Staithes: A Creative Haven on the North Yorkshire Coast
This weekend, we embarked on a trip to one of my favourite places outside the North East. Staithes is a beautiful seaside village just a stone’s throw away from Whitby in North Yorkshire.
I was delighted to return to the Staithes Festival of Arts & Heritage in York House, which has made a very welcome return to my calendar after a COVID hiatus since 2019. I’ve actually exhibited at this wonderful festival every year since it began in 2012.
About the festival
Staithes Festival of Arts & Heritage welcomes over 100 artists across 60 different beautiful venues. We exhibited at York House for the last five festivals, and we’ve become friends with the owners of the lovely property, which boasts stunning harbour views.
I can’t think of a better place to host a festival of this fantastic gathering of creative people. We’ve holidayed in Staithes as a family several times, and it has even inspired some of my artwork.
Wondering what it’s like to exhibit at this awesome festival? Watch my vlog below from the 2023 Staithes Festival of Arts & Heritage. Hopefully, I’ll see you there next year!
What makes Staithes so special?
For such a small place, Staithes has a lot to boast about. The seaside village sits at the meeting point of Easington and Roxby Becks, which flow into the Staithes Beck. It’s not just geography that makes this palace fascinating, but it also has a geological significance. In fact, the area is well-trodden by those interested in the Jurassic era. In the 1990s, a rare dinosaur was unearthed following a rockfall between Port Mulgrave and Staithes.
In the modern age, Staithes remains a place of cultural significance. The village was once home to Dame Laura Knight (1877-1970), a revered multidiscipline artist, who initially visited - and fell in love with - the area in 1894. With limited resources to her name at the time, Knight quickly became known in the local community as she took inspiration for her art from the local fishermen and their families. While this period in Knight’s vast history produced few oil paintings, it stands out as a clear turning point for her.
Knight even discussed Staithes and how it challenged her to become a better artist. She said of her time in Staithes, “Staithes was too big a subject for an immature student, but working there, I developed a visual memory which has stood me in good stead ever since.”
So, the village’s history in art runs deep. Coming to the present day, I am so pleased to see this festival return after a few years of absence. The residents and businesses of Staithes open their doors to artists like myself. This is such a unique event because it’s not held at just one location, but spread out across the whole village; bringing together both residents and visitors in a way that I’ve never experienced before.
If you have young children, then you might also recognise Staithes as the shooting location for Cbeebies show Old Jack’s Boat starring Bernard Cribbins.
Planning a visit to Staithes
Alongside our visits to the annual festival, we have visited Staithes several times as a family. Only a 90-minute drive from my native Tyneside, this is a lovely place to get some fresh sea air and even find inspiration for my art.
If you aren’t able to make the festival, which typically takes place in September, there is still plenty for art lovers to do in Staithes. Art in Staithes Staithes Gallery and the Mitchell & Mitchell Staithes Studio Gallery are two fantastic galleries I highly recommend visiting if you fancy a memento from your trip. Both venues showcase a diverse range of artistic styles, from abstract landscapes to traditional oil paintings and even lino woodcuts.
Alternatively, you can browse my selection of Staithes limited edition art prints on my website www.joannewishart.co.uk.
Staithes is a great location for historians, art lovers and even ramblers, with plenty of walking routes offering spectacular views across the harbour. We particularly enjoy the North Yorkshire coastal path from Staithes to Runswick Bay, a three-mile trail starting from either Staithes Heritage Centre, or going the other way from Runswick Bay. The walk is quite steep in parts, but your efforts will be rewarded with beautiful panoramic views.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite on the walk, I highly recommend grabbing a bite to eat at the Cod & Lobster Pub, which has been serving up fresh seafood to residents and visitors for decades. It’s even inspired my own artwork!