Rain doesn't dampen spirits at the Halifax Stone Carving Festival

Halifax Stone Carving Festival

Rain did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm of participants and visitors to the Halifax Stone Carving Festival on the weekend of 22-23 July.

Last year the European Stone Festival was supposed to have been held at Piece Hall in Halifax, Yorkshire, but became a casualty of Covid. This year, the West Riding Stonecarving Association decided to hold a Stone Carving Festival of its own in Halifax in the grounds of Halifax Minster on the weekend of 22-23 July.

In spite of almost incessant rain, the 35 masons and carvers taking part, who came from all over the UK and as far away as Germany and Norway, had a great time. So did the hardy visitors who went along to watch the participants work and see the stands of those backing the event. 

The backers included Marshalls, which donated blocks of its Howley Park sandstone for the carvers to work, stone and tool supplier Southern Stone and toolmaker RG Travis & Son.

Everyone taking part was full of praise for Helen Jukes from the West Riding Stonecarving Association, who was in charge of organising the event. They particularly praised the food they were supplied. And on Monday the event made the front page of the Yorkshire Post.

There were also bands and entertainers, a bar and food stalls. And the West Riding Stonecarving Association had a stand of its own where visitors could have a go at carving and lettering and talk to members about joining the club.

In a now established format, the event concluded with an auction of the carvings, which raised £6,595. Any profits were being split 50/50 between the West Riding Stonecarving Association and the Minster.

The Minster remained open during the carving festival and said it had welcomed more than 500 visitors. It also continued working and during the Sunday morning service a Christening took place. 

The theme of the carving competition was the wildlife of Yorkshire, which, as ever, was interpreted imaginatively by the participants.

There were separate categories for apprentices and master masons, with prizes for the pieces the judges liked best. The judges were the Mayor, Councillor Ashley Evans, and his wife, Rosey; Curate of the Minster the Rev Sam Crook and Lecturer Rev David Carpenter; and Peter Arts, the Senior Banker Mason, Fixer and Conservator from York Minster.

There was also a People'e Choice Award, for which those visiting the event could vote.

First in the Master Masons Class was Peter James Heaton, from Colne in Lancashire, who had carved a squirrel on a tree branch. The winner of the Apprentices was Brandon Haley of Brighouse, who carved a delightfully round robin redbreast. The People's Choice Award went to Ryan James of Wakefield, who had come third in the Master Mason category with his carving of a puffin with a beak full of fish.

Second prize in the Master Mason category went to Max Lawson, who carved a toad and hare with a carrot. Second prize among the apprentices went to Imogen Long, who had carved a clam shell, and Nancyann Marshall received third prize for her four-sided carving that included a frog on two sides.

Although the European Stone Festival, which was held in Austria this year, could not be held in Halifax last year, it is scheduled to come to the city in 2026, so this year's festival could prove to be a useful dress rehearsal for that.

See the pictures below and watch the video to get a flavour of the weekend.

Peter James Heaton carving his squirrel

Peter James Heaton carving the squirrel that was judged winner of the Master Masons category of the competition.

Brandon Haley

Brandon Haley's Robin was judged to be the winner in the Apprentices Class.

Ryan James

Ryan James carving his puffin, which won the People's Choice Award and was third in the Master Masons Class.

The judges

Judging the carvers' work at the end of the competition are (left to right) the Mayor, Councillor Ashley Evans; Curate of the Minster the Rev Sam Crook and Lecturer the Rev David Carpenter; The Mayor's wife, Rosey; and Peter Arts, the Senior Banker Mason, Fixer and Conservator from York Minster.

Ruaiari Sweeny had a message to save hedgehogs

Ruaiari Sweeny had a message to save hedgehogs.

Ruaiari Sweeny at work

Ruaiari Sweeny from Peterborough at work.

Imogen Long

Imogen Long came second in the Apprentice Class with a carving of a clam.

Max Lawson

Max Lawson was runner-up in the Master Masons Class.

Alex Wenham

Alex Wenham from Oxfordshire.

Andrew Bramley

Andrew Bramley from Wainstalls.

Anita Gjersvold

Anita Gjersvold from Norway.

Amanda Randall

Amanda Randall from Richmond liked the shape of a butterfly egg, which she up-scaled for her entry.

Jemma Sharp

Jemma Sharp from Northamptonshire.

Ellie Brown's puffins

Ellie Brown's puffins.

Freya Morris Mole with worm

Freya Morris's mole with a worm.

Geraint Pounder

Geraint Pounder from York.

Pippa Unwin

Pippa Unwin with her carving of a stoat with two kits. 

Louise Regan

Louise Regan from Oxfordshire.

Tomas Petukauskas

Tomas Petukauskas from Gravesend.

West Riding Stonecarvers Association stand

Visitors were able to try their hand at carving and lettering on the West Riding Stonecarvers Association stand.

Harriet Bailey

Harriet Bailey from York carved a duck with a halo in commemoration of a well-known duck in York that had recently died. It had been befriended by students.

Finished carvings waiting to be auctioned

Finished carvings waiting to be auctioned.

Pippa Unwins impromptu letter cutting

After carving her stoat, Pippa Unwin did this piece of impromptu letter cutting.

Adam Beaumont's nuthatch

A nuthatch carved by Adam Beaumont from Otley.