WHEN Colchester’s Firstsite art gallery made its call to artists, no-one quite expected the response it would get.

Queues stretched outside the doors of the venue over the weekend with hundreds of people bringing their works of art for a chance to take part in the gallery’s first Open Exhibition.

It was not just former art teachers and students submitting work. There were local art groups, families, even companies and people who have never exhibited before.

Lisa Bowden, along with sons Jude, 12, Lucian, seven, and Gregor, three, have all entered pieces of work for the show.

Lisa said: “We’ve been long supporters of the gallery and we are just so excited to be involved in one of the exhibitions.

“There has been a lot of criticism about this place not including local artists and being elitist.

“This exhibition couldn’t be more non-elitist or inclusive of all the artists in the town both professional and amateur.”

Robert Wilkinson, 70, retired from working at an uphostelry company five years ago.

He said: “I’ve done quite a bit of art since retiring, but I’ve never shown any of my work in an exhibition before.

“I’ve always thought this is the kind of thing Firstsite should have been doing when it first opened and so I’m glad it has done so now.”

Another first timer will be art student Martha Lucas, 18, from East Bergholt, who has just graduated from the Colchester Institute.

She said: “I thought it was a great way of showing some of my work to the public for the first time and I can’t wait to see it up on one of those walls.”

Gemma Rawlinson and Lindsay Palmer from Colchester-based Mosaic Publicity were at Firstsite submitting their company’s special work of art. Gemma said: “We wanted to celebrate Mosaic’s 15th anniversary and we thought creating our ownmosaic was the best way to do that.

“We are making 50 limited edition prints of the work.”

Lindsay said: “I’m a graphic designer, but I don’t really get the chance to do something like this at work.

“We asked all the staff to supply photos and made our own version of the Colchester skyline, which we’re really pleased with.”

Another group taking part are the staff and customers of the Level Best Art Cafe based in Culver Street East.

Providing skills training for people with learning disabilities, nine members of the cafe have put in work for the show.

In all more than 650 individual works of art are being exhibited and as the exhibition continues Firstsite will be asking art experts and local dignitaries to select their favourite five works from the submissions they have received.

The selected pieces will then be re-displayed in the Mosaic area on a weekly basis.

Firstsite Art Gallery’s Open Exhibition Preview Party takes place on October 2.

Doors open at 7pm and as well as a chance to view the art work there will be live art performances from Giovanna Maria Cassetta, and Le Gateau Chocolat.

The Open Exhibition itself runs until November 22.