Stone carving festival making fresh start

SIX years after Wells stonemason and sculptor Paul Roddan staged the first Wells Stone Carving Festival the event is returning to the Bishop’s Barn, the medieval tithe barn owned by Wells City Council.

Paul said when he held his first stone carving festival that he hoped to stage it annually. But events conspired to prevent that, not least with the Covid lockdowns and Paul and his partner, Shona, having a baby.

This year Paul is ready to run the second Wells Stone Carving Festival at the same venue as the first (the Bishop’s Barn). And once again he is hoping this will mark the start of what will become an annual May Day highlight of the city’s calendar.

As well as being a qualified stonemason, Paul is a Yeoman of the stonemasons’ Livery Company in London (The Worshipful Company of Masons), which is once again supporting this year’s festival. There is further support from Whiteway Quarry, which is supplying the Marnhull stone the competitors will use; Toolmaker G Gibson & Co; Glastonbury Marquees, which will supply the marquee the carvers will work in; and creative street and hoarding advertising specialists Buildhollywood. Sponsorship opportunities are still available if anyone else wants to get involved.

Paul says: “While it’s been a whirlwind getting everything together for this event there’s a buzz of excitement that comes with putting on a stone carving festival. I’m really hoping we can capture the same success we had back in 2018 – the feedback then was overwhelmingly positive and the idea of hosting a second festival has always been burning away in the background.

“These events give us masons and carvers a chance to come together, sharing our passion for the craft. Carving and banker masonry can be a solitary task at times, so these gatherings are a chance to connect with peers and contemporaries. Unlike the usual straight lines of our day-to-day work, the festival lets everyone go in whatever creative direction they fancy.

“The public response in 2018 was incredible and I’m confident we’ll see a similar turnout this time. It’s a chance for the public to witness the thought, effort, and skill that goes into each piece over the two-and-a-half days.

“And, of course, the auction on the Bank Holiday Monday at the conclusion of the event of the works produced adds excitement for visitors, giving everyone the opportunity to own a unique piece of art crafted by some of the best stone carvers in the country at a fraction of their true worth.”

The auction of the 16 works produced at the 2018 festival raised more than £6,000.

Visitors to the event, being held over the May Day Bank Holiday weekend of May 4-6, could also take home one of Paul Roddan’s stone carvings (the bookends pictured on the left), which will be the prize in a competition during the festival.

Paul added: “Now I’m just crossing my fingers for a repeat of the lovely sunny weather we had in 2018.”

For those taking part there will be three prizes: one chosen as the best piece by the masons and carvers taking part in the festival; one judged by the organisers; and one judged by the general public who visit the event. Any mason or carver who would like to take part should contact Paul Roddan on There is an entry fee of £60 per person.

Paul says for those not interested in entering the festival as a competitor but willing to help out, there is plenty to do in keeping the masses happy during the event – such as manning the have-a-go stand, demonstrating a different craft, giving talks, or anything else that will interest the public visiting the event. Again, contact Paul on