An unexpected Sunday in Canterbury!

All along the coastline of East Kent, towns are alive with artists and new creative enterprises popping up – new things being tried, original thought and quite frankly life! From Whitstable, along the North Kent coast, around the headland of Thanet, with Margate harbouring the Turner Contemporary, and back along The Channel, to Folkestone, this is the story. But strangely Canterbury, in the centre of East Kent, seems largely devoid of this energy, yet today on a grey Sunday afternoon, without planning it, I managed, unprompted, to happen upon three creative, original goings-on! .. And yes, this feels so heartening and a sign of cultural green-shoots that I decided to document it with this blog post.

001 POCAS ‘Gallery’ show at Ahava Community

A pop-up show by POCAS, The People of Colour Art Society, a student group from the University of Kent, who have also collaborated with students from UCA. Kindly hosted by Ahava Community Shop, who have donated their upstairs space. Just very refreshing to be in a space on Canterbury High Street and see an outpouring of creative, expressive work. Things painted, collaged, stitched, photographed, drawn, written, filmed and recorded by a young generation. Made with passion, reflection, consideration, experimentation, new steps ventured, ideas explored and community formed.

Some of my highlights below …

‘Bathroom Break’ by Haneen & Layla Baba
‘Embedded in Darkness’ by Eva Gonzalo Rocio
Painting by Geraldine Faye Gamboa; Documentary by Dante Richardson
002 Eye-dentity at The Beaney

A joyful, inclusive show featuring works made by people with experience of sight-loss. I particularly loved the series of adorned boxes exploring individuals’ personal experiences of sight-loss, which were facilitated by Wendy Daws. Tactile, jaunty yet defiant, oozing with personality, while also sharing very personal stories. And in the centre of the room a hut, a shelter, constructed from thick layers of tape repurposed from an installation made by A&E Lab, and reminiscent of Cornelia Parker’s work ‘Island’. Housing a huge, over-sized ‘Book of Hope’, it too made from reclaimed tape, the pages thick and spongey, the normally plane-like surface of the page rendered voluminous and turning with a satisfying crunch and crackle. Its pages adorned with embossed tin-panels, fascinating little drawings, inviting the touch.

003 Storytellers at The Beaney

A wonderful show of works by artists living and working in Kent today. Not dead artists. But work made here, and now, in the county of Kent. An utter joy, with diverse voices and techniques, accomplished practitioners with something vital to share. And centred on the theme of storytelling, felt particularly poignant in a city which is famed for Chaucer’s narrative work the Canterbury Tales. Beyond that, the curator Nathalie Banaigs had really taken care to think about how to make the works accessible and meaningful to a local audience, with lots of rich insight into the artists’ processes and inspiration.

Some of my highlights below …

Photographer, Mbeke Waseme and her work

Soulful photography by Mbeke Waseme, telling stories of fabric and culture. I was lucky enough to be able to chat at length and hear about the histories and people who underpin her work.

‘Party for one’ – Perou

A monumental self-portrait by Perou, towering over the room. So deadpan and clever, with the taut pink balloon. I particularly enjoyed the extended title of the work: ‘Party for one: a celebration of love island, beach body perfection and the implacable ageing process’. Especially that choice not to capitalise ‘love island’.

‘Great Expectations: Minuments to Kent’ by Joel Ely

A many layered installation by Joel Ely, rich in wit and poignancy and references to Kent – from Derek Jarman to Hooden Horses, to Shepherds Neame brewery to Alessia Russo.

At this point I would like to have an image of Tracie Peisley’s magnificent ceramic sculpture ‘Maman’. A voluminous organic figure, commanding space like a Louise Bourgeois watercolor writ large. Sadly there was a cantankerous man having a conversation in the background who kept obstructing the photo and I forgot to return to this work. I will endeavour to source an image from elsewhere.

Series of bronze sculptures by Brook Hobbins based on drawings by Barbara Hepworth

Deeply graceful sculptures by Brook Hobbins bringing to life Barbara Hepworth’s Hospital Drawings. Like an elegant Greek chorus line of care – gentle, measured, poised. And utterly fascinating to chat with the artist and learn about her experience of making these works during the Covid pandemic.