AS we begin to see the first signs of spring, new shoots are beginning to emerge.

The arts scene seems to be showing new signs of self confidence, and it looks like times are changing for the better.

Many people say this change has been slow and gradual, but for me the amateur choir Salisbury Festival director Toby Smith assembled to open last year’s event was a symbolic act.

This year a larger choir with up to 400 local volunteers will perform in and around the market square.

It signals that the festival belongs to local people too.

Plain Arts appears to be coming into its own. It suffers from meagre funding, but co-ordinator David Walker, profiled in the Journal last week, is nevertheless achieving a great deal.

There will be a first ever Plain Arts summer show at the library; a talk by Salisbury Museum director Adrian Green on the new archaeology gallery (tonight, at the Arts Centre, 7pm); as well as projects in partnership with the Salisbury Museum.

One of the museum’s ideas is to hold workshops which will tie in with its Turner show, and they are looking to Plain Arts members for proposals.

This seems an excellent way of involving local artists in wider projects, and I hope it’s a sign of more to come.

What sounds like a great idea is the Fisherton Festival which will take place in early May.

I hear the main driving force behind this multi-cultural street festival is Paul Dauwalder, but I know that Fisherton Mill will play an important role.

I’ve long been an admirer of Deborah Fox and her team.

Fisherton Mill is a multi-level business involving food, craft shop, hired studios and gallery space, and they seem to do a pretty good job at all these levels.

They also appreciate that their own success is linked closely to the fortunes of the whole community, are willing to listen to new ideas, and to act on them.

Operations manager Tony Tate is now taking on a lead role in bringing arts organisations together to present a united front at this year’s Contemporary Craft and Heritage Festival in September.

Reports from arts people who exhibited last year were, on the whole positive, and there are ambitions to increase the size and scope of the festival so that it becomes the main Contemporary Crafts and Heritage Festival in the region.

An annual multi-cultural street festival? A major craft festival in The Close? What more could we ask for?

Ah yes, a new gallery dedicated to contemporary art.

That would do nicely.

Martin Urmson

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