Saturday, 22 September 2012

Jerwood Gallery prices - a survey, Zumba and...Italy

Firstly, Jerwood prices.  Was motivated to write this because of a very sensible letter in this week's Observer, saying that the Jerwood's membership prices were too high.  The admission prices have always felt too high to us - the Not Value For Money alarms sound loudly, but I thought I'd just do a bit of research.  Nearly all the galleries listed here have been visited either by me, the Philosopher, or both of us together, and we know they are either similar to, or bigger than, the Jerwood, with more significant collections.  Some are private, some started as private collections but are now in public hands. I have not included major city galleries.

Firstly, the Jerwood prices for comparison (am ignoring membership for now): Adults £7.00, concessions £5.00, local residents £2, free evenings for local residents once a month.

Next, galleries with free admission: Towner Eastbourne, Turner Margate,  Tate Liverpool, Whitworth Manchester,  Lowry Manchester, Walsall New Art Gallery, Wallace Collection, Saatchi, Whitechapel London, Arnolfini Bristol, Lady Lever Port Sunlight, Barber Institute Birmingham, Burrell Collection Glasgow.

Paying galleries: Courtauld Institute, London: £6.00, £4.50, free to unwaged, students and under 18s. Dulwich Picture Gallery, London: £5.00, over-60s £4.00, other concessions free. Tate St Ives: £6.50, £3.90. Penlee House Penzance: £4.50, £3.00, free on Saturdays.  Pallant House, Chichester: £9.00, £5.50, free all day Tuesdays and Thursday evenings.

So, this does not make our Jerwood look that good, with only the Pallant Gallery charging more - but with more free days.  I know it is not a genuine market issue - people are not going to turn up in Hastings and say, 'ooh, that is too expensive, lets go to Eastbourne instead', but people will decide not to visit.

We have seen people hovering outside the Jerwood and not going in because of the prices.  Hastings residents can get in for £2, but speaking for ourselves, there is not enough in the gallery for us to go repeatedly, but we would like to go when friends come and visit us - but then they have to pay full price...

The gallery often looks quite empty.  Worrying, because we really want/need it to succeed for Hastings.  In our view, they either need to hang more pictures in there, and change them round more often, or they need to charge less.

Less of the culture, let's stick to the Zumba.  I went for the first time this week, to a Zumba 'Gold' session, run by Traci at the Ore Community Centre.  Phew, it was tiring - and Gold is supposed to be easier - and it was quite hard to keep up with the steps - first it was Salsa, then tango, then swing, then Bollywood.  Good fun though, great Latin music - and it only cost £4 for a whole hour.  This is me below - I wish....

So - we are off on holiday for a week, so blog will take a break.  We are going to Italy, to Sorrento, staying in the Hotel Tramontano, perched on the edge of the cliff.  We have been before and loved it.  You get down to the beach on a lift cut down through the rock.  It is very old-fashioned and historic - apparently the song 'Return to Sorrento' was composed on the hotel terrace.  Poor Digby the cat has gone into a cattery - both Philosopher and me felt very bad, as he has so recently come from the RSPCA.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Coastal Currents Arts - and good Hastings walk

Another enormously long walk last weekend - something I really like about Hastings is how you can go on such interesting walks, so many of which are off the road via twittens, through woods etc.  There is so much variety - a different view opens up every time you turn a corner.

This time, we puffed up the side of the West Hill, having started just below Sacred Heart in London Road. Again, as usual, we were blown away by the view from the top. Stopped for coffee at the West Hill Cafe - as grungy as ever.  Another fabulous sunny day - clear, crisp, with just a hint of autumn in the quality of the light.  It was one of the Coastal Currents Festival Open Studio weekends, so we dropped in at the Beacon on our way back across the hill.  The artistic inhabitants seemed a good deal more sorted than we have sometimes found them in the past - they were obviously preparing to serve food to visitors - lots of tables out in the big garden. We found well-known potter Judith Rowe in her studio - wearing a lovely blue and white spotted fifties dress.  The Philosopher bought a pot as a birthday present (not saying more because I know the intended recipient reads this blog!). I bought a strange plate with a picture of Adam and Eve on it. The Beacon is obviously developing itself in all sorts of ways - workshops, art events etc - looks good.

Then on down St Mary's Terrace, past all the pretty houses, down the steps across the railway (aka Dog Poo Alley) and down into Alexandra Park.  Park was looking particularly splendid.
Up through Shornden Wood, round the reservoir, and piled hopefully into the North Star in Clarence Road.  Had always liked the look of the pub, and clearly it does excellent beer - but horrors and disappointment - no food, so sadly we left again.

Down into Summerfields Wood.  The place has quite a spooky feel to me - maybe because it has been much less tended than others, maybe because the valley is darker, I don't know.  No-one working in the walled garden today, but we visited the Folly/spring/pool.  For once, it was looking quite neat - last time we walked past we had to move a huge tree branch to let the water flow down.
It was constructed as a mock Roman bath in the 1830s, but local Hastingas attribute far more mystic origins to it.

By this time, we were really hungry, and quite tired, so once we got back down to town we went to Frank's Front Room for lunch.  Had never been before, and were very impressed.  Food was delicious and excellent value, nice atmosphere, nice people, good beer.  They also had a Coastal Currents show, by an artists' group called Zoom. We ate lunch with one of the members, a photographer/artist called Penny Hobson.  Many months ago we saw her beachcombing creations at the Arts Forum - pictures made of old cigarette lighters - really quirky.

I may as well carry on about Coastal Currents, now I have started.  The next day we went down to the sea-front and visited the studios in the beach huts.  We were pleased to see Claire Fletcher in the hut she keeps with her partner.  We have one of her pictures here at home, in our bedroom, of a child sitting on the top of the Downs with a dog, looking into the distance.  Her pictures are light-hearted, and yet somehow poignant - they give a wrench to the heart - something about lost magic of childhood, I guess..  I found lying in bed looking at our picture immensely comforting when I was ill - nearly two years ago now.  This time I saw another picture I really liked, but am torn about getting it....

We also called in to the Incurva studio in the Old Town to visit our fly-press (see earlier blog about Battleaxe's Brummie heritage).  A jewellery maker has just moved into the studio, and Leigh Dyer was about to set up our press for her to use.  I am so glad it will be put to work.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Hastings Recycling - Not good enough

Well, it is high time Battleaxe had a rant!

Here in Hastings, a new household waste recycling tip has just opened at Freshfields, replacing the interesting but somewhat smelly and third world set-up we had before. Much is made of the fact that the new facility is clean and modern, there is no queuing, you don't have to climb up steps to dump things in skips etc, all very true and good and commendable.  But there is a problem - no provision for members of the public to access recoverable goods, either via a charity store or, as before, an informal buying-point run by the tip geezers.  I have mentioned this before in a blog post back in May, and then one of the blokes told me that the tip was moving, but that there would be a new charity store.

Since coming to Hastings in November 2011 we have made many trips to the tip, and I have acquired:  one brand new two-drawer filing cabinet, a set of wooden shelves, a Victorian plant pot stand, two old terracotta chimney pots, assorted other plant containers, a half-barrel planter, several other assorted planters, a pair of long-handled garden shears, a dustbin and a big pile of Beano comics for my grand daughter. 

It is not that I now want more stuff for myself - our house is full up! However, picking through the goods always provides an incentive to go to the tip, and I am sure that is true for others also - a good thing in itself.  Most important, though,  good reusable things are now just vanishing out of reach into the shiny new skips, where they increase the volume of landfill, and could be raising money, either for the Council, or better still, for a charity.  Even a few quid going into the pockets of the tip men is better than nothing.  At the new tip, I can't even see any facility for buying the bags of soil improver made from our garden waste.

 The facility is run by Veolia/East Sussex County Council.  I called them up.  A nice young man told me that there are no plans for a charity store at that tip, even though 'most other facilities have them'.  Why not?  I will start campaigning straight away.

Second part of this recycling rant.  On moving into our new house in June we called Hastings BC and asked for a brown bin for recycling garden waste.  We were told that we would be put on the waiting list. As no bin had appeared, I called again earlier this week, to be told that there were 60 households in front of us on the waiting list, and 'If we are very lucky' we might get a bin next March, when a few people give them up.  Realistically, as there is only apparently capacity to process a couple of hundred bins (the one above belongs to our next-door neighbours, the lucky dogs), it is going to take years to get through that waiting list - getting a council house would probably be easier.  What kind of nonsense is this?  We have come from Birmingham, where we had regular garden waste collections every two weeks as part of the standard service.

In July this year the Observer reported that Hastings had the worst-fly-tipping record of any authority in East Sussex.  It is not so bad here in genteel Clive Vale, but in other parts of town you commonly see unsightly heaps of garden waste just chucked over people's back fences on to verges, or onto open ground.

Phew, less of that ranting says Digby.  Just tickle my tummy, please......

Friday, 7 September 2012

Beauties of Beachy Head - and supernatural ponderings

Isn't the weather fabulous? Just right for Beachy Head

Bill, a friend from Brum, came to stay earlier in the week and we had a lovely day at Beachy Head - no putting feet down rabbit holes this time for me fortunately...  We caught the bus up from Eastbourne as far as Belle Tout, and walked back to the pub for lunch, then walked back down to Eastbourne again.  It always surprises me how OK that pub is - so many places with absolutely stunning locations are real dives, presumably because they can get away with it.  The Beachy Head is comfortable, nicely turned out, and the beer and food are just fine.

Both the Philosopher and I enjoy the feeling of calm and quiet up there on Beachy Head, and Bill enjoyed it too. Now here's something really mad.  Earlier on today I was leafing through 'Friday Ad' and my eye was caught by a job advertisement placed by Kevin Carlyon, our local White Witch - he was advertising for people to help him in his ghost-hunting activities.  That is the sort of balmy business that appeals to Battleaxe, so I looked up his website.  He says :

'One particular place springs immediately to mind. That is the infamous suicide spot of Beachy Head, above the town of Eastbourne in East Sussex on the UK's South Coast. This place has only one rival for its attraction for people who wish to take their own lives, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA.

Apart from the suicidal link Beachy Head also has some sort of magnetic attraction for people on certain mental frequencies, particularly people who are unknowingly psychic. This is not just common to this place but many others around the UK and the world.

At Beachy Head many people have explained a feeling of tremendous peace and on a calm day they feel as if they 'could walk off the cliff and just keep walking'! After years of research at this place I am convinced that there is some form of spiritual energy there. I call it 'The Lure of Doom at Beachy Head'.

Lure of doom my backside. It is just a beautiful place, and fortunately I have not felt any great urge to walk off the cliff either.

Anyway, in case you were wondering, I am not (yet) planning to apply for a job with Kev the Witch - I fear one would have to spend a lot of time skulking in damp and chilly places late at night, accompanied by those of unstable and fevered sensibilities.  Mind you, think of the writing material I could gather.  

However, I have had moments of wondering about the supernatural.  Years ago I was a board member for a large housing association based in Leamington Spa.  One of my board colleagues, a perfectly normal-looking, sane and respectable clergyman, turned out to be the local Diocesan Exorcist.  He talked quite freely in an entirely matter of fact way about his routine day-to-day jobs like exorcising poltergeists from chip shops in Coventry.   Board away events, which are usually unimaginably boring, were riveting, I can tell you.

Anyway, less of that.  Here's a nice picture that the Philosopher took - it makes Eastbourne look like Corfu.