JUST FOUND THIS IN THE DRAFT FOLDER ON MY WEBSITE. I USUALLY DELETE OLD DRAFTS, BUT THIS ONE HAS PROMPTED ME TO SHARE MY SADNESS. THE EXHIBITION AT THE GEORGE WAS LAST SUMMER.
The blogpost in italics below was created nearly a year ago. It heralded my first exhibition of the panoramic riverscape charcoal drawings, depicting both sides of the Severn. The opening night was shared with a farOpen exhibition, set up by a group of forest-based artists. It was a lovely evening both weather-wise and celebration-wise. Apparently we attracted more people at the private view than ever before. The George was the perfect venue for this – a summers evening, the courtyard garden looking lovely, the friendly staff making it special, crowded with people chattering.
farOpen had blossomed from a start-up group of around fifteen artists wishing to deliver open studio events. It has grown to over seventy members and the farOpen Studios runs Saturday 7 July until Sunday 15 July this year.
My own practice had established itself again, after a long gap of non-making. All was well.
The George closed only last week, less than a year later.
In the whole of the forest there are very few gallery outlets, Taurus and The George, both Camphill Trust venues, were the main/only ones along the Severnside area, where artists could exhibit and sell art.
This isn’t just a loss to the art sector, it is a loss to the local community. The George hosted many groups, local residents of all ages popped in and out for coffee and cakes. The majority of the food was made within the Camphill Trust and many items on the menu were locally sourced. People held meetings there, The George choir was born there. There were once art classes upstairs, performances, talks, music (there was a baby grand upstairs). The residents of The Grange and Oaklands worked in the cafe and were always charming and good company. They in turn enjoyed interactions with the public and families. There was a weavery, a room bulging with huge looms and baskets of hand died wools.
Later, the upstairs room was given over to exhibition space, after the wonderful bookstore was removed (it was downstairs in a dedicated space ten years ago, then moved upstairs only to be, eventually, dismantled)
The opening hours gradually reduced. The staff were always lovely.
There are many reasons for its closure and this blogpost is here to celebrate what it was, and how much it is already missed, not critique its viability. There are still some fantastic shops and businesses here (I shan’t refer to each one as the list is long), but no other cafes, bar the Armoury Hall coffee mornings, which are a weekly delight. Hopefully the ethos of social enterprise will help to keep safe the thriving village that we know and love.
There are many people who would like to see something similar to The George in its place, only time will tell if this is possible.
Meanwhile, support the village, keep coming and enjoying what is here, and consider whether you are prepared to put in some work to help it flourish again. If you are, join the ReNewnham Facebook Group and be part of that conversation.
p.s. If you want to see more of my art, including 360 degree works, go here
Here are a few photos of the drawings in situ. It is important to me that these works are shown on both sides of the river. If you have any suggestions about where they could be hung, or wish to host one or more, get in touch. Ideally they need to be seen near one of the places depicted.
For example, a very kind friend who lives on the Sharpness Canal at Purton has offered to host a pop-up in her home. We’re aiming for the August Bank Holiday weekend, so do note that in your diary. Details to follow.
I’ve always created work and produced projects in non-gallery locations, so am keen to use unusual locations as well as walls!