008 – 10:00 pm

On May 24th, 25th and 26th, the Harts Barn Craft Centre hosted its first and by no means its last stone-carving weekend. I was frantically setting up with the landlord and his son, the Canadians arrived and after travelling all around the south west of England, they got stuck in. we knew the weather was going to turn nasty so any smallish blocks of stone from my workshop wound up being tied to the gazebos, that we were putting up for the visiting masons. The Forestry Commission had very kindly lent us some marquees, which they don’t generally do, but could obviously understand our plight! The other masons started turning up as the evening wore on, bear in mind, that these guys had just finished a days work. They gave up their Bank Holiday to help us raise money for our chosen charities. These being The Mitcheldean Scouts, Guides and Brownies who are trying to raise £30,000 for a new hut and trust me after having spent some time with them, they need one! Also The Forge Centre, who provide support for the blind and partially sighted a very worthy cause.

After a fantastic BBQ provided by our wonderful hosts my landlord and his wife, we chatted, drank and re-acquainted ourselves with one another. After all some of us had only met once, Stonemason’s festivals are like busman’s holidays, lots of hard work socialising and carving!! Some of the masons I have worked with on Gloucester Cathedral others I spent time with when I was on block release down in Weymouth. One of the Canadians I met briefly when I was working on Woodchester Mansion near Stroud. Then there were a few that I had never met but now have widened my circle.

On the Saturday morning, we awoke to a lovely day, granted most of us awoke with a slight hangover, but that is to be expected!! The carving started in earnest, however I didn’t get started til about 1.30pm, I was running around like a headless chicken organising-looking back it was so much fun. I carved a Welsh Dragon, there were a couple of Green men, my friend Rita carved a baby dragon and her partner carved Neptune-he is a very fine carver, we all have our own styles, no 2 people are alike in this craft. There was a sculptor taking part, who carved a pair of wrestlers. They were fantastic. The apprentice of Wells Cathedral, who did a wonderful carving of a sun god. There were some more girls, one carved an otter chasing a fish, man she is good, one carved a hand holding a child, and my student, who has only just recently started taking lessons carved a cheeky devil. The range of skill was varied but the standard was exceptionally high. The general public was amazed and hopefully it achieved what I wanted it to, to allay any fears that this is a dying craft-it’s very much alive and kicking. And of course that there are plenty of girls doing it!!

Come Saturday evening everyone wanted to keep going, none of us had got as far as we wanted, there was a bbq waiting for us however, and obviously we were all famished. My family were visiting from Kent so I went off to a local pub and had a fabulous meal with them.

By the time I had got back, at 10.30 everyone was in bed, eager to make an early start. The enthusiasm that the general public had shown was something we hadn’t expected so we were all behind-me especially!! On Sunday morning everyone started about 7am, we stopped for a fantastic breakfast provided by The Old Dairy Tearoom then got straight back on with our creations. By this time the weather had taken a nasty turn, so I brought the carving in, that one of the girls was working on, into my workshop. I wish I could have made room for everyone in there.

Despite the weather the public kept coming, which is what we wanted, fair play to them for braving the weather. Most of the people who turned up out of curiosity came back over the whole weekend to watch the progress and decide which one they were going to bid on at Mondays auction.

Sunday night we all piled into the landlords house and his wife kindly cooked us some hot food. The others were cold and wet, it had been a ghastly day but spirits were high, The Tearoom had laid on a hog roast and local real ale /local cider was on sale-which obviously the carvers made full use of!! The Canadians kept warm with a bottle of whisky, no we are not all alcoholics but the odd tipple doesn’t hurt!!

Straight after tea some of us sloped off to our carvings to get a couple more hours in, I had been commissioned to make a house number for a charming German couple who were going home the next day so obviously that needed to be done. There were 2 of us carving in my workshop till 11pm. If we hadn’t have done that there would have been no way we would have finished. As my workshop is my business as well I couldn’t turn away any business that came in, but my apologies to anyone who I couldn’t give my full attention to.

Unfortunately because we had to carve late into the night we missed the evenings revelries however I made up for it the following night.

We had been waking up at about 6am each morning so it was lovely to have a half hour lay in on Monday morning. We started carving again at about 7am then stopped again at 9 for breakfast. It hadn’t stopped raining and just seemed to get worse. We carved till 1.15pm when all the carvings were collected for the auction, scheduled to start at 2pm.

It really started coming down in stair rods when the serious bidders started turning up. Adrenalin was pumping and the auction started. Several people bought more than one but they got some real bargains, I believe that had the weather been better we would have had three times as many people and the carvings would have gone for three times as much. But I am not complaining, we raised just over £4000 from the sale of the carvings. Once we have worked out how much is profit-I’m not sure yet until we get all the receipts in, but I’m sure that there will be a nice little sum for our charities.

I was going to go home on Monday night, but when I learnt that the Canadians weren’t going until the morning me and a couple of others decided to get some fish and chips and stay on with them. It was the first time since Friday that I had had a chance to stop and chat. The landlord had laid on a meal for them and once that was done we piled down into the kitchen and Danny one of the guys from Canada got his guitar out and we just sat around drinking the landlord’s cider. It was great.

I got up to see off my friends Richard and Rita, who are both stonemasons from Stroud, on Tuesday morning. Then proceeded to tidy up. My stock of adrenalin was running out and I had hoped to get off early to take a shower and catch up on my sleep, as it turned out there was quite a lot of people around so I didn’t get to go home till the usual time of 5pm.

It was a marvellous weekend, all the carvers that took part want to come back next year, including the Canadians and one of the carvers went to the German Stonemason’s festival, the following weekend!!, singing the praises of our little event, so it looks like it will be bigger next year. It can’t rain again but if it does we will know how to deal with it!!

Thanks to the general public for giving their support to such an unusual event and buying the programmes and the carvings.

My thanks have got to go out to all those who took part, it wouldn’t have been anything without them. To rdp photography who organised the format and printing of our leaflets and programmes who sent many e-mails drumming up support for our event and of course supplied the all-important pa system.

The organisers of the children’s activities, if it had had been sunny then they would have been outside and I am sure they would have had more takers.

The guides and scouts for helping in the pouring rain to sell our programmes and of course Nigel who sorted the parking on Sunday and Monday.

The Forge for their lovely bell ringing and singing performance, and their helper who came out to help sell the programmes as well.

The Old Dairy Tearoom for keeping everyone fed and watered and everyone at the craft centre for putting up with me all these months while I put my hair brained scheme into action.

The forestry commission for lending us their marquees, all the press and radio stations who gave us air time, particularly BBC Radio Gloucestershire for giving us such a lot of coverage.

And finally to Howard and Linda Duberly, the owners of the Craft Centre and their son Edward our site manager, for their roles in this event and for putting their faith in me to pull this off.

Here’s to next year guys, thank you.

  1. 6 Responses to “The Stonemason’s Festival 2008”

  2. I’m really glad this went well for you Carrie. When I talked to the guest masons they really were pleased with how the whole event had gone. The Harts Barn looked fabulous and the whole place had a real buzz about it, even with the weather turning bad.

    I do agree some of those carvings were an absolute steal for prices they eventually went for. Those bidders really got themselves a bargain or two!

    I do however have to send a little apology to the puppy that was eyeing up my pork roll from the hog roast. Cute can only get you so far and that roll was worth the guilt! 😀

    Can’t wait to come to next year’s festival. Hope the weather’s better though.

    By Ed Francis on Jun 10, 2008

  3. Yes,I agree, the work was of very high standard.I did feel sorry for all the stonemasons having to work in all that rain though!
    We came up from Kent especially for the festival and enjoyed visiting Harts Barn and learning abouth the history of the place. We are looking forward to visiting for next year’s festival.
    Congratulations to Carrie on all her hard work!

    By pauline H on Jun 17, 2008

  4. The whole event was fantastic, thoroughly interesting and amazing. An immense amount of work obviously went into it and I will definitely make the journey next year to attend.

    By Georgie on Oct 9, 2008

  5. Hi Georgie, I remember talking to you back in May, thank you very much for your lovely comment, look forward to seeing you and your family again next year, Carrie.

    By Carrie Horwood on Oct 9, 2008

  6. Hey, Carrie,
    Reading this write-up has brought back a lot of fond memories! Despite being soaked through on Sunday and Monday while watching and helping the Brownies to sell programmes, it was a fabulous weekend event and brought in many people from far and wide. One couple I spoke to were from America!
    And I can tell you that the young people of Mitcheldean – Brownies, Guides, Cub Scouts and the newly formed Explorers and soon to be formed Guiding Senior Section, were really amazed and so grateful for the fantastic donation we received (nearly £1,500) towards our hut fund. We now have almost £10,000 towards the £30,000 that we need.
    Thank you all soooooo much and we hope you’ll being running the event again next year.

    By Trisha on Dec 28, 2008

  7. Do, please, look at the Brownie web site for up to date info on our fund raising.

    By Trisha on Dec 28, 2008

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