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Art world rocked as COVID-19 hits Small Town

Duncan Grant: Coronavirus
Coronavirus

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Residents of Small Town are being advised to adhere to strict social distancing measures after the world-famous region registered its first cases of deadly COVID-19. It is thought that several people, who have tested positive for coronavirus, are are now being treated in intensive care, stretching the towns already scarce resources.

COVID-19 is an infectious disease caused by the coronavirus. The disease first broke out in 2019 in Wuhan, Central China, and has since spread rapidly across the world. In March, the World Health Organisation declared a global pandemic. Common symptoms include fever, cough, and shortness of breath and, in severe cases, pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.

Duncan Grant: Small Town #155
Duncan Grant:Small Town #155

Small Town rose to fame a few years ago when prolific Gravesend-based artist, Duncan Grant began depicting its dramatic, pollution-filled skies and the way its industrial landscapes appeared to change colour from day to day. Grant’s designs were popularised by Liberty London on limited edition fabrics and, since then, have been reproduced across the world on clothing, pencil cases and even beer cans.

Duncan Grant: Small Town in Lockdown
Small Town is now in lockdown

Although coronavirus was late arriving in Small Town its effects have been felt swiftly.  By the end of March, with just a few cases confirmed, local businesses were closed and hundreds had lost their jobs, contributing to record unemployment figures. Now, much of Small Town has ground to a halt, with restaurants, bars and leisure facilities among the first to close. Supermarkets have seen an increase in demand, with many reporting empty shelves as shoppers stockpile essential items.

Duncan Grant - Small Town: International Cheese Festival
Last year tourists flocked to the Small Town International Cheese Festival

Many of the events that kept Small Town connected to the outside world have been cancelled. Even the town’s celebrated International Cheese Festival has been postponed until further notice. There are rumours that dairy farmers are dumping tankerloads of milk down drains as demand for cheesemaking ingredients dries up, and that thousands of wheels of Gouda, Stilton, Brie and Camembert are destined for landfill.

There is an eerie atmosphere now in the once bustling docklands area, as deserted fishing boats bob in their moorings and the shipyards have fallen silent.

Since Grant drew the world’s attention to Small Town, an increasing proportion of its income has come from tourism. But fears for the future of Small Town have sparked paranoia. Residents report spotting sightseers wandering around the streets taking photographs, with little regard for social distancing.

‘A few weeks ago the virus felt far away from Small Town but this is no longer the case,’ a local explained. ‘Now we have all had our eyes opened to just how quickly this can spread.’

Duncan Grant: The Great Plague of Small Town
The Great Plague of Small Town in 1665 

Small Town has seen nothing like the current crisis since the days of the Great Plague of Small Town in 1665, which wiped out nearly half of the population and devastated the economy.

‘If this goes on too long, we won’t survive,’ a council official said. ‘This is virus is going to kill Small Town.’

Duncan Grant: Pandemic series - Masks
Outside the house, everyone must wear a mask

Recent quarantine regulations mean that most residents are staying at home. Leaving the house is permitted only for shopping or for one outing each day for exercise. It is advised that face masks should be worn at all times.

People are allowed out for one period of exercise daily

‘It is difficult having to stay inside, especially if you have children,’ one mother said. ‘We’re lucky to live in the countryside so we can go for long walks. It’s a very weird time. We’re focusing on getting through it and being as upbeat as we can.’

Duncan Grant: Inside Small Town - Dockers 2
There have been reports of groups gathering near the docks

With many public parks and spaces closed to encourage people to remain indoors and to deter gatherings of more than two people, residents in urban areas of Small Town have limited opportunities to exercise. The recent warm weather, has tempted people outside, and police report breaking up public gatherings, especially in the town’s dockside region.

Duncan Grant: Three Blind Mice
There are concerna about the impact of the virus on mental health

Duncan Grant’s drawings have often alluded the dark side of Small Town. His pictures hint at a brooding disquiet within the brightly coloured houses. Small Town Social Services have expressed concern about the impact of quarantine on a community where many people were already thought to be at risk. ‘We were experiencing elevated levels of stress and anxiety before we had any cases here’ the Chief Medical Officer stated. ‘Our resources are already stretched to the limit and it is difficult to see how we will cope with a deterioration in mental health if quarantine is extended.’

During this difficult period however, there have been many examples of the community coming together to support each other. ‘We know that there are elderly people in Small Town who are lonely or who can’t get out,’ a resident commented. ‘We in small Town have a long history of working together to help overcome adversity.’

The response to a volunteer scheme set up by Small Town Council (STC) to support the vulnerable has been overwhelming.

Duncan Grant - Pandemic Series: Stay at Home
Volunteers support those in need in the Small Town community

An army of volunteers is standing by to support neighbours in ways ranging from telephone chats to relieve loneliness, to more practical help with shopping,  dog walking or putting out the bins.

Holed up in his home studio, in self- isolation for health reasons since the coronavrus crisis started, Duncan Grant is unable to visit Small Town. He sends good wishes for a speedy recovery to the community he has come to know so well but says that, until the crisis is over, he will continue to draw Small Town from memory. ‘I just can’t stop myself,’ he says. ‘It’s a compulsion.’

Duncan Grant: Self-Portrait: Man on ventilator
Duncan Grant was in ICU at St Thomas’ Hospital in 2015 after contracting sepsis

 

Duncan Grant’s Small Town drawings and his Pandemic series can be found, along with other artwork, in the Gallery on his website.
Small Towns: https://duncangrantartist.com/?s=small+town&post_type=product
Pandemic Series: https://duncangrantartist.com/?s=pandemic&post_type=product

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Update: Exhibition of new work, Christmas cards, blog and Liberty fabric spotting

 

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Time for a few more quick updates.

My 20:20 vision – Exhibition of new work

I’ll be exhibiting some new work for 2020- inspired by my childhood, my town and other stuff – next weekend at St Andrew’s Arts Centre in Gravesend. Private view (you are all invited) from 6pm on Friday 24th January. There will be beer https://www.ironpier.beer/ and biscuits.

The exhibition continues on Saturday 25th January and Sunday 26th January from 10am to 4pm. There will also be biscuits and maybe beer then too, depending on how much gets (many get) drunk on Friday night.

Do pop along if you can!

New work will be added to my website in February https://www.duncangrantartist.com/shop/

St. Andrews Arts Centre has an interesting history. As you can see, it used to be a church. The Diocese of Rochester decided to close the church because of the cost of repairs, but it was rescued and bought by Gravesham Borough Council in 1975 and transformed into an Arts Centre.

The original church was built to serve Gravesend’s waterside community. In the middle of the 19th Century, the river Thames was really busy with cargo and passenger vessels preparing to sail to Australia, New Zealand or the Americas. Emigrants often lived on board ship, sometimes in terrible conditions, for weeks before they sailed.

Smaller boats serviced the larger ships and the crews of these boats lived with their families and livestock on barges moored just offshore. The priest of the local Holy Trinity Church, Rev C E R Robinson, considered all these people to be his parishioners and visited them. Records show that he carried out over 600 baptisms for emigrants wanting to be blessed before their departure.

A couple of interesting facts for you about St Andrew’s.
Did you know?

  • Most UK churches are aligned east/west. But St Andrew’s is aligned north/south because that was the land that was available and its parish was the river
  • The ceiling of St Andrew’s is shaped to resemble an upturned boat.

Come along to see for yourself next weekend. Did I mention that there will be Iron Pier beer, and biscuits?

Last word on Christmas cards
A big thank you to everyone who contributed to the Christmas card project, either by contributing a design or by buying the cards.  We raised £900, enough to fund Christmas lunch at Cafe No. 84 https://www.no84.co.uk/ this year, and with money left over either to fund a similar event next year if the cafe owners decide to do it again, or to donate to Crisis at Christmas if not. If you’re not sure what I’m taking about, more info here: https://duncangrantartist.com/2019/04/07/only-261-more-days-until-christmas-time-to-think-about-lunch/

Liberty fabric scraps of news
I think my Liberty fabrics have sold out now. The last remnants were in the recent Liberty sale.

The Faber & Faber edition of the Booker Prize winning Milkman was in the shops at Christmas. Did you see this interview with Anna Burns, the author, and me?
https://www.libertylondon.com/uk/features/design-and-living/faber-interview-anna-burns-duncan-grant.html

 

 

 

Now a new hobby for me is watching products made from my fabric springing up in different places, especially in Japan, where you can buy pencil cases and other small gifty type bits in a Small Town design. I saw this one on Instagram and contacted them to ask if I could buy a pencil case. A woman replied. She said she liked my art and would send me one as a gift. As the parcel weighed less than the 2kg allowed, she has filled it up with Japanese sweets. Nice. Looking forward to receiving it soon.

Here is another one.

Top blog!
This blog has been going for just under a year now and you may have noticed that it has changed a bit. I ran out of things to say about myself and started featuring other talented and interesting artists of my acquaintance – check the archive. Well, imagine my surprise when I found I’d been included in Feedspots Top 100 Art Blogs and websites to follow in 2020.  I’m currently in at number 81 pop-pickers https://blog.feedspot.com/art_blogs/

I’m not really sure what this means or whether it will do me any good but I’d like to stay on the list.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably already following the blog. But I would like to attract more followers if possible – aiming to get 200 maybe by the end of this year – have 159 at present. So if you know anyone who you think might be interested, just ask them to pop their email in the box at the top of this page AND THEN really important, click to confirm on the link that is sent out (it might go to spam, so check). They’ll get an email alert when each blog comes out – about once a fortnight – no spam, no ads, I promise. Thank you.

Well that’s it. I’ll be back with another really interesting artist for you in a week or two.  Hope to see some of you at the exhibition. Did I say there would be biscuits and beer…..?

 

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Launch day: My Liberty fabrics are now for sale!

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Well, what a day. Today I finally got to see the fabrics created from my winning #LibertyOpenCall design for sale on the shelves of Liberty! It was the first time seeing them for real. We only saw the strike offs when we visited the factory in Milan. The fabrics looks fantastic, brilliant quality and great colours. I have three colourway of one design ‘Duncan Grant’ on Tana Lawn and three of a second design ‘Small Town’ on silk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To mark the launch, the store was decorated with panels of our fabrics and information about each of the four winners all the way up the stairs and around the Haberdashery Department.

We were treated to breakfast with the design and sales team and then signed copies of our original designs, which will go into the famous Liberty archive.

We each received 5metres of one of our fabrics – I chose the one closest to my original design in terms of colour, and then I couldn’t resist buying a metre of each of the others.

All six will make an appearance at my What a Liberty! exhibition at the Hot Tin from 18th May, if you want to see them and can’t make it to the store. https://duncangrantartist.com/event/exhibition-of-small-towns-to-coincide-with-liberty-london-open-call-launch/

As one part of the journey ends, another begins. We’ll be kept informed of how our fabrics are used. So if, say, a fashion house uses one of our designs of fabrics for a garment in their 2020 season collections, Liberty will tell us and will keep our names with the designs as far as they can.

Will let you know about any developments on here. Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me, voted for me and supported me so far.  One of you is getting a pair of designer boxers. You know who you are!

Here are the links to my fabrics on the Liberty website:

DUNCAN GRANT https://www.libertylondon.com/uk/search?q=duncan+grant

SMALL TOWN https://www.libertylondon.com/uk/search?q=small+town

Originals of my Small Town Ink Drawings and digital prints are available in my Gallery:

ORIGINALS https://duncangrantartist.com/product-category/original-artwork/drawing-ink/

PRINTS https://duncangrantartist.com/product-category/prints/ink-drawing/