MEMBERS of an art class are getting creative to celebrate their 20th anniversary.

Artist Linda Birch has been hosting a weekly session at Hamsterley Village Hall, in Teesdale, since 1999.

Mrs Birch who has a background in fine art and illustration, works with around 20 members of the group, which has become so popular that there is now a waiting list.

Exploring everything from watercolours to drawing and oil painting, Mrs Birch said she particularly enjoys developing member's potential and seeing them flourish.

She is also celebrating 50 years teaching art and has now developed an annual summer school as well as hosting regular exhibitions.

She said: "It's been great to teach them and a lot of them start as beginners so I take them through watercolours to paints and find out what they like but I also offer them projects too.

"It's nice to celebrate two anniversaries and just shows that you never stop learning - I'm very proud of them."

Mrs Birch also writes for the Leisure Painter, an international magazine about the craft of painting, as well as being a published author.

"I get all sorts of people come to the class for all sorts of reasons. Some have been widowed and some of them come because they did it at school and were told they were rubbish which they are not," the 72-year-old added. "Their sheer enthusiasm is lovely and I learn from them as much as they learn from me."

Student, Julie Underwood, 63, said she particularly liked the fact that she was always "stretched" to realise her potential and try new techniques.

Marney Swan, 74, said Mrs Birch is the "most incredible teacher". The retired dress designer has been attending sessions for more than a decade.

A special brochure has been produced by member, Don Buttle, 84, and the group hope to put on their own exhibition in the village hall, in September.

The class is held every Thursday from 9.30am to 12.30pm. Each class costs £12. For more information visit