Arts & Elbows

A catalogue of commentary on events in Thanet and occassionally the rest of the world.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Mail Out Mess Up

If you're on the Turner Centre mailing list you're in for a surprise this week. One of the Turner crew in charge of the latest mailing of hundreds of invitations has made the minor mistake of forgeting to put stamps on them. So if you get a card from the Post Office asking for payment of 23 pence plus a one pound handling charge you know who it's from.
I declined mine as £1.23 is quite a fee for an invite from their office just around the corner. Hopefully they'll send one with a stamp on, then I can tell you what their next offering is.

Incident in Westwood

Westwood Cross has been closed with traffic being turned away following an incident at the Tesco petrol station. Apparently a man covered part of the forecourt and himself with petrol and then set himself alight at around 5.00pm today.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Good Grub Ahoy

The Captain Digby overlooking Kingsgate Bay was originally built as a folly by Lord Holland on his estate circa 1765. It was named after one of the lord's chums, Captain Robert Digby, and deliberately built to look like a ruin. By the early 19th century it had become a tavern with a grand reputation for taking great care of it's customers.
One hundred years later it's been greatly expanded, including a bright playground, a larger dining area and a modern kitchen. If a visitor from 1809 was to magically reappear outside they'd still recognise the flint building, more delightfully they'd also recognise the grand reputation. Service is swift and friendly, the menu simple but broad enough for everyone to find something they're bound to enjoy.
To say menu in the singular is wrong though, there's one for adults, one for children, plus one for vegetarians. Each is bursting with variety, so there's no lazily dull meals without the meat for the veggies, or just smaller portions for the sprogs. It's all part of their well practised hospitality, making every diner feel a little special, and every dinner a feast.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Pedalos are Go!

Pedalo Barry has seen his last season on the main sands, so say "hello" to the new owner Pedalo Jan. Throughout the summer Pedalo Jan will be hiring out pedalos and kayaks at the boating pool over by Nayland Rock, offering visitors and locals a safe way to muck about on the water. She's also got something new coming along soon, but I'll not spoil the surprise.

Lights Out over Margate

The bright yellow lights which have illuminated Margate seafront with the word "Dreamland" for decades have been taken down. The mist which enveloped the town today hid this sad turn of events from most, and was probably sent by the gods to shield our tender souls.
There's a chance they might be replaced with more modern and reliable lights, especially as they've seldom all been lit simultaneously in recent years.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Eminently Tracey

Photo: Jake Gavin - Courtesy Jay Jopling/White Cube (London)

Around these parts Tracey Emin is much adored and typically referred to as "Our Trace". Part of our adoration is simple small town pride, she could be famous for anything and most of us would still puff up our chests at each and every mention of her. Thankfully she's not an athlete nor a television weather forecaster, rather more brilliantly she's Britain's Greatest Living Artist. Her work is bright and engaging, with a far greater scope than most realise, plus she's the best of the YBAs by a long modern chalk.
Despite the dull unimaginative slurs from the gutter press Tracey Emin remains creative and thrilling with every development, she's also incredibly loyal to Margate. It's rare for her to fail to mention Margate in interviews and she remains approachable when visiting which she does often. There's no typical Emin fan around here, but there's a solid core of support from older women who, like the artist, know women are often treated like second class citizens purely because of their gender.
With typical flair she's shuns the smoke to stage events here, most recently a book signing for her autobiography "Strangeland" and the world premiere of "Top Spot", both at Margate's Walpole Bay Hotel. When "Top Spot" went for classification the board rather perversely decided it should be rated as an "18", no doubt a deliberate attempt by the establishment to deny Trace her intended audience of teenage schoolgirls. Rightly furious she refused to release the film, leaving the public with a single chance to see it on BBC3.
Thankfully for us, the viewers, Tracey has reconsidered and this Monday "Top Spot" will be released in all it's glory on DVD. Two versions will be available, a standard version for £19.99 and a limited edition (numbered with special packaging and Emin artwork) for £25.99. Both are packed with extra features, including unseen footage, an alternative ending, stereo sound, a commentary, an interview, and three other short films; "Riding for a Fall", "Costumes" and "I'm a Believer". Most importantly it's an opportunity for us all to own a copy of a highly personal and poetic vision, and a chance to heed Emin's cry for us to try to understand teenage angst and not just condemn it mindlessly.

Festivals Ain't What They Used to Be.

Publicity is the lifeblood of most events so imagine my surprise to only see a single postcard sized piece of it for something entitled "Thanet Urban Art Festival" which runs for three days the last being tomorrow. If the attendance was anything to go by no one else had heard of it either, verging as it did on one organiser per visitor.
I took the Slug* along, thinking he might be enthusiastic in the way only nine-year-olds can manage, but he remained underwhelmed by the whole thing. The oddest part remains the lack of publicity, no flyers were being handed out, the welcome was non-existent, the wheels of steel remained silent and the folk running it seemed quite happy to stand around in the sun chatting amongst themselves. The painted bus looked pretty though.
*Nickname for my son.

Head Spinner

Once a year there's a show packed with joy known as the IOTA open exhibition. It occupies a unique position in the hearts and minds of both artists and viewers across the Island and beyond with it's quasi-socialistic approach to it's content, like Cuba in miniature bravely standing up against more fashionable contemporary ways of doing things. All artists are welcome and the result is genuinely refreshing, bright and bold.

Another lesser annual event is me attempting to review it, a first for this humble new blog, and mention every single artist shown. This year I've failed before I've begun, as the ruddy body casts displayed from the ceiling and what appeared to be a litho of a trio around a table including Frank Sinatra weren't listed in the catalogue so I can only mention those in passing, apologies to both artists, as well any omitted or overlooked as I got confused by the catalogue order. As much as I'd like to focus on every detail in every piece I don't, instead a light sketch to whet your appetite is offered, to give an idea of the scope and encourage you to visit the show for yourself and make your own mind up.

A pair of textile pieces by Megan Whitty were the first to be seen, made with dark thread on calico these seem to be a mix of anatomy and architectural forms with a hint of geology to them producing an interesting result. Christa Kackney serves up an abstract painting and two portraits with a lovely touch of Bosch to them, whereas Angela Rumble drew inspiration from a different type of culture - the type you'll find in petri dishes, for three very tight portraits in monochromatic blues. Two photographs of Ramsgate seafront by Julia Westbury gave an interesting vision, making the modernist redevelopment of a seafront which has seen better days look a little like a radar station on the Bikini Islands.

Two very different styles from Shaun Carey, one a dauby painting, the others more frantically detailed almost like the graffiti which once decorated the Berlin Wall. Meanwhile Sonja Benskin Mesher is more Rothko-esque in approach, using mixed and found media to great effect. Gentle understatement lies behind Dawn Cole's "White Cliffs" drypoint series, and so subtle in effort as to suggest naturally textured paper. The local Saxon shore is briskly and energetically rendered by Valerie Thoresby with wild but accurate flourishes of paint in a trio of pictures. Tight micro-detail from Roy Eastland. Helge Hunter offers up sketchier forms this year and neatly so. An artist only known as J. delivers some of the most deliberately contemporary pieces in three photos of his work in generally domestic situations, which work surprisingly well.

Ramsgate stalwart Pat Castle shows only a single piece, of Almeria in oils, which some may recognise from her solo show at the old town gallery last year. Thoughful photography from Sarah Burns encapulating the emotion of her subjects succinctly. Bright decorative geometry from David Buckden, a similar brightness from the botanical offerings of Emily Tull although I worry about her eyesight given the fine needlework employed. Next to those Rebekah Sunshine is exploring new paths, shame we're only treated to a single piece. New to my eyes is James Hunt, two seemingly manipulated photographs, the third a deep daubed impression of Ramsgate Marina split into three canvasses but deliberately displayed out of order. Photography from Ady Kerry verging on photo journalism but with less obvious an angle. Painter John Hughes has two impressions of heads, both fade into the wall against the stunningly detailed "Autumn Landscape" which is both enchanting and charming.

Bright and solid still lifes from Ian White, two featuring an African fertility symbol, while Ken Saunders seems to concentrate on making each picture so very different from the last the only link being vitality and vigour. There's a story to Kate Vale's paintings, it not obvious what it might be other than there's a moral to them. IOTA regular Joyce Marriot delights again with her usual ease, as does old favourite Pete Buckey who playfully entitled his three "Westgit", "Margit" and "Ramsgit" because that's exactly how most of us pronounce them. Graceful studies of human form by Jan Hunt. A single piece from Daniela Flowerdew but totally delicious it is too. I imagine Brian Bushell was a Japanese calligrapher in a previous life, he makes every brush stroke look like a lazy flick of the wrist with the true detail only conveyed after closer scrutiny. Three more of his treasures are hung here.
Another new to my retinas artist is Stephen Dorsett, his paintings infected with a visual madness where no brush can keep pace with the synaptic lunacy therein. For the second year in a row I was the first to buy something and Dorsett's "Russian Life" is what I picked. Best go and see it because once I've paid up it's off to my Swiss bank vault.

Rare to see an untitled piece marked anonymous, although I have an idea who might be behind it, but amusing either way. A trio of worthy daubs from Jackie Russell who has a great eye for a palette. Sally Kidall comes up with a playfully unique version of footsteps in the sand. Painterly skills jump off the walls with Jonathon Stewardson's pieces, one cloudscape and two with a model who probably is that good looking in real life. Adjacent is a pair of simple but well executed paintings by Kristen Healy in red and black. More delicate work from John Powley-Kemp, solidly traditional and close to perfect. On first view they're vaguely abstract, but there's a deeper image hidden within like an aesthetic colour blindness test, very special.

A healthy loose impressionism from Tom Bowling. Folky wartime memories of anti-aircraft fire during an air raid from Ron Derain. Eight pictures combined from various artists calling themselves East Kent Cyrenians, an intriguing first offering. Three cheers for three canvases from John Newton, cracking artist and recently retired art teacher to some of the greatest art minds around these parts. A microscopic Man Ray by Ella Price, three bright ones from Shirley Rintoul her feline studies the best. Great rotoscopic photo of Viking Bay from Jenny Duff, stencilistic feel to the work by Daniel Smith, gentle vagueness from Terry Wetherilt, hopeful seascapes from Andrew Greatrex. Good to see Rob Norman still enchanted by his dog enough to include it in his work, solid work it is too. Fragrant work from Imogen Dent.

On to the sculpture, a giant coffee bean from Catherine Edwards, more humanist an approach from Stuart Thompson with "Sleeping Angel", his grip on both form and anatomy has come on impressively since last year. Delicate flowers from Sarah Rowlish, good bronze and wood work from Sally Carson, and a playful frog from Nina King.
Adrian Day's "Mazeopoly" is quite outstanding, it has eye, brush, colour and composition aplenty. So slightly pipping everything else to the painted post it takes my humble accolade "best of show".

IOTAs Annual Open Exhibition "HeadTurner" runs until Sunday 14th May, open Tuesday-Sunday 10am-5pm, Free Admission, Wheelchair Access.
Further information 01843 853117.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

If it Aitchs scratch it.

There's a ability, akin to X-ray vision, unique to folk who grow up in seaside towns. It comes from crafty ciggies behind ghost trains, watching giant illuminated ice-creams being removed for the winter and a willingness to collude with the bright lights and plastic palm trees which daytrippers find so delightfully entertaining. It's like living in the wings of an enormous theatre.
One such bright soul and Margate's greatest living writer is Iain Aitch author of "A Fete Worse Than Death". A collection of tales from an English summer from the odder side of the tracks, shin-kicking competitions, world war two re-enactors, crop circles, etc. A lesser pen would only scratch the surface of such activities unable to get beyond the apathetic cliches which city folk enjoy so much. Aitch peeks only briefly at those, preferring to sneak behind the scenes to discover what's really there and more importantly why.
To read his work is like a brisk walk across flat fields, or even a downhill gallop. Making something so easy to read is deceptively difficult and the sign of a dedicated wordsmith. Luckily for us, the readers, his published work isn't limited to a single volume. He writes regularly for the Guardian and the Telegraph, as well as the occasional piece for the London Evening Standard, Independent on Sunday and Bizarre magazine.
Most recently he was commissioned to write a piece about the Turner Centre, or rather the lack of it. Sadly it was spiked due to a change of arts editor at the Guardian, but luckily for us it's available on his website. Click here to read it.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Stormy Weather

There's no sun in the sky but quite a few tourists have turned up so far for the Easter bank holiday, many wandering noticibly bemused by the high number of empty shops throughout the town and the flat grey expanse that Dreamland has become. Their collective expectations of a ghost train rather than a ghost town haven't been met and it's rather obviously going to have a negative effect on the tales they'll take home with them and decrease the likelyhood of them returning, especially when towns a similar distance from the smoke such as Brighton, Hastings or Southend are so bright, clean and entertaining to the casual visitor.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Ramsgate Drunk Dry

Tales have started to emerge about IOTA's "Under the Influence" becoming a victim of it's own huge success. Eager art lovers drank the event dry by the end of the first day with a few punters being mildly miffed at spending three hours waiting to get hold of their first pint, only to be denied a second.
The only part larger than it's success is the hangover belonging to Berty Oldfield who was last seen serenading seagulls with traditional Russian folk songs while playing his ukelele.

Millionaires 'R' Him

Verging on the sarcastic and disrespectful while being stylish and hilarious is typically reserved for top-notch television programs like "HIGNFY". Shattering the Beeb's monopoly is Ramsgate's very own Eastcliff Richard, who bored with being incredibly rich now runs the funniest blog in town named unashamedly after himself. Eastcliff Richard is so amusing you'll probably bookmark it and never read any other blog again. I'm only linking to it because he promised me a part-time job polishing his collection of cars.

Last Train to Eatsville

It's rare to find good grub which gives you the feeling of sunshine on your back, but at Cafe Jamaica in Harbour Street, Ramsgate it happens with each and every bite - even when it's raining outside.
Small but perfectly formed it offers a menu from Patties to Curried Goat with everything in between. Surprisingly Paul the owner is skinny, but essentially so, otherwise he wouldn't fit behind the counter. He's makes a wicked coffee, but aside from those highly fashionable beans he sells more vitally West Indian drinks such as D&G's "Ting" and "Jamaican Ginger Beer".
There's also shelves of bottled sauces and other ingrediants to take away and have a bash at making your own, which will have you coming back for more food because you'll not match his cooking.
The only vaguely negative thing I can point to is his occasional lapse towards playing ravey music, when he has a fine collection of classic ska tunes available.

What a Difference a Week Makes

No one likes litter, it's a sign of a lack of concern for our environment combined with ugly consumerism. In these pictures you can see a fine example of the laziness called littering which greets users of the pricey Market Street car park in Margate. They were taken a week apart and at no point in that week did the scene alter other than in the arrangement of debris.

Good Game Good Game

The weekly Friday market in Ramsgate has some interesting stalls, the best of which is Sole Mates run by Stephen Kirkaldie purveyor of fresh fish, shellfish and a wide range of quality game. I've tried his springbok which is delightfully tender, wild boar - an earthier pork, and the more usual rabbit, pheasant and pigeon.
Rather cowardly I draw the line at crocodile - it just doesn't seem correct to eat something which in straight fisticuffs would tear me to shreds in under thirty seconds, along with the dangerous moral dilemma in the possibility of it having snacked on careless Zambezi swimmers.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Barrels of Fun

The first day of IOTA's heady combination of artshow and CAMRA beer festival was absolutely packed with a long line of eager participants waiting to gain entry.
I've not seen the place this busy since the sunny polaroid days of the seventies. Hence it's most evident as IOTA's most successful event ever, with most of the crowd not seen there before for any of the previous art events.
It's hard to tell why this might be, on one foot the shows they've put on have always been superb but on the other elbow none of those shows have been promoted as much as this one.
Can't help but wonder if this might be the start of a new direction for Philip "Berty" Oldfield, who having bravely struggled to keep IOTA open as a gallery might consider putting that to one side and converting it into a pub.
If you weren't there today don't panic as there's a second and final day tomorrow which will be open until every drop of beer has been drunk.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Murphy's Law

One would be likely to assume the creation of religious icons in traditional styles was an art lost in the fog of time. Similar to most acts of assumption you'd be wrong as local artist Peter Murphy shows so keenly.
Not only has he undertaken important commissions for a number of churches, most notably Tewkesbury Abbey and St Mary Redcliffe in Bristol, but he's adapted his style to include more modern icons like Hendrix, Lennon and Bowie. These work well as art with an added healthy playfulness.
In addition he runs classes to pass on his skills, locally at Flint House in Broadstairs, but also in Florence and Venice, and as usual with frantically work obsessed artists he does plenty more including founding the East Kent Stuckist group.
Murphy has shown locally in Margate Library, Peter Neville's in Canterbury, and the Old Town Gallery and many of you will be familiar with his work. It's always worth looking out for as he's yet another of the band of great local artists.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shore Thing

Encams the environmental campaigners who run the "Keep Britain Tidy" campaign announced their list of recommended rural beaches today. Apart from being given a clean bill of health for the state of their sands, those celebrated also have proper access, clean toilets and good health and safety provision.
The good news is surfers paradise Joss Bay and the delightful Botany Bay made the grade, the bad news is no other Island beach did. A worrying development given the miles of sand we have to the North, East and South, wholly unsurprising given how often the high tide is marked not by seaweed but debris ranging from the expected rubbish from tourists through used disposable nappies to the ugly syringes from the addicted.
Next summer Encams are extending their worthy recommendations to both rural and more urban beaches. Whether our tacky brown sands will fare any better remains to be known but it's unlikely to be worth betting on.

Wheel to Live

There's a dreadful amount of snobbery directed towards the honest workers who toil to dig holes, close roads and block traffic and at best it's misguided, at worst a deliberate slight towards those who keep the country running.
Having heard of the recent lack of art on display the visiting post-modernist gas workers elected to brighten both our days and The Parade in Margate with the handsome sculpture pictured above.
Described by the trio of artists known as Dave, Pete and Bazza as "a metaphor for the mono-directional flow of finances from hard toiling payers of levies into deep unknown voids." it's proving to be popular with locals and tourists alike. Sadly it's only temporary so if you want to view it do hurry.

Stick, Twist or Scaffold

It's in Margate but it's not a media centre - it's Margate Media Centre under the scaffolding relatively soon after it's £150,000 refurbishment having it's roofing patched up. Rather surprising as a repair, many would assume roofing would have been included as part of the original refit.
It's become the flagship of a growing new form of building in ye old town, namely completely reinvigorated with public cash, held high as beacon of regeneration at its best and not used very much at all.
Whether it's value for money can't be judged as no one at the Council was able to share the cost with me, but should their Press Office get in touch I'll be happy to share the details.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Bling House Singed Slightly

The radio news reports were so breathless and frantic with this story as to suggest Charles Dicken's old home had been razed to the ground. Thankfully that's not what happened, the damage limited to one corner of this impressive building.
Good to hear none of the Hiltons were injured too, although they didn't open their jewellers in Margate High Street for the day - concentrating on dealing with fire, smoke and water damage instead. Meanwhile Richard Hilton was frantically returning from a brief holiday in Thailand having heard the bad news.

My Bowl Floweth Over

One of the greatest achievements of local regeneration has been the refurbishment of the legendary Rice Bowl Chinese Restaurant in Market Street, Margate. Not just because it brought a closed building back to life though, more because of the high quality of the food on offer at very reasonable prices.
The consistancy of the food verges on the remarkable, you can order the same dish months apart and you'll get a meal so identically similar as to suggest the kitchen has perfected the art of cloning. The desserts are delightful, and most diners receive complimentary chilled fruit at the end of their dining to cleanse the palate.
There's also the comfortable plush interior, and subtle but attentive service, creating a dining sum total far greater than it's parts. Don't take my word for it, give it a try and you're bound to be delighted.

Monday, April 10, 2006

He sells seaforts off the seashore.

The world of contemporary art can be secretive not least when it comes to it's use of public funds. This makes it difficult for us, the people, to judge whether we're getting value for money, reduces accountability to zero and assists in tarring all modern artists as parasites living rather well from our taxes. Sometimes there's a glimpse of the cash cost, despite the unwillingness of those involved to openly discuss the filthy subject of money.
One such glimpsed project is Stephen Turner's "Seafort", for which the artist lived alone on the old world war two seaforts off the north Kent coast for roughly six weeks in July, August and September of last year. The funding came from three sources; Canterbury City Council (£2,500), Margate-based Creative Partnerships (£48,000) and Arts Council England (£43,000), giving a healthy total of £93,000 - approximately £15,500 a week.
Readers can judge for themselves if this was worth it by looking at, but note there's no sign of the promised updates to the site nor the related book which was to be published in January of this year. Similarily the project discussion forum has, like the seaforts themselves, been abandoned.

Deaths Threats a Go Go

It might come as a surprise to some but probably not to many to hear of threats received against myself and my family for the journalism I've practiced over the past few years. Sure there's been the occasional recipient of a bad review, like Pie Factory who having invited our son to an event sent him away when he turned up, and were miffed enough to come and threaten us as a singularity with fates considered worse than death.
Who would have expected the drug addled son of a local councillor to turn up and pick on dear Mrs Me* in a sadistic manner worthy of the Provisional IRA? Manners and law forbid me from mentioning their name in print but if you can spare the time to come ask me who might be so ASBO seekingly bold as to threaten death upon me and my family for the free speech I've dared to exercise I will be glad to tell you who it was, and whose son it might be if you're not that good with surnames.
Casual observers may well be satisfied to learn that it's a member of the party in government who so keenly claim we should fight against terrorism but permit it to be practiced by their own. Our dear Minister of Transport (as seen on Top Gear) aka the right honourable Steve Ladyman MP for Thanet South has attempted to intervene but with little effect.
Ever thought there might be two sets of rules and some elected representatives choose to break them all?

* Domestic slang for my wife.

Poets are doing it for themselves.

Words are cheap unless it's prose or poetry, so it's good to know how well attended local poetry meets are despite the wintry blast of artic winds trying to convince us all to stay at home in front of the great glass teat known as television.
Thanet's Own Poets are going from strength to strength with their latest batch of events which receive not a penny from public funding. The next two Poetry Appreciation events take place at Mrs Corby's Tearooms, York Street, Ramsgate from 11.00-13.00 on the 6th of May and the 3rd of June, with a Poetry Workshop also there on 20th May. Poetry & Potatoes at SandyWiches is 19.30-21.30 on 19th April and 17th May. Lastly and by no means least is Poems and Pints at the Brown Jug in Dumpton Park on 27th April and 26th May. They have dates confirmed into next year which I'll share as they approach.
Also watch out for the East Kent Poetry Review at the Swallow Hotel in Ramsgate on alternate Sunday Afternoons (14.00-16.00) and consider indulging in the East Kent Poetry Review anthology - number 2 on sale at many events, as well as the Albion Bookshop, Margate Library, and other venues with good artistic taste.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Art on the Rails

If you've ever tried pastels you'll know how nasty to use they can be. They become sticky and secrete their essence over hands and clothes perfectly while simultaneously coagulating as a smudged mass upon the surface aimed at.
This explains why Daniel Morris is a singularly irritating artist- not only does he use them without trouble he produces great work as the image of Margate Harbour above shows. Being a worthy artist isn't enough for him though, he runs the bargain based Kent Canvas and consults for the NCH charity on all things arty.
Like most good locals he wants to spend some of this summer out on the prom of a bay, and so is organising a railing show of art at Minnis Bay and is seeking interested artists.
Any interested artists should contact him for details and a chat via .

Drink Glorious Drink

The writers of the old Sinatra tune "Love & Marriage" originally wanted to include artists and alcohol rather than horse and carriage but had to drop it as non-rhyming despite it being so acutely accurate. This hasn't worried artists though and not just because they've had too many pints to be bothered.
If you've ever been to an opening you'll know there's always a healthy selection of beverage available, typically wines with juice for the awkward. Openings would be followed by a few hours in a local pub just to round the night off.
Locally one gallery has gone on to develop this theme to new dizzy heights. Gallery IOTA in Ramsgate started by getting a barrel in from the Belgium brewery down by the Harbour. This quickly progressed to having special editions of bottled beer named after each particular show, a bottle would be cracked open and poured into a glass for you as you arrived.
This Friday and Saturday (14th & 15th April) it gets even better with the show "Under the Influence", sure there's the usual pile of good art from great artists but it runs alongside Thanet's first CAMRA Beer Festival and about time too.
Eager buyers are already calculating how many pints of "Woosters New Peculiar" it might take to get the price they want on any given piece, and just how tall, broad and deep the hangovers of the curators will be on the second day. See you there.

Funding at all time high, Art not.

Like a handful of sand in the face from a beach bully local artists and art spectators find themselves with an incredible lack of art around despite the record amounts being spent locally on public arts. The postponed Turner Centre is only part of it despite it being commonly held to blame for everything by everyone.
Following the despicable arson attack Ramsgate Library remains a smoke stained shell propped by scaffolding and surrounded by boarding. Memories remain of the large gallery it housed and the brilliant shows it held for decades, long before arts were trendy around these parts. The photographs of Bill Brandt and the sculpture of Anthony Caro were two such shows from some twenty years ago, and only recently have these two had a fair rattle of the tamborine from trendy colour supplements.
Similarily Margate Library used to show less well known practioners but no smaller was the talent on display. This space is now in darkness and unlikely to see such illumination again. Cutbacks are to blame for this, decimating outstanding staff with the confident reassurances from those in charge that all would be fine. Occassionaly when a librarian is now ill the library closes for the entire day, due to staff shortages.
The Outfitters Gallery was the original mini-flagship of the new wave of arts regeneration, few mention it now since it didn't really work. Despite the worthy effort of Jeremy and Linda it became clear it simply didn't have an audience especially with the lack of promotion from those in charge. Build it and they will come simply doesn't work anymore.
Broadstairs Cultural Centre is long gone, as are most of the brave new souls who opened this gallery or that shop believing that some support or vital help would be coming which unlike the cavalry in old westerns never showed.
The single growing practice is hanging art on railings, which is economically efficient and one of the few things an artist can do without having someone from the council get involved and turn it all to a sticky mush with enormous sums of our hard earned cash.

Riding high on the crest of an imaginary wave.

For many who might use the internet regularly there's a slightly metallic distaste to it. From how much is nonsense, plainly incorrect or blatantly out of date but delivered at a relentless pace which exceeds physical movement of over five thousand miles per hour. And for what? Despite massive investments in all the right cables* the revolution of what was once commonly heralded as the Information Superhighway has so far had less of a positive educational effect than public library schemes from the nineteenth century. Plus libraries never tried to sell you this or that at every turn. Equally worrying is the willingness to accept the truth of something because it's on the interweb.
What's more surprising are some of the simply misleading items you might find by folk at the cutting edge of the highly professional. Over at Snohetta's website they're a trifle economical with the actuality in stating the budget of a cancelled project at eighteen million quid and being vaguely labelled as scheduled for summer 2007. There's a similar lack of mention of the cancellation of it on the project description, as on the news page. Well to say a lack on the news page is too kind because one of the two entries in English is a story from the enquiring journalistic mind of Health Club Management in stating "Work is now underway at the £25m Turner Contemporary in Margate, in Kent, which is scheduled to be opened in 2008."
Just why there might be a false report is beyond me, but I can't help wondering how much of that limiting of accuracy might have found itself presented as a reliable source for future clients? Along with just how trustworthy companies might be who would do that, especially when it involves public funds for worthy causes. Not really our problem though, but it'll worth watching just what happens with their latest commission for a Museum Complex on the former World Trade Centre site. Their hectic schedule must limit the time they have for accurately reflecting their business on their website.
Meanwhile in West London Spence Associates have long forgotten the Turner Centre having won a competition to design a "new vehicular and pedestrian crossing", a bridge to you or me, across the River Wear at Sunderland. Sounds very familiar despite being heralded thus "The competition sought the best conceptual approach for an original, unique, inspirational and iconic structure. The bridge will be a major, circa £43 million pound structure which will form part of the wider Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor (SSTC) initiative. The bridge should act as an important gateway to the city centre, lead to urban regeneration and serve as a symbol of Sunderland moving forward in the 21st Century."
The judges did concede "...the Spence/Techniker design is a structurally challenging, complex scheme to deliver, but felt that its resolution would contribute significantly to the long-term future of the city."
Iconic building as flagship of regeneration? Structurally challenging? How did they think that up? What a top notch original idea, bound to work, and just forty million quid - bargain!

* Complicated technical term best left undefined.

Electrics Defy Fixing

The title may be what EDF stands for. EDF have the ultimate responsibility for fixing broken lights across the Island and they take their duties so seriously as to take as long as possible before doing a thing, even when they're in prominent positions.
The light on the Cottage pub in the lower High Street is one such instance. It last worked in early December, and was reported within days with the hope of a fix for the dark nights of Christmas shopping. It was reported again in January, February, March but not in April because it became self evident that the cost of phone calls is greater than the expense incurred towards repair.
Dreadfully Nimby to mention it of course, but if nothing happens after no small charge to Islanders for services including maintaining lights many will see it as an illumination of how things don't work around here. Despite being dark it's a beacon of uselessness for all to view, and one which extends beyond the mere repair of a single bulb. It becomes a metaphor for greater concerns because if an authority can't fix a single lamp within five months why would you trust them with millions for regeneration?

It's regeneration Jim, but not as we know it.

Possibly last week's public meeting on the future of the Turner Centre was meant to reassure Islanders about this flagship scheme for arts regeneration. Sadly it was a further step to alienate everyone other than those happy few who are doing rather well from it.
Locals with a memory have noticed a cycle emerging, namely a long list of improvements which are just around the corner. The very same corner enthused about a decade ago when arts as a route to regenerating Margate Old Town was first heralded. Now we're told not to worry because the new plan will make it all better within the next seven to ten years.
Quite a surprising claim given that roughly £10,000,000 has been thrown at this project thus far without much change aside from the closing of many shops. These closures have spread from the Old Town to the lower High Street, producing a new ten year low.
No one seriously expects this to be addressed, rather we imagine it being touted as an increase in "opportunities" after the Council's "exemplary management" of inward investment. We, the people, are reduced to shaking our heads, sighing with the occasional punctuation of a tut, and a strong sense of deja vu.

Welcome Dear Reader

I've been writing a humble arts column for the "Isle of Thanet Gazette" for almost two years now and thought it time to discover if there was a complimentary readership for my meagre words.
Writing about Arts and Regeneration for the Gazette is fun but limited to those in the area who buy the paper.
There's plenty of interested folk with connections to the Island all over the world and this is their chance to get an honest view of local developments from a Islander stubborn enough to have stayed here.

Ask Statto