Welcome to my “England” – series of paintings. England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom.

My England series

I am interested in

  • Politics
  • My cultural roots
  • Old English traditions and what it is to be English
  • The real essence of England


Folk Art’ – sometimes known as ‘naïve art’ – refers to art made by highly skilled people who wished to express their creative urges but had no formal artistic training. Growing out of the long-established craft traditions in local communities, folk art can encompass objects made for a specific purpose – such as shop signs, agricultural implements and weathervanes – and decorative works created primarily to satisfy the maker – such as street scenes, collage pictures and even moving automata. Often, these items provide an insight into what life was like for ordinary people, both rural and urban, during the nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Visionary art is art that purports to transcend the physical world and portray a wider vision of awareness including spiritual or mystical themes, or is based in such experiences

 Folk Art in England

Compton Verny has the largest collection of Folk Art In England. There are six features often found in Folk Art. 

  • Compositions comprised of unexpected substance
  • Complex and/or convoluted narratives
  • Sailors, sailors and more sailors
  • Crazy designs. They have an idiosyncratic loveliness to them!
  • The artists are untrained, self-taught and often highly skilled

The Tate Britain Museum in London mounted a break-through exhibition of British folk art, which was on view June 10 through August 31, 2014. British Folk Art is the first exhibition in a major mainstream English museum of the neglected patrimony of Britain’s history and of its homegrown art tradition by artists working between the late 17th and mid-20th centuries.

Much of the British folk art that has survived is preserved in the collections at Compton Verney in Warwickshire, which houses the Andras Kalman collection, and Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge that houses Jim Ede’s collection of paintings by Alfred Wallis. They, along with other small museums and academic institutions throughout Britain, have lent examples of surviving folk art to the Tate for this exhibition. In fact, as curator Martin Myrone clarified, all the exhibited works were deliberately chosen from those in already established museums, galleries and academic or private collections.

The British had a seafaring culture that often involved lengthy stints at sea leading to long periods of boredom punctuated by moments of terror. The boredom encouraged handwork resulting in crafted gifts of bone carvings, ornate pincushions and woolwork scenes. These scenes were embroidered likenesses of the boats they sailed using the skills acquired stitching sails and uniforms. The exhibition catalogue provides historical details in all of these categories.


Henry the Eighth is famous for changing England from being predominantly Catholic to Anglican. In this new Church, Henry and future monarchs would be the symbolic head and thus, be able to change the rules as and when they needed. Henry used this power to have six wives! Divorce and morality became very much dependent on who you were dealing with.

Many people stopped going to Church and one of the main and regular communal get-togethers was lost. I think the lack of the regular communal meetings is why our country is seeing a resurgence in interest in old Folklore traditions. I think people yearn for a sense of their roots in order to know what it means to be English.

Folklore customs dating back centuries are suddenly cool with a new generation keen to connect with the planet and defy the establishment Compton Verny put together an exhibition called Making Mischief. It was the first exhibition dedicated to British folk costume and the traditions celebrated by communities all over the UK. Making Mischief’s aim is not just to document community folklore traditions but also to show how they are revived and updated for the modern world – one that includes female morris dancers and LGBTQ+ performers. People are drawn to ancient sites, stories and traditions

”Folklore is pure anti-establishment chaos; in the show we look at how many traditions were suppressed because they were moments when people lost control. Many were started by communities driven to celebrate by a passion for culture. Notting Hill carnival is a good example of that.”, Simon Costin. he ís right. It ís what draws me too.

A sea shanty, chantey, or chanty is a genre of traditional folk song that was once commonly sung as a work song to accompany rhythmical labor aboard large merchant sailing vessels. The term shanty most accurately refers to a specific style of work song belonging to this historical repertoire.

However, in recent, popular usage, the scope of its definition is sometimes expanded to admit a wider range of repertoire and characteristics, or to refer to a “maritime work song” in general. The Sea shanty called “Wellermen” by Nathan Evans was a huge success. Students of mine introduced me to it. Sea shanties were popular in England when men would go out to sea -often to hunt for whales, etc.

There are many famous English traditions such as Morris dancing and the Harvest festival. Morris dancing, a folk form with origins in the 15th century, is opening up to younger dancers who approach it as a living tradition. Some people claim morris dancing was an ancient fertility rite or a pagan crop dance. For many years it was performed in rural areas, but is now seeing a resurgence in interest. The Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving is a celebration of the harvest and food grown on the land in the United Kingdom. It is about giving thanks for a successful crop yield over the year as winter starts to approach.

Perhaps the oldest and most famous English celebration is the Midwinter Solstice (from which my surname probably originates). Marking the passage of time was important to many ancient cultures. For the people of Stonehenge who were farmers, growing crops and tending herds of animals, knowing when the seasons were changing was important. Winter might have been a time of fear as the days grew shorter and colder. People must have longed for the return of light and warmth. Marking this yearly cycle may have been one of the reasons that Neolithic people constructed Stonehenge – a monument aligned to the movements of the sun.

Prehistoric interpretations of the winter solstice have linked religious and spiritual celebrations to the symbolic death and rebirth of the sun, though the event is also closely associated with pagan holiday of ‘Yule’ – the 12 days of Christmas. For thousands of years, the winter solstice has been celebrated by a number of civilisations and cultures but its modern audience is frequented by pagans

The stones were shaped and set up to frame at least two important events in the annual solar cycle – the midwinter sunset at the winter solstice and the midsummer sunrise at the summer solstice. The Midwinter solstice ứa probably the more important as every day that cam after it (for about half a year) would see an increasing amount of sunlight. It thus symbolically marked the time that life would flourish, etc

Modern celebrations see Pagan and Druid communities across the UK flock to Stonehenge dressed in traditional costumes. This multi-faith event is commemorated with choral songs sung by people dressed in red historical clothing as a nod to their ancestors. The fact that so many old English traditions are class-less, not based on any one belief and so on, make them quintessentially English – tolerant, open, fair, joyous and so on.

William and Agnes Midwinter (1450-1501) had a well documented career as a wool merchant. He traded with the Cely company who were merchants of the staple of Calais. I am a direct descendent of his bloodline. He proved that doing business with Europe made him wealthy. He wasn’t the one to do so. England has had a rich history of doing business with foreigners. English culture is full of foreign influences. Many towns and roads have Roman underpinnings, etc.

Medieval art in Europe grew out of the artistic heritage of the Roman Empire and the iconographic traditions of the early Christian church. These sources were mixed with the vigorous “barbarian” artistic culture of Northern Europe to produce a remarkable artistic legacy. Indeed, the history of medieval art can be seen as the history of the interplay between the elements of classical, early Christian and “barbarian” art.

Examining these traditions, we can begin to discover what it is to be English. We can see tolerance, integrity, virtue, care, a fair-minded and liberal ideology, a joyousness and love of life, a love of community, etc. I obviously think Brexit was a massive mistake on every level. It appears that many people have forgotten who we are and where we came from. I think as an artist it is important to highlight these issues.

If you are not convinced, please get a DNA test and discover your mitochondrial roots that can be traced back to Africa where mankind originated. Ultimately, we are all brothers and sisters of the same human family. One upon a time, we were all the same skin colour and had the same belief systems, etc. Old tribal ceremonies show us all where we came from.

England should be working together with our European neighbours. Europe is our nearest neighbour, so, if we are not doing business with them, who are we going to do business with? I think it í now obvious that other trade deals are simply too expensive due to logistics. I moved out of England many years ago and often wonder where the England I grew up in exists any more.

For more information, please check out my CV

Author: Piers Midwinter
I am an artist and teacher. I live and work in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.