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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

The School Creative Centre: Putting the Cool in School

Community Art, Rye, East Sussex

Written by Alice Watson

A Saturday night in downtown Kilburn saw the long awaited (and, case decease considering it was recorded about 18 months ago, treat long overdue) launch of Horses for Courses, more about the debut album from Teesside trio Das Wanderlust. Taking the stage after sterling support from the ever wonderful Bobby McGees, the place of lead singer and keyboard player Laura Simmons was taken by the mysterious “Rock Wizard”, decked out like some prog-tastic spawn of the mid-70′s Rick Wakeman. But – lo and behold! – ‘twas indeed that cheeky scamp Laura underneath (the cape and false beard were in fact discarded because it was bloomin’ hot)!

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Das Wanderlust are one of those bands that can be guaranteed to divide opinion. So much so that, confusingly, the NME decided to produce a schizophrenic review which on the one hand raves about the album, whilst on the other describes one track (Sea Shanty) as “literally the worst song we’ve ever heard and annoying on an almost nuclear level” (guitarist Andy Elliott ruefully reminded the audience of this). Personally, I think they’re great.

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Musically, they are very reminiscent of X-Ray Spex, particularly Simmons’distinct vocal delivery, and late-70′s Fall. Crunchy guitars, buzzy 20p second hand Casio-style keyboards and melodies that don’t go quite where you expect, it’s a style that Das Wanderlust describe as “wrong pop”. The single Puzzle is what Elastica might have sounded like if they hadn’t spent all their time transcribing Wire and Stranglers albums whilst, conversely, the piano-based Turn to Grey has a very nursery-esque quality.

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One thing to say about Das Wanderlust is that in no way do they take themselves seriously on stage. After a little dig at the archetypal Shoreditch gig crowd, there is much onstage banter (which apparently led to a bit of a rebuke from a rather sniffy reviewer in Cardiff recently) and they appeared to be having so much fun that they didn’t realise they’d reached the end of their set.
Heading back to the distant north, I’m sure their hearts were gladdened by the response to their set and the generally positive reviews to Horses for Courses suggest that hopefully we shall be seeing much more of Das Wanderlust soon.

Live photos appear courtesy of Richard Pearmain
For the next few weeks, purchase London will be transformed under an umbrella of environmentalism and sustainability. Which ever corner of London is your turf, treatment you will find something to watch, shop learn, listen to or take part in. Love London: The Green Festival is the biggest green festival in Europe, and will be running from June 4th – June 28th. It will encompass hundreds of cheap and free events in and around the capital that will be categorised under three themes: Green Places, Green Living and Green Innovations. There will also be an onus on Eco – Thrift, a topical theme given the current climate that we are all facing. From a Love London Recycled Sculpture Show at the Wetland Centre in Barnes, Community Garden Open Days, London Farmers Markets Picnic on The Green, Eco-Cultural Festival…. the list seems almost infinite. That is before we include the talks aimed on sharing tips and ideas on how to live a more sustainable and green lifestyle.

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I spoke with the people behind Love London and asked a little bit more about what we can expect in the next few weeks.

What is the purpose of the Love London festival?
The purpose of the festival is to empower Londoners to build a more sustainable future for the Capital. The festival achieves this by bringing communities together to share ideas and celebrate innovations. It supports and promotes grass roots action.

What types of events take place during the Love London festival?
A huge range of events take place during the festival – all have an environmental /
sustainable focus. Events are organised by themes. The 2009 main theme is Green Places. Sample events: Culpeper Community Garden (growing veg in small spaces) Love London Recycled Sculpture Show, WWT London Wetland Centre, Waste Free Picnics Tour the Greenwich Eco-House.

Sister themes + sample events include Green Living Green Innovations, The Art of Green Cleaning Eco-Vehicle Rally (Brighton– London), Energy Doctor Surgeries Insider London – Eco Tours, There is also a cross-theme focus on Eco-Thrift this year – many events will teach Londoners how they can save money and save the environment eg Swap Shops and Energy Use surgeries.

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Illustration by Jessica Pemberton


Sustainability is a very topical subject matter isn’t it?

Very much so, obviously sustainability is always on the agenda, and this year we have a large aspect around eco-thrift. People think that sustainability will cost them more more but it will actually save them money.

How long has Love London been running?
The festival is now in its seventh year. Over the years it has grown from a weekend event to one week, then two and is now three weeks long. It has evolved from London Sustainability Weeks to Love London Green Festival. Starting with less than ten events it now offers hundreds.

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Events from previous Love London Green Festivals. Note the Naked Bike Ride of 2006!

How can Love London benefit the city and the lives of Londoners?
Love London events give Londoners the knowledge and inspiration to do their bit to make the Capital cleaner and greener. As the festival spreads the word and people take action the city will become a more pleasant place for all.
The main theme for 2009 encourages Londoners to celebrate and protect the city’s vital Green Places. Londoners will get out cleaning up rivers and carrying out conservation work as well as enjoying the space with picnics in the park and nature craft workshops. The Love London Recycled Sculpture Show is a highlight event.

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The Heron is the focal piece in the Recycled
Sculpture Show. It is by the artist Ptolemy Elrington and has been
made from old shopping trolleys dragged out of a canal.

Who organises the festival?
It’s a partnership of like minded charities such as London 21 Sustainability Network,
The London Environment Co-ordinators Forum, London Community Recycling
Network
, London Sustainability Exchange, The Federation of City Farms and
Community Gardens, London Civic Forum, Sponge, Government Office for London,
Open House, Global Action Plan and The Mayor of London.

Click here to find out more about Love London Green Festival.
Henry Hudson is a strange chap. I’m absolutely sure of this, ambulance though the only evidence I have is his art. I’ve seen plenty of wacky art made by otherwise normal people. You can usually tell. But this is the real deal. Luscious gilt picture frames house these extraordinary works which don’t so much update Hogarth as render a more visceral, visit web decaying Hogarth. The works currently on show at the Trolley Gallery on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch are drawn from the Rake’s Progress and Harlot’s Progress series. They are details and deteriorations. And they are paintings made of plasticine, stained with tea.

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Hudson’s selection of the imagery brings us the moment when squalour invades the Eighteenth Century gentleman’s oasis of luxury. Everything is opulence bought with bad debts that are just turning nasty. A beautiful wall mounting for a candle tries to maintain its dignity beneath menacing cracks in the cieling. It feels like a very contemporary concern, refracted through a prism of history which we are doomed to repeat.
Fundamentally, these are works which straddle being good fun art, and being a veiled threat. It’s original, and supremely confident work, and leaves me in no doubt about one thing: Henry Hudson is a strange chap.

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On the other side of Shoreditch, Roman Klonek is exhibiting his stunningly vibrant woodcuts. 20th Century Russian Propaganda jostles with the lowbrow feel of Fantagraphics comix or some of Spumco‘s more knowing animation.

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Some of this is really stark and simple. A hairy-faced man does some ironing, but somehow it turns into an existential moment for him, but then, wait; that is filtered somehow through the bold and bright cuteness of it all. It’s as if Camus were a gonk. Other scenes are more complex, with a few figures going about their business, totally isolated from one another. I was reminded of some of Balthus’s better works, but with colour sense that comes purely from early comics.

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Some of the most striking works are laid out as comic book front covers, in fact, with text in Polish, Russian, and Japanese. Klonek’s work is seriously slick, and his background in graphics show’s through. Almost all of these prints made me wish there wre an animated TV show which made almost no sense and looked just like a Klonek. There’s just something about his associations betwen the cartoon world and the exotic characters of foriegn alphabets and spellings that draws you in and thrills. Judging by the little red dots appearing by the works, I’m not the only one who felt the need for a some Klonek in my life.

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Henry Hudson is at the Trolley Gallery until July 25, while Roman Klonek closes at Kemistry Gallery on May 30.
Last night Amelia’s Magazine had an office trip to the Proud Galleries in Camden, viagra order to visit the House of Diehl’s Style Wars, clinic a concept first brought to Brick Lane in 2002 promoting the art of ‘instant couture’. Since then it has evolved into a competition on an international level, approved holding heats in New York, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong and Johannesburg, and last night was the only European stopover.

The New York Times described it as like “an old-school MC Battle, with one crucial difference: they spit out rhymes where these guys spit out style”. My goodness! Almost too edgy to take.

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The night involved two teams squaring up against one another through several rounds, creating an outfit in a five minute slot before sending it down the catwalk to be goggled at by the crowd, and then dissected by a celebrity panel including VV Brown, Jodie Harsh, photographer Perou and Joe Corre.

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Citing as inspiration the transformative capacities of clothes through recycling them, as seen with Margiela and Viktor & Rolf, the designers used everything from the clothes on their own backs, to raw materials like clingfilm, duct tape and paper, cricket shin pads, badminton rackets and even beer coasters to a variety of themes.

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It’s a very public creation of art (somehow we can’t imagine Margiela himself taking part) that relies on our ability to conceive fashion as ephemeral, so essentially polarising itself to the credit crunch inclination towards investment purchases – instead suggesting there’s a more creative (and indeed, environmentally friendly) way of making a garment last longer.

In a way I like this idea of ‘momentary’ fashion especially when trends are practically over before you’ve even put your socks on first thing in the morning, and Style Wars came from the idea that if you enjoy going out, your clothes aren’t going to last. So if you only need an outfit to last for a night, maybe five minutes is all you need to put it together.

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It’s a fashion blitzkrieg that with a timeframe that might pose a variety of questions. ‘Style’ is a self-contained label that pretty much covers what went down here: it’s style over substance, but how can you create anything else in five minutes? Is it this just for an evening or is it really possible to be conceptual and interesting in five minutes? It is just art if it barely toes the line of the functional aspect that supposedly distinguishes fashion from art?

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There were definitely some neat ideas even if the looks were sometimes holistically unsatisfactory: I particularly liked the inflatable aeroplane cushion used as an Elizabethan ruff, some puff sleeves courtesy of a pair of lampshades, and eventual winner David’s creation of a jumpsuit out of a boring old suitbag – I thought it properly captured the spirit of the evening and was humorously self-referential.

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Style Wars seemed like a purely creative exercise extraneous to the business side of fashion where conceptual design was really rewarded, which is a really liberating idea, but I felt the reference to Margiela was an unnecessarily highbrow one. This is after all ‘instant couture’ and most of the outfits were barely functional, even sometimes falling apart. But this isn’t really the point. Being part of a baying crowd was something you wouldn’t get to do at a real fashion show, so Style Wars is definitely an opportunity to let loose your inner hooligan and just have a drink and a jolly old time. That’s certainly worth five minutes of your time.

Photos: Courtesy of Errol Sabodosh

If you were under the impression that during these times of economical downturn the arts for most people, troche local councils and national governments took a back burner, price you would be very much mistaken. All that is required, for sale the School Creative Centre would argue, is a refocus of relevance, access and opportunity.

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By using a decommissioned school building to bring together professional artists of all persuasions, some of whom take up residency and produce work on a rotational basis, The School Creative Centre has it’s sights set high for new community engagement in the arts. The first year over with and the Centre has already established itself as a thriving visionary initiative attracting talent such as painter Nicholas Archer. Speaking about the benefits of sharing creativity in a communal environment he says “I have been working as a professional artist for ten years, often quite a solitary experience and The School Creative Centre provides a fantastic opportunity to work in a stimulating environment with other creative professionals”.

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Nicholas Archer, Resident Artist

Professor Val Williams is another member of the School Creative Centre family. During her career as a photographer and author she has amassed around 40 years of archived records which have come out of storage and are now happily housed at The School for researchers to access. The school provides a welcome antidote to the cut-throat money-spinning art world we may be used to in the capital and signaling a return to a more altruistic communal way of producing and sharing creativity in an environment that prides its self on striving for excellence as well as supporting the local community.

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At the heart of the School are Ian Ross, Christine Harmar-Brown and Nikki Tompsett who all arrived from notable artistic backgrounds in theatre, fine arts and educational project management. Taking over the building in 2008 and transforming it from Freda Gardham School into the creative centre it is today was no easy task. Situated in Rye, East Sussex, it is a world away from the hectic art scenes of London or nearby Brighton, but is able to offer it’s locals top of the range facilities and a programme of classes, talks, workshops and demonstrations. They receive their funding from the Arts Council, , East Sussex County Council and Rother District Council, as well as from hiring the space out for corporate events and the tickets they sell to performances such as the upcoming ‘Class and Corruption’ in June, based on Brecht’s Threepenny Opera.

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Jillian Eldridge Resident Artist

The sheer range of space and opportunity is startling. A theatre with 150 seating capacity; a rehearsal space ideal for dance or yoga; experimental spaces, studio spaces of varying size and privacy, a café and a well stocked library to name a few. In terms of activities you can take part in anything from life drawing to bookbinding, jazz dance to turntablism, run by experts in their fields and aimed at promoting inclusion and engagement particularly for the younger generations in society.

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Danny Pocket Drawing Mentor

Local MP in the area, Michael Foster, wants to encourage this reclaiming of buildings for good causes instead of leaving shops and public spaces emptied during the recession to remain unused and become derelict. “That might mean new community uses, new spaces for arts and crafts, new premises for small start-up businesses, community cafes, and spaces for social enterprises and the voluntary sector.” It has also been announced that consider sums of money, we’re talking six figures here, have been designated by central Government to help communities across the country find creative ways to fill empty spaces and remove the negative impact that unused buildings have on society as a whole. It seems we can all look to The School Creative Centre in Rye for inspiration and encouragement that it can, and will, be done.

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Lorna Crabble Bookbinding Mentor

How would you creatively use a reclaimed space?

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