Image courtesy of the artist - Sam Francis

People Came For Tea and Stayed Forever

An exhi­bi­tion of new and exist­ing work by Som­er­set-based artist Sam Fran­cis, made in response to Net­tle­combe estate in Exmoor Nation­al Park.

Sam Francis explores the rich history and mythologies of Nettlecombe in East Quay's latest exhibition: 'People Came For Tea and Stayed Forever'.

The exhibition, a response to Nettlecombe estate in Exmoor National Park, Somerset, draws inspiration from the artistic legacy 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. Today, Nettlecombe Court houses the Leonard Wills Field Centre, an environmental education charity, and the Nettlecombe Craft School. The estate, designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, stands as a testament to its commitment to nature and learning.

Francis used Hollweg's Country Dance as a starting point for the exhibition, and her installation culminates in a large folk banner in East Quay's downstairs gallery - a celebration of community and rural life. The exhibition continues with a series of prints of photographs taken from the Hollweg family collection, capturing real moments from May Day celebrations to life on the community farm. Alongside these are an original Maypole Spinner, nettle-dyed textiles, and a film documenting the labour-intensive process of cordage making from nettles.
The title, People Came For Tea and Stayed Forever, is a nod to the magical pull of Nettlecombe that has made it a home for many artists and creatives over the years.

The exhibition continues into the first-floor gallery at East Quay, featuring Francis' film In Here Dreaming, inspired by a performance piece Somerset – A Year in the Life of a Field. by the late Lizzie Cox, who also lived and worked at Nettlecombe. The exhibition explores the seasonal changes at Nettlecombe, connecting with Cox's legacy and the people who knew her.

The exhibition, commissioned by Contains Art CIO, is generously supported by Arts Council England and the Golsoncott Foundation.