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.
Last month I went to an organ and voice recital at St Bartholomew’s Church, Orford, on the Suffolk Coast. It was part of the 2022 Aldeburgh Festival and the recital was a sellout for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the youthful, passionate and exceedingly energetic organist, Anna Lapwood, was performing and, secondly, she was demonstrating her prodigious talent playing the Peter Collins organ newly installed in the church.
Strictly speaking the organ is not a new organ, but new to this church. It was a gift from the University of Southampton. The organ was originally built in 1977 by Peter Collins for the Turner Sims Concert Hall in Southampton.
An organ such as this to be built from new for St Bartholomew’s would have cost £600,000. However, as a gift from the university together with some successful fundraising to acquire the £120,000 needed for the renovation and installation, St Bartholomew’s gained a magnificent instrument.
Perhaps, you are wondering why a medieval church in a small, picturesque Suffolk village, essentially on the road to nowhere, at the edge of a county, on the North Sea coast, would warrant such a special organ. Well, the answer is Benjamin Britten. He lived for much of his life in Aldeburgh and Aldeburgh is only 11 miles along the Suffolk country lanes to Orford. Also, this Suffolk church has fine acoustics for recording and was chosen by Britten for the world premieres of his works the ‘Three Church Parables’ and ‘Noyes Fludde’.
It is a remarkable place for a concert or recital being both small enough for a sense of intimacy and yet large enough for the sound to fill the space in such a manner as to engulf the listener.
And, what of the recital? It was glorious. The programme devised by Anna Lapwood (by the way, the first woman in Oxford’s Magdalen College’s, 560-year history to be awarded an organ scholarship) was a series of plainchant pieces followed by an organ work inspired by or linked to the preceding chant.
The concert began with a beautiful solo voice (a Pembroke College, Cambridge, choir member) singing the plainchant ‘Magnificat Primi Toni’ followed by Bach’s ‘Fuga Sopra il Magnificat’ (BWV 733).
Of course, the programme wouldn’t have been complete without a piece or two by Britten. Anna Lapwood played Britten’s ‘Voluntary on Tallis’ Lamentation’ following the plainchant ‘Lamentation’ by Thomas Tallis. And, towards the end of the programme she played Britten’s ‘Prelude and Fugue on a theme of Vittoria’ following the singing of ‘Ecce Sacerdos Magnus’ by Vittoria.
Finally, and interestingly it turns out that Anna Lapwood has a personal connection through her father to both Benjamin Britten and St Bartholomew’s.
“As a child I spent many holidays walking through the wind and rain on Aldeburgh beach. My dad grew up in Suffolk and actually played the violin for Britten in Orford Parish Church as a child.”
Well, the British are known for their conversations about the weather so naturally this past week of record-breaking temperatures requires a comment – it was hot.
Not pleasantly, summer hols hot, but horrible hot. Here in Suffolk there was even a wildfire as grassland together with a field of wheat went up in flames not two miles from where I used to live in Tunstall.
According to the Fire & Rescue Service a wildfire is “Any uncontrolled vegetation fire which requires a decision, or action, regarding suppression” and this particular Suffolk wildfire required active suppression. The fire-fighting was captured for the East Anglian Daily Times by my next-door neighbour. She is a staff photographer on the local newspaper and just happened to be driving along the A12 (the main road up the eastern side of the county) when she spotted dark smoke filling the skyline. Diverting across country to Campsea Ashe she arrived at the scene as the first fire crew began tackling the blaze. You can see her amazing and frightening photographs here.
With 40 degrees Celsius being recorded for the first time in the UK more and more people are finally realising what we are facing with the Climate Crisis. If nothing else, this week’s heatwave has shown the UK’s housing stock to be poorly insulated. Good insulation not only means keeping homes warm in the winter, but it helps to keep indoor temperatures liveable in the high heat of summer. Unlike homes in tropical or even Mediterranean countries our housing is not built with the heat in mind and a solution of widely installing air conditioning is neither affordable nor environmentally sound. It’s time for some political leadership to get a national insulation scheme up and running – whoops, I forgot, we don’t have a leader. And, with the tragedy of short-termism in our political system, I can’t see either of the current candidates for Prime Minister making housing insulation a priority. In fact, despairingly, I can’t see either of them moving the green agenda forwards.
But what of my ‘concrete scarred’ backyard in the heat. The summer bedding is doing okay.
Of course, with most of my plants in pots due to the concrete issue, there’s lots of regular watering to do.
However, even with watering and positioned in partial shade, some flowers have gone over very quickly so I cut them for the house.
This year is the first year that the climbing rose ‘Breath of Life’, on a south-facing fence, has flowered. However, before the blooms were scorched to crispy, dried flowers I cut them and took them indoors. I love both their scent and their colour.
Finally, there are some plants that have been lapping up the hot sun in the displays at the local park such as these tropical cannas. I have singled out a gorgeous orange canna and together with the peachy orange rose found some ‘hot’ inspiration for my work.
On Saturday I went to Orford on the Suffolk coast to hear an organ and voice recital as part of the Aldeburgh Festival. The performance was held in the village’s medieval church of St Bartholomew. Parking was down near the quay, but there was an agreeable walk up Quay Street to the church.
Of course, June is the month for roses and this delightful, east-facing climbing combination was at peak bloom.
As was this clever elegant use of a white climbing rose or two, at ‘Avocets’, further up Quay Street. This planting also faces east with the blooms in the sunlight and the roots planted about five feet down in the dip of the front garden. It isn’t obvious from the road there is such a difference in levels, but if you look at Quay Street on Google Street View you can see the single storey house along with the front garden from 2011 before the hedge screened the property from nosy passers-by like me.
Turning our attention to the other side of the road a pair of painted cottages are set back from the highway with an open aspect facing west. One cottage has a well-trained rose set off against the painted brickwork. However, the first floral flush had waned and there were only a couple of rich, red blooms still in flower.
As we continue the walk up from the river Quay Street becomes Church Street and just before we enter the churchyard more climbing roses are flowering well despite fairly tough growing conditions. They are planted very close to the walls of the building, in tiny beds and are in partial shade from the large trees opposite. I expect they need plenty of watering and feeding. In truth these conditions are more suitable for hollyhocks and as you can see in the photographs the hollyhocks are doing well, and look vigorous and healthy.
As with so much in life, gardening is all about choices. Choosing the right plant for the right place often makes life easier, however, sometimes the extra effort required to maintain, in less than ideal conditions, a striking planting is worth it. I think the folk at ‘Avocets’ struck a workable balance with the aesthetically pleasing combination of time-demanding roses together with low-maintenance variegated euonymus and rosemary to edge the driveway.
There are festivals and festivals. The Aldeburgh Festival of Music and the Arts has been going since 1948 and is a music festival, but one without camping. It was founded in 1948 by Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and the writer and producer Eric Crozier.
The first festival was held from 5th to 13th June 1948 with a varied programme of choral, orchestral and chamber concerts, recitals, exhibitions and lectures and three performances of Britten’s opera Albert Herring.
Over the following 20 years the festival’s increasing international reputation for excellence and its subsequent expanding audiences led to Britten and Pears realising the need for a dedicated festival concert hall. The disused maltings at Snape were selected for redevelopment. According to Kenneth Powell of the ’20th Century Society, “Britten was a demanding client: he wanted a 1000 seat hall, costing no more than £50,000, and completed in time for the 1966 Festival. The concert hall eventually cost £127,000 and seated 830”. It was opened by the Queen on 2 June 1967, the first day of the 20th Aldeburgh Festival.
However, just two years later on 7th June 1969 the concert hall was destroyed by fire. The hall we see today is the replica rebuilt, as requested by Britten, to be “just as it was”. The Queen came again in 1970 to open the hall, as she had done in 1967, and is reported as saying that she hoped not to be asked to come back a third time. The Queen may not have been back to the Maltings, but with the exception of the two years for Covid cancellations, the Aldeburgh Festival has returned every year since.
So what of the ‘tribe‘ at the festival? It is an artwork. It is these fine bronze men striding out towards the reeds. ‘Tribe’ by Laurence Edwards is part of a a three-year creative collaboration between Britten Pears Arts and Messums Wiltshire for 2022, 2024 and 2025.
The bronzes are currently on display as part of the Aldeburgh Festival at the Maltings site. They will then feature as part of Laurence Edwards’ solo exhibition ‘Tribes and Thresholds’ at Messums Wiltshire from 6 August – 16 October 2022. And, then next year they will travel to the other side of the world to Australia to be installed at the Orange Regional Museum in New South Wales.
It is difficult to appreciate from a photograph the compelling presence of these bronze men not least their imposing size.
As a group of three there is an intensity and solid quality to the ‘Walking Men’, but also, for a static sculpture, a strong sense of movement. And, then, when you look up and into their faces expecting purpose and resolve instead there is a questioning hesitancy coupled with a hint of resignation or perhaps even loss. Altogether a captivating work.
I don’t know about you, but I seemed to have been waiting and waiting for the appearance of flowers this year. Maybe it’s because there’s been so much bad news around that the need for garden beauty has been more pressing. Finally, fat, colourful buds appeared.
As my own backyard isn’t particularly sunny I resorted to walking over to the local park. However, the most stunning display wasn’t in the park, but this delightful wisteria and front garden planting at 16, Fonnereau Road, Ipswich. The bold, mid-nineteenth century architecture of this Grade II listed building is complimented and softened by the delicate palette of the flowers and foliage.
In my own back garden the clematis montana ‘Rubens’ has grown to the top of the fence at last and by early May the first flowers bloomed.
However, again the most stunning wall/fence treatment was not at my place nor even in the park, but this gorgeous ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithin Blue’ topping the fence on a back garden running along High Street, Ipswich.
Now, really I should not complain as by mid May I had plenty of flowering going on in the yard, but it was nearly all white. Self-seeded white honesty was in every bed. I had noticed it had seeded prolifically, but couldn’t bring my self to remove any.
There was a charming, fairytale quality with all the shimmering white for about a week, before the flowers began to fade. Fortunately, by then tulips in pots were coming into full bloom and
then my favourites for this time of year, the aquilegias, now too mostly self-seeded, opened into all their intriguing colour combinations.
Towards the end of the month a small clump of alliums showed off their globes of tiny star-like flowers despite my earlier stupidity of leaving a heavy pot on top of their foliage.
And, that’s it we’ve reached June and May 2022 is now history. But before I go, I think I’d like to award first prize for the most over-the-top May display to clematis ‘Nelly Moser’. Not the most subtle of the Group 2 clematis, but it’s hanging on in there despite slugs, snails, unreliable watering and all the various fungi that thrive in the still, damp air of a less than sunny backyard.
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.
As we move into early summer, I thought I’d pause for a second to take you on a short tour of my local park to see the fresh, light greens of spring.
The horse chestnuts have reached full leaf and underneath their canopy the reduced light supplies dramatic contrasts between bold, sturdy tree trunks and verdant, recently cut grass.
Together with the horse chestnuts, lime trees line the paths of the park accentuating the curves and sweeps.
There’s not just fresh green but delicate coppery apricot colours too.
The new leaves in the park are most welcome, but there’s something even more uplifting when you observe the re-emergence of sea kale (crambe maritime) on beaches at this time of year. The plant’s sheer tenacity as it pushes up through the salty shingle for another season of sun, wind and rain is very pleasing.
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.
But there have been early morning opportunities to walk my sister’s dog, Bertie, in the Old Cemetery.
It was surprising to see some dandelions already turned to fluffy seedheads
As Bertie is a fairly large dog he needs two good walks a day. So, of course, that’s another opportunity to be in the Old Cemetery during the golden hour, but this time in the early evening with more wonderful light.
This April the Easter weather has been surprisingly good in Suffolk and not what had been forecast at the beginning of last week. All in all it has been truly pleasurable to have a well-behaved and patient dog in the house.