Arts & Elbows

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

Saturday, September 30, 2006

A Bang and not a Whimper

It's not often you get to see a piece of sculpture by Antony Gormley unless you're lucky enough to drive past his brilliant "Angel of the North" on the side of the A1. It's even rarer to have him come and build something in the middle of your town. Thanks to the Exodus project that's exactly what we've been treated to, and plenty more besides.

The events of today were part public performance, but also for filming scenes for the Exodus film, a modern retelling of the Exodus story. So happy are we to have them choose dear Margate for their project we willed them incredibly fine weather, and we got a chance to watch how television professionals go about their trade. This is both illuminating and confusing, we've no idea of their script, they film scenes out of sequence, and they rush around a lot and then wait seemingly for nothing. It remains fascinating to watch though.

So there's a Gormley sculpture, fake policemen, a pretend news crew and a rowdy on demand crowd waving placards for a right-wing leader who doesn't exist. It's an odd scenario but one which feels quite agreeable in our humble seaside town. We're used to illusion in the name of entertainment so it doesn't feel out of place to have such a modern version of it on the Dreamland site, in fact it's almost nostalgic.

Here we can see Pharaoh supporters cheering, they're not cheering anything in particular rather they've been instructed to do so for the cameras. Their cheers at directed at a space empty of anything bar a camera crew.

Here's Bernard Hill as the Pharaoh, a frightening role made even more worrying by his resemblance to George Galloway. He oozed charisma to the point of seeming to be exactly what he was playing. Oustanding especially as a lot of folk fondly remember him as Yosser Hughes in "Boys from the Blackstuff" way back in the eighties. He's the only professional actor in the cast though, everyone else has been recruited locally.

As evening fell there was an explosion at the very heart of the "Angel of the South".

A pall of smoke drifts across the thousands assembled to watch.

Our Angel burns brightly as the sun sets.

Until only the RSJs remain, then everyone wanders off to the pub. A bizarre once in a lifetime event widely enjoyed. By far the most engaging large scale arts project we've ever enjoyed here.

The French are Coming, and taking all the funding.

The latest offering from the Turner Contemporary Centre; "Unite, IV Projects by French Artists" has a very simple premise, the French are much better at culture than us, so it's perfectly alright to use more Kentish funds to promote French culture over English culture at at no small expense. This includes a number of purile banners along the High Street cunningly disguised as high intellect, and at no small cost to Thanet ratepayers despite no similar promotion of anything else, especially not local culture.

So using the empty space that is the old Marks and Sparks for a show is an absolute wheeze, even if it means the council having to spend a fortune buying the place, and it becoming expensive venue number three for the Turner Contemporary Centre ten million quid down the line. The simple fact that the art on show is piss-poor in comparison to local talent is best not mentioned.

Sure its moody, and aye it's contemporary but it's also rather boring despite it's gallic flavour.

So it's time to wander off to the second expensive venue, the substation, surprisingly the art here is better. Not much but it's better.

However it remains foreign, and the talent therein is no greater than the local talent if it might ever be given the level of funding enjoyed by the French in Margate.

Look out there's a VIP venue. It's the Droit House, the original expensive venue , which has devolved to a simple buffet of outstanding food. Although the proles aren't meant to know of it, there's an incredible spread of great grub and little art. Watch Sam Thomas stuff his face, a great excuse for him to not answer any valid questions, and get well paid for it.

Outside Margate continues to go about it's business, unaware that after ten million quid the Turner managed to eventually lay on a great buffet.

Meanwhile in the pubs the art intelligensia discuss the nights proceeding in an up beat manner. They're hoping that the Turner might finally set it's sights on local talent, because French talent is dangerously close to being local despite the Turner crews' taste for anything but. Given the enormous funds from local pockets it might happen eventually, but if it doesn't could they have more of that ham and cheese please.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

TOPs a Spinning

Season of mists, dusky fruitfulness, and folk getting grumpy.
Oh to be in the Brown Jug with poets drunk on scrumpy.
They're busy writing and arranging more poetry events,
most live in houses, some bungalows, but they prefer to be intense.

Poetry Appreciation
Mrs Corby's Tearooms, York Street, Ramsgate
Saturdays, 11.00-13.00
7th October, 4th November, 2nd December, 6th January 2007, 3rd February 2007.

Poems Over the Sea
Smiths Court Hotel, 21-27 Eastern Esplanade, Cliftonville
Wednesdays, 19.30-21.30
20th September, 18th October, 15th November, no December event, 17th January 2007, 21st February 2007.

Poetry Workshops
Mrs Corby's Tearooms, York Street, Ramsgate
Saturdays, 11.00-13.00
21st October, 18th November, 16th December, 20th January 2007, 17th February 2007.

Poems & Pints
Brown Jug, Dumpton Park, Ramsgate
Thursdays, 20.30-22.30
28th September, 26th October, 23rd November, no December event, 25th January 2007, 22nd February 2007.

Exodus in the news

A piece about the Exodus project by Margate's greatest living writer Iain Aitch features in the Guardian today. It paints a rather grim portrait of the town as a whole, but sadly is reasonably accurate in doing so. Rather than have to buy a copy of the paper you can read it online by clicking here.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Biggles Bails Out

"Biggles" Moore looks set to retire from blogging, no surprise really there's so many more interesting things one might do with one's time. Despite coming from the mainland Biggles established himself here as well as any local and led most of the Thanet bloggists into the heady world of daring to comment honestly on our humble community. Read the story in his own words here.

The Sound of Silence

Nothing succeeds like failure, and there's a deafening roar of silent failure over the all-new Turner Centre. The plans for the latest building might be available for the end of the year, but judging by the consistant tardiness that's another deadline not likely to be realised. The most consistant feature of the new way is how Council leader Ezekiel mentions words connected to speed, haste or rapidity whenever questioned over the scheme by the press. The sorry part being the media doesn't question this, not even after almost a decade and £10 million down the line.
The re-opening of the Droit House in April never happened, and shows little sign of activity, rather than use that expensive space they've refitted the substation which they'll soon abandon, then we've have two expensive empty spaces.
The Turner's next jolly jape is an exhibition from France, for which they intend to erect sixteen banners along Margate High Street. The designs, sub-standard scribblings are on display at the planning office at Thanet District Council, oddly enough an O level art student would have them rejected, but they're apparently good enough for a planning application. Business as usual then.

All Wells that Ends Well - maybe.

Councillor Chris Wells has stepped forward to help calm things over the likely closure of Revolution Skatepark and helped wrangle a three month extension to the park's lease in the hope of generating serious negotiation over the parks future.
It makes a refreshing change to report on a councillor helping with vital issues so full marks to the mature machinations of councillor Wells, it gives Revolution a chance to save their facility and hopefully saves the public from watching Thanet Community Development Trust show their true colours in aiming personal attacks against the owner Dan Chapman.
Unfortunately for the public interested in this story part of the extension deal is a gagging clause, so don't expect to hear much more about it anywhere until it's too late. This is convenient for TCDT who despite turning over funds in the millions feel the best way to serve the community is to go around doubling the rents of world-class community facilities, and acting petulantly should anyone dare to point out the error in their ways. It also prevents the management of Revolution seeking publicity for their Save our Skatepark campaign, so no more embaressing stories on the BBC. I imagine the TCDT are rubbing their hands together with glee over that one.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Beeb on Thanet Blogs

The Beeb did a short feature on local blogs for Radio Kent, the most amusing part being Eastcliff Richard having his voice disguised and sounding like he does after a few sherberts. I however just sound bored, and it makes a change to hear Biggles without the drone of aircraft engines in the background. You can hear it via their website or just click here.

Stop your messin' around

Neville Staples played the Sugar Lounge in Margate on Friday and tore the roof off in front of a club packed with overjoyed punters. After a few good hours of drinking, listening to a classic ska sound system and er, more drinking Neville finally bounced onto the stage. The temperature soared by twenty degrees as the stomping began to fondly remembered Special's tunes. The jubilant crowd had to be calmed by the end of the first number as Neville was in danger of being pulled from the stage and paraded on shoulders through the town.
Most of the crowd last saw Staples as part of the Specials when they played the Winter Gardens, their enthusiasm not dampened by the twenty-six years in between. His supporting band all looked younger than the time passed but boy did they know what they where doing. Staples actually looked younger than then and took no time to strip off his shirt to reveal a muscular torso, handy because he needed strong lungs to make himself heard above the crowd, all of whom sang along to every tune, even the occassional Fun Boy Three ones.
Having exhausted the songbook and the fans Neville left with the walls dripping with sweat and not a dry armpit in the house.

One of the interesting side effects of the evening was the bumping into chums from twenty years ago, probably all last seen in the days of Lords. Most were typically local skinheads of the old school, i.e; non-racist ska-loving Ben-Sherman wearing working class folk.

Depite commonly and wrongly being tarred as thugs the atmosphere was friendly, everyone called everyone else "mate", crowds parted for people to walk through, people smiled at each other as they had fun and there wasn't a hint of trouble.

Even the odd long haired hippy was welcomed so long as they left their kaftan at home.

Here's the man responsible for a night of two-tone joy, the ever wonderful Eli. Big Thanks Eli!

Freedom - the art of doing what you're told.

The ruining of the excellent Margate library is going ahead despite what the locals might want. The mockery of public consultation is pictured above, including the plans. Note the plans are ready prior to asking the public anything. Armed with emotive and biased questions such as "Don't you think the building is too dull and drab for a modern library service?", "Wouldn't it be better to have a more modern space for the 21st century?", etc, it can only be a matter of weeks before the Council claim more excellence in whatever they do.
They've already made plans for relocating the library service to the old M&S, although they're keeping mum about the high costs. One additional worrying development is the shrinking of the gallery area and it's conversion into a "Children's Gallery", so say goodbye to the usual high quality annual calendar of shows. If that wasn't poor enough it looks like they'll hand management of the space over to Creative Partnership, or The Turner Crew. Both highly experienced in making cash from art in education projects while delivering rather dull shows.
Just who this whole mess is set to benefit isn't immediately apparent, but despite us the locals paying for the thing it's unlikely to be us.

Is this man a criminal?

This is John X, he's been described as a vandal by the Gazette in one of those dramatic stories packed with scary terms like "gangs", "turf wars" and "vandalism". The reality behind his activities are more mundane and interesting, but that probably wouldn't terrify OAPs into never leaving their homes and it wouldn't sell as many papers.
Long suffering traders down at Arlington Arcade were getting fed up with how scruffy the area had become and how unwilling the property management firm were in making any repairs. So when one of them approached the firm and offered to have the entire area decorated free of charge they jumped at the offer.

So partly in the manner of devil's advocate, and partly appealing to the local youngsters sense of style he comissioned John X to decorate the entire arcade in graffiti style. Suddenly there was an upcry from the otherwise silent when the place looked a mess. This was followed by wild claims in the local rags linking this legal activity with acts of arson and other vandalism.
It might be that John X makes an easy target, he's a local artist commissioned to create some community art and couldn't afford to defence himself against libels. Meanwhile down at the harbour end of the front the £10 million quid arts fiasco continues and it's a safe bet that no wild accusation of fraud, or similar, will even be hinted at.

Moany Codger Department

Aside from the unsavoury effect on town centres by the development of large out of town shopping warehouses there's another which is probably only noticed by those of us tearing down the fast lane towards Old Codgerville. What is it about these places which make so many think it's the best playground for your sprogs ever?

Come Fly with Me.

The first film set in the world of WWI aviation for decades has finally got a distribution deal. "Flyboys" has opened in the U.S. and is set to open in the UK soon. You can see a large number of the props and vehicles over at Manston Air Museum, including the two aircraft pictured above. The interesting part about those two is they're flat, for setting up in the back of shots. There's several three dimensional aeroplanes inside though, including a large Gotha and a copy of the triplane made famous by the Red Baron.
Incredible value as well, anyone under sixteen gets in free, everyone else pays just a quid with the additional attraction of the totally free Spitfire and Hurricane Museum opposite.

Must Try Harder

What happens when you mix two artists, a bunch of pupils and public funds? Not very much if the recently closed exhibition at the Outfitters Gallery is anything to judge by. The show consisted of taking photographs straight of the little wallet they give you in Boots and sticking them on the wall in a line.
Uninspired, uninspiring and unattended by viewers showing how wrong we might be when we thought burning tax quids in the name of art couldn't get more blatantly poor.

Bobs your Aunty

Several Margate old town properties are starting to be opened as businesses. Old Town Tearooms has been converted into a hairdressers but oddly retains the tearooms signage, further down in Lombard Street there's another hairdressers opening, and in between is a new comic shop.
The best of luck to all three, may your customers be plenty.

We've got to get out of this place

The Margate Exodus draws near, and despite the best efforts of a dedicated few is tending to reveal more a lack of community and a wasteland of regeneration via the arts. This won't slow the production an iota but is likely to give London folks a terrine full of horror tales very likely to make them look elsewhere for future projects.
The G.P's on the island have been rubbing their hands with glee at the profits they've managed to wrangle from the licences needed for the eighty plus extras who are under sixteen. For each needs to have parental consent, school consent and a letter from their doctor saying they're fit enough. To make life easier for hard pressed doctors Artangel prepared forms which could be filled in by parents and simply signed by the docs. Seeing an opportunity for some quick cash the doctors have refused to sign them insisting on writing letters, often just a single sentence, and charging anything from £15-£45 for each one.

Michael Morris, the man behind the whole project , has started getting emails, faxes and letters from concerned councillors because the project features a large burning structure of a man. Despite this having been a part of the plan all along the councillors seem to not talk amongst themselves nor to the council and have suddenly started complaining about it.
It's not just each other they don't talk to, Margate's greatest writer Iain Aitch was commissioned to write a piece for the Arts section of the Guardian about the project. Lots of interested parties were happy to talk to him about it with two worrying exceptions; the first being Kent County Council who responded politely to his press enquiry with a "We don't want to comment." and the not so polite response from Thanet District Council which was based on the simple press office tactic of not bothering to return the call.
There was a brief rumour that the old art rag "NeatNeatNeat" might be resurrected for a special Exodus edition, and after months of wrangling a fee was agreed only for the plug to be pulled within days when someone from head office phoned the folk behind it to say "We really can't afford it, would you do it for free?"

Fabric of Society Attacked

Despite the Gazette's intriguing posters suggesting anti-haberdashery feeling last Friday, the actual story was less surreal. Although dressed as an example of rabid bigotry it does seem that the whole thing was more lads being lads than anything else. Picture this; a bunch of scallywags find themselves in possession of half a dozen eggs and came up with the juvenile wheeze of throwing them at people. Of the six thrown one struck a local who happened to be of the Islamic faith, this was leapt upon and transformed into one of those horror stories which helps no-one. We can only wait with baited breath to see what happens should someone of faith get a parking ticket and decides to claim victimhood so keenly.

Ask Statto