.In the early summer of 2008, Ray and Syl Macro, then of Stokoe House Ceramics, along with other local retailers in Alston, decided that the time was right to promote the creative work of individuals, collectives and businesses around Alston Moor.
Their first action was for Ray to provide an empty shop for an exhibition of artwork by four artists — Glynnis Carter, Jules Cadie, Hugh Clark and Lionel Playford.
The response to this exhibition from other local artists and makers led Ray to the idea of an art trail of open studios. This had been done across the Cumbrian district of Eden during the previous year — Art in Eden — but there were no plans to repeat it that year.
To Ray's surprise, he quickly enlisted 16 artists and makers to the cause.They were drawn from the Alston Art Group, of which Syl is a member, and from Alston Craftworkers Co-op.
As the idea developed, other events, activities and venues were added, not least of which was the re-opening of Gossipgate Gallery under the new management of Nikki Terry, and featuring the photography of Alan Hayward.
One year further on, most of the artists and makers had been involved in other art trails and open studio events, such as Network Artists Northumberland Art Trail, Open Studios Cumbria and Art in Eden.
From October 2009, Alston Artists curated an exhibition 'on the edge' at Gossipgate Gallery. They also published a calendar for 2010 which was sold in retail outlets around Alston. To complement and extend the long-running and highly successful annual Craft Fair, organised by Alston Craftworkers Co-operative, they staged an Art Fair over the first weekend of December 2009.
The Art Fair at Alston House Hotel proved to be a popular event and is likely to be repeated. However, it also marked the beginnings of another episode of change, with Glynnis Carter moving to Allendale, and with Syl & Ray Macro moving their ceramics gallery from Stokoe House across the road into Studio House. The new gallery, Gallery 1611, opens in the spring of 2010.
The remaining quartet of artists is now planning to stage group exhibitions at different galleries around the north of England.