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East Sussex Artwave Festival

The Sussex Artwave Festival has concluded for this year but look out for it again in 2023. 

This weekend marks the beginning of Artwave! The Artwave festival presents an explosion of new artwork revealing the creativity and innovation that has taken place across the county during the pandemic. Working through the crisis, often in isolation, Sussex artists have created new bodies of work to be shown in 147 venues across Lewes District 11-26 September 2021.

Artwave, Lewes

Faced with the obstacle that private houses cannot be opened for Covid safety reasons, artists and curators put their creative thinking caps on and have organised a dynamic exhibition programme in alternative venues, from artist studios to farms and barns to pubs, shops and churches, to the beach, a vineyard and historic houses. Over 800 artists are taking part this year and, as always, all exhibitions are free to attend.

Artwave, Lewes district

About Artwave

Held since 1993, Artwave is the annual festival of artists and makers in Lewes District. Every year hundreds of creative practitioners exhibit in Lewes, Seaford, Newhaven and the surrounding villages. This popular destination event is subsidised by Lewes District Council to keep the entry fee affordable and encourage as many people as possible to take part. It is an inclusive un-curated festival that encourages artists and makers of all ages, and at all stages of their career, to take part. Artwave presents all mediums of work, from jewellery and ceramics, to painting, printmaking to fine art photography and performance art.

Artwave is the jewel in the crown of Lewes District’s artistic programme. Lewes District Council are proud to support our creative practitioners in this far-reaching annual festival. It has been so inspiring to see how artists have adapted to the difficult circumstances of Covid 19. Thanks to our brilliantly inventive and resourceful artistic community, Artwave has not only survived, but emerged stronger and more exciting than ever.“ Helen Browning-Smith, Tourism and Arts Manager, Lewes District Council.

Artwave festival

The Tide Mills Project 

One highlight of the Artwave programme is The Tide Mills Project, an outdoor multi-media performance event exploring the history of the derelict 18th century coastal village of Tide Mills at Bishopstone. The project is headed by Phil Rose (Founder and Director of LYT Productions). Nationally acclaimed artists, designers, sculptors and musicians are working with local community members of all ages to bring Tide Mills, quite literally, “back to life”. There will be musical performances by artists including Mercury Music Prize nominee, Sam Lee, and The Copper Family.


Newhaven Trail

Newhaven Art Projects runs its highly successful Open Call once again this year, installed at The Ship Pub in Newhaven. An artist-led initiative, the project invites artists, local people, and visitors to showcase work they have made since March 2020. It is curated with the emphasis of uniting artists for regeneration. Newhaven also sees a site-specific, marine-inspired installation at The Sidings – a new eco-conscious shipping container development. RNLI have teamed up with Pete Hellicar to create a site-specific installation that reflects on Newhaven’s connection with the sea.

Once you are in Newhaven, a must-visit is The Make Believe Museum Shop at Newhaven Museum. Artist and maker Emma Carlow has created a site-specific “fantasy museum shop” inspired by the museum collection. Emma has worked for Ditchling Museum, De La Warr Pavilion and is creating a similar fantasy shop for the Pollock Museum, London. The Old Forge open studios have excellent artists and the Hillcrest Studios are open with two guest photographers. Be sure to drop by potter Chris Lewis’s studio in the stunning downland village of South Heighton.

Artwave, Newhaven
Chris Lewes

Rural Trails

The heritage artist’s village of Ditchling has an exciting programme this year with the Turner Dumbrell Foundation Workshops showing work by award-winning Sussex artists and makers. High-end jewellers, Pruden & Smith are open with a special exhibition of new designs. The studios of artists Ruth Gaskell, Kate Sherman and Jo Walters-Pawloski are open to visitors. There are three completely new venues nearby in Streat: Art at the Vineyard at Artelium, open studios of Jinks McGrath and Steve Turner and the workshops of letter-cutter and sculptor John Skelton (1923-1999). Skelton was the nephew and apprentice of Eric Gill, and his workshops are seldom open to the public.

Barcombe also has five new venues: Spithurst Hub showing paintings, sculpture, multi-media and works on paper. A group of Lewes artists are showing in Barcombe Village Hall. On the outskirts of the village you will find Birds Hole Lane, Bay Tree Studio Fine Art and The Cowshed Collective, who are showing abstract landscapes, expressive floral paintings, cast glass sculpture, precious metal jewellery, handmade stoneware, Sussex landscapes, contemporary equine art, delicate paper sculpture and handcrafted leatherwork.

Artwave, Lewes
Oriana Jewellery. Photo credit to Alun Callender

Hamsey village has a particularly interesting collection of shows this year with a special exhibition of work by Keith A. Petitt in the rarely open medieval Hamsey Church. Petitt is showing new wood engraved prints, sculptures, paintings and photographs from his recently completed 1066 Country Walk project. Two historic houses host exhibitions this year: Hamsey Manor showing paintings by artist Stephen Pigott, and Hamsey House which has a sculpture exhibition in the garden. Circus Kinetica & Co. are showing their latest playable kinetic sculptures (as seen in big music festivals such as Glastonbury) at Copyhold Farm.

Once out and about visitors should head straight to the beautiful Elizabethan house Glynde Place, home of the Hamden family (and Love Supreme) to see Undoings a performance and sculptural installation by Isobel Smith with an existential flavour. There are five other venues in Glynde village including the Village Forge and MUD, a presentation of filmmaking, sculpture, painting and ceramics across a collection of farm buildings.

Artwave Lewes
Guy Stevens

Seaford Trail

Seaford is pleased to present Celebrate Cuckmere, an exhibition held in South Hill Barn at the top of Seaford Head Nature Reserve. This open call exhibition, judged by senior figures in the art world, is a fundraising project for Cuckmere SOS. The unique charm of Cuckmere Haven has made it a muse for painters, writers, photographers, and filmmakers from across the world for many years and this show presents the best contemporary works.

Artwave festival
Emily Warren

Lewes Trail

The popular new Beak Brewery is showing work by artist “South Street Studio”. Lewes curator Sarah O’Kane’s festival showcase presents some of Sussex’s leading artists: Nick Bodimeade, Nick Bush, Jo Lamb, Jane Hansford, Charlotte Snook, Julian Le Bas, Jane Merfield, Kate Montgomery, Julian Sutherland Beatson, Jane Hansford and Philippa Cannan with a garden sculpture by Keith A Pettit. The established artist studio complex Paddock Studios is open this year where you can meet resident artists in situ such as renowned painter Peter Messer. The Con Club is hosting Art and Ale with work by award-winning artist Tom Hammick alongside prints by Carolyn Trant whose artist books are held in major public collections such as The British Library. Julian Wild is showing Salvia Corrupted a large scale sculpture installation within The Gun Garden at Lewes Castle. The sculpture is made from over 30 metres of bright pink steel and polished bronze. The Sussex Watercolour Society are showing at the Linklater Pavilion and Alexis Dove jewellery is presenting Flea Circus, an unusual insect-inspired installation by London artist C.A. Halpin, centred around the history of the flea circus. Artefacts from the collection of Dr Tim Cockerill are combined with dressed fleas, original artworks and jewellery designs. The large-scale ex-industrial space, The Foundry Gallery re-opens for the Phoenix Project Design Festival.

The festival runs from 11-26 September 2021 and you can find out more at

If you like this post about the Sussex Artwave Festival you may also like:

Discover a Sussex Artist by the Sea

Reflections on Being Human by Sussex Artist

Visit to Horsham Museum and Art Gallery, West Sussex

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