Friday, 26 August 2011

No to Jerwood?

We recently spent a few days in Hastings, staying in the Stag, a 16th century public house in the oldest part of the Old Town. It was all very peaceful, very laid-back, and we found ourselves in the middle of the Old Town Carnival Week, there were events going on all around us, and everybody made us very welcome. However, all was not well in this little enclave of niceness - the Jerwood Foundation (an arts organisation which, among other things, promotes modern British art) is in the process of building a new modern gallery there, nestled in amongst the old net huts on the Stade, and this has caused no end of outcry in the area, and seems to have split the local community in two. Yellow signs saying Save Our Stade - No To Jerwood are displayed all over the place, and feelings are running high. All the fishermen seem to be against it, claiming it will ruin their livelihood and ruin the character of the Stade - even though the gallery is being built on a car-park - and some of the artistic community are against it on aesthetic grounds, claiming the building isn't iconic enough. It was supposed to be open this summer, but the completion date has been put back several months, and isn't due to open now until next year - if indeed it opens at all.
It all seems a bit of a shame; I thought the building actually looked quite striking, but not too overpowering. It fitted in well, and complimented the net huts around it - not like some of the other recently erected buildings on the seafront. And the people who will benefit most from an influx of tourists will surely be the fishermen themselves - the fish they sell to the gallery-goers will still be fresh by the time it gets back to Chelsea.
Whatever those who are against it might say, it seems fairly obvious that the gallery can only be a good thing for local people, and the local economy. I think this whole episode sums up the general fear of modern art and culture which is still prevalent in this country, and in the year that we're supposed to be having a Cultural Olympiad, it doesn't really show us in a very good light.

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