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Tania Holland Williams: Changing the Shape of Opera

Imagine you are standing on a street in your town. What would it take for you to feel that you were in the presence of opera, that you had suddenly stepped into an opera house?

Fat Lady Opera: The Invisible Opera House - Nightwatchers
The Invisible Opera House – NightWatchers

It was this question that Tania Holland Williams, founder of Fat Lady Opera, asked the people of Folkestone in 2019, as part of her company’s first commissioned project The Invisible Opera House.

Have a think about it. We’ll come back to it later.

Early influences
Tania grew up and went to school in Folkestone. As a small child, she fell in love with music and the theatre. Her father was ‘a mad keen rock and roll addict’, and Tania was introduced to classical music by two inspirational people – her school music teacher and her classical guitar teacher.

‘I had one of the most eclectic teenage record collections,’ she laughs. ‘My first album was Morricone’s Fistful of Dollars. And while I still loved Abba and all the pop stuff, I also had Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.’

Tania Holland Williams ©Brian Slater
Tania Holland Williams ©Brian Slater

While she was still at school, Tania joined FHODS – the Folkestone and Hythe Operatic and Dramatic Society. She loved the sense of belonging that she felt with her new theatrical family. And when she left school, to her parents’ horror, she took a degree in Clowning and Performance at Middlesex University, singing in jazz clubs at night.

It was Tania’s singing teacher who first suggested that she should audition for the Royal College of Music Opera School. She went along and was offered a postgraduate place. Suddenly Tania was on track for a career in opera.

‘With my background in clowning, I found opera a bit puzzling when I first started working in it,’ Tania admits. ‘I discovered that opera likes to put up quite a lot of barriers. It’s got this weight of heritage of the right and wrong way of doing something. If you do a Mozart opera, you’ve got several hundred years of people who’ve done it before telling you how it should be done.’

Germany and the Grand Tour
After  graduating from the Opera School, Tania was awarded a scholarship to study opera in Munich.

‘My dad, who is Austrian, was in the army, and we’d lived in Germany for a while when I was first born,’ Tania explains. ‘My Gran spoke Austrian dialect German, so I felt  an affinity with the German language and I’d always wanted to go back there. Then when I was there, it just seemed like a really great place to do opera. There’s an opera house in every town and there’s an appetite for opera that there just isn’t in the UK.’

Tania Holland Williams
Tania Holland Williams

After she completed her course in Munich, Tania joined the company at the Opera House in Weisbaden. She felt at home immediately.

‘Like at FHODS, the opera company became like my family,’ she says. ‘It was just what I’d been looking for. They had some amazing guest directors. And I really felt I was learning my craft.’

After three years with the company,  both Tania’s singing teacher and conductor, Jonathan Nott,  whom she’d been working with, advised her to move on to broaden her experience.

‘They said it was time for me to get going, basically,’ Tania remembers. ‘So I did move on, but I don’t think I went in the direction that perhaps I should have done, or that they thought I was going to!’

While she was studying in Munich, Tania met  Canadian artist Bonnie Bews and they had became good friends.

‘We’d had this idea of touring for years,’ Tania explains. ‘Bonnie paints beautiful Arthur Rackham-style  pictures on glass, and I’d recorded an album of British songs by Vaughn Williams and Britten, so we decided to tour Canada and Europe together. We knew we’d never make any money from ticket sales, so we decided to sell Bonnie’s paintings, and agreed a cut.’

The tour lasted two-and-a half years. Tania returned to the UK afterwards, exhausted vocally and physically, and in need of a job.

Tania Holland Williams
Tania Holland Williams

Back home
‘When I came back to the UK, I landed with a bit of a bump,’ Tania says. ‘Because I’d been working since I left college, I assumed that I’d walk straight into something reasonably well-paid. But all my connections had moved on. And it took me several years to re-find a way back into opera.’

Eventually, Tania began touring with small-scale opera companies, earning extra money singing oratorios. But after the richness of her experience in Germany, she found the repertoire predictable and uninspiring. And although the oratorios paid well, it wasn’t the opera she craved.

‘I began asking myself what I was doing it all for,’ Tania says. ‘I felt like I’d taken risk after risk with my career, and then to find myself doing really conventional stuff – I wasn’t sure that was really me. I think if I’d stayed in Germany I would have continued singing because there, there was a sense that my practice was continuing to develop, whereas over here, I was just ticking boxes.’

Disillusioned, Tania took the difficult decision to retire from singing for a while and she started to look for a ‘normal 9-5 job’, where singing wasn’t a big part of her life.

Tania Holland Williams ©Brian Slater
Tania Holland Williams ©Brian Slater

Her first job was in Thurrock, managing the Creative Partnerships programme, which placed artists in schools to help develop young people’s creativity.  She loved the job.

‘It was an amazing few years,’ Tania says. ‘Although I wasn’t performing, I was working every day with creative people – recruiting  and training artists, engaging and prepared the schools, and then mentoring the projects as they rolled out.’

But in 2011, with a change of government,  it became clear that funding for Creative Partnerships would end. Tania moved on again, this time to a part-time role raising funds to support  the Royal Opera House’s move to High House Production Park in Thurrock. Although she was extremely successful, raising 5.2 million pounds in just 8 months, Tania’s heart just wasn’t in it.

‘I really hated the work,’ she confesses. It was very political. It was affecting my mental health. It was a million miles away from theatre-making and it was breaking my heart being that close to creativity but not being a creative. I remember thinking, I’ve got to change this.’

Tania Holland Williams: The Importance of Elsewhere - Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James
The Importance of Elsewhere – Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James

A sense of belonging
At about the time that she took up her post at The Royal Opera House, Tania set up a company called Curious Planet . The plan was to use Curious Planet  to continue to work with some of the artists she had met at Creative Partnerships. Fortunately, as her work at the Royal Opera House came to an end, Creative Planet started to gain a little bit of traction.

Tania invited 12 artists to join her new initiative and, as part of a visioning exercise, asked them to consider what they might do, as artists, to maintain a sense of wonder in the world.

Two of the artists, Wendy Daws and Peter Cook proposed a project called The Importance of Elsewhere, inspired by a Philip Larkin poem of the same name. Their vision was to create an arts space that was welcoming and totally inclusive.

Tania Holland Williams: The Importance of Elsewhere - Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James
The Importance of Elsewhere – Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James

‘A big problem with funding is that it, unintentionally, creates silos,’ explains Tania. ‘For example Kent Association for the Blind where Wendy worked, is an association for people with vision impairment so their services, their clubs, their activities bring people with poor sight together. But there aren’t many places that are able to say, you can come if you’ve got sight loss, or if you have a learning disability, or if you’re elderly and a bit physically frail, and your access needs will be catered for. Generally, building relationships and making friends, is about sharing a positive interest, not because we share a common characteristic. So the conversation then became about, how can we create a space that is like that.’

Tania Holland Williams: The Importance of Elsewhere - Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James
The Importance of Elsewhere – Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James

To succeed, The Importance of Elsewhere needed access to a large empty space, with smaller breakout areas. It all seemed a bit of a pipe dream until, one day, Tania attended a meeting to discuss the Old Registry Office in Chatham, which had been bought for residential development. Because building work could not start for several months, someone at the meeting suggested that, perhaps,  it could be let out to artists in the meantime. The space was exactly what Tania needed. She put a proposal together, got some funding, and The Importance of Elsewhere moved into the  building.

Tania Holland Williams: The Importance of Elsewhere - Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James
The Importance of Elsewhere – Chatham Registry Office ©Stuart James

 

 

‘It was only for a few months, but I would have loved it to have lasted longer, because it cemented where Curious Planet was going to work best,’ Tania says. ‘Artists from different disciplines came together and created spaces that encouraged creative exchange between communities from diverse backgrounds. Members of the public came as participants, or as audiences, or simply to look around a space that had special memories for them – perhaps they’d got married there or they’d registered a birth or a death there. It was such a refuge and I think, actually, I’m still looking for a place like that, where people feel they belong.’

‘One of my big beefs about the big opera houses and theatres now,’ she continues, ‘is that they are highly functioning commercial organisations, and although the quality of the work is stunning, they are not places where people belong anymore and I think audiences feel it, and that for me is hugely sad.’

Tania Holland Williams: Byre Opera - Handel's Xerxes ©Felix Diemer
Byre Opera – Handel’s Xerxes ©Felix Diemer

Bringing music home
Curious Planet  continued successfully until 2012. But by this point Tania was, again, beginning to feel a little removed from the creative process. Instead of performing and leading events, increasingly, she was writing contracts for other artists taking part in Curious Planet projects.

But new opportunities were just around the corner.

She received an invitation to sing  from a friend in Scotland. He was working with a local theatre and wanting to begin to programme opera. He wondered if Tania might also be interested in directing.

Despite not having sung for some time and never having directed professionally before, Tania said yes. Soon she was directing regularly and touring productions around Scotland with Byre Opera.

Tania Holland Williams: Byre Opera - Handel's Xerxes ©Felix Diemer
Byre Opera – Handel’s Xerxes ©Felix Diemer

Tania found that she loved directing and although many of the operas she was directing were from the standard repertory, she found that, as director, she could make a difference to the way an audience experienced the production.

‘I’ve always trusted that the audience will come with you no matter how strange or weird the work you’re presenting them with, if you’ve done the work and if the spirit within the work is right,’ she says. ‘I’ve never been frightened to look the audience in the eye. There is a sense that we are sharing this moment in time. There’s a contract that you enter into when you are performing, particularly in small spaces.’

Tania’s ultimate ambition was to produce new and exciting work and to engage new audiences who wouldn’t normally sign up for contemporary opera. However, she was keenly aware of the barriers that she would need to break down.

Tania Holland Williams: The Opera House Next Door - The world’s first Escape Room opera experience ©Brian Slater
The Opera House Next Door ©Brian Slater

‘It’s really tough to do contemporary music and opera,’ she explains. ‘I think the problem with contemporary music as opposed to contemporary visual arts  is the commitment required. If you’re looking at a piece of contemporary art and it doesn’t hold your interest, you can just move on. But with contemporary music, you have to buy a ticket. And you’re trapped – literally trapped if you are sat in a concert hall. And if you’re not offering people Mozart or Beethoven or a familiar composer. You’re basically saying, come and trust us.’

If new audiences weren’t going to come to see contemporary performances, Tania decided that the contemporary performances would have to come to them. She set up a project called Davey Jones’ Locker which took new music into people’s living rooms.

Tania Holland Williams: The Opera House Next Door - The world’s first Escape Room opera experience ©Brian Slater
The Opera House Next Door ©Brian Slater

 

‘We went to over 60 living rooms in Kent,’ Tania says. ‘The idea was to find an adventurous home owner who liked music and ask them to pull together an audience of about ten people. Then two instrumentalists, or a singer and an instrumentalist would come and give them the most interesting, thought-provoking, wonderful evening possible.’

For the project, Tania commissioned very short pieces from living composers, each lasting just a few minutes. She then used various devices to provoke conversation about this new music.

Tania Holland Williams: The Opera House Next Door - The world’s first Escape Room opera experience ©Brian Slater
The Opera House Next Door ©Brian Slater

‘We might say, this piece hasn’t got a title so we’d like you to think about what the title might be so that we can feed that back to the composer. Or we might use different instruments, or ask the composer to write three different endings, Tania explains. ‘They were all things that allowed us to say to an audience, this piece has been written specifically for tonight – so people knew they were getting something special, just for them.’

The legacy of the project took Tania by surprise.

‘It was a really, really rewarding project,’ she enthuses. ‘And quite wonderfully and unexpectedly for me, I ended up feeling really back immersed in a world of music again. So in 2018, I launched Fat Lady Opera, which has pretty much taken over my life. It’s been joyful!’

Fat Lady Opera: The Invisible Opera House - Nightwatchers
The Invisible Opera House – NightWatchers

The invisible opera house
So back to the question that Tania posed at the beginning of this blog. What would it take to turn your town into an opera house?

Fat Lady Opera’s first major project, The Invisible Opera House set out to find the answer.

‘I wanted to show that Folkestone, where I grew up, could become an opera house, so I set up “opera enquiry hubs” to ask people what they thought were the essential ingredients of opera,’ Tania says. ‘There was a general consensus that you don’t need the massive building surrounding the opera, but there are some key ingredients, such as big stories and a certain style of singing.’

Working with SparkedEcho Tania devised and delivered a series of interactive activities designed to introduce audiences to contemporary opera as a relevant and accessible art form. 

There were workshops – including an updated, community-led version of Carmen, set outside a vaping shop.

‘It was the first and only time I was a Carmen with a baby doll attached to me for the whole time,’ Tania laughs. ‘Even when I was murdered by Don Jose, I was still carrying my baby! It was brilliant, anarchic and exactly the way opera should go!’

Tania also directed a short musical theatre piece called Belongings, written by composer, Samuel Bordoli and lyricist, Bill Bankes-Jones. The piece, inspired by items of luggage carried by the KinderWagen children fleeing war in WW2 and the more prosaic commuter experience, was realised in Customs House in Folkestone Harbour, at the junction with the railway lines.

The project culminated in a community performance, NightWatchers which, through choruses and sea shanties, told the story of life and loss in a fishing community during a rescue in a storm, out at sea. The cast of 45 from schools, Age UK and local choirs, rehearsed  in Folkestone Harbour, and performed there, in November, to an audience of over 400 people.

Tania is now working on the next stage of The Invisible Opera House, planned for 2022.

Tania Holland Williams: Persephone's Dream ©Claire Shovelton
Persephone’s Dream ©Claire Shovelton

Dreaming through lockdown
For Tania, the involvement and engagement of the audience is as important a part of the production process as the performance itself. But more than that,  she feels the presence of an audience is necessary to validate her as an artist.

”As a performing artist and particularly somebody who really revels in ensemble work, I wonder, am I still the artist person that I thought I was if I haven’t got an audience?’ Tania asks. ‘I don’t mean I need an adulatory audience, but I do need that immediacy of energy exchange. I love the moment when the audience’s eyes open slightly wider and they’re there, in a new place because the lighting’s changed. They’ve forgotten about what went on in their own lives earlier in the day because they’ve suddenly come into the space that you’re in.

Tania Holland Williams: Persephone's Dream ©Sarah Booth
Persephone’s Dream ©Sarah Booth

‘Of course, there is a reward in believing that that I’ve created a good piece of work,’ she continues. ‘But the reason for doing that work is because you want it to reach people. You want it to communicate and without an audience, it’s an incomplete transaction.’

For the creative industries, the last 18 months have been littered with ‘incomplete transactions’ as COVID regulations limited audience involvement and companies sought new and innovative ways to continue their work.

‘At the time, we were just trying to find ways to maintain connections with people, while still thinking about opera and theatre,’ Tania remarks.

During lockdown, Fat Lady Opera  produced Persephone’s Dream at the Cockpit Theatre, with Tania directing.  It was a hybrid work, based on the legend of Persephone, featuring live operatic performance, and a 2-D virtual Chorus of Curious Eyes performing in a Zoom grid, which marked the boundary on stage between the living and the dead. At the time of the performance, the theatre was allowed an audience of only 40, so the opera was also filmed and made available online.

Tania Holland Williams: Persephone's Dream
Persephone’s Dream

With obvious parallels to the lockdown that everyone was experiencing at the time, Persephone’s Dream moves through the different stages of sleep, exploring the purifying power of isolation, as well as its dangers.

‘In the first section, the doors are locked the windows closed, everything is secure, I’m in my house now thank you very much,’ Tania recounts. ‘Then there is an increase in drowsiness, and certainly for me during lockdown, everything seemed to go into a sort of muffled slow motion.

Tania Holland Williams: Persephone's Dream in rehearsal
Persephone’s Dream in rehearsal

 

 

Next, the piece explores the REM dream state through a scene called “Resistance”.

‘It captures the strange hand based strictures that were cropping up, Tania explains. ‘Sing Happy Birthday twice when you wash your hands, clap the NHS, don’t touch your face.’

After that comes “purification”.

‘There is a stage in sleep called “sleep spindles” where the brain is cleaning itself up, Tania says. ‘For me, that was ritual, the idea of acceptance, trying to make a new normal part of our understood world.

‘The final scene is “threshold”, so waking up again and realising that the world has changed and it has become greener. And the audience is left with the question, if you are going to wake up and cross the threshold, do you really want to wake up at all?’

New commissions, new skills
Following the success of Persephone’s Dream, Fat Lady Opera received two new commissions – Twelve Points of Tide and A Song for Kent.

These commissions presented a new challenge for Tania who had rarely been commissioned as a composer. And there was still the ongoing COVID restrictions to wrestle with.

Twelve Points of Tide is a mini opera, written by Tania for the cello and for herself as singer. It explores the corrosive and additive qualities of tidal movement, through the eyes of Mona, Minor Goddess of the Silty Waterways.

Mona has a superpower, she can hold back the tide, for a while at least. But as she combs the shore carrying her burdensome haul, her Shipping Forecast itch gets stronger. The piece, which explores guilt and loss and the urge for release, is structured around seven ‘shipping forecasts’ that range across Thames Estuary locations along the Gravesham riverfront.

Shipping Forecast 3: Skimming Skin

Shipping Forecast 4: Fret

You can hear six of the seven Shipping Forecasts and download the libretto here.

Tania Holland Williams: Walking Each Other Home
Walking Each Other Home

‘I’d never really call myself a composer because I don’t think I’ve earned the permission to be called one yet,’ Tania admits. In writing Twelve Points of Tide, I ended up joining a sort of cello mentoring group to learn to write. I feel my knowledge about string writing has definitely come on in leaps and bounds!’

Twelve Points of Tide had it’s debut at the 2021 Estuary Festival, played over the tannoy from LV21 , and with the music available to listen to online. Tania hopes to produce the work as a fully staged opera in November this year.

Song for Kent was commissioned by Sound UK as part of the national Song for Us project , which celebrates lives and communities through music.

Despite, COVID restrictions, Tania saw it as an opportunity to  involve the audience, as part of the process, right from the beginning.

Tania Holland Williams: Walking Each Other Home
Walking Each Other Home

‘The brief was to write a song for Kent, based on people’s experiences last year,’ she says. ‘I wanted to make it interesting, relevant and meaningful – a celebration of friendship and kindness against the backdrop of the isolation and solitude brought about by lockdown.

‘I was inspired by the Ram Dass quote, We’re all just walking each other home. If we can be comfortable with the fact that we are solitary entities that make our way through the world then, if we can be gracious and give a wave of encouragement to other entities as we pass them, that’s a life well lived.’

Tania Holland Williams: Walking Each Other Home
Walking Each Other Home

To kick start the songwriting process for Walking Each Other Home, Tania organised a series of group walks along the Kent coast. She also organised ‘companionship telephone calls’ for those unable to join the walks.

‘I just wanted people to get outside again in a space that’s welcoming,’ Tania explains. ‘It was very informal. We chatted and every now and then we stopped to sing. And those that didn’t want to sing just looked around, or took photographs and listened. I made lots of notes about what people said – those really profound and interesting comments, along with the mundane, and I incorporated them into the libretto.’

The content of Walking Each Other Home ranges from the big question – What is the most important thing on a long walk, boots or socks? (Tania says ‘socks’) – to more reflective remarks.

Tania Holland Williams: Walking Each Other Home
Walking Each Other Home

Tania was particularly affected by a telephone conversation where a woman described visiting the sea as ‘standing on the edge’.

‘She told me, it doesn’t sound like a safe place, but it’s not the end, it’s a space for possibility,’ Tania recalls. ‘And I’d been thinking about life as a long journey and that we’re all on the road to ‘the sea’ and it crystallised for me into a section of the song called ‘the parting of the ways’, which is a reflection on loss, and how the rites of grieving have been hammered because we haven’t been able to be with people.’

‘Having the audience there right from the start has given it an interesting and different perspective,’ she continues. ‘As a director, you want to be telling people, this is where we are going and what we’re doing. But actually, not knowing where the piece was going to lead was freeing. And with the process as much part of the final product as the final product itself, it has just been joyous!’

A Song for Kent will be performed live aboard LV21, by RiverVoice Community Choir and Fat Lady Opera Community Chorus, during the Gravesham Waterfront Weekend, on Saturday 7th August 2021, from 2.30 – 3.30pm.  A streamed recording will be broadcast at 12.30pm on 11 August 2021 at www.asongforus.org

Links
Fat Lady Opera
https://www.fatladyopera.com/
Walking Each Other Home
Instagram: www.instagram.com/walk.ingeachotherhome
Tania invites you to send in pictures of your walking boots!

 

 

 

 

 

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Richard Jeferies: Creating artistic communities

Richard Jeferies: Hand of Artists: Five of Hearts
Richard Jeferies: Five of Hearts

Visit Duncan Grant’s gallery
Those of you that know me  know that I’m a big champion of community art. But Richard Jeferies, the artist featured in this blog, has ‘community’ running through him like a stick of rock, which is apt because he does live beside the seaside, in Sheerness on the sunny Isle of Sheppey, on the Kent coast.

Richard Jeferies: Hand of Artists - Fun Face Boards
Richard Jeferies: Hand of Artists – Fun Face Boards

The Kent art community is pretty well networked and artists from all over bump into one another from time to time. Richard designed a playing card and painted a couple of his ‘fun face boards’ for the launch of my Hand of Artists community arts project in 2015 (click on the link and scroll to the bottom of the blogpost for a slide show). He also contributed to the charity Christmas Card project that I organised in 2019. I turned up for one of his chalk art events, which, unfortunately, was rained off. I’ve also participated in  his online drawing projects.

The coronavirus lockdown has been difficult for all artists, but it must have been particularly difficult for Richard because so much of his art is made with and for other people.

Richard Jeferies: Remembrance mural, Sheerness
Richard Jeferies: Remembrance mural, Sheerness

If you know the Isle of Sheppey, you will probably be familiar with  Richard’s work, stretching along the coast or dotted around the island. You might also stumble upon his work if you are out shopping in Chatham or taking the kids to school in Gillingham.

‘Some people have said, there can’t be an inch of wall locally I haven’t painted,’ Richard laughs.

 

Richard Jeferies
And if you live on Sheppey, there’s a good chance that you’ll know the man himself.

As well as being a familiar figure around the island with his ‘Artist’ tee shirt and brushes,  Richard has become an integral part of his community.

When he moved to Sheppey from London in the mid-80s, Richard joined the local art group, eventually becoming chairman. He also got involved with the local Little Theatre, painting sets at first and then moving on to acting and directing. Theatre has been a passion of Richard’s ever since, he jokes, he played one of Humpty Dumpty’s soldiers at primary school and was allowed to wear his red and gold trousers to the Christmas party!

‘Acting is another art form for me,’ he says. ‘It’s like drug in a way. You can’t resist it. It draws you in and then you can’t stop doing it,’

Richard Jeferies in John Buchan's The 39 Steps at Medway Little Theatre
Richard Jeferies in ‘The 39 Steps’

In 2014, while he had an art studio in Chatham, Richard auditioned for a role in  a comedy adaptation of John Buchan’s The 39 Steps at Medway Little Theatre.

‘In an astounding piece of miscasting, the ruggedly handsome 37-year-old hero, Richard Hannay, turned out to be me in a wig!’ he exclaims. ‘It was so much fun. Very energetic, lots of quick costume changes, slapstick and improvisation.’

Since then, Richard has continued to channel his energies into the community where he lives: designing carnival floats; leading community art projects; entertaining passersby with his window displays at Christmas; and even DJ’ing on Sheppey FM for a while.

 Battle of Britain Lace, Healthy Living Centre, Isle of Sheppey
Sheppey’s Battle of Britain Lace

Community art workshops
Richard has no formal art training. He started painting as a child alongside his father who painted in oils and, when he left school, trained to be a draughtsman, which is how he still earns his living today.

Although, like most artists, Richard says he would give up his day job if the right art project came along, he believes that his day job and his work as an artist are complementary.

‘It’s great because I draw as a hobby and I draw as a profession,’ Richard explains. ‘My professional knowledge of perspective and scale and even just laying out a page feeds into my art, and the art feeds back into my technical drawings, in that I know when a drawing is telling the right information.’

In the early 2000s, as a result of contacts through the local art group, Richard became involved in a project to commemorate the Battle of Britain. It was inspired by the ‘Battle of Britain lace’ which hangs in the Sheppey Healthy Living Centre. The lace is one of  38 commemorative laces made by Nottingham lace-making company, Dobson and Browne, in the mid-40s. Laces were presented to  those whose invaluable contributions to winning the Battle of Britain hastened the end of the War.

Sheppey: Battle of Britain Lace art project
Battle of Britain Lace art project

‘We came up with the idea of photographing the lace, breaking the photograph down into individual squares and then getting as many members of the public as possible to recreate that square in their own style and in colour, rather than in the black and white of the lace,’ Richard recalls. ‘It was a resounding success. Lots of people of all ages got involved and, for many, it opened their eyes to things that they might never have had the chance to do before.’

Art classes
Art classes

 

The finished work, comprising two hundred individually designed squares, was laid out on the tennis courts  at the Healthy Living Centre,  where it could be viewed by the public from the upper gallery.  

The interest and enthusiasm the project generated, led the council to fund some evening art classes for beginners, and some creative workshops, around the Battle of Britain, drawing on local knowledge about the Second World War. Richard led these sessions and then, subsequently, a series of 10-week community art courses. And although he really enjoyed teaching, artistically it was a steep learning curve for him.

‘I had to learn techniques in so many media,’ Richard says. ‘Everything from drawing, watercolour, acrylics, pastels, oils, even egg tempera – where you mix ground pigment with egg yolk, as Michelangelo did when he painted the Sistine Chapel.’

Richard Jeferies: Art classes
Art classes

But it was worth it.

Richard loved it when novice artists found a medium they loved and were inspired to continue their creative journey.

‘Some members of those early classes have gone on to have artistic success of their own, and I’d like to think I’ve encouraged them slightly,’ he says.

Richard remembers, in particular, one man who came to classes with his wife.

Community Art: Beachfields, Sheerness
Community art project at Beachfields, Sheerness

 

‘It was clear that he was just there to keep his wife company,’ Richard says. ‘He didn’t really join in. Until one day, everyone had a small canvasses and some oils. And during that evening, I noticed that people were leaving their desks and wandering over to see what this man was doing. And he was having the time of his life creating this fantastic sunset using a palette knife. The next week, his wife took me to one side and said, “Thank you for that. It has cost me a fortune. After that class, we went out and bought all the materials and he hasn’t stopped since!”

Community Art Project at Beachfields, Sheerness
Community art project at Beachfields, Sheerness

 

 

‘And I thought, that’s exactly what it is. You can’t teach art per se. Art is an expression, it’s heart not mind.  What I can teach is how to use the media, but in the end the spark comes from the individual.’

The arts funding that made those initial workshops so inclusive is no longer available and Richard is concerned that the introduction of fees for art classes excludes many people from opportunities to be creative.

‘At that time we were able to offer workshops for free. Now you have to charge people £20 a time, and you need at least 20 people in a class to cover the overheads, and many people just can’t afford that,’ Richard reflects. ‘That goes directly against what I try to achieve, which is opening up art to people who would not normally have had the opportunity to have that creative experience. So now I try to do that, whenever I can, through my public art projects.’

Public art projects

Preparing for the mural: Chatham High Street
Preparing for the mural

Richard’s first big public art commission came in 2013. The local council put out a tender for a mural to be painted on some hoardings, owned by the Emmaus Church, on Chatham High Street, . Richard’s winning idea was to use the space to portray Chatham past, present and future.

Mural Chatham High Street: Tiny clay bricks
Tiny clay bricks

‘But I didn’t want to say, this is the mural you’re going to have, I wanted to include local stories and even to get local people involved in the painting,’ Richard explains. ‘And as we were working, we had people rolling up and saying, that looks fun, I wish I could join in, and I’d say, well here’s a brush and some paint, off you go!

‘And as I was painting I thought, maybe we could include some of the local people out shopping in the mural. So as people were passing I asked, would you like me to put your picture up there, or perhaps you’d even like to paint it yourself?  By the time we got to the end, one panel had become six panels and we had 250 faces!

Richard Jeferies: Chatham High Street Mural
Chatham High Street Mural

‘Hundreds of people were involved in that project – young offenders who helped us with the base coat and 150 children who contributed paintings or messages on tiny clay bricks,  as well as other artists and the general public. And that, for me highlighted the whole success of the project. And it was what really gave me the buzz for public art projects.’

Richard Jeferies: Chatham High Street Mural
Chatham High Street Mural

 

 

 

Inspired by the success of the Chatham Mural Project, Richard decided to try to make a go of it as a professional artist.

He rented a Studio at Sun Pier in Chatham and set up Squarecube Artisans.  (The name came from a project where Richard decorated a foam board cube in a different way each day, which earned him the name ‘Squbie’ among his son’s friends.) But although Richard continued to be offered commissions, there was never enough work to enable him to give up his day job.

‘What I really needed was an agent,’ Richard says. ‘ I hate chasing work down and I hate forms. I just want to do the painting stuff.’

Medway FUSE Festival: Frankenstein's monster
Frankenstein’s monster

Despite not making it as a professional artist, public art commissions have continued to come in over the years and Richard has remained true to his principles in their execution.

‘There’s a large community of  artists locally and so I always ask them if they want to join in,’ he explains. ‘I’m not precious about it and I’m not here to take the credit for everything. I like other people to be involved.’

Following the success of the Chatham High Street mural, Richard took part in the Medway FUSE Festival for a couple of years.  One year, working with other artists, he created  larger-than-life cut-out characters to line the Chatham High Street. These figures proved more popular than their creators imagined.

‘The Frankenstein’s Monster cut-out, designed and painted by artist Riven Gray, was stolen that day and was apparently last seen on a train heading for London!’ Richard laughs.

Richard Jeferies: Pavement Art
Richard Jeferies: Pavement Art

Other community projects followed, such as annual pavement art events along the long sea wall on Sheppey, involving both local artists and the public.

In 2019, Richard was commissioned to restore a poem written by Ros Barber. It had been painted by Simon Barker, fourteen years previously, onto the risers of the massive concrete steps on Sheerness sea wall,  as part of the Four Shores project.  The poem, which faces out to sea, recalls a ship carrying explosives that was sunk there.

Four Shores Project, Sheerness: Restoring Ros Barber's poem
Restoring Ros Barber’s poem

‘The action of the salt water and sand movement had eroded it,’ Richard explains, ‘So I repainted the whole poem which, in many cases, involved recreating the text from scratch and even repositioning some lines, because sand movement had covered the original locations.’

The pandemic strikes
In 2020, all public involvement in public art events stopped because of the pandemic.

‘Last year was a real bummer,’ says Richard. ‘ We had four or five projects that we were hoping to kick off with and they would all have been community projects but, because the money had been allocated in the local council budgets,  I ended up doing them either by myself or with just one other artist.’

Richard Jeferies: Bee Road mural, Sheerness
Richard Jeferies: Bee Road mural

Working alone outside can have its disadvantages. As he started work on a mural of a giant bumble bee on the sea wall at Beachfields. Richard was approached by the police.

‘I was engrossed in my work when a police car pulled up and an officer told me they had received a report of someone drawing graffiti on the wall,’ Richard remembers. ‘ Luckily I had all the correct permits, so they went away smiling.’

The twelve foot high mural, which took Richard three days to complete, signals  the start of the ‘Bee Road’ at Barton’ Point Costal Park, as part of the Making a Buzz for the Coast run by the Bumblebee Conservation Trust. The route is marked by smaller bees along the way.

Richard Jeferies: Fighting Temeraire mural Sheppey
Richard Jeferies: Fighting Temeraire mural

Minster Parish Council also commissioned Richard to recreate JMW Turner’s famous painting  The Fighting Temeraire on the sea wall. The original vessel,  after fighting in the Battle of Trafalgar,  was towed up the Thames  by a paddle steam tug , before being broken up for scrap in Rotherhithe. Turner, who was a regular visitor to Sheppey, painted his original masterpiece there.

Richard Jeferies: Alice Maze
Richard Jeferies: Alice Maze

 

 

 

Other lockdown projects have included painting  a set of concrete steps in descending tones of the rainbow, to make them more  visible to people with sight loss, and an ‘Alice Maze’ for children, on the seafront, inspired by the original Tenniel illustrations .

Unfortunately, the maze was later removed by the council.

Richard Jeferies: Rainbow steps, Sheerness
Richard Jeferies: Rainbow steps

‘It was a great tragedy that, having devised and painted a fun, interactive floor mural for children to enjoy, it had to be removed because someone thought a children’s play zone was a good place to ride his bike,’ Richard says sadly.  ‘So when the cyclist slipped over, he decided to claim against the council and the maze had to be power washed away to prevent further “slippery when wet” incidents.’

Drawing projects
When Richard is not working or painting, you’ll find him at home, drawing or making things.

‘I go through phases,’ he says. ‘Sometimes I can’t think of anything to draw so I’ll start making something. Then, when I’ve got no inspiration for making something, I’ll start drawing again. It means there is always an outlet if I really need it. And of course there are days when you have so many ideas, you do nothing!’

Richard Jeferies: #gothonmykeyboard
Richard Jeferies: #gothonmykeyboard

The days that Richard does nothing must be few and far between. Once, when he was bored at work, he drew a small ‘goth’ on a Post-it note,  stuck it on his computer keyboard and posted it on Facebook and tagged it #gothonmykeyboard.

‘The next day I had another idea and she became a recurring theme,’ Richard explains. ‘Sometimes she was just a silly cartoon and sometimes she might have a message. I found that she could say things  that I wanted to say and people responded to her. She became the voice of inclusivity.’

Richard Jeferies: Goth on my keybord says:
Richard Jeferies: Goth on my keybord says:

 

 

Later, when Richard came across the charity SOPHIE (Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) set up in memory of Sophie Lancaster, who was murdered  in Lancashire in 2007 for being a goth, he published a fundraising book for the charity, featuring a collection of his #gothonmykeyboard cartoons, along with poems by Jaye Nolan and Alison Eley.

‘People suggested that my goth character would be good for that,’ he says.  ‘She never came down hard on anyone.’

Richard Jeferies: Colouring sheets
Colouring sheets

During lockdown, last year, Richard featured another character, Luna the Librarian, in a series of free colouring sheets for children, published via Facebook.  Luna made her debut in a mural that Richard painted on a boarded up window at Sheerness Library.

Richard Jeferies: Luna the Librarian
Luna’s first outing

‘One of their large plate glass windows had been smashed and was boarded up awaiting repair,’ Richard remembers. ‘Having walked past it  for several weeks and seen the boards still there I asked the library if I could paint it. They agreed and until the glass was fixed, Luna was on show.

‘Because of that project, I was commissioned to paint another mural in the children’s area of the library.

‘The colouring sheets were just my little bit of something I could do in the first lockdown, a) to keep myself sane and b) to help other people. I ended up producing nearly one a day,  almost 50 in all. Some of them were exhibited at The Beaney Art Gallery in Canterbury as part of their Life in Lockdown exhibition.’

Richard has also illustrated a book for an ADHD charity, ADHD Awesome which was published this year and is now raising funds via Kickstarter for an adult colouring book of ‘saucy seaside postcard style drawings’ featuring Instagram model @SunnyToni85.

Richard Jeferies: Terry Pratchett frame
Richard Jeferies: Terry Pratchett frame

Making models
In 2009, as a challenge to improve his inking skills and develop positive drawing habits, Jake Parker created Inktober.  Each day in October, artists were given a single prompt word as a stimulus for a drawing.

Richard was inspired by the idea and helped found a Facebook Group called Drawing Days, where members – including me – followed a word prompt each day and uploaded our themed drawings.

Richard Jeferies: Advent calendar window
Richard Jeferies: Advent calendar window

The daily drawing format has since been picked up by all kinds of groups and each year the Discworld forum, one of the forums of the late Sir Terry Pratchett, issues daily Terry Pratchett themed prompt words for Disc-tober.

In 2020, Richard, a great fan of Terry Pratchett and his books, decided to challenge himself to make a model, related to the prompt word every day. He then arranged the whole set of models in a tiny handmade room – a library containing all Pratchett’s books.

Tiny rooms had featured in Richard’s work before.

Richard Jeferies: Advent calendar attic
Richard Jeferies: Advent calendar attic

 

 

During December 2018, he transformed the front window of his house into a giant advent calendar, adding one themed room each day. There was a library, a 60s themed room, a kitchen, a Terry Pratchett room, and an observatory, complete with a telescope to commemorate the late astronomer Sir Patrick Moore, who Richard once met while on a visit to the Herstmonceux Observatory in East Sussex.

‘He was as eccentric in real life as he came across on the screen,’ Richard recalls.

‘He was filming a show and I asked him for an autograph. He agreed, reached into his left pocket for a pen and came out with a pair of glasses. So he reached into his right pocket and came out with another pair of glasses. He held them both and said, “Oh, I was looking for them!’

Richard Jeferies: Kite
Richard Jeferies: Kite

Everything in each room in Richard’s advent calendar was handmade. The final piece to be added was an attic containing ‘old computers and all the usual paraphernalia you’d probably find in your own house’.

‘It was great fun to do,’ says Richard. ‘And it certainly created a lot of interest, especially with youngsters and their parents on the school run.

 

 

Recently Richard has been experimenting with making models out of tin foil using scrap cans collected  from his local beach.

Richard Jeferies: Hare
Richard Jeferies: Hare

‘I just had a feeling that I could make something out of tin cans and feathers seemed the easiest, so I made a kite which I’ve got in my garden,’ Richard says. ‘I’m now building a hare, also out of tin cans, for my mum, because she wants that for my Dad’s memorial grave. And a couple of weeks ago I was contacted by the owner of a local holiday park. He saw the kite and wants me to do a tin can sculpture for him, to promote recycling.’

Just before lockdown, Richard completed a painted ‘Elmer the Elephant’ to go into Elmer’s Bog Heart of Kent Parade to raise funds for the Heart of Kent hospice. The parade was to have taken place last summer, but has been postponed until this June because of the pandemic.

For the future, Richard is just looking forward to the end of lockdown so that he can continue with his community art projects.

‘My art is no different from thousands of other artists,’ he says. ‘I create stuff that somebody else can easily do. But if I can inspire somebody who didn’t necessarily think they could do it to do art, I consider that a resounding success.’

You can find out more and follow Richard on:
Facebook:  www.facebook.com/SquarecubeArtisans 
Instagram:  #gothonmykeyboard  
Website:
http://squarecubeartisans.co.uk/
Kickstarter ‘Saucy Toni Colouring Book: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/squarecubeartisans/saucy-toni-colouring-book

 

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The Hot Tin: Making a bid for the future

Duncan Grant: What a Liberty private view
‘What a Liberty!’ opening night at the Hot Tin

The Hot Tin Auction is Live. Click here.

It was just about this time last year that I exhibited at The Hot Tin arts centre and cafe in Faversham, Kent. https://www.the-hot-tin.co.uk/

I’d just received some samples of the Liberty London fabric printed with my designs and it was the perfect place to celebrate alongside the other three #LibertyOpenCall winners.  Barman, William Ford, designed a cocktail ‘The Drunken Duncan’ (gin, lime, lovage and absinthe) specially for the occasion and we danced the evening away to Northern Soul, from DJ Ged ‘Stax Volt’ Kelly. htpps://m.mixcloud.com/XRAYSOULCLUB/  It was a great night! If you were there, you can relive it a little here: https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/05/19/what-a-liberty-great-first-night-at-the-hot-tin/

The Hot Tin, Faversham
©cene-magazine

Well how quickly things can change.

Just a few days before the UK went into official lockdown, on 20th March 2020, Boris Johnson announced that pubs, bars and restaurants would close for the foreseeable future. Three months down the line, small venues like The Hot Tin are struggling to survive.

RouteStock
The Hot Tin
(or The Tin as it is known) is the brainchild of Romana Bellinger and Mike Eden.

Their company RouteStock  https://www.routestock.org/ is a non-profit Community Interest Company (CIC) dedicated to bringing communities together through art and music.  RouteStock  specialises in creating audiovisual content for prestigious live arts events all over the country.

©cene-magazine
Romana and Mike ©cene-magazine

Their professional portfolio includes Lost Lectures https://lostlectures.com/ which Romana describes as ‘a bit like Ted talks but funkier’, the Breakin’ Convention hip hop fusion dance festival at Sadlers Wells https://www.breakinconvention.com/ and work with live orchestras.  Three years ago,  they worked with the late Roy Budd’s wife to produce a restored version of the 1925 film Phantom of the Opera, accompanied by a 74-piece orchestra,  which premiered at the London Coliseum.

The Hot Tin
©cene-magazine


Finding a venue
But the dream for Romana and Mike was always to create their own arts venue, to complement and extend their RouteStock projects.  When they saw the  Grade II listed, converted tin chapel online, they couldn’t resist.

‘The idea was always to have a place of our own, so that we could do what we love doing – connecting with people and bringing people together,’ Romana explains. ‘When this building came along it was a match made in heaven. The living accommodation was beautiful but when we saw the main hall, we just thought, wow, we can do so much with this!’

Tin chapels
Originally, St Saviour’s Church (still  the building’s official address) was a flat-pack church, built around 1885. It was probably made in the Old Kent Road in East London, and then brought down the river to Faversham on a Thames barge.

During the Victorian era, the rapid growth of urban populations , prompted the mass production of cheap, easily erected buildings to meet the needs of new communities.  Pre-fabricated churches were relatively cheap. £150 would buy you a chapel seating 150 people. The size and other embellishments could be altered to meet different needs and budgets. If you are interested, you’ll find lots of technical information about these buildings here https://www.buildingconservation.com/articles/tin-tabernacles/tin-tabernacles.html

Before it’s recent transformation into an arts space, The Hot Tin building experienced many reincarnations. It remained in use as a church from 1885 until 1950, when it was deconsecrated.  After that, for a while, it was used by a school for gym lessons and piano teaching, and then as a scout hut.  Romana explains that the different glass in all the windows is probably down to the ball games played inside.

Over the years, the building has also been a camping shop, a printers and an antique furniture showroom, before being used as a joiners for 30 years. Romana and Mike bought the building from Nick Kenny, who had converted the back of the building to living accommodation and used the main hall to build bespoke kitchens and bathrooms.

Renovation
Because The Hot Tin is a Grade II listed building, remodelling possibilities were limited but that suited Romana and Mike. ‘We didn’t want to dress it up and make it prettier than it was, because the building has its own beauty,’ Romana explains. ‘ We painted to some extent and opened up an area that had been blocked off.

The main thing was cleaning the ceiling. It was in a terrible state. So we had one of those telescopic cherry pickers and we were up there with Henry the Hoover, for about a week, cleaning off layers and layers of wood dust.’

Because it is a tin building with no insulation, The Hot Tin gets very hot in the summer – hence the name – and cold in the winter, so Romana and Mike researched a way of heating the big space that would be as efficient and sustainable as possible. Now infra red heaters keep The Tin hot all year round.  Future plans are to restore the building, rather than to change it.

The Hot Tin, Faversham

A new arts space and cafe
For 18 months before the lockdown, The Hot Tin  was thriving. The cafe, with its art exhibitions and workshops, locally sourced coffee and homemade vegan food attracted families, local businesses and other residents during the day. And in the evening, live music, DJ sets and films attracted a broad spectrum of people from around Faversham.

The cafe is now an important and integral part of the business but it wasn’t always in the business plan.

The Hot tin, Faversham
©cene-magazine

‘When we saw the building, we immediately thought arts space and we started to apply for our licences,’ explains Romana. ‘But because some people in the area just didn’t understand what we were doing, we got a lot of opposition. So we thought maybe we should have a cafe. That would support our events and allow people to get to know us and to understand who we are and what we are trying to do. ‘

Local resident Debbie Lowther was one of those who was sceptical at first.  ‘When I first saw the planning permission for turning the Tin Chapel into an entertainment venue, I couldn’t see how it would work,’ she says. ‘ But work it does… for quiet coffee meetings or lunch during the day and for its music, great art and yummy cocktails, all unique in Faversham. I love it!’

Griselda Cann Mussett, who also lives in Faversham, agrees. ‘The Hot Tin has become something of a marvel with excellent food, art exhibitions and occasional music and all so well-run. It’s an imaginative use of an unusual and special building,’ she says.

‘Our main ambition is to provide a one-of-a kind venue for live music, performance, films and the arts,’ Mike says. ‘We want to promote musicians and artists from around the world and around the corner.’

‘What we strive for is to be a place that is inclusive and where people feel comfortable,’ Romana adds. ‘Everyone is welcome here. We want to bring these sorts of arts events to the people of Faversham in their own town, so they don’t have to go to London for them.  We want to make The Hot Tin a resource for the community again, which is really what this church was built for.’

The Hot Tin, Faversham
©cene-magazine

Although it has only been open for 18 months, The Hot Tin has hosted some classy acts.  These include Switzerland’s urban folk band Black Sea Dahu https://www.blackseadahu.com/ French-born Tucson singer Marianne Dissard (who now lives in Ramsgate) https://www.mariannedissard.com/ local electro-acoustic duo Liotia http://liotia.co.uk/ and from the forefront of the new London jazz scene, the Ash Walker Experience, a multisensory show with a six piece band. https://www.cenemagazine.co.uk/news/2019/12/6/the-hot-tin-ash-walker-experience

The last artist to play at The Hot Tin before lockdown was spoken word artist, writer, saxophonist and bandleader, Alabaster dePlume whose performances have received wide critical acclaim https://www.alabasterdeplume.com/

 

Lockdown and beyond
The coronavirus emergency and the closure of entertainment spaces and venues has hit The Hot Tin hard. Because they have so little outside space, Romana concedes that they will be unlikely to reopen for quite some time.

RadioRouteStock https://www.routestock.org/radio is still broadcasting LockDown DJ sessions. Details of tonight’s session (14th June) are in the image on the right. And Romana and Mike are exploring a subscription-based, TV broadcast quality, live streaming service, whereby audiences could have access to live interactive shows without being  present physically at the venue. Once The Hot Tin is up-and-running again, live streaming could continue to be used to increase access to events for those who are unable to attend in person.

Fundraising
To help get them through this difficult period, The Hot Tin is trying to raise some money through two fundraising initiatives.

‘We  are part of the Music Venue Trust http://www.musicvenuetrust.com/ and we’ve got a Crowdfunder campaign at the moment,’ Romana explains. ‘As a collective, we’re trying to raise money and awareness because grassroots venues are obviously going to be hit hardest by lockdown.’

So far The Hot Tin has raised nearly £2,500 towards its target of £10,000. Donations will help Romana and Mike keep some of their staff who ‘fall between the cracks’ of the government support schemes, cover some of the business’s ongoing overheads and losses, and help towards restructuring during lockdown and for when they are finally able to open again at full capacity.

You can donate here: https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/thehottin

The Crowdfunder campaign runs until 1st September 2020 at 8pm.  Any money raised over the £10,000 target  will be donated to the Music Venue Trust crisis fund to protect other small venues across the country.

Faversham-based artist and Hot Tin bartender, chef and cocktail supremo, William Ford, is also organising a silent auction to help keep the venue afloat.

There has been a callout to creatives to donate artworks, ceramics, merchandise and crafted goods. These will be displayed and described on an auction site, which goes live on 27th June. It will work a bit like ebay, with members of the public invited to bid on items until the auction closes on 19th July.

‘We have been overwhelmed with the support we have received ,’ says William, ‘Originally we asked for artworks, because that was the idea I had in mind, but we’ve had lots of makers offering to donate things – some beautiful jewellery and stained glass. We’ve had bands offering merchandise bundles and others offering online services, such as guitar lessons or a garden design consultation. So now the auction is a proper showcase of what The Hot Tin and RouteStock is.’

The Hot Tin, Faversham
©cene-magazine

To maintain social distancing, artists will be responsible for getting items bid for to those who have won them, although The Hot Tin can help if this is not possible.

If you are keen to see The Hot Tin reopen when the time comes and would like to donate to the silent auction, please contact William. will@routestock.org

Officially the deadline for donations is today (June 14th) but William is happy to receive new offers over the next week or two.

The auction goes live on 27th June. For more information, you can follow The Hot Tin on:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheHotTin/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thehottin/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheHotTin
or contact them info@the-hot-tin.co.uk

 

 

 

 

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Wayne Howes: Documenting London in lockdown

Duncan Grant: Roadworks in London
Normally London is busy, even at night

Visit Duncan Grant’s gallery
An unnaturally silent and deserted London in lockdown has been captured in a series of beautiful images, by Gravesend-based photographer, Wayne Howes.

Before the coronavirus lockdown, London was buzzing with tourists and locals going about their daily business. I work on the roads at night and, although some parts of London are quieter then, city life never stops.

A third of everyone that works in London works at night so there is always traffic. All-night restaurants and cafes are busy and, just before dawn, clubbers spill out onto the streets and start making their way home, past the increasing number of rough sleepers in shop doorways.

Wayne Howes: London in lockdown
Regent Street

And that’s what makes Wayne’s photographs extraordinary. They show London as it has never been seen before.  With most workers staying at home, the streets are quiet, free of cars and with barely a soul to be seen.

Wayne has taken photographs for as long as he can remember. He exhibits his work regularly at Gravesham Arts Images exhibition, which is where I first met him. And his pictures of Kent wildlife and the night sky have appeared on book and CD covers, as well as in national publications.

Wayne Howes: Mrs Fox
Wayne Howes: Mrs Fox

Wayne’s day job, as an engineer for a security systems company works perfectly with his freelance photography business. He spends a lot of his day walking between iconic buildings in central London. And wherever Wayne goes, his camera goes too.

One of his specialities is film and TV shots.

‘I don’t like the word paparazzi,’ he says. ‘But, over the last ten years I’ve photographed everything from Hollywood blockbusters like Mission Impossible and James Bond to Sherlock and Eastenders. If something is being shot on the streets of London, I’m not far behind with my camera.’

 

Wayne Howes: Tom Cruise filming Mission Impossible 6
Tom Cruise filming Mission Impossible 6

You may have seen Wayne’s shots in the national newspapers, capturing the moment Tom Cruise broke his ankle, when he misjudged a leap between two buildings, during a stunt for the Hollywood movie Mission Impossible 6′. 

With lockdown underway, nothing is being filmed in London at the moment, so Wayne, who is a key worker and still travelling to London every day for work, is capturing London in Lockdown through his photography.

 

Wayne Howes: London in lockdown
Oxford Circus

‘I think it is important to document what is going on in the current climate and to preserve the images I’m seeing every day for the future,’ he says. ‘We’ll never see London like this again, after this madness is over. In rush hour on a Monday morning, it can take you half an hour to drive down Regent Street, so to see it with no cars and no people at that time is really unusual.’

Over the past few weeks, Wayne’s pictures of empty streets, eerily quiet parks, deserted markets and a Stock Exchange devoid of traders have captured the essence of London in lockdown and hinted at the impact of coronavirus on the social, cultural and economic life of the capital.

Wayne Howes: Trafalgar Square
Trafalgar Square 9am Monday morning

Later this year, Wayne is planning to self-publish a hardback book featuring twenty-five of his lockdown photographs. He hopes to raise £3,000 to fund the project via Kickstarter.

The Kickstarter site goes live this evening and is open for donations until 7th June 2020.  You can support the project here. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/waynehimages/london-in-lockdown?ref=ksrfb-prelaunch&fbclid=IwAR0qAhHKIqhYojTNac0urAYBopbkRBprLXaoODD-XG0pd-6xOQKQD4IY2GI

Wayne Howes: London in lockdown
St Paul’s Cathedral

As is usual with Kickstarter projects there are incentives to encourage you to give.  Here is what Wayne is offering if you donate.

For a £10 donation, you’ll receive a thank-you postcard of one of the images through the post.

A donation of £30 gets you a signed copy of the book

If you can afford to donate £45, you’ll receive a signed copy of the book and a mounted print of your choice from the book.

And for anyone able to donate £100, there is a signed copy of the book and the opportunity to take part in a photography workshop in London, with Wayne, where you can take your own images at the locations featured in the book – but this time with added people.

Wayne Howes: London in Lockdown
St James’s Park

If Wayne’s London in Lockdown project does not meet it’s target, you will pay nothing.  If he exceeds his target, he will publish a bigger book, featuring more of the hundreds of lockdown pictures he has taken.

You can see more of Wayne’s London in Lockdown images and his other work on his website https://www.howesimages.com/ or you can follow him on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/wayne.howes1 or Instagram https://www.instagram.com/waynehowes/