Queens Road Allotments

Branching Out with Queens Road Allotments Society

Sarah Kirby Queens Road Allotments printOne of the many things in the festival that I am really excited about is seeing a new linocut print being launched at the week-end by the wonderful Sarah Kirby, artist and printmaker. Some of you may recall that last year, Sarah mounted a small exhibition at College Court of some of the prints she had made of the city’s industrial buildings.

Two members of the Queens Road Allotments Society have since commissioned her to make a print of the allotments. These have given so much pleasure, as well as flowers, fruit and vegetables, to so many local people. This print, as well as a few others with a similarly horticultural theme, will be on show at the allotments on the afternoon of Sunday 21st.

Sarah has already made prints of garden-related subjects – greenhouses, birds and so on. This print depicts the allotments both as a whole community resource but also as a series of smaller enterprises of the various allotmenteers. The challenge for Sarah has been to make those stories and people visual since each plot represents a different story. Sarah hopes that people will be able to locate their sites on the picture within what she describes as “the slightly mappy overview” that she has created. She says it is important to represent in the print how different parts relate to each other, not just the plots but what stands within the plots – the sheds, bins, butts, benches and wheelbarrows. Sarah insists that everything she has drawn is special because it represents something that somebody has done or used.

Queens Road Allotments, ArtBeat 2015Sarah is grateful that she has been given permission to do this work, for example to draw sheds which are all different even though they all serve a similar function. I reckon that lots of allotmenteers – and others – are also going to be grateful that Sarah has done this work because, having had a sneak preview, I can testify to it being a lovely print, animated by colour and detail, to give a full picture of what for some people is a mega secret garden in the heart of the city; and for those who spend their time there a wonderful release and tranquil contrast from the day-to-day rush and routines of urban living.

So this project may have led Sarah up a very different path but it is one that she is very happy to be on, wondering where it may lead next.

Short Story Competition entrants at ArtBeat 2015

Short Story Writing Talent

This year for the first time ArtBeat has organised a short story writing competition, one for adults and one for children and young people. We were not sure how this would go down, with regard to both the amount of interest and take-up and to the quality of the entries. Entrants were asked to write a short story that said something about their neighbourhood.

Not surprisingly for a first-ever competition, there was not a great number of entries but those that were entered were of a very high standard – in both categories. This is very encouraging. Not only does it reinforce the view that Clarendon Park has talent. But it means that we will have a reservoir of talent for the future – as long as these young writers choose to stay in the area.

Penny Luithlen, is a literary agent and she was one of the three judges that helped to choose the winners. She told me that the standard of writing was very high. The initial reading of scripts is very telling and she says that immediately it became clear that it was going to be hard to discount any at all. The stories felt local and there were some interesting ways in which entrants chose to interpret the brief.

The three judges (the other two are writers) found there was much for them to agree about, in particular what they liked. The children’s stories were wide-ranging and it made them think that perhaps next time there should be a category for even younger writers to differentiate them from the older children and not disadvantage them.

The judges considered who best answered the brief, who had the best variety of ‘telling’ techniques, and who told a story that surprised and delighted them and took them on a special journey. Ultimately it all comes down to personal taste. There was plenty to both agree and disagree about. In the adult category, there was a split decision in selecting the winner. In the children’s category the dilemma was that there were not enough prizes because so many of the entrants were potential winners.

Penny is adamant that those who entered must carry on writing, regardless of whether or not they are prize-winners this year. The responsibility of selecting a winner has weighed heavily on the judges but they have enjoyed the experience. They commend all those who entered for having the courage to do so. It is brave to show your work to someone else to judge. So all those who took part have taken a huge step and are commended for their talent and their bravery.

So if you want to know who won and what they wrote about, the winners are to be announced in the middle of the festival at 11 am on Sunday 21 June at Fingerprints on Queens Road. You will be able to meet those who entered and hear a little of what has been written. I can’t wait!

Clarry the Cat at the ArtBeat 2015 launch party

2 weeks to go

Michelle Dhillon of Rockhaq at the ArtBeat 2015 launchOnly two weeks to go now to the launch of ArtBeat 2015. As the bard once said “summer’s here and the time is right for dancing in the streets”.

The launch promises to be a lot of fun. Music, singing, dancing, busking, balloons, children performing, an appearance from Clarry the Cat, an ode and a speech, food and drink from local retailers and hopefully, like last year, sunshine. And all this infused with a hefty injection of community spirit.

This year we will not be graced by a visit from King Richard III as we were last. Since then of course he has found his resting place in Leicester Cathedral, as some of you may have become aware!

I know we Brits tend to obsess about the weather. But since early summer first made its shy presence felt this week, there has been a definite lift in mood in the area. The sound of flip flops and flatties can be heard on the pavements, as people in shorts, t-shirts and frocks (not all at the same time) stroll down Queens Road, Others stretch out in Victoria Park, and the red-bricked buildings take on an altogether brighter hue.

Meanwhile festival programmes have been pushed through letter boxes and more will be handed out on the streets over the coming two Saturdays.

So put the date in your diaries for the launch: 5pm on Friday 19th June at the Christchurch car park, Clarendon Park Road. See you there.

Summer Sandals

Glorious June

So June arrived on Monday and its wake the wind and the rain. But the forecast is bright and sunny just in time for ArtBeat. Only three weeks to go and we are all very excited.

Over the coming period until the launch on Friday 19th June, I will be using the blog to alert you to news, observations and conversations about the festival. Innovation and change are the drivers of the arts and the watchwords of creativity. And this in a city whose motto is “semper eadem” – “always the same”. Things don’t stand still with ArtBeat.

New people have come on board and that means new ideas and energy. For example, ArtBeat 2015 will see a wider range of activities and events for children and young people. And poetry as well as music in the streets.

Once the festival gets under way there will be a report on what happens on each of the five days. Of course, I will only be able to savour the events and activities to give a flavour of what is going on. No-one can be in more than one place at a time.

But if the gods look kindly on us as they did last year, the coming days will be bright and sunny and ArtBeat will give the summer the lift-off it needs.

ArtBeat 2014 – Day 11

What a turnout for Sarah Kirby’s talk at College Hall on Sunday morning. More seats had to be called for as 50 people waited eagerly to hear one of Leicester’s finest print artists talk about the work she had been commissioned to produce as part of her residency with the University of Leicester’s Department of Urban History. Illustrating her talk by referring to the linocuts of industrial buildings on the wall that formed her exhibition, Sarah told us why the city’s industrial legacy is so important. Two aspects of her talk were particularly interesting. First, her perspective that buildings are not just about their look but about the people who use them, work in them or live in them; they are compelling creations for social as well as architectural reasons. Second, that each building needs to be seen and considered in relation to what is around it; that it is part of a larger landscape and these other features belong in her representations.

Sarah also told us about the process she goes through in both designing her linocuts and in actually making them, fascinating insights into the work of a most gifted artist. We are lucky that Sarah has taken Leicester so much to her heart.

Then off to the Queens Road Summer Fair where throngs gathered to look at and buy the merchandise on sale; and listen to some good quality music. A great vibe as ever and the three ward councillors, whose creation this is, expressed themselves very happy with the turn-out.

In the afternoon at Christchurch there was a treat for music lovers. The Tudor Choir and Knighton Chamber Ensemble played and sang Vivaldi amongst a selection of classical pieces. The hall was full and the audience very appreciative; and the musicians too. One of them said the audience was bigger than they sometimes get for their concerts. Clearly Clarendon Parkers are music lovers of many styles, tastes and genres, judging by the good attendances at so many events throughout the festival.

Then finally down to The Donkey in the evening for the disco that marked the close-down of this the first community arts festival in Clarendon Park. Derek Bland showed himself to be a master disc spinner as he rolled back the years to the rock and soul of yesteryear much to the delight of his largely sexagenarian audience. There was to be no stilling of this ArtBeat. The clock was fast approaching midnight as we straggled out into the quiet streets.

Shhh…..don’t you realise some people have to go to work tomorrow morning?!

ArtBeat 2014 – Day 10

In the morning at Avenue Primary School Bollywood and Classical Indian Dance attracted people of all ages – from 3 years to 73 years. We swayed our way through some great Bollywood numbers and then settled down to watch an inspiring performance by Nimisha Parmar. She used classical steps and hand movements to illustrate a sung version of the Isle of Innisfree by W B Yeats. One happy customer described the event as wonderfully relaxed, a true East Meets West experience.

Nearly 70 people, including half a dozen children, enjoyed another lunchtime concert at Christchurch today, many, no doubt, drawn by the buzz created by Mariko Terashi’s performance on Monday. This time she played works by Scarlatti, Seixas, and Chopin as well as a dramatic piece about a female Spanish bullfighter! Dazzling technique and powerful contrasting expression.

Sharing the bill was The Clarendon Trio – violin, viola and cello – for whom this was only their second concert performance. Ann, Judith and Hazel were joined by Hazel’s sister, Rachel, on oboe to play Mozart’s Oboe Quartet with great panache.

The audience enjoyed the concert greatly “ Fantastic venue, great music’” “’Excellent music – what a treat!”

It looks as if these lunchtime concerts have stimulated an appetite for more!

A Musical Garden Party was held at at 39 Craighill Road. The Stapleton family were hosts and were thankful there was only light drizzle at one stage and the quality of the musicians they had assembled enabled all to make light of the weather. The garden setting was a delight with musicians on the patio and many children running among the audience – including one toddler intent on playing a duet with Andrea on his Egyptian drum!

Over 100 people passed through during the course of the afternoon enjoying the music and the excellent supply of crepes and Tiny Bakery scones. Even the hens enjoyed the event, producing at least one egg as a result of’ the music. Many thanks, Ian and Jo, for creating such a great event.