PUBLISHED: 17:22 07 February 2008 | UPDATED: 15:01 20 February 2013
Sara Wrightman finds out how history is repeating itself in Great Bardfield through the transformation of a 12th century tithe barn into a music venue
THE picturesque village of Great Bardfield has always attracted a colony of artists. In the 1950s print-makers, lino cutters, illustrators and painters teaching at London's Royal College of Art set up studios in the local cottages, where they lived and raised families. Following the Festival of Britain in 1951, these artists decided to open their homes to thousands of visitors to exhibit and sell their work for two weeks every year under the banner of The Great Bardfield Artists.
But now Great Bardfield is set to
once again be a village characterised
by its creative community, drawing
in crowds from London, the UK and even across Europe.
High Barn, a 12th century tithe barn, once part of the farming community within the Manor of Bardfield, is one of the UK's top acoustic music venues.
In October, Midge Ure performed a live gig and last month Lucie Silvas played to a sell-out audience. The High Barn artistic community, which is already home to a children's book publisher and design company, now sees the launch of its own record label, High Barn Records, and the arrival of Grammy-winning Simon Gogerly.
Simon's sound engineering top ten list includes U2, Massive Attack, Shaznay Lewis, Gwen Stefani, Missy Elliot and Jamiroquai. In 2006, Simon swept the floor at The Grammy Awards with his work on U2's album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb.
'We are hoping, if the past history of Great Bardfield is anything to go by, this will be the start of more creative people coming to High Barn,' enthuses Chris Bullen, who remembers the rain pouring through the barn roof when he first moved in.
Chris, a fully-trained sound engineer, moved to High Barn eight years ago in search of a recording studio and office space. But, as restoration work began on the tithe barn Chris decided that it would make an excellent music venue. 'I had been trained working with live orchestras, and I came to realise that High Barn had this amazing acoustic quality. I had to use it as a venue,' says Chris.
Using the farm tools as a reminder of its history - audiences are now served drinks at a bar inlaid with farming tools - and original scales, riddlers and choppers used to weigh vegetables and corn produced in this Essex countryside, hang over the main entrance and adorn the venue's own green room.
A monthly Unplugged Night gives new music the opportunity to play acoustic sets in the hope of being spotted. Essex has a high standard of musical talent coming through via these Friday night sessions, including Darwyn (Halstead), Aloneme (Chelmsford) and Songs from the Blue House (Colchester).
This modern artistic movement may remind villagers of when artist Edward Bawden lived and worked in Great Bardfield, passing on his tips to the local community through his self-inspired art classes.
'The history of the village is one of non-conformity,' explains Jenny Rooney, project coordinator for Great Bardfield Cottage Museum. 'The Great Bardfield Artists meant that thousands of people visited the village every summer.'
Housed within the village's 16th century almshouses, the museum is furnished with artefacts that local villagers have simply found within their homes or gardens, and illustrated with panels re-telling the histories of The Great Bardfield Artists.
With live gigs and the launch of a record label, get ready for the 21st century version of The Great Bardfield Artists.