Successful weekend for Wells Stone Carving Festival

A stone carving festival returned to Wells in Somerset for the May Day bank holiday weekend this year and, as former editor of Stone Specialist, Eric Bignell reports, it was a real success.

Held at the Tythe Barn in Britain's smallest cathedral city, the event was organised by local mason Paul Roddan, who had also organised the first carving festival there in 2018. He said in 2018 he wanted it to become a regular event, but circumstances conspired against that – not least the Covid pandemic. But this year the festival did return and once again Paul says he wants to establish it as a regular in the calendar of attractions at Wells.

It was a bit bigger than the first time, with 20 masons taking part (there were 16 in 2018) and there could easily have been many more if they could have been accommodated safely because more than 50 applied for a place. Next time, perhaps. 
Thousands of visitors came to see the carvers in action over the weekend and the auction at the end that helps cover the costs of running the festival as well as raising money for charity – the charity this time was Young Lives Versus Cancer – saw the marquee packed and all the carvings sold, with a top price paid of £800. 

Providing a too little appreciated musical backdrop to the event was the violin playing of Kiki Jerome, while local traders provided food and liquid refreshment. As well as being a qualified stonemason who runs his own company, Somerset Stonemasons, Paul is a Yeoman of the stonemasons’ Livery Company in London (The Worshipful Company of Masons), which once again supported this year’s festival. There was further support from Whiteway Quarry, which supplied the Marnhull stone the competitors used; Toolmaker G Gibson & Co, selling hand tools; Glastonbury Marquees, which supplied the marquee the carvers worked in at ‘mates rates  and promotion for the event from creative designers and hoarding advertising specialists Buildhollywood. J Witt recycling centre supplied the rubbish bins with only haulage charged.

Although the competition element of the event takes a back seat, there were three winners chosen. The Worshipful Company of Masons chose a drunken fox over a barrel by Alex Waddell as its award-winner; the competitors themselves selected the monkeys of Jem Hobbs as their favourite; and the people’s choice made by those who visited the event went to a bee on flowers carved by David Bean of Wolff Stone. 

As well as being able to bid for the carvings, there were three pieces to be won in a raffle, including book-ends carved and gilded by Paul himself. You can hear Paul’s comments about the event and see a video of it here.