Before we start, let's get the name right. It's pronounced "Massam" (meaning: Massa's ham as in saxon chieftain's farmstead), not Mash-em! Masham is a small market town with an incredible concentration of artistic and cultural activities and people. It sits on the fringes of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty so an inspiring landscape is a given.
At this time of year when mist so often cloaks the countryside and the fields seem to appear in layers of muted colour, we often comment 'it looks just like an Ian Scott Massie painting! Scott captures the Dales landscape in atmospheric watercolours, screen prints, poetry and stories. Charlotte Morrison hand builds delicate ceramic vessels inspired by local landscapes and vintage items. You can see their work at Masham Gallery alongside work by many other local artists and makers. Josie Beszant’s work is often based around the idea of collections and memories, evoking strong emotions and telling the stories behind half-forgotten ephemera.
Nolon Stacey’s Gallery features his very detailed, pencil drawings of British wildlife, dogs and farm animals. Simon Palmer has shown his enigmatic depictions inspired by North Yorkshire at the Royal Academy and regularly holds acclaimed London exhibitions but you can still sometimes buy his work through Masham Gallery.
Maureen and Tim Simon at Uredale Glass have been blowing brightly coloured glass for many years and their daughter, Zoe, is now taking on the mantle, specializing in fused glass.
Stone carver Gaynor Pearson works to commission & you'll increasingly spot her work around Masham. Nearby Em Fountain creates incredible felted hares, green men and other animals.
Rob Blades’ beautiful illustrated maps of Masham and Fearby can be seen on postcards and posters. Every year he creates a new design for the Sheep Fair tea towels which have become collectors’ items and sell out each year.
You might want to learn to create your own artistic or craft masterpiece – you can do exactly that at ArtisOn near Masham where the cakes and lunches are just as good as the tuition!
If you’d rather enjoy your art outdoors, look out for the two sculpture trails. One is known as the Leaves Walk and follows a route along the River Ure. The sculptures are large but some are a little hidden.
The Swifts Trail is centred around the market square and roads leading from it. You’ll find it much easier to find them all if you pick up a leaflet from the Visit Masham community office, which also has its own small gallery, the Blue Light Gallery (the building used to be a police station) featuring a changing programme of local artists.
Twice a year, Masham plays host to an excellent contemporary craft fair (no crocheted toilet roll holders!), Crafted by Hand when carefully selected makers show their talents and sell their creations. The Town Hall is home to many other events from comedy to plays, bands, poetry evenings, film showings and exhibitions.
Within the Masham community, there are many friendly creative groups including the Photographic Society, Knit and Natter, the Quilters, Masham Players, Masham Muscial Society, and Women’s Institute.
It’s also worth visiting St. Mary’s Church, some of which dates to the 12th century. Inside you’ll find a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds and intricate carvings from the 17th century. Just outside the door you’ll see the richly carved Saxon Cross so it seems Masham’s creativity isn’t just a recent thing! Every Spring in the next village the Himalayan Gardens have an outdoor sculpture exhibition.
Just up the road from Masham is nearby Fearby Village Hall is the stage for the annual pantomime – so popular that when tickets go on sale, queues form at the makeshift box office.
Masham has a long history of inspiring creative people and artists such as Julius Caesar Ibbetson and Turner. Perhaps there’s just something in the air, especially now that it has two breweries (Black Sheep Brewery and Theakstons Brewery) and its own gin - Spirit of Masham available from Corks and Cases.
You can even eat Masham’s creativity at Vennell's Restaurant in Masham or Samuels at Swinton Park where you can also join a cookery class to create your own culinary masterpieces!