If you think all charity shops are the same, think again - the Samaritans’ store in Sidmouth is not only a successful fund-raising outlet but it’s also a unique showcase for some of the area’s best artistic talents.
The shop, located in a former bank building, reopened from lockdown last month and within three weeks had attracted 700 paying customers, providing much-needed financial assistance for the Exeter, Mid and East Devon branch of the charity.
But it’s more than just the usual mix of cards and donated items, because part of the shop operates as a showcase for local artistic talent.
On display until the end of May is a collection of dramatic images from professional Devon photographer and videographer Kyle Baker, 23, who is based in Sidmouth.
Kyle photographs events across the UK but specialises in landscapes and waves, especially in the south west, using underwater cameras and lighting allowing him to create startling images from beneath the surface as well as above.
He has also been a volunteer lifeboat crew member at Sidmouth for the past four years and his display at the town’s Samaritans shop includes images taken with his fellow volunteers.
“I became involved with the Samaritans when I was advising on cliff-top walk signposts. Then the charity opened the shop in Sidmouth and it was a perfect combination of a great cause and an opportunity to show my work locally” explains Kyle, who set up his business in 2016 with the help of the Prince’s Trust.
“The exhibition in the shop has gone well. Several people have said they’ve seen the photographs and I’ve sold over a dozen prints - a big success,” he adds.
The shop is operated entirely by volunteers and is open Tuesday-to-Saturday from 10am until 4pm; the charity does not benefit directly from sale of artists’ work, although they make a donation in return for the exhibition.
“It’s a real bonus for the charity and for the community to be able to display the work of talented local artists of all kinds, as well as raising funds. Like all charities, our traditional ways of getting donations - like street collections - have been unavailable for the past year” explains Mel Whittock, director of the Samaritans branch.
“We’re fortunate that our shop is in a brilliant High Street position so we can give maximum exposure to artists. We’ll be showing a range of artists in the coming months, so we’d love people - visitors and local residents - to drop in,” she adds.