ORGANISERS of the recent Otley Wildlife Arts Festival were faced with not one but several difficult decisions as a result of the high quality of work submitted.

One dilemma was choosing a winner of the Best in Show prize.

“How do you compare a brilliant painting with a brilliant photograph or a brilliant sculpture for example?” asked one of the organisers, Wildlife Friendly Otley trustee Neil Griffin. “There were so many pieces we could have selected.”

Wharfedale Observer: Best in Show 'Tree of Life' by Frances TaylorBest in Show 'Tree of Life' by Frances Taylor

In the end a mosaic - Tree of Life - by Frances Taylor was chosen to win the prize of £80-worth of framing from Art Works in Courthouse Street.

She said: “I was really pleased to be asked to be part of this exhibition, and I am so flattered that my mosaic has been awarded Best in Show when there are so many other lovely pieces of art in the show. The work depicts birds in a tree and is made from stained glass mosaic which is manufactured from recycled window glass. Much of my work is inspired by nature, which is a passion of mine, and the work being done by this small local charity, Wildlife Friendly Otley, is amazing. I’m also so pleased to receive this voucher for framing from a great local business, which does an excellent job and, incidentally, framed my winning mosaic!”

Wharfedale Observer: BJ of Art Works with Frances TaylorBJ of Art Works with Frances Taylor

BJ from Art Works added: “We are pleased to be involved with the wildlife arts festival for a third year running. We like to support local good causes and events, and it was a nice coincidence that we had previously framed the winning entry.”

Frances’ work can be seen in an increasing number of places around Otley and the wider area, and she runs mosaic-making classes in the town (

Other exhibitors included creative groups such as Otley Arts Club, Otley Camera Club, the Chevin Watercolour Group, the Otley Healing Arts Group and the Drawing Club. Many individuals were involved too, including previous exhibitors Kim Coley, Liz St Clair, River Six, Kate Broughton, Vanessa Plews, David Askew, Steve Davey, Hollie Rushton, and Helen Sky Roberts. Involved for the first time this year were: Tim Gomersall, Laney Birkhead, Tom Collins, Ben Smith, Karen Oxley, Jeanne-Louise Art, Bo Davis, Nick Burton, Sarah Peel and Robyn Guppy.

Wharfedale Observer: Author Jeanne Wills at All Saints Primary SchoolAuthor Jeanne Wills at All Saints Primary School

Two local primary schools were involved with the festival, along with Prince Henry’s Grammar School which hosted broadcaster and entomologist George McGavin. Ashfield and Pool primary schools set their children the challenge of creating wildlife poems and art.

Wharfedale Observer: Grace with Neil GriffinGrace with Neil Griffin

Pool Year 3 pupils wrote acrostic poems, where each line began with a letter from the word 'squirrel'. Part of the stimulus for this writing came from photos their teacher Miss Ball had taken of Red Squirrels at the Yorkshire Arboretum. The winner here was Grace, whose poem WFO displayed on their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Pool Year 4 pupils were inspired by the art of Sarah Payne to create wildlife collages, and after much deliberation Thomas’s bird collage was declared the winner in Mrs Furnival’s class. Neil presented the winners with a pack of UK Wildlife Top Trumps in an assembly at school.

Wharfedale Observer: The work of ThomasThe work of Thomas

At Ashfield the Year 4 class wrote wonderful poems about wildlife, with Rosie’s 'The Beautiful Deer' getting the judges’ vote and appearing on WFO socials. Willow Class explored the Chevin with forest school activities, making dens and later writing poems with Shirley Hughes’ 'The Grass House' as a model. Nina’s poem won the prize here. Rowan class took inspiration from Michael Rosen’s 'The Rhythm of Life' and drew illustrations for it, with Eliza winning the wildlife cards prize. The prizes were handed over in a celebration assembly, along with £100-worth of wildlife books. These were bought by WFO from Microclimate Books, with the profit from last year’s festival, with Westgate, All Saints and Pool schools receiving similar bundles.

Wharfedale Observer: Thomas with Neil GriffinThomas with Neil Griffin

The festival concluded with the visit of author Jeanne Willis to All Saints Primary School. She delivered a workshop based on her book 'Bog Baby', using photos and props of minibeasts that she has collected as an amateur entomologist. A lot of audience participation followed with the children creating their own bog babies and habitats.

Neil said: “Jeanne inspires children’s interest in both wildlife and writing, which is a fantastic outcome.” Jeanne added: “I had a great day, in a lovely school”.

Wharfedale Observer: Jeanne Willis at All SaintsJeanne Willis at All Saints

All Saints’ Headteacher Ian Thomson-Smith said: “A huge thanks from everyone at All Saints to Wildlife Friendly Otley for organising Jeanne Willis' visit. She was brilliant, had a great rapport with the children, and really inspired them with her 'Bog-baby' creations. We are also grateful to Wharfedale Naturalists' Society for funding her visit."

Wharfedale Observer: Frances Taylor with BJ at The Art Works in OtleyFrances Taylor with BJ at The Art Works in Otley