A week at the Old Lookout Gallery

Well that was an experience! After weeks of preparation, dusting off the artwork I'd done in the 80s,  sewing away merrily - well not always, many times I cursed when I couldn't see to thread the needle or the bobbin tangled - making scarves, bags and cushions, pasting up Broadstairs-linked poems and photographs - followed by the long trip from Wales and the massive task of hanging and arranging - it's now all over!

It was certainly a previlege to be granted the use of the unique space on Broadstairs Pier. I had had visions of sitting out on the veranda on Old George's chair looking out to sea, feet up, sipping Pimms. The blinking weather put paid to that! We did have some spells of sunshine, but the worst thing was the wind - I've written about this in my poem below, so won't go on. For the most part, apart from the fantastic gallery space and position, offered to selected artists by Christ Church University College during the summer, the most exciting experience was seeing my work displayed much as I'd imagined it, and the inter-action between visitors to the gallery, my work and me. It was thrilling to welcome visitors who numbered some 250 people during the week. Not all, I hasten to add were thrilled; some came in from the rain, some were more interested in the building than my work, and some were walkers, people  who wander through exhibitions without even looking. But the majority of visitors found something to smile at, think about and discuss. Some even bought stuff! I was loath to pressure everyone who visited to comment in the book, but in addition to the intriguing conversations, many did, some of which include

great variety in a small venue

impressed with your work

poetry was delightful, this time joined by interesting and at times startling images

extraordinarily evocative - spooky, sexy, intriguing shades of Edvard Munch 

loved the 39 steps poem and the general sense of creativity

A particular treat for me was to welcome lovely old friends - Charlotte and Sue, Frances, Bernie, Adrian, Mark, Zareen, Christina - to name a few. The lovely John helped with printing as usual, Write Women supported by their presence, my sisters also, Yonnette took the photograph attached. New friends were also made, Alex the cameraman patiently making a short film. The gallery felt like my ideal front room, pictures on the wall, my babies' cot which displayed my cushions and on which I had inscribed an excerpt from my poem/song 'Caribbean Lullaby'; palm trees, my Guyanese hammock in which I sat and mused in quiet moments... Outside the slanting boat-like windows framed the English channel which on a wild and windy Saturday overturned sailing boats with glee.

On a wild and windy Saturday evening in my sailing ship in the sky the atmosphere changed to the intimate sharing of words. Invited poets David Woolley and his partner Ann Gray, Mark Holihan, Vicky Wilson, Sue Flory and the Write Women poets shared words of reflection, passion, fears and humour. Twenty-one people fit into the space, with standing room only at the tilted door.

Over the week my drawings breathed in salt and spray, muted and conversational, confused and intrigued. My cushions dozed on the hammock. I wrote two new poems - I imagined that I would write more during my residence, was not prepared for the exhaustion in being alert all day. How could long moments looking out to sea, interspersed by visitors, be exhausting?

Only one thing marred this interlude. On the final day of my exhibition a local trader came into the gallery and confronted me, berating me for selling my work, and placing myself in competition with him! It took a while for this unjust attack to sink in, I had thought him a visitor, but was instead treated to a tirade of twisted accusations. He eventually left, but the incident left me terribly upset. The value of everything I had achieved tumbled into nothingness as I took my work down that evening. What a difference from the excitement of putting it up the week previously! Artists are vulnerable creatures, we sell ourselves, and most of us exist on little or no income. Each item in my exhibition was made by me, and took thousands of hours, it is impossible to even price anything based on time much less inspiration. How this could compete with mass-produced items is beyond me. Also beyond me is the feeling of the distance  between artists and those who either do not allow themselves the right to be creative themselves or appreciate creativity in others. I can only draw a line beneath this unpleasant experience and end with one of the shortest but positive quotes wriiten in the comments book -

fantastic artist! x Kay

I'll be sharing new poems by David Woolley, Ann Gray and Felicity Brookesmith all as a result of From Broadstairs with Love in my next blog. This is one of the poems I wrote:

This is the place where the sea pounds day and night on the rocks

the man-built pier of concrete and feeble rails

They speak of the winds here, breezes rushing in like young dogs

whole multitudes of wildebeest cutting the tide to foam

cutting through like knives, slicing through summer cardies

whipping knees and knuckles, naked necks, collar-bones

overturning kayaks, blowing the old to a safe perch

underneath the jetty.

From the veranda Old George's chair looks out over ice-cream melting

lovers necking, lager-fuelled voices adding a baritone

to the scream of gulls and the laughter of children ricochetting

over the waves.

Below stairs the steam of whelks rises, and some will remember a time

when scores of Georges whistled and tended their nets

stored them in these rooms above where now

pictures hang, and a comments book lies open

waiting for words which the winds rip through the open door and scrambles.