Caught by the River

People Came for Tea and Stayed Forever

12th March 2024

Image courtesy of Sam Francis. All other images by Jesse Wild.

In East Quay’s latest exhibition People Came for Tea and Stayed Forever, Somerset-based artist Sam Francis explores the rich history and mythologies of the Nettlecombe estate in Exmoor National Park — drawing inspiration from the artistic legacy and cultural history of this rural haven.

Nettlecombe, meaning ‘valley of nettles’, is famously shown in Alexander Hollweg’s iconic woodcut print, ‘Country Dance,’ depicting its idyllic rural setting in West Somerset. In this exhibition, Francis delves into the creative culture and mythologies of Nettlecombe, revealing layers of community, history, and the intersection of art, labour, and the working of the land.

The nettle is used here as both material and folk art emblem, symbolising community and gathering, and serving as a metaphor for place, togetherness and celebration. The exhibition also features nettle-dyed textiles, threaded and hung with nettle twine, a film showing the labour-intensive process of cordage making, an audio piece telling a collective story, gathered from family, friends and the extended, still thriving, creative community at Nettlecombe. A lithoprinted booklet features nettle folklore from the artist’s research, alongside a new text piece that also features in the exhibition.

The exhibition runs at East Quay, Watchet, Somerset until 6th May. Find more information here.

A closing event celebrating May Day with May Pole dancing, local folk songs, and ceremonies will be announced soon.