Thursday, 30 June 2011

Art, sea and sandwiches in MARGATE

The Turner Contemporary opened in April this year - a large, modern building on the seafront - marking the very place where JMW Turner frequently stayed in a lodging house throughout his life. Turner had spent time in Margate as a child, and continued to visit often. A number of his paintings, watercolours and sketches feature part of the Kent coast, particularly Margate - and Turner was said to have remarked that ' the skies over Thanet are the loveliest in all Europe'. (Thanet is just along the coast from Margate.)

Today, grey clouds loom above the vast expanse of sea, a couple of fishing boats bob about in suspense and a strip of coloured warehouses stretch out, masking the horizon. An overwhelming stench of whelks wafts about the muggy heat of the day, yet still tourists queue for a punnet of shellfish.

Entering the Turner Contemporary is little like opening a door into another world, a world away from the rough and ready streets of Margate, where crime rates are the highest in Kent. The big sun-like window looks out to sea, and people who like like they've just stepped off Brick Lane wander about gazing at work through their thick-rimmed professor-esque glasses.

The gallery plans to show changing exhibitions, and will always have one of more Turner works. This exhibition (Revealed: Turner Contemporary Opens) is inpired by Turner's 1815 painting of a volcanic eruption in the Caribbean. A range of work is shown in each part of the gallery, and all exudes incredible beauty and sentiment.

Douglas Gordon's texts appear on the main stairs - the final words uttered by Turner 'The Sun Is God' are played with to express the possibility that 'some things are better read than said'.

Ellen Harvey's installation ARCADIA is dazzling and reflective; a projection of the sea onto a long white wall swishing in and out of the shore and the sounds of the waves fill the room.

The most striking for me were the works of Russell Crotty, who - like Turner is fascinated by nature. Huge sketchbooks filled with large landscape drawings in colour, are scratched away intricately. Inspired by walking, surfing and observing the stars, Crotty uses words in his works to explain his thoughts and processes. Large, delicate paper globes hang from the ceilings, bearing drawings and hundreds of words from long walks and trailing thoughts.

Once you've looked around the shop at the front of the gallery, you can wander over to the Old Town and check out some of the extortionately priced Vintage shops, if you like. You could visit The Greedy Cow - a really lovely cafe selling delicious toasted ciabatta's - I recommend the Turkey, Stuffing & Cranberry Sauce... and nice glass of local (Chapel Down, Tenterden) wine.

So, don your candy-striped dress and get on down to Margate - there are some great retro furniture stores too!

Retro furniture:

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Into the wild: Blackberry Woods, South Downs, Sussex

If you are looking for a romantic getaway or just a beautiful place to camp with a nice old group of friends - then this is the place! If it's just the two of you, you might like to go for Blackberry Fields... nestled into parts of the forest are your pitches, and once the tent is up and the fire stoked - it's just you, your sweetheart and the stars above. (It is for peace-lovers, if you want to party the night away, then don't book into Blackberry Fields. There's a shower with an open roof, clean toilets, sinks and wheelbarrows to carry your camping gear - you leave your cars in the carpark).

The main campsite is set in the secluded glades of the South Downs - an area of truly outstanding natural beauty. There are plenty of walks, and pubs in nearby villages - but once the breakfast is sizzling and the kettle boiled you should start to feel pretty settled just where you are.

You can also book in to stay in the following - for a whole new experience:

Gypsy Caravan: This 1930's, original, hand-crafted Gypsy caravan is the perfect retreat. There's an original wood-burning stove and a very snug double bed which will fit just two adults. You just need to pack some bedding, 'and a crystal ball' they say!

Retro Caravan: 'Bubble' the Dutch Caravan, has been around since 1963, and sits nestled in place, and will sleep just two adults. It has all the cutlery and crockery that you may need, you just need to bring a nice soft duvet and a few pillows. There's a fully functional two-ring gas cooker, a cooler and the sofa turns into the double bed, which is around 6ft long. Children aren't allowed to stay in here, it's old and needs looking after... perfect for kicking back and relaxing for a long weekend.

Holiday Bus: Honk Honk! This 1964 Routemaster - giant red double-decker sleeps two couples in the comfy cosy upstairs - upper deck, which also bears a lounging area... downstairs you have the kitchen and dining area, and if you have little ones - this might please you... there's a fun play area which turns into a bedroom at night. It comes equipped with pots, pans, cutlery and all you need to do is bundle some bedding into the boot then away you go - 'summer holiday' time!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Listen to: 'Johannes' by Cocos Lovers

This incredible band dropped out of the blue blue skies of Kent and landed on a stage at a tiny little village festival last year...
Sitting and people-watching, I spotted this talented group long before they took to the stage. Couples entwined, children ran about, and a slightly bohemian air danced above them, so I wasn't surprised when they took to the stage and arranged a plethora of instruments: Violin, Tenor Banjo, Mandolin, Guitar, Flute and Ukelele were lifted out carefully and tuned.

African inspired, deep-rooted, harmonic folk sounds resonated as Cocos Lovers got into the swing of the set. Each took their turn to sing, harmonise and chant, the instruments combining to create touching melodies. Soon, everyone began humming along, and then clapping and dancing in time to their infectious rhythms. The mix of tuneful upbeat new folk sounds, with heartier, traditional folk tunes and instruments has made for something inspiring. I am hooked, and I want to be a part of their band.

The band have performed at Bloody Awful Poetry events in London, and have so far supported Mumford & Sons, Alessi's Ark and Fionn Regan amongst others. They have also performed at Secret Garden Party and Greenman Festival, and this year are set to do the same, as well as performing at Glastonbury this weekend, and Lounge on the Farm in a few weeks time.

Look out for Cocos Lovers this year. Their debut album, 'Johannes' is out on Smugglers Records, and their new album is set for release this year. It's called 'Elephant Lands'.

Have a listen here:

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Go see: Every Day is a Good Day! John Cage @ The De La Warr Pavillion

Whilst trawling charity shops in Bexhill for cups and saucers, the large white (art deco-style) building that perches on the edge of the sea caught my eye. The De La Warr Paviliion has exhibited a number of inspirational artists over the years, and this exhibition surrounded and interpreted the work of John Cage (musician, artist and philosopher). Cage is most widely recognised for his works entitled: 4'33" which is a series of three movements, played without hearing a single note. The content supposedly revolves around the engagement of the audiences with the sounds that they hear and create whilst participating in these 'movements'.

So, the De La Warr came up with A Nod To Cage, which includes work from Yoko Ono who worked with the man himself, some newly commissioned works from Shelley Parker and Charlie Hooker, and six students from Brighton University and Sussex Coast College. The exhibition covers the whole of the De La Warr - Gallery 1 showing the handiwork of John Cage, and suitably named Every Day is A Good Day. Drawings and watercolours are arranged in sporadic fashion across the long hall. Based on the order of I Ching, fostering the beliefs of the artist, the works are distributed at random, and so a guide book is provided to help navigate your way through the show.

There is a grand piano sat atop one flight of stairs, playing notes on it's own accord - depicting the effects that sound has as it enters and leaves our bodies.... a camera on a long, wooden arm which faces towards a projection wall, showing a film of two dancers at either end of the camera. One a ballet dancer, moving in her way, and one a tap dancer, responding in hers. It was moving, and tempting to jump up and swing the camera around! All relate to the concepts of sound that Cage discovered, shared and explored.

It's also a place to chat to people openly and freely. The staff are very passionate about the works that they exhibit, and clearly put their heart into their research and happily share their knowledge if you are keen to hear it. It was a day for meeting people, as two other young people crossed my path from polar-walks of life to my own, opening my eyes and heart to the way that they experienced the world...

Check out the De La Warr line-ups here: and make sure you take a look at the LIVE PROGRAMME. Alan Carr and Mogwai coming soon!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Go visit: Oxford for Art, TRUCK & Meadows

Recently, I took a trip to Oxford, learnt to punt on the River Isis (the Thames), walked through meadows filled with wild horses to cross the city, and stumbled across galleries, such as Modern Art Oxford and the Ashmolean.

Modern Art Oxford is spacious and interesting, and also quite hidden which adds to the initial appeal. On entering, the shop is there to greet you, and it really is quite a wonderful little treasure trove. They've picked out the finest, arty cards and postcards, some great tote and hessian bags, and jewellery from the likes of Tatty Devine. Check out the mustache cufflinks/ necklace if you haven't already!

There's a lovely cafe, which sells homemade cakes and the infamous, glorious, Monmouth Coffee - and the area is dotted with woodblock tables (designed by Richard Woods) in primary colours, with beanbags to lounge in. It's light and bright and all very tempting, and there's free wi-fi if you've got work to do, or need to plan your next stop!

We saw an exhibition by Slovakian artist Roman Ondak which aimed to 'transfer real life experiences into the context of art'. The first room showed 'Time Capsule' revolved around the incident in San Jose where 33 miners were trapped for 69 days. Set in a large space, the work evoked a sense of claustrophobia and fear, replicating the device that pulled the miners from the mine. The second work, 'Stampede' - 'reflects the movement of people through spaces'. Walking into a dark room, you are faced with a projection of the same room that you have entered, filled with hundreds of people.

See: for more information on upcoming exhibitions.

The gallery also run talks from artists & writers, exhibition tours, live performance, residencies, film screenings, oh - and they sell a cool beer called Plot 16: The Fermenting Room in the cafe. It's grown and made by artists in residence on their allotment, hence the name.

One last word - make sure you visit the TRUCK record store if you go to Oxford, these are the guys who set up and run the festival, and it's always a pleasure to visit a good music store, with high-quality records from years gone by, and the new ones from J. Mascis, Bon Iver and co.

Pubs to visit:

Turf Tavern (down a crooked path, lovely little beer garden)
The Perch: Across the meadow, past the river, down a path that bears twinkly lights after dark - and sells a range of Gins, with Cucumber dont-chya-know!
The Bear: Tiny, tiny pub - sporting over 2,000 ties... all framed and covering walls and ceilings. It was the tradition of the old Landlord to cut off the the bottom of scholars/ pilots ties (if he liked the look of them) promising them a pint-in-the-wood for their wares!

For breakfast:

Try Bleroni Cafe in the Jericho District for either a very tasty, not too naughty full-english, or a huge bowl of toasted muesli, yoghurt and banana, and a darn good cuppa.