Chatham

It's a Nucleus explosion of local talent

by Collage Kent: discovering art in our county, with Alex Welch Wednesday, February 5 2014

Well , Collage Kent is back after a January rest and we’d like to draw your attention to two exhibitions at the Nucleus Gallery in Medway. Nucleus is an arts organisation founded by a wonderful man, Hilary Halpern. I used to have studio at Nucleus which was next door to Hilary’s and his daily visits to check on my progress were nerve-wracking (in case he didn’t like my work), sometimes inconvenient (I like to paint just wearing a t-shirt and pants …) but always supportive and welcome. Sadly, Hilary passed away last year but the Halpern Foundation keeps Nucleus (and a number of other organisations) running.

There are Nucleus shop/galleries in Rochester and Maidstone but it’s the studio centre in Chatham that has an excellent exhibition space. And the shows put on at Nucleus are nothing if not eclectic. Currently running is ‘Bling Bling’, a showcase for local jewellers. This ends on Thursday 6th and taking over is ‘Pride Against Prejudice’ a show by the LGBT community action group. Then, from the 28th February, the gallery features work by various artists inspired by the 1946 book “Chatham and the British Empire”. The current season ends with “Spring 2014 Art Exhibition” by the Rochester and West Kent Art Society.

When I think of Nucleus I’m always reminded of that old ad for the V&A “An ace café with quite a nice museum attached”. If you don’t go to Nucleus for the art; go for the cakes! The café is always welcoming and fun.

Over in Gravesend, things are afoot with exciting developments. Wendy Cottam, whose work we featured last year, has been developing the Gravesend Art Consortium. This will take up residency in the Gravesend market for three months from March 2014 and will definitely shake things up! Providing a workspace and an exhibition space for local artists, Wendy is hoping to bring art to the public rather than expect them to cross the sometimes intimidating threshold into a gallery.

Wendy says, “This all began when I was walking around the market, visualising it full of creative hubbub. I was imagining a group of creatively minded people working in the space, collaborating with each other and doing a weekly workshop with members of the public. I have a list of 40 artists who are on board. Painters, printers, a fashion designer, poets, sculptors, performers, photographers, each time a new name comes on board I take a look at what they do and it excites me to think of what can be created by such a diverse group of thinkers and doers. I am watching the list grow and grow but I want more, I know there are more of you out there.”

So, don’t wait, join in!

Nucleus follow this link for further information

 

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Categories: Art, Art festivals, Art exhibitions | Chatham | Gravesend

Dockyard could take lesson from the 'boyos’ in how to transform

by The Codgers' Club Friday, March 2 2012

by Alan Watkins

The other day was my eldest son’s birthday. His son, Max, was born just over a month before, while his daughter celebrated her third birthday yesterday.

If that wasn’t enough for the family’s birthday card-buyers, Gramps celebrated his 65th birthday with a trip to Wales.

It is a long time since I have been down the Valleys. They don’t change very much.

Most of the slag heaps have gone. You can actually see how green was the valley that Richard Llewellyn immortalised.

The docks have been transformed in a way that leaves me speechless – and must frustrate the Medway councillors who expected similar glory at Chatham Maritime.

It was where my grandfather occasionally visited as a merchant seaman and 40 years on I went in search of scrapheaps to photograph.

Half a century later, there is a Welsh Assembly in Cardiff Docks, copper-clad and more glittery than the University of Kent building. The Welsh, Irish, Scots, Manxmen, Channel Islanders all have their own parliaments, but the English are still ruled by a mixture of Welsh, Irish, Scots…you already had the picture, probably. 

Chatham Maritime as the government’s mindbenders chose to rename the naval dockyard has a handful of shops, the obligatory iconic building (which actually does look like the artist’s impression we dubbed the Two Towers), half a dozen good restaurants, a housing estate, a new school with old problems, a working dock that could be swept away for more dormitory dwellings if its owner gets its way, and a splendid historic dockyard.

Oh yes, and Gun Wharf. Nearly 30 years after the dockyard closed, there are still large tracts of waste land waiting for someone, anyone, to build on it.

The dream is becoming a nightmare, and the quality jobs explosion that we expected? – it seems unlikely ever to come.

When you visit Chatham Maritime you are rarely stopped from entering any of its eateries.

At Cardiff Bay (the twee name dreamed up for the transformed Tiger Bay) there must be 150 restaurants and cafes vying for custom. They don’t take bookings on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays – the queues of hungry customers waiting for an empty table prove that marketing ploy is unnecessary.

Back here, the other day I was asked where I could recommend for a small group to go for a quiet drink and a bar snack. I’m still trying to find an answer in Medway.

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Categories: Chatham

Why now is the right time to bring Dickens home

by The Codgers' Club Friday, February 17 2012

by Peter Cook

This is my latest big idea. Let’s bring back Dickens.

Forget those old campaigns to fetch HMS Victory back to Chatham, where she was built. That plan is dead in the water. Or rather dead in the concrete.

We would need dozens of road drills to dig her out before we could even get a tow line aboard. That might wake up the neighbours.

Dickens is a different matter. And we would be doing the old boy a favour. We’d also be doing Rochester a favour and people could come and pay homage at his tomb for free, instead of having to pay through the nose like you do in Westminster Abbey.

He never wanted to be buried in Westminster Abbey with all those other puffed-up writers.

The original plan was to pop him into Shorne Churchyard. But that might be a bit close to the motorway these days, albeit quite near Cobham Woods, where he loved to walk.

The Dean and Chapter at Rochester Cathedral offered to have him interred there. A grave was even dug for him. Perhaps it’s still there under the flagstones, waiting to collapse under some preaching prelate.

Imagine the astonished looks on the faces of the choir as the Dean or even the Bishop was inexplicably swallowed up, with just a puff of masonry dust to show where he had been.

Being realistic, they have probably put someone else in there now. After all, if you’ve dug a good hole, you don’t want to waste it.

So let’s start a campaign now to have the coffin exhumed and repatriated to the city that he knew and loved – well, it soon will be a city.

Devotees would flock to Rochester from every country where Dickens is read and loved – and that’s just about every country.

At a stroke it would make Rochester High Street a commercial gold mine, offering everything from Dickens soap on a rope, take-aways from the Chuzzlewit Chip Shop, treatments at the Our Mutual Massage Parlour and so on.  Actually, it’s a bit like that now.

So I’m looking for full support for this campaign. The next Dickens Festival should be a protest march with placard-carrying characters from his books chanting Bring Back Boz.

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Categories: Chatham | Charles Dickens

The Deccas have been decked

by The What's On blog, with Chris Price Wednesday, June 29 2011

It is with great sadness that I heard the news of the disbanding of Medway band The Deccas.

The foursome were one of the first Kent bands who let me in to their little world as a features reporter for What's On.

Chatting to them at their practice sessions at Def Studios in Chatham's Historic Dockyard, I was struck by the way the produced tight, typically Medway-Mod recordings.

Their only album Ways To The Sun was typical of the spiky power pop that has gripped the Medway scene for God knows how long. Short, sharp tunes with a good hook.

Never afraid of admitting they were hoping to "make it" they had that pure quality - not found in nearly enough bands - of just being four good mates.

In an email Twydall-born singer-songwriter and guitarist Wes Wren, Gillingham guitarist Phil Crane, Rochester bassist Dave Sawicki and Rainham drummer Tony Hetherington announced: "It is with heavy hearts that The Deccas are saddened to say that they are no more.

"After four and a half years, over 120 gigs, four CDs and six different members and numerous Subways the time seems right to stop."

For nostalgic Medway-scene followers, the good news is that the band will finish their latest EP and put it out on a limited run for free.

Until then, we mourn you The Deccas. Is it too late to reconsider?

****

For anyone who wondered why I suddenly stopped tweeting when I was at Hyde Park for the Kings of Leon concert last Wendesday, it is because the whole thing was too awesome to take my eyes off.

Great support shows from Mona, White Lies and Paul Weller capped off by a stonker of a set by perhaps the biggest band on the planet right now.

I was so impressed that I am heading back to Hyde Park tomorrow to see Arcade Fire, with support from The Vaccines, Beirut and Mumford and Sons.

Then Kent's festival season kicks off with the Hop Farm Music Festival at Paddock Wood the next day and Lounge On The Farm at Canterbury's Merton Farm the following weekend.

If the updates slow down, it is because I've developed a very serious case of tweeters finger.

****

If you fancy getting your music, latest gig or theatre production reviewed on this blog or inside the KM Group's What's On magazine, drop me an email at cprice@thekmgroup.co.uk.

You can also follow me on Twitter @TheChrisPrice and follow What's On @kmwhatson. Join us on Facebook by liking www.facebook.com/kmwhatson

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Categories: Chatham | Entertainment | Gillingham | Historic Dockyard Chatham | Medway | Rainham | Rochester

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