ARTISTS from across the county showcased their work at Reading's third Contemporary Art Fair.

Sir John Madejski took a break from promotion celebrations at Reading Football Club to cut the ribbon at Friday's preview evening and welcomed visitors.

He said: "I think what is really special is that so many aspiring artists have the opportunity to show their works of art.

"This event is a great thing for the arts."

The fair opened to the public last Saturday and Sunday with more than 80 exhibitors displaying everything from celebrity sketches to watercolour landscapes and hand-drawn street images.

Many artists manned their own stands to meet visitors, discuss their work and make art more accessible.

A particular highlight was Aunt Elsie's Parlour workshop run by arts charity Jelly, which got visitors involved in making bunting to be hung around Reading town centre for the Diamond Jubilee.

The neighbouring stand sold mini canvases donated by each artist for �40 each to raise money for The Prince's Trust.

Among the weekend's visitors was TV presenter Melinda Messenger, eager to show her support for the arts in all forms. She explained: "It's very inspiring, very uplifting and we all need a bit of that in our lives. And it's great when it's something that's local - it's important that they get a chance to shine as well."

Melvin Benn, managing director of Reading Festival promoters Festival Republic, was overwhelmed by the set-up. He said: "It's a delight. The extraordinary thing is that when I walked in, I didn't expect art to be everywhere the way it was."

The event was sponsored by The Chronicle, and Vintage Roots.

Linda Cook, from Woodley, won a Berkshire Media Group competition for a �100 voucher to spend at the exhibition. She said: "It's really exciting because I've never won anything this big before!"

Linda, a birth doula and therapist, and her husband, Martin, chose a painting called "The Harbour Wall" by Gary Ford, from Abergavenny.

She said: "It was a hard decision but I was mainly attracted by its bright colours. The event was a good experience and the organisers were lovely. I don't know anything about art so it was a new experience for me!"

Andrew Cowdell from Reading-based gallery Angles Of Art was exhibiting at the event for the first time. He said: "The feedback I've received has been fantastic and it's encouraging for any artist to get such a warm welcome. The reaction to all the art is overwhelming."

Nearly 3,000 people visited the fair at Rivermead Leisure Complex, off Richfield Avenue, on Saturday and Sunday, and organiser Deborah James was delighted. She said: "It was the most successful fair yet and some of the artists had the best show they've ever had in their careers."

Adam Tubbs, of Castle Galleries, in Chain Street, said: "It's important for artists to get their name out in the open and this event is a way for them to get money for doing what they love."