A socially distanced arts festival has been hailed as 'a great success' by organisers and exhibitors.

The first Dorset Arts Festival was held at Sculpture by the Lakes at Pallington near Dorchester.

The three-day festival saw around 1,800 visitors attending.

More than 40 artists and crafters - ranging from sculptors to woodturners, to printmakers to textiles artists - showcased their work with exhibitions and demonstrations. Visitors watched as paintings were created, pots were thrown, and jewellery was crafted, alongside a whole range of other arts and crafts disciplines in action.

The event had hung in the balance during the coronavirus lockdown, until the Government permitted outdoor attractions to reopen again in June. The decision to open outdoor markets also played an influence in the decision to proceed with the event.

Redesigned with social distancing in mind, the festival was able to take full advantage of its idyllic outdoor location, with exhibitors and artists spread out across the 26-acre sculpture park, each working from an individual temporary studio allowing attendees to observe their work from a safe distance. A strict visitor cap and crowd control also helped ensure visitor, exhibitor, and staff safety.

The event was organised by Simon and Monique Gudgeon, owners of Sculpture by the Lakes.

This new festival represents a continuation of their long history of supporting and celebrating artists and makers from across the region.

Simon said: "Lockdown has seen all our lives change and so many of life’s pleasures placed temporarily on hold – that was why it felt really important to us to put on this event if we could do so safely – which we are delighted to say we have.

“The feedback has been extraordinary, with many visitors expressing their thanks that we were able to push ahead with the event despite the challenges. I think for all of us it also felt like a very welcome way marker on the journey back to a more normal way of life."

The festival was a relief to the artists who were exhibiting.

Exhibitor Carla Taylor of The Mousehole Woolery said: “I’ve been selling a few pieces online, but the past three months have been difficult for all artists across the UK. People like to see the art face-to-face before they decide to buy."

Jayne Tricker, who also exhibited, said: “The atmosphere was fantastic throughout – people were genuinely happy and excited to be there, and the park is so spacious and so beautiful that social distancing didn’t feel at all arduous. To share our work in that personal way after so many months was so uplifting.”

To find out more see www.sculpturebythelakes.co.uk/dorset-arts-festival