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My favourite places: Hannah Heys, local artist

Trust an artist to have an eye for lovely local places! With her Hand Crafted exhibition on now at Queen's Park Arts Centre, textile artist and Bucks local Hannah Heys chats under-the-radar gems.

Her Hand Crafted exhibition is a riot of vibrantly colourful and eco-conscious wall hangings, rugs and cushions, so it follows that Hannah Heys‘ favourite local places would be mostly vibrant, big-hearted businesses. With her craftmanship on display and for sale at Queen’s Park Arts Centre in Aylesbury until 9 March, we couldn’t wait to hear all about her favourite places. Take it away Hannah!

White Hart Studio, Haddenham

Before becoming a textile artist I crafted illustrated cards, and it was in this beautiful shop that one of my friends first organically picked one out — with no idea that I’d made it! Of course, this would never have happened if I hadn’t already loved the shop; when I first passed it I immediately went in to beg them to stock my cards. It’s a bit like an Aladdin’s cave of lovely things: cards, interiors, clothes, jewellery, fun neon signs, even furniture. You could happily get lost in it.

Woburn Mosaic, Woburn

Beautifully-curated art gallery by day but lounge bar by night, Woburn Mosaic really is the whole package. If it was simply an art gallery I’d have loved it, thanks to the fantastic range of contemporary exhibitions and knowledgeable, friendly owners — but the fact that, come five o’clock, the entire space transforms into a lounge bar with table service, is just the cherry on the cake. Does life get any better than drinking an excellent glass of wine and picking at a cheese platter whilst surrounded by cool art? Actually, yes: doing exactly that in the gallery’s charming garden space in the summer.

The Old Swan, Cheddington, near Aylesbury

We moved to Cheddington slap bang in the middle of a lockdown, and so were blown away when, immediately, our new neighbours invited us to join them in taking turns buying each other takeaway from the local pub. Even better that our local pub is a 15th century thatched country inn that does cracking food. Friday night takeaway from The Old Swan soon became our highlight of the week, whether we were dropping it off or eagerly awaiting the neighbours’ delivery. The moment it was allowed, we were sitting out the front (with hot water bottles down our coats, if you remember the weather!) for a real drink.

Pierre Victoire, Oxford

If only I lived closer to Pierre Victoire! We went here recently for my dad’s birthday dinner, and the entire party was just waxing lyrical — including my brother and sister-in-law, fresh over from Prague. It’s such a perfect, relaxed atmosphere, and the most sensational, simple food. If I lived in Oxford, I’d eat here every week.

épanoui, Bedford

A joyous shop that celebrates indie craftmanship, all the jewellery on sale here is designed by its talented owner, Hannah. She was a real help to me at the beginning of my transition into working as an artist, agreeing to stock my work when I was first getting started, and then inviting me along to her amazing creative meetups. These ran once a month, and involved all the local creatives gathering in her beautiful shop to chat and inspire each other. Such a lovely thing to do! I thought it was brilliant, then, when my dad organically bought my mum some jewellery from here — no idea of the connection, simply thinking it was beautiful. And it really all is!

Queen’s Park Arts Centre, Aylesbury

I have to give Queens Park Arts Centre a mention, and not just because it’s displaying my exhibition. This place is a real, under-the-radar cultural hub: somehow I managed to do an entire arts degree in High Wycombe without having heard of it. Turns out it’s recognised by The Times as one of the UK’s ‘Top Arts Hotspots’! Now I do pottery classes here, and enjoy the various theatre, music, and comedy events. It’s also just a really cool, historic building, having once been a school.

The Three Horseshoes, Cheddington

‘The Shoes’, as those in the know call it, is Cheddington’s shiny new pub — because it’s 19th century rather than 15th, that is. It’s our proper local, meaning that the bar staff will cheerfully tell us what we’re going to want to order, since they know what we like and what’s been stocked. The rotating selection of guest beers would have been enough to cement its place in my heart, but it was also a lifesaver last summer. We don’t have a proper TV and a friend staying with us was desperate to watch the Euros, so owners Jools and Michelle managed to magically squeeze us all in last minute to watch here.

Happydashery, Leighton Buzzard

This shop is my absolute go-to for birthday cards, gifts, Christmas presents, and activities. Just this Christmas, in fact, I went in in search of a craft to fill the festive season, and was recommended an Origami Est kit. Given how amazing owners Sarah and Carrie are at helping people pick things out, it’s no surprise I absolutely loved the kit! Though to be fair, essentially everything on sale here is lovely; it’s so well-curated. Selling a range of things from Bedfordshire Beard Company beard oil to dreamy scented candles, it’s difficult to pigeonhole as a shop — but I think this is part of the reason it’s so great.

The Stag, Mentmore

This pub is community-run, and it really comes through in the atmosphere: everyone wants to chat, and every ingredient seems to come from a local source. I love that it’s been refurbished in a way that’s entirely in tune with the history of the building, and think the relaxed vibe of the place is entirely charming. The Sunday roasts are excellent, which is why you’ll find lots of families here, but it’s somehow also perfect for an adult drink.

You can catch Hannah’s exhibition, Hand Crafted, and purchase some of her joyful pieces at the Queen’s Park Arts Centre until 9 March. You can also check out Hannah’s website here.

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