PRESS RELEASE: Northern Irish Artists Play Key Role in Spring Fling

24th April 2012


24 APRIL 2012 

Belfast Man and County Antrim-born Artist Play Key Role in Scotland’s Spring Fling

Belfast man Mike Gray and County Antrim-born artist Hilary McElderry are playing key roles in Spring Fling – Scotland’s premier open studios arts and craft event.

Mike, a passionate cyclist who is now retired and lives in the rural town of Dumfries, will be leading the bike tours which are a popular way for visitors to the annual event to see some fantastic art while enjoying some of Scotland’s most beautiful countryside.

Hilary, who specialises in colourful drawings of fabrics, is one of the 76 artists selected to take part in Spring Fling and whose work people will be able to admire as they tour the region between 2-5 June.

Born and raised in Belfast, Mike’s career as a process engineer took him all round the world from Europe to the USA, before he finally settled in Scotland where he is now the secretary of the Dumfries and Galloway Cycling Touring Club. For the past four years he has led bike tours round some of the studios taking part in the Spring Fling Festival.

‘It’s a very sociable way to enjoy some fabulous countryside and see some great arts and crafts. The rides are all designed to be very relaxed, so people can have a chat and enjoy themselves while discovering beautiful new places they might never have seen before,’ said Mike.

This year there will be three bike rides (on the Saturday, Sunday and Monday) one taking in Tynron and Moniaive, another through the Machars and Minigaff and the last through forest and along the coast from Kippford through Dalbeattie. The rides suit most abilities (though the Saturday one is a little more strenuous) and will each stop at five to six studios – booking is essential, and people have to take their own bikes.

He loves the region for its superb scenery, good facilities, rural life, and the quiet roads which are ideal for cycling.

‘I really enjoy the cycling because this is such a beautiful area. You go out for a ride and feel so much better afterwards. It’s much more enjoyable than working out in a gym or just staring out of the window,’ he said.

Hilary, who has close family connections with Northern Ireland, moved to Dumfries and Galloway in 2007 where she and her husband live, near Castle Douglas, in an architect-designed house with purpose-built gallery area. She was previously a freelance children’s book illustrator whose work has been used by big-name publishers such as Collins, Longmans, Chambers and educational specialists Scholastic.

Dumfries and Galloway, in south-west Scotland, is renowned as a hotbed of artistic talent and each year many of its best artists and crafts makers go through a rigorous selection process in the hope of being chosen to be part of the annual Spring Fling event.

Spring Fling runs from 2-5 June and is ideal for taking a break for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee holiday. This is the festival’s 10th birthday and there is a huge amount to see and do – with art and crafts that range from painting, pottery and photography through to jewellery, textiles and glassware. Visitors come from across the UK, including Northern Ireland, which has quick and convenient ferry links.

Hilary is very much looking forward to the event, and the chance to show visitors her studio and chat about her work and inspirations. They will be able to see a complete new body of work which includes textile drawings and still lives.

She said: ‘I am originally from County Antrim but have lived in Edinburgh and York. My husband and I moved from to Galloway in 2007 when we retired. We were drawn to the area by its landscape and accessibility to friends and family in NI, England and Edinburgh. We liked the fact that Dumfries and Galloway has a distinct identity. I love the richness of the region, both in artists and cultural events and other things too – like the view from my studio window.’

Dumfries and Galloway is one of Scotland’s most beautiful areas and is within easy reach of many parts of England. It is a popular destination for those in search of superb countryside, artistic excellence and warm hospitality.

Leah Black, Spring Fling Manager, said: ‘This year’s Spring Fling will be very special as it’s our 10th birthday and we really look forward to welcoming visitors from all over the country and hope to welcome many people from Northern Ireland who find it easy to pop over on the ferry.

‘The quality of arts and crafts will be higher than ever, and it is a fantastic opportunity to meet and chat to exceptionally talented people like Hilary. At the same time visitors can have a really enjoyable break in a region which has pretty towns and villages, great places to stay and to eat, and some of Britain’s loveliest countryside.’



About Spring Fling

• For full details about the tours, bike rides see the Spring Fling Website at where the full brochure can be downloaded for free.

• The bike rides are free, but places need to be reserved in advance and people have to bring their own bikes.

• Places for the Saturday and Monday bike rides can be reserved by calling Mike Gray on 01387 270995 and for the Sunday, Ted Norfolk on 01988 700432.

• There is also a guided walk and reservations can be made by calling Robin Hogg on 01556 502979.

• Spring Fling runs from Saturday 2nd June to Tuesday 5th June.

• Some 76 artists and craft makers are taking part and visitors will be able to see, and buy, a diverse range of outstanding items spanning painting and photography, jewellery and textiles, glass, ceramics and furniture

• All of the studios taking part open daily from 10.30am to 5pm and free to visit.

• For full details of the programme and the artists, makers and designers taking part, see the website at .

• See Hilary’s website at

Media information

• For enquiries, interviews etc. contact Matthew Shelley on 07786 704299 or Ellen Drummond Ferroni on 07801 820757

• A backgrounder with additional details on Spring Fling accompanies this release.

• Free-to-use images are available from the Spring Fling website.