I wrote this several months ago and never posted it but perhaps now is the time as - see below - Paddock Printmakers are about to launch their new book of pubs:
One thing about keeping a blog I find is that I start getting a nesting instinct and want to start putting certain things that have happened in my artistic life together.
I was walking down the High Street last week and met up with one of my Paddock Printmakers ( one my printmaking class ) and he dragged me to look at some wonderful reproductions of Edward Bawden linocuts that were framed up in Kings Framers framing shop window, of railway stations, a livestock market ( as we once had in Lewes), and what looked like it could have been Borough Market in London. While we were gazing and talking, two more friends turned up with Sue Clifford and Angela King, the founders of Common Ground, on a visit from Dorset, and it turned into quite a party.
Common Ground is an innovative charity which celebrates ..’ the commonplace, the local, the vernacular and the distinctive’. I first became aware of them when I came across their first book ‘Second Nature’ published around 1982; I then met up with them while I was working on ‘Rituals and Relics’ in 1990 when they had premises next to the Ecology Centre in Shelton Street Covent Garden.
It was good to catch up with what they are doing and I rushed off afterwards to buy their recent book, the result of 20 years labours, called’ England in Particular’. See more details of this below.
In return I told them about the projects we had been doing as Paddock Printmakers. About four years ago I suggested to my class that working on group projects often helped if people were at a loss for inspiration and asked them to consider making images of Lewes High Street shops that we could make into a concertina book.
‘High Street’ by Eric Ravilious’ , with text by James Richards – one time husband of Peggy Angus – was of course an inspiration.
We exhibited the resulting prints – wood and lino cuts and collagraphs – in the Lewes Arts Festival - ArtWave and Peter Flanagan, a graphic designer, helped us make it into a digital concertina book, 14’ long when fully extended with around 22 images of shops. As luck ( or intuition ) would have it, this coincided almost to the day, with much promotion in the national press, of a report highlighting the loss of independent shops and bland uniformity of an increasing number of towns and their High Streets. Lewes was actually named as an example where chain-stores had not taken a hold and diversity still held sway.
The exhibition was resounding success and our limited edition book sold out in 2 days.
The following year we produced an extension of the idea documenting Cliffe High Street as a companion volume; at the same time we reproduced some of the previous images as a calendar for 2005; we then made a Cliffe calendar for 2006.
Since then some of the shops have changed hands and out of all recognition already, so it is an interesting piece of history we have produced; we should repeat the process every few years I suppose. 3 of the original prints were bought and donated to be hung in the new Lewes Library.
This year, 2007, we had already decided to focus on pubs, when surprise, surprise, Lewes again made national ( and International ) headlines by resisting the efforts of Greene King to stop serving the local Harveys beer in the Lewes Arms pub; ( try googling lewesarms or John May's blog )
Back to ‘England in Particular’ – I quote from the flyleaf….
‘…diversity is under siege. Mass production, increased mobility and the forceful promotion of corporate identity have brought with them standardised shop fronts, farm buildings, factories, forests and front doors, while intensive farming has created a bland empty countryside.
This book is a counterblast against loss and uniformity, and a celebration of just some of the distinctive details that cumulatively make England…..things need not be conventionally picturesque, rare or spectacular to be special – there is value and local meaning to be found in cakes, cliffs, cooling towers and cuckoos.’
(Peggy Angus would really love all this…….)
‘England in Particular offers a way of looking that makes the mundane magical. It will change the way you see the world.’
Links Common Ground commonground.org.uk
Incline Press/Peggy Angus