Arts & Elbows

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Home on the Grange

The restoration work on Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin's masterful Grange in Ramsgate is complete after two years of hard work. Bravely led by the Landmark Trust and generously supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, considerable wise grants from Thanet District Council, the Jonathan Vickers Charitable Settlement and other charitable trusts as well as a multitude of donations from private individuals.
Today they were invited to a private reception to show the results, the most obvious being saving this stunning building from developers who wanted to ruin them by way of conversion into flats. In further celebration they will be holding two public open days, on the 24th and 25th June. There are four further open days planned for September. The building will be available for holidays for up to eight people from 3rd July although don't expect it to be cheap.

Dunkirk Spirit

There's a humble collection of boats dotted around Ramsgate harbour at the moment, they look similar to a lot of the other watercraft there if a little older. Age is not the only difference though, each flys the Cross of St. George from their bow, which to most suggests another football fuelled moment of national pride.
How wrong most are, for these are the aquatic veterans of Operation Dynamo, the veritable scramble to rescue several hundred thousand British troops, and a good few thousand French, from the beaches of Dunkirk from 26th May to 4th June 1940. Under fire these small craft took onboard troops from the beaches and ferried them to ships offshore in deeper water. In the nine days available to them they evacuated 338,226 brave souls from the enclosing forces of the Third Reich.
Thankfully they're now here for a commemorative visit rather than another vital mission and they're worth hunting out. One is in the inner basin close to the excellent maritime museum, another two in the outer basin next to the bright orange pilot craft and four of the slightly larger ones out on the southern pontoons.
Big thanks must go to the Association of Dunkirk Little Ships who are behind this and past visits for granting the opportunity for us to remember this so keenly. For without history we not only lose our past, but our future too.

Cover Girl

Preferring real bookshops like the Albion to dull chain stores, typically because the staff are so well read, often means you get genuine recommendations based on more than the latest fifty palettes to have reached a distant central warehouse. On my last visit I was given a copy of the free magazine "Book Time". Disturbing as it was to have chef Worral Thompson on the cover it was reasonably interesting, but even more so on realising that Broadstairs' greatest living writer Jane Wenham-Jones writes a regular column for it.
And what an intriguing column it was, discussing the effects the choice of cover to a book might have. It's not limited to sales though but also the book buyer's perception of the author. She admits how "Perfect Alibis" with the strapline "How to have an affair and get away with it." may not have been the perfect choice.
Indeed when she first gave me a copy of it alarm bells rang, surely she was some type of nymphomaniac bisexual swinger with a rapacious taste for each and every form of depravity.
She might be of course, not that it's any of my business. But how silly to have all that spring to mind from a cover, but it goes to show whatever mistakes writers or publishers might make they pale into insignificance against those a reader might invent.

"One Glass Is Never Enough" is Jane's latest book, available from The Albion Bookshop. No she is not an alcoholic.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Show Us Your Tentacles

No it's not the long awaited design for the ultra-delayed Turner Contemporary Centre, nor is it what local councillors look like naked. It's a massively tentacled monster from a production of the musical sci-fi comedy "Return to the Forbidden Planet" which opens at the Theatre Royal tonight.
Originally a big hit in the West End in the nineties, it tells the story of Captain John Tempest and his fearless crew journeying into hyperspace – and beyond. It's jam packed with great rock 'n' roll hits, and local talented thespians Lisa Payne and Steven Todd to name but two. Lisa warns “People of a nervous disposition are advised to bring someone to hold their hand during the scary bits.”
The musical runs from Thursday 25th May to Saturday 27th May at 7.30pm and there’s a matinee performance on Saturday at 2.30pm. Tickets costs £8-£11. Box office 0845 130 1786.

Only the Music Matters Mate

Receiving an message from Britain's greatest living electric guitarist Mark Hewins would ordinarily be an honour which I'd not stop banging on about. Typically having such a highly regarded and talented soul get in touch brings with it a vain & selfish hope of some small part of that great talent rubbing off. Today however the only element rubbed is that of sad loss.
Maestro Mark has worked with scores of musicians, a veritable who's cool of modern music, along with being a member of Soft Heap, a band descendant of the very special Soft Machine. Sadly the crucial Soft Machine and Soft Heap member Elton Dean passed away on 7th February, leaving a void for friends and collaborators, as well as for those whose ears aren't painted on.
Mark worked with Elton since 1979, and even had him as a house guest in Westbrook just a week before his final collapse. The email he sent some of us lesser mortals points towards a simple online memorial for his dear chum. Here you can enjoy a ten minute mpeg of their track "He Who Dares" which says more than my keystrokes ever could.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Hurrah for Us

One of the interesting elements of "blogging" is the generally intelligent conversations it can start between not only scribbler and reader but also between bloggers. One can formulate a basic off the cuff comment for another to develop it ending in a merry linguistic ping-pong. There's little revolutionary to this; it's just a more modern evolution of English language, replacing developments borne from older ways of living. Where we used to adopt words like khaki or bungalow gathered from Empire, we now take them from a fairer more level world fueled by electricity and displayed via heated phosphur.
Everyone's favourite Ramsgate millionaire came up with "Gazunder" for one of the local newspapers a nugget of slang so pure that the staff of the Gazette find it hilarious and would be saddened if Eastcliff Richard ever gave up using it.
Micro-nationalism is the best this blog has come up with, which originally appeared in the comments on "Thanet Life". Unfortunately Britain's greatest pilot Biggles has chosen to remove comments from his blog, so my words have sunk.
Hence it's time to explain what I mean by it, it's a form of home town pride where just about anything from here is brilliant to the utter degree. It's also how our problems are more important than those anywhere else, but ultimately it's a great big "Hurrah" for us, the Islanders, and a true love for our Isle.
The most obvious example is "Our Trace", who fortunately is bright anyway but obtains a sun like status in coming from here. She too is a micro-nationalist, evident from every mention she makes of Margate. The scribes Iain Aitch and Jane Wenham-Jones both appear to be members too, just as well as they're Margate's greatest living writer and Broadstair's greatest living writer respectively.
Chas 'n' Dave aren't from here but they gain iconic standing from their tune "Margate" very similar to how Sparks still regularly tour Germany to packed venues, who adore them mainly because of the little known song "German Girl".
You can spot Micro-Nationalists easily, we're the ones who never call home a dump because it simply isn't, cheer everytime Margate is mentioned in passing on Eastenders, and can be found gazing out to sea with a gentle grin plastered across our visage. The most evident of us are rather surprisingly the bloggists, even when it appears we're just whinging about everything. We're not of course we just have a vision of how outstanding everything around here could be, so feel free to join us, and leave lazy cynicism to the mainlanders.

Healthy Development

Despite a lot of traders moving out of the High Street to find more profitable premises it's good to see someone moving in. So a big welcome to Glen who has opened Kaylens Health Foods at 21 High Street, Margate. The sizable shop is packed with various ranges of food bursting with healthy ingrediants and includes a juice bar. The best of Margate luck to her and her new venture.

Just a Minute

The secret behind the previous blog entry "Mail out mess up" has been revealed. The invitations were all prepared locally and then shipped off to Maidstone for processing where some dull arc with a KCC name badge posted them without attaching any postage.
Unfortunately a replacement invite never did turn up, so I wasn't able to make the show entitled "Margate in a Minute" as it started this evening about an hour after having first heard about it and we'd all arranged to go and celebrate a family member's ninety-seventh birthday.
And what a sobbing shame too, I managed to sneak a look and it had everything going for it. Firstly it was as the title suggests all about Margate, secondly it featured very short films thus reducing any chance of one getting too boring, I'll trust you, the reader, to work out how long they might be. Finally they featured the shiny young things on the first year of a BTEC at UCCA*.
As many older art spectators know student shows generally have a reputation for being a trifle dull and as underdeveloped as the students themselves. Thankfully KIAD, or UCCA as they are now called, have found a way to transcend this sorry trend. Just how they've managed this is a mystery but all of their student shows are packed with festering talent and a maturity which hints at having professional artists do their homework for them. "Margate in a Minute" is no exception to this fascinating fad, refreshingly articulate and bright-eyed in delivery.
Onto every field some manure must be spread and having suffered from the mail-out cock-up means not as many folk as expected will get the chance to see, especially as it only runs for one single night. However there is a possibility of these films gaining an additional and longer showing later this year. Good thing too as they're just the morale boosting media the art adorers amongst us could really benefit from.

*University College for the Creative Arts, the new name for an expanded KIAD.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Parting of the Waves

Although vaguely agreeing with the post modern ideal of the free use of imagery and symbols there's a bitter taste to the flyer for this event showing nazis having a laugh at the semite on the ground before them. Just why such a potentially offensive image might be used is not clear.
Personal sensitivity aside it's good to see the Community Pharmacy Gallery cranking through the gears to bring us more events. They enjoy a loyal following and offer one of the best atmospheres to be found anywhere on the Island. Hopefully the organisers choice of imagery won't detract from this.
This Friday (26th) Alicia Hoser presents "Moses in Margate", a free event, offering a headstrong mix of performance art, film, Dj's and most oddly, aside from the flyer, a fashion show. It starts at 6pm and will very likely be packed, so get there early.

Last Chance For Art?

Parambulating and snapping shots is a regular part of my humble existance especially as the town is quiet and business slow as the sunny mid-week photo above illustrates. My point was to capture a few of the latest Artangel banners in context with their surroundings, there's little use to a photo of a photo without a touch of perspective after all.
Having eventually snapped a few worth taking a voice made itself audible with the mantra "English person, English person." It was a local geezer who'd just picked up some pilau rice to add to his leftover Chinese take-away from the night before who couldn't contain his desire for someone to take a photograph of him.

His lack of satisfaction with the Artangel images was clear although unspoken, and reflects the growing malaise amongst locals for arty projects as a whole. There's little relevence in any of them for most, not even an opportunity to board the gravy train to Empire-Building upon Sea which many have become.
This neo-negative Daily Mail style view is founded on years of below par activities enjoying above par funding, and pre-dates Artangel's "Margate Exodus" project. Anyone applying this jaded view to the "Exodus" is three things; wrong, wrong and wrong.
It's a pity this latest project didn't come along years ago, we could have done with it to win the aortas and synapses of the majority over towards arts regeneration. Instead I fear it may well be a visit to the last chance saloon bar with a very real chance that we, the public, might be the ones to get it all wrong this time.
The premise of "Exodus" is simple, a well respected London art gang give our Island the chance to star in a modern filmic interpretation of a Biblical tale. They really do want us all to get involved, to enjoy that involvement, and they don't want us to pay a penny for it. After all which has wandered before cheaply dressed as involving the public, or endlessly megaphoning public interest while filling private pockets it's shocking to hear someone say it and mean it, but mean it they do.
Endeavouring to catch them out, trick some hidden agenda into view and played devil's advocate to everything they've told me for a whole year, probably convincing them that I suffer from a rare bipolar narkyness aggravated by sea air.
It turns out they're what we wanted all along, a public art event which means what it says and says what it means. If it works it will be the single most important development in attracting attention to our meagre efforts at regeneration via art. However if we allow it to fail it will likely mean the end of "arts as regen", not in some dramatic climax involving pyrotechnical fireballs but in a drawn out starvation of artistic souls at great cost with tight fake smiles from those responsible, a.k.a. things staying very much the same.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Totally Wired

It's experimental music night at the Community Pharmacy Gallery tomorrow night, well worth a visit so long as you're not expecting Robbie Williams.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Singer a Winner

Photo courtesy: Bill Harris

A Broadstairs woman has won a prestigious song competition organised by Canterbury Christchurch University. Sarah Hale, 26, well-known for acting and singing locally, won first place in the Alan Parnell Singing and Accompaniment competition.
Sarah faced stiff competition from thirteen other students who, like Sarah, are students taking a music performance degree with the university. Sarah said: “The standards were extremely high – I feel absolutely thrilled and honoured to have won the prize.”
Sarah sang an impressive range of songs perfectly, including works by Puccini, Purcell and an unusual Japanese song. Her pianist accompanist, Sarah Cavell, also took first prize in the accompaniment section of the competition.
Sarah, who can sing everything from madrigals to jazz standards, hopes to be treating Thanet audiences to her singing skills very soon. “I’m hoping to get together a set of songs and perform them locally. I love singing." she said "Singing has always been my first love and I really want to make a career of it.” Given this tremendous win her desire is likely to be realised.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Poets Rearrange Themselves

Thanet's Own Poets event in Cliftonville on the third Wednesday of most months has a new venue. Now it'll be held at the Smiths' Court Hotel, 21-27 Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville.
Their first event there will be in a couple of weeks, on Wednesday 17th May at 7.30. The name of the evening also changes - as the hotel overlooks the sea, the evening is called "Poems Over the Sea".
After this month, they start winding down for the summer, with the next event there on 20th September. As with all TOPs events, entrance is free.

Vague Plague

Being articulate in form or colour typically means a near autistic muteness for many of our dear artist chums. It's also true of a number of musicians and sports folk, but when a soul is blessed in one field it's unfair to generally expect more. Hence we don't expect prose from Wayne Rooney, we're content with balleric moves and deadly accuracy in driving a ball into the back of a net.
Unfortunately for artists involved in local community art projects the muteness extends beyond content with a negative impact on one of the most important factors of art - the audience.
The Plagues Project from Creative Partnerships is an unfortunate example of this. They've run several of the eighteen shows already but there's no visible advertising, no invitations to openings. There are several full colour postcards available, once you can get into one of the shows. Those shows are all open within work and school hours and each runs for just twenty hours in total, and as a result are poorly attended.
A cynic might conclude this was a deliberate vagueness to remove that most unpredictable asset of any art show, the viewers. Value for money doesn't come into the picture when those funding don't get a chance to see the result.
Sadly the biggest losers are the students of the twenty schools involved, it's grand for them to be offered such an opportunity, but just as important is to give them an audience.

Details of the Plagues Project are available from the Outfitters Gallery on 01843 220204.

Push and Bull

A lonely oasis of hope has blossomed with news of the Old Town's oldest pub "The Bulls Head" being brought back to boozy life. Work is well under way towards an opening date of the 1st of June.
It was slap and move for a while though. According to the rumour helter skelter the previous landlord defaulted rather heavily on his rent, leaving the owners wondering if it was viable as a pub at all. Thankfully it isn't going to be converted into flats nor a hotel, good news for residents, visitors and the heavy drinking arty crowd alike.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Banks for the Info

Most would agree that data protection and confidentiality is a serious matter, so when I opened an envelope from TDC and found a direct debit form packed with someone else's details I made the grand mistake of phoning them to tell them an error had been made.
Despite asking to be put through to the relevent department the happy soul at the other end of the telephone assured me of their ability to sort it all out.
The conversation went like this;
"You've sent me someone's direct debit instruction, it has all their bank details on it and their signature."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I mean the council has sent me someone else's direct debit instruction to their bank with all their banking details on it as well as their signature."
"If you could explain that to me I'll be able to help."
"Which part of "the council has sent me someone else's direct debit instruction to their bank with all their banking details on it as well as their signature." do you wish me to explain?"
"All of it."
"TDC has sent me a direct debit instruction which is nothing to do with me."
"Oh we wouldn't do that."
"You have done exactly that."
"Putting you through to revenue services."
The phone rang twice and then disconnected me. I surrended, but rather than sell the information to the nearest fraudster I took it to Rebecca, editor of the local rags. Maybe they'd do a story on it and then the happy soul at the other end of the phone might finally understand what actually happened.

Road To Nowhere

The Parade in Margate is looking like the bombsite it never was during the second world war. This is down to the artistry of gas workers who have installed more holes than a gang of moles and have even resorted to closing Market Street so they can have plant running on the pavement.
Yesterday the closure prevented anyone legally getting to the Market Street car park, the single diversion sign just directed traffic up the High Street. A great defecit to all of the lower town traders on a bright sunny day when they might expect business to pick up. The car park is only ever that empty on a Sunday.
Of course problems like this can be dealt with by a swift phone call to KCC highways department. Well I suggest "of course" but the reality is "No" as in "no problem like this can be dealt with". KCC highways don't know of any works in this area, they're confused by the mention of "Market Street" and "Market Street carpark" because "it's either a street or a carpark, it can't be both.", but they'll have an inspector check on it, but they don't know when that might happen.
Expressed concerns about the safety for drivers and pedestrians alike are gleefully dismissed. It doesn't matter that folk are driving both ways down one way streets, nor that signs are covered with bin bags and proper traffic flow is unclear. "So long as the signs are still there that's all that matters." claims Highways, I wonder how soon their tune might change if there's an accident. Actually I doubt it might ever change, any lack of safety on their part has to be paid for by us, the tax-payers. Why should they worry?

Royal Departure Cancelled

Thankfully I've finally got a solidly decent reason to shout "Hurrah for TDC", just when all thought it unlikely too. That vital bastion of culture the Theatre Royal has received a healthy cheque for £25,000 to aid Margate's most beautiful venue in surviving the forthcoming year. This darling building came close to the final curtain but was thankfully rescued during the last act.
Hopefully this is just the start of treating this elderly dame amongst theatres with the respect she deserves. An oft repeated neo-snub is how the crimbo lights are typically turned on by a star of the panto running at the Marlowe in Canterbury, when we have our very own panto running here.

Turkish Delight

The "Grand Turk" is back in Ramsgate harbour offering tars, pirates and landlubbers the chance to wander around her decks without pitching waves and sneaky attacks from those damned Frenchies.
It verges on the pricey at five quid per adult and two-fifty for sprogs but remains a delightful distraction with a hint of nostalgia, as once the harbour was marmalade-stacked with tall ships.
Of course it's a reproduction but also the star of ITV's period drama "Hornblower " although at times it's the least wooden of the cast.

Purple is the Colour, Painting is the game.

Repeating oneself is a great danger with blogging and it's not helped by yet another example of great local artists, a unique venue and absolutely no funding from arts organisations. This time it's a wonderful bunch of interesting paintings by the artist known as Purple, and a stunning pile of fascinating sculpture by Barbara Jordan. The venue is the Ramsgate Brewhouse Belgium Bar opposite the obelisk on Ramsgate Harbour.
The example above is "Andy" a portrait of Andy who aside from being Thanet beard champion 2004-2006 is the owner of the venue, while below you can see the sizeable sculpture called "Tree Newspaper Tree". They're two fine examples of the small but delightfully powerful show of eighteen pieces currently running there.
Rather than bore you with the usual gushings expected of self-appointed critics I strongly advise you to go and have a butchers yourself and make your own mind up.

Sign of the Times

You may have to click on the image above to enjoy the irony contained therein, or to wonder as to which sign is correct, or even possibly question the economics of each sign requiring it's very own pole. Shome mishtake shurely?

Delay Upon Delay

The drive towards the all new Turner Centre seems to be suffering from another barely surprising delay. The vague notice above from the windows of the ghostly Droit House sums it all up and sadly shows not a lot has changed.
There's a dark pity for the Turner crew, they're management for a gallery which still doesn't exist and rather unfairly they're held responsible for the "whole damn thing". It's like blaming the train drivers for delays suffered in the building of the Channel Tunnel, lazily convenient for both public and politicians, and missing the point entirely.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Evans Above

There was a dull thud across the island as news spread of Mike Evans' departure from the Turner Centre crew. It might be the sound of a single head rolling over what thus far has been a very expensive debacle, or maybe he simply slammed his car door in leaving.
Out of all of the Turner Crew he was the most reclusive, for his entire tenure I'd tried to make contact with him, leaving dozens of messages without ever receiving a reply. A puzzling response given I'm one of the few vocal supporters the project has.

Ask Statto