Artists from as far as Central Europe are bringing their handicrafts to Perthshire today for the annual Potfest Scotland extravaganza.
The three-day outdoor ceramics showcase returns to the grounds of Scone Palace, where it has made its home for the past 11 years.
A huge variety of work from almost 90 artisans will be on display at the 25th edition of Potfest Scotland, which originally started out at Perth’s old East Huntingtower cattle mart in 1997 after its founders, Geoff and Christine Cox, had previously established a successful festival-type format in their native Cumbria.
The Scottish attraction was able to go ahead last year with physical distancing measures, and it’ll be a case of same again this time around.
However, event organiser Matt Cox — who works closely with his parents — insists Potfest’s trademark warmth still awaits visitors.
“Other than the rigmarole that we went through last year with extra signs and sanitizing stations, it’s not really any different to before the pandemic,” he explains.
“Having got a lot of the stress out of the way last year, we started organising the shows in October and realised very quickly that if they were going to go ahead then it would need to be with the same measures in place.
“A lot of our ticketing now is pre-booked online, whereas most of it used to be done on the day, plus with distancing I end up paying for more marquees so it’s upped the cost for me quite a bit.”
Matt was surprised — and amused — to discover that his efforts in 2020 had earned him a reputation as a go-to guy in the logistics of audience management during a pandemic.
“In Cumbria, certainly, I’ve had a number of other events that have contacted me and asked how I have gone about things,” he reveals.
“Even Craft Scotland approached me in January and asked if I would give them a talk, as according to them I was the premier authority on running arts events during Covid. It was quite a comedy really!”
Visitors from far and wide
Ceramics enthusiasts are known to travel jaw-droppingly long distances to examine the dog-friendly show’s wares, while exhibitors from as far as Germany and Luxembourg will be present today following quarantine.
“Even with limited numbers last year we still had our keen beans,” adds Matt.
“We had people who had driven up on the day before from Heathrow, booked a hotel, stayed for the night, visited the show, then drove home that evening. Which is commitment, really.
“This year I know we have a couple of people coming up from Cornwall, and there’s certainly a handful that are coming up from London. We also have someone coming down from Thurso, as well. So from Cornwall to Thurso we’ve pretty much covered the whole of the UK.”
Like so many creative industries, ceramics has been hard hit by recent lockdowns, with Potfest’s four shows the only events of their kind that went ahead last year in the UK.
Potfest Scotland would be expected to attract close to 4,000 visitors over its three days in normal times.
Matt says the capacity is cut to around 800 per day this weekend, including limited gate sales, but he feels it’s important to offer people a chance to experience work firsthand.
“Ceramics, and art in general, is quite a tactile visual thing that you want to be able to see,” he goes on. “You want to be able to see a ceramic and touch it and feel it, if possible.”
A celebration of the ceramics community
The event’s website describes the organisers’ aim of “putting potters and the public together in large numbers”, and Matt believes retaining the gathering’s amiable atmosphere is crucial in these uncertain times.
“Most of the exhibitors — and it sounds quite a daft thing — work almost in solitary confinement,” he declares.
“They’ll be in their studio doing their thing. They’re not in a big work space, they’ve generally not got colleagues to go and see. So Potfest and other craft events are like a time when a big community comes together.
“There will be exhibitors who won’t have seen friends for the last 18 months. This will be their first time of catching up with people they’ve not seen, and the public as well.”
- * Tickets are selling at potfest.co.uk/scotland