Earlier this month I was in Felixstowe and took a few minutes to walk down to the beach and brave the howling, bitterly cold wind to take one or two photos of the seaside in winter.
Not surprisingly, the colourful beach huts were securely locked up for the season. Although, whilst I was taking pictures at least three people together with their pooches battled past. Hardy folk indeed, but I guess dogs need their walks come rain or shine, or winter gales.
Once I’d watched the container ship disappear out of sight into the Orwell Estuary on its way to the Felixstowe docks, I turned about to see, amazingly, a small, beach hut café was open.
However, the view I came to see was not the café, but the bar, the long, ever-shifting shingle bar forming and re-forming as the River Deben meets the North Sea. There’s a short aerial video filmed by John Ranson showing the extent of the bar here.
Now, obviously this stretch of coastline is in flux, but how incredible it must have been for the Anglo-Saxon longboats, around 625 AD, to make their way across the bar and head up the river to Woodbridge. And, we know they did this because they buried their king in his longboat with his treasure to rest for eternity at Sutton Hoo. Rather puts moaning about the current cold snap in perspective.
This week I was going to post about ‘Soheila Sokhanvari: Rebel Rebel’ an exhibition commissioned by the Barbican, London, on display in and within the specially, transformed space of The Curve gallery. It is an intriguing visual account of feminist icons from pre-revolutionary Iran.
However, that is going to have to wait for another week or so. I am poleaxed. Very early on Wednesday morning I watched, in mounting disbelief, a video clip on Twitter showing how on Monday, 7 November 2022, Rich Felgate, a documentary film-maker and fellow press photographer, Tom Bowles, were arrested by Hertfordshire Police whilst covering the Just Stop Oil M25 protests. Arrested for simply doing their job.
Both men are members of the British Press Photographers’ Association and as such carry certified ID to that effect. The police were undeterred, Felgate writes on Twitter,
“Police had no interest in seeing press ID and handcuffed us instantly on arrival.”
He goes on tweeting
“they said they needed to search me for items which could be used to commit criminal damage. Obviously, they found nothing, so an officer said ‘just arrest them for conspiracy instead then'”.
They were arrested and held in custody for 13 hours. Following the introduction of the ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022’ police now have wider powers when policing so-called unacceptable protests by groups such as Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain and Black Lives Matter. And, it appears individual police officers are expected to use their informed discretion when making arrests.
Later, following these arrests of Felgate and Bowles, who, incidentally, were standing on a footbridge away from the protest, a spokesperson for the Hertfordshire Constabulary said:
“As always, our priority remains to ensure public safety – we have a responsibility for the health and safety of all those involved and everyone at the scene, including emergency services, members of the public, members of the press and the protesters themselves.
Our officers have been instructed to act as quickly as they can, using their professional judgment, to clear any possible protesters in order to get roads up and running and to prevent anyone from coming to harm.”
Whether you agree with the Just Stop Oil tactics or not these arrests along with several others including LBC journalist, Charlotte Lynch, are shocking. I may be somewhat naive, but why hasn’t this outrage been headline news across all UK news media. Too soon perhaps? The mainstream media playing it safe, checking out the claims of two professional, card-carrying photographers first?
I see the Guardian has covered it on their website, but as I no longer buy any printed newspapers, I don’t know if any printed press informed their readerships. However, in the online world along with the Guardian, other websites such as the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Huffington Post, the Standard, the Northern Echo, the National (Wales) and even the Diss Herald, covered this reprehensible incident. By this morning (Thursday 10th November) printed editions of two national newspapers (Daily Mail and Daily Express) do have the Just Stop Oil campaign as front-page, headline news. Naturally, they are not covering the misuse of police powers or voicing their concerns regarding the Climate Emergency, but screaming for Home Secretary Braverman to get more police to arrest more climate protestors more quickly.
And, where is the BBC’s coverage? I have ‘news’ notifications from the BBC on my phone – pinging me letting me know all kinds of random news, yet the great and the good at the BBC did not consider the disregard of a pillar of our democracy, THE FREEDOM OF THE PRESS, to be newsworthy. Not enough public interest perhaps? Oh but, when I looked at the video clip on Twitter very early on Wednesday morning it had already been viewed 1.4 million times.
The very nature of Twitter means it hosts fast news though not necessarily verified news. At least by Wednesday lunchtime the BBC news people had seen the footage and the fuss on social media, checked it and thought the incident worthy of reporting on their ‘World at One’ Radio 4 news programme. They reported what had occurred and conducted a short interview with one of the two arrested, Tom Bowles. The slot was brief and yet by the early evening the Radio 4 ‘PM’ programme dropped the story entirely, but, strangely, there was enough time to discuss ’50 years of HBO’ and American TV. At least Channel 4 News thought differently and interviewed Tom Bowles on their flagship 7 pm TV programme.
But, basically, blink and you missed the reporting of this disturbing occurrence.
Before I end this rant, I would just like to comment that for all its faults and even with the arrival of Elon Musk, Twitter does get all kinds of news out there and it is especially useful when issues are controversial and state authorities decide to play hardball.
P.S. Update: The Twitter video has now been viewed over two million times. (10-11-2022)
Yes, I know for some of us it is too early, but we are now in November with just over seven weeks until Christmas. It all comes around much faster than I expect and it always surprises me. I don’t know why it should because, as we all know, it is an annual celebration.
And, there’s been an extra surprise this year, a nice surprise, as I received an email from the folk at ‘Make It British’ informing me that one of my scarves has been featured in their ‘Christmas Gift Guide’ for 2022.
It can be found in their section ‘Gifts for Her Under £50’. I particularly like their description of this section beginning with the ‘From classic to quirky’.
‘Quirky’ is a great word and suggests that something is unconventional perhaps even eccentric, definitely not run of the mill. It also hints that something can be interesting, but not necessarily extremely expensive.
We’ve been attempting quirky in my family for a couple of generations. My mother was a flamboyant character and liked to dress me and my sister as children in ‘quirky’ clothes.
A fancy dress competition was all she needed to go full, amateur costume designer.
Naturally, I blame her entirely for a variety of odd and colourful combinations I have worn in the past, particularly the orange sock phase.
It’s the beginning of September and it’s that time of year again for some – the return to school. I have a vague recollection of being instructed by my mother to make sure my sister arrived at the correct classroom on her first day at primary school (picture above left).
Fast forward a generation and this is my daughter ready for her first day at school. The bunch of sunflowers was nearly bigger than her.
Recalling another family photograph I dug out this old picture below. It seems flowers for the teacher was a tradition embraced by our family.
If you were wondering what the grotesque puppet I am holding is supposed to be, well, it was Queen Elizabeth I. A junior school papier-mâché project that took all term and was finished at home during the holidays – oh what fun!
It’s late August and across the local park it is looking more like late September. This situation is all down to the drought of course. The grass can be dried to a crispy brown and it will still regrow with the first serious rainfall, however not so for the trees. Some of the big ol’ mature trees in Christchurch Park have decided to cut their losses for this year and drop their leaves early.
I think you can see from the photographs that some varieties are coping better than others. It is mostly the horse chestnuts, possibly weakened by disease, that are taking the biggest hit and are already standing amongst a carpet of dead leaves. I hope they are strong enough to make a full return next year.
Somethings that won’t be in the park next year are the decorated model owls of Ipswich’s art trail for summer 2022, ‘The Big Hoot‘. This owl might have been named ‘Skool’s Owt’, but with its questioning expression and smart uniform it now stands before an empty playground littered with fallen leaves, and instead appears to be heralding the arrival of autumn and the return to school.
The River Stour rises in Wratting Common in Cambridgeshire and crosses into Suffolk near Great Bradley in the far west of Suffolk. From there the river forms the county boundary between Essex and Suffolk. As the Stour meanders across the soft rolling countryside it flows through some of the most beautiful, iconic English landscape made famous by Constable and Gainsborough. With the river boundary in mind the Ipswich and Colchester Art Societies decided to collaborate in exploring their mutual border and present a joint exhibition celebrating the flourishing creativity of the region.
Earlier this week I popped along to see the exhibition ‘Borders’ and photograph a few of works created by the artists as they considered what are borders, what are their purpose and what do they mean to people politically and emotionally?
The earliest known habitation on the River Stour dates from 5,000 years ago at Great Bradley and I’d like to begin my sequence optimistically looking forward to a further 5,000 years of responsible and considerate habitation with a painting titled ‘Hope’.
The pictures from here flow on downstream all the way to the North Sea at Harwich in a personal selection beginning with ‘The Stour at Connard’ capturing a melancholy scene.
Then we have ‘Wiston Mill in Nayland’ showing the river waters flowing passed the mill. A situation which is not always guaranteed these day. In July 2019 the river in Nayland temporarily ran dry in the hot weather and drought of that year.
Not all the pictures on display painted realistic imagery for their ‘borders’ interpretations. There were several striking abstract works such as this crossing of the river at Flatford, a route that Constable would have known.
An interesting painting that tackles the politics of borders very clearly is ‘Borders and Barricades: Mistley Quay February 2022’. The painting shows the tall metal fence denying access to the river at Mistley Quay. The most recent update (local newspaper, March 2022) on the ‘Free the Quay’ campaign reports “An eyesore fence on a picturesque quayside is still spoiling the view for residents despite being deemed an unlawful obstruction in Supreme Court a year ago”.
Eventually, the River Stour merges with the River Orwell and flows out into the North Sea between the Port of Felixstowe on the Suffolk side and Harwich on the Essex side.
And finally, I’d like to finish with my favourite from this show, a painting that sums up the river border between the two counties.
In last week’s post I looked at two artists’ retrospectives which featured as part of the Ipswich Art Society’s 143rd Open Exhibition. This week I thought I’d post a few photographs of other works on display that caught my attention.
As this exhibition was an open show there were pictures and sculptures by both members of the Ipswich Art Society and also works from members of the general public. In my opinion the outstanding work of the whole event was this garden sculpture, ‘Curled Figure’ by Kate Reynolds.
Across the exhibition there were a variety of media and techniques on display from the two dimensional, wall art category including paintings, drawings, prints and enamels to textured relief work to full sculpture. As far as media was concerned along with traditional oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings there were works created and expressed in pastel, gouache, pencil, ink, graphite, charcoal, conté, wood, cloth, stoneware ceramic, bronze, copper, steel, wire and even ink with gold leaf.
There were pictures for every taste with strongly coloured abstract paintings,
a handful of textile pieces
and even a social commentary textile installation.
However, my favourite of the ‘paintings’ in the show was an atypical expression of the English countryside, ‘This Green and Pleasant Land’ by Dave King working in a traditional, Japanese style with more than a hint of ukiyo-e about it.
For the last four weeks Ipswich Art Society’s 143rd OPEN Exhibition has been on at Ipswich Art Gallery. The exhibition showcases the visual artworks of a variety of creative folk who live in and around Ipswich.
The Ipswich Art Society has been in existence since 1874 with a membership that has included Alfred Munnings, F.G.Cotman, Harry Becker, E.R.Smythe, Tom Smythe, Edward Packard, John Duvall, Colin Moss, Anna Airy and Leonard Squirrell.
The 143rd Open exhibition showed a selection of works created by members of the public as well as Members and Friends of the Society. The Society has a tradition of encouraging artists from all walks of life to join and be involved in the making and appreciation of art.
The Society also has a convention of including a Special Feature Exhibition to run alongside the Open submissions and this year it was a retrospective for two well-known Suffolk artists, Claire Lambert and Judith Foster.
Suffolk-born Claire Lambert works in ceramics, lino cut, etching, mono prints, painting and drawing. She worked between 1957 and 1975 as a member of Atelier de Ceramique de Dour in Belgium. She was taught by Roger Somerville at the Academy des Beaux Arts de Waterfall-boitsfort, Brussels, and subsequently studied printmaking with Ken Roberts and Judith Lock at Suffolk College.
She has taken part in joint exhibitions in Belgium, France, Italy, Poland and Canada and many UK exhibitions including the Broughton Gallery in Kirkcudbright, Peckover House Wisbech, Norwich Castle and Gallery 44 in Aldeburgh.
Claire’s work is represented in a number of collections including the Musee de Verviers and the Michael and Valerie Chase Collection and further collections in Australia, New Zealand and Belgium.
Sadly, I only managed to get one decent photograph of her work as the combination of a small gallery room and large, darkly coloured monoprints or linocuts behind reflective glass did not make for good photos.
However, I did have more luck photographing the work of the second artist of this retrospective, Judith Foster.
Judith Foster was born in London and went to school in Bath. In 1955 she came to study at Ipswich Art School and in 1959 entered the painting school of the Royal College of Art. She then travelled through Europe on an Abbey Minor Scholarship before returning to Suffolk.
She taught foundation studies and adult education drawing and painting at the High Street Art School from 1963 until its closure, and subsequently at Suffolk College until 2000.
Judith’s professional life has included many solo and group exhibitions, starting with the Ipswich Art Club in 1958 and including the Young Contemporaries , the Royal Academy, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, Cleveland Bridge Gallery in Bath, Lady Lodge Art Centre in Peterborough and many galleries across East Anglia.
Her work is in private and public collections in the UK, USA and Europe.
I have to comment that I really appreciated her work and, in particular, her still life paintings ‘Cherries’ and ‘Pear Diptych’. I find her loose, free brushwork with smaller, discrete areas of focus very appealing.
It’s always good to see a few still life paintings in an open show and I noticed this delightful little gem, ‘Pears in Conference’ by Hilary Bartholomew, a current member of the Ipswich Art Society. I think you can probably see that the artist is a fan of the French Master, Chardin.
In January I posted a few comments about the ‘Creating Constable‘ Exhibition currently on at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich. Along with many works by Constable himself and his Suffolk contemporaries, there are also sketches and paintings from artists influential and important to Constable during his formative years. However, something I did not mention in that post were the few 21st-century works by Suffolk artists currently working in Constable’s county such as this engaging work by local artist, Hayley Field.
Hayley Field has been painting the colours, light and landscape that can be see from her studio window by the River Deben since 2017. Below in her own words she describes her work and the process of painting colour maps.
I began making ‘colour maps’ nearly three years ago when I was working in residence in Mary Potter’s house and studio in Aldeburgh, as a response to the surrounding landscape. Once back in my own studio I began to make them of the view from the window, across the river Deben to Suffon Hoo. I gradually developed their format to become an analysis in one sitting of the colours I observed, making a vertical journey – river to sky or sky to river – including the water, mud, islands, river bank, land, trees and sky. I enjoy the complexity of understanding and describing the colours and the intense, deep focus it requires.
The pencil notes record the pigments I have mixed to make the colours, and the date. What started as documentation has become an ongoing, cumulative piece of work. I have exhibited it three times to date – each time in a different way – gridded, a section of the whole, and in a line. During lockdown I have been making colour maps from a room in my home, with a view to the river Deben, through trees and across fields.
Hayley Field, article for an exhibition at The Cut, Halesworth, Suffolk.
When you take in ‘Across the river in the trees, 2021’, as a whole you can see that it is a visual diary, a year in colours.
The subtle changes across the watercolour map impressively detail the changes of hue resulting from the varying quality and type of light associated with different weather and the different seasons.
Very much on a personal level as colour is central to my work, I find this visual record makes a fascinating piece. And, the delicate yet precise changes painted, for example, 18th June above and 26th September below, beautifully capture the essence and difference of an English summer’s day to a Suffolk day in autumn.
Last week, we took a brief tour of Maldon in Essex, but I failed to mention the specific reason for my visit which was to see ‘The Maldon Embroidery’ on permanent display at the Maeldune Heritage Centre.
The Maldon Embroidery was initially called ‘The Millennium Embroidery’ as it was commissioned to celebrate 1,000 years of Maldon’s history.
It was unveiled over 30 years ago in 1991 to mark the millennial anniversary of the Battle Of Maldon in 991. The whole work is 42 feet long and 26 inches wide and is formed of seven panels. It was designed by the famous photographer, artist and textile designer, Humphrey Spender (1910-2005) who lived locally in the village of Ulting four miles from Maldon.
This textile work falls within the tradition of a ‘Bayeux tapestry’, and like the Bayeux original it isn’t actually a tapestry (woven), but is embroidered (hand stitched).
Furthermore, Humphrey Spender felt the term tapestry was associated with something “faded and dun-coloured”. And, as we can see this intricately detailed, colourfully vivid work is anything but faded.
The content of the embroidery is partly chronological and partly thematic. The significant Battle of 991 is near the left end and we then walk along its length and across time with depictions of noteworthy local events and well-known landmarks.
Unsurprisingly, as the embroidery was made to mark 1,000 years since the Battle of Maldon, warfare is one of themes. The war panel flows from left to right in a transition from ancient to modern warfare.
When we reach the end we have travelled through time to 1991. The final panel shows vignettes of Maldon’s twentieth-century highlights such as the 1980s construction of new roads and roundabouts around the town.
Working together with Humphrey Spender, Mrs Lee Cash and Andrew Fawcett, a further 85 embroiderers took three years to create this work of art.
May I just at this point apologise for the multiple reflections in the photographs and the lack of pictures of full panels. It is a physically long piece of work and naturally it is protected behind glass, but sadly opposite large windows. I am not sure if the glass is of a special quality, but the display room is brightly lit with damaging daylight.
Discussing his love of bright colours, Humphrey Spender, who lived in a Richard Rogers steel and glass residence for over three decades, once commented on the fading of domestic textiles in his home saying they’d faded substantially in just 15 years. Well, the Maldon Embroidery is already 30 years old and so far it is still very colourful, let’s hope it stays that way.
It’s the end of January. There is much to be hopeful about, perhaps we are at the beginning of the end of the pandemic. However, here in East Anglia it is still an on/off cold and grey affair as far as the weather is concerned and so I’ve been hunting around for colour and found these photos of a summer trip down memory lane.
A while ago I was in Essex visiting the village where I grew up and afterwards I drove to the town where I went to school, Maldon. It was strange to be a tourist in a place I had known well as a school pupil. I hadn’t been back since I walked out of the school gates and caught the bus home over 40 years ago. Let’s just say my school days were not the best days of my life.
Anyway, back to the town. Naturally, there’s been many changes in the intervening years since my ‘I’m never going back’ exit. Maldon is a strange mix of a once local rural population (reducing in number) combined with an influx of London overspill (even these days), hosting a small yet noticeable boating and sailing clique (resident and visiting) whilst at the same time tolerating a few quirky, slightly alternative folk. Thinking about it I suppose it didn’t feel that dissimilar to when I was at school, even then, those of us travelling in from the villages further afield, were considered outsiders.
Today, the High Street has changed and not changed. Some of the old buildings I remember are still standing. That’s the churches and the Moot Hall. There are three church structures with medieval traces, All Saints, with a triangular tower, Old St Peter’s, now Thomas Plume’s Library and the Maeldune Heritage Centre and just down Church St, St Mary the Virgin, also known as the Fisherman’s Church.
So, the obviously old and worthy buildings have survived however, the cinema has gone. The Art Deco ‘Embassy’ cinema designed by David E. Nye was built in 1936 and then demolished in 1985. One wonders why it couldn’t have been repurposed or partially conserved as the old redundant St Peter’s Church tower was saved when Thomas Plume built his Library around 1700.
Instead on the site now is a retirement housing complex called Embassy Court. I understand with an ageing population more purpose-built housing is required, but I think losing the cinema building is a pity. Embassy Court is functional, clean and tidy looking, but as a structure it’s not in the same class as ‘The Embassy’ was in its heyday.
Embassy Court is not the only newish redbrick building in the locality there is Maldon’s first Town Hall. This is another less than engaging building situated just off the High Street. Built in the last century opening in 1998 at the cost of £642,000 it has the expected council offices, community rooms and hall, but, architecturally speaking does not exhibit the confidence and flare of a successful town. The architect, local Terry Wynn, said at the time of the building’s opening “We were very concerned that when it was finished it didn’t look like a brand new building, we wanted it to fit in straight away”. Well, he was certainly right on that point, it fits in completely and is unremarkable to such an extent I failed to notice it at all. If you’re interested to see what I missed, you can take a mini tour here with See Around Britain – Maldon Town Hall.
Finally, there is one other old building still standing I remember only too well. It is the Blue Boar Hotel just off the top of the High Street on Silver Street. It has been a Grade II listed building since 1951 and according to Historic England the oldest part of hotel dates from the late 14th century. When I was at school, in the late 20th century, the hotel’s small bar tucked around the back was a favourite haunt for sixth formers.
However, it is the view from just outside the Blue Boar across to the White House on Silver Street that is significant to me. It hasn’t changed that much since I spent five hours painting it for my A Level Art exam. That year the theme for submissions was ‘Seen on a Quiet Street’. This was long before the days of mobile phones or even digital cameras and so there’s no record of my finished picture. However, I do remember during the course of the day several people stopping to look, chat and watch my progress. It was early May and the pink blossom on the cherry tree was only just past its prime. Concluding my memory lane tour on Silver Street felt apt.