Monday, 25 January 2016

On telly with Tuffers...the John Bratby thing.

A while I ago I mentioned that Philosopher and I had been down at the Jerwood Gallery doing a telly slot for the BBC One Show? I said I wouldn't say more about it until later. Well, the One Show went last Thursday, and the exhibition opens at the end of this week, so Battleaxe now needs to write about it.

      I'm sure people know this, but the Jerwood are putting on a major exhibition - 'Everything But the Kitchen Sink Including the Kitchen Sink' -  of the work of John Bratby, who lived in Hastings during the latter part of his life. His home was the Cupola house in Harold Road.
     People were invited to lend their Bratbys for the exhibition. We have two relatively undistinguished examples, a drawing of a dog, and a drawing/watercolour of Patti, Bratby's wife. Back in October we took our pictures down to the Gallery to be assessed, and I wrote a blog post about the selection day.
Our two Bratbys
      In  November the gallery contacted us to say that the One Show wanted to do a piece on Bratby and the exhibition, and would we be willing to bring our pictures and help?  I think they were a bit desperate to round people up. Of course Philosopher volunteers down there, so we were presumably an easy target, but it sounded quite fun anyway.
     We had to pretend not to know each other. I 'owned' the Patti picture, and Philosopher looked after the dog.
      It was a real insight into how telly programmes are made. I don't exaggerate, we had to be down there before 9am, and didn't finish until early afternoon, for a piece of footage that lasted, at most, five minutes - and most of that wasn't even about our time in the gallery. Some of the footage showed an actor pretending to be Bratby, and also an interview with Michael Palin, who has a portrait of himself that will presumably be in the exhibition.
      There were four of us with pictures, me and Philosopher, Charlie, Bratby's former studio assistant, and a young woman who had brought what is one of the key pieces in the exhibition, a painting of a bathroom basin. This was presumably the closest to the 'kitchen sink' they could get. I do actually think that 'kitchen sink' is a very misleading term.
Not kitchen sink - bathroom basin....
      Then there was Alex Harding the BBC producer, a cameraman, an assistant and various Jerwood bods, including Liz Gilmore, the Director.
      The One Show presenter was Phil Tufnell - you may wonder how he could be so knowledgeable about art, as he is mainly into sport, but I was impressed with his skill. As well as being very easy to get on with, he got us talking by asking questions about our pictures.
      It reminded me of when I used to work with managers, and I'd try to get them to role play things like staff appraisal interviews. Inevitably they'd moan, asking how they could do this exercise when they didn't know about the other participants' jobs.
      'Watch me,' I'd say. 'Tell me, what are the most challenging things you are dealing with at work right now?.... That sounds difficult. Say a bit more about.... bla bla...'
      Tuffers clearly knew nothing about John Bratby and probably cared even less, but managed to generate an animated and authentic-sounding conversation with each of us.
      We started off standing by easels with our pictures wrapped up in brown paper and string. Tuffers asked us questions while we unwrapped them. Cue anxious sweaty-fingered panics about knots in the string...
      I was told not to swear or use even mild obscenities for a 'family' show. Not that the producer somehow guessed that he was dealing with a potty-mouthed old bag - which of course he was - it's just that my picture was a little more risque than the others.
      The picture lives in our bedroom, but I had to pretend that it hung at the end of our bed. Philosopher was told to say that the dog was 'just like our old family dog', but he refused....
      We had to  repeat every little question and answer again and again and again - I don't know how people who do this for a living have the patience.
Unwrapping....

Rapping.....
Unwrapping....

Rapping...

Bratby self-portrait with Charlie

      Then, all the pictures got wrapped up again, and we had to go outside and pretend to walk to the gallery, looking purposeful and mysterious.
Cold outside....
      It was windy and cold, and I had to walk from half-way up All Saint's Street. I don't know how many times I did that walk.... either the angle wasn't right, the camera malfunctioned, cars drove down at the wrong moment, or passers-by asked me what I was doing. 'Go away', I'd say. 'Don't speak to me'.... But too late, we had to do it all again.
      During longeurs when nothing much was happening, Tuffers told us about his time in 'I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here' - he was King of the Jungle, and about being on Strictly.... all good gossipy fun.
      Anyway, our dog drawing has been selected for the exhibition, which is quite exciting, considering that following the publicity surrounding the selection day, loads of other people offered their pictures and the Jerwood ended up with about 300 options. They could only choose about 60.
      The Patti picture was not chosen. No surprise there, it was one of hundreds he painted of her, many not that good. Ours has got local references, though. It is titled 'Acropolis Girl Hastings, the sea-terrace arch at the Acropolis'. The Acropolis Greek restaurant was one of John and Patti's favourite haunts on the sea-front, shown in this old photo. Maybe our picture was run off to pay their bill.....

Acropolis Taverna, Eversfield Place
      We'll be going to the exhibition opening preview on Friday 29 January.
      On the One Show, they showed this picture of Bratby in his later years. He must have been an unmistakeable figure out and about in Hastings. Or actually, thinking of some of our fellow Hastingas, perhaps he'd have blended in just fine....
      There'll be plenty of other archive material in the exhibition. It should be well worth a visit.
Bratby in his later years
     Finally, here's the iPlayer link to the One Show piece. It's 16 minutes in. Of course, this link will only last for 30 days: