|SAY 'NO' to Jerwood on the Stade|
We've had to remove the unmoderated comment facility because a few people found it impossible to understand that making personal attacks is not a civilised way to behave and does nothing to advance their argument - it was also abundantly clear that they had not actually read the content of this web-site. On the other hand someone took the time to send the email below which we are reproducing in its entirity. The content of all comments is, of course, the responsibility of the author and not the SOS Committee.
Please use all or any of the below on your website if it helps. I have tried to keep the tone right but my feelings might have got the better of me in places. Feel free to edit in in any way you wish as I know it will be in safe hands. I have also posted it to http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/jerwoodonthestade where my username is openspacestudio. No need to credit it to anyone - you could use it (in full or part) in the text of the website or use it as a posting and credit it to openspacestudio, or not at all - whatever helps. Sorry I can't give my name because it could affect my livelihood which is something I can't afford to risk at the moment.
The only people who seem to be in favour of the proposed Jerwood Gallery on the Stade are some of those who are in the pay of HBC (the rest remain silent, presumably fearful for their jobs) and some of the artists, who probably imagine that if the Jerwood Gallery goes ahead they might make a bit of extra money by providing community workshops there – or perhaps they even imagine that the proposed Jerwood Gallery would give their own location here more legitimacy in the eyes of the establishment art world, even though the Jerwood collection has nothing to do with Hastings or Hastings artists. Even the majority of the artists are not in favour of the proposal, judging by the Hastings Creative Media website where only 40 have voted in favour out of more than 300 members, and which closed down the discussion of Jerwood on its site as soon as those opposed to the proposal began to venture to speak up.
There is not much point in trying to have an intelligent conversation with those HBC employees currently churning out “regeneration” babble, as they clearly don't understand what they are being paid to say so they are sticking closely to a script which they simply repeat again and again in the hope that, being obliged to reserve some time for earning a living ourselves, we won't have time to keep countering it.
The artists might be more likely to listen to reason if they are professional, as you have to be a skilled strategist to make a living from art, and local artists have good reason to distrust the motives and to doubt the abilities of HBC.
In this post I will first challenge HBC's assumptions that the proposal would regenerate rather than degenerate the area, and I will then challenge the assumptions of those artists who currently think the proposed Jerwood Gallery would benefit them, and I will then give my own reasons for opposing the proposed Jerwood Gallery on the Stade, which are the same as most people's and, like most people's, are born of a love of Hastings Old Town. I won't attempt to unpick the financial risks for the people of Hastings other than to say that this proposal doesn't involve giving us money that we cannot have without Jerwood being in the package; that so far as I can see financially-speaking all we are being offered by Jerwood is the presence of their art collection which does not relate to this area, in return for which financially-speaking we are being asked to give, irreversibly, free use of the site of the proposed building on the Stade forever and free supply of all supporting infrastructure; and that if HBC goes overbudget (as usual) we will have to give however much money that costs too.
Is it realistic to imagine that many people would be attracted to visit a relatively small and static Jerwood collection on the Stade when they could instead visit and revisit large and fluid galleries nearby, such as the de la Warr Pavilion and the Turner Contemporary? The collection has nothing to do with Hastings or Hastings people, artists or otherwise, therefore does not contribute to the unique attraction of Hastings Old Town, and the collection would not change so there would be no reason to revisit it.
Even “culture-led regeneration” projects that do not have these disadvantages, have not, on current evidence, delivered the promised benefits.“ Culture-led regeneration” is an experiment. The question of whether “culture-led regeneration” projects actually bring economic or cultural benefits is a real one. It is still under discussion by academics and ecomonists, who are developing methodologies and gathering evidence. The developing methodologies for measuring the benefits of “culture-led regeneration” already recognise that developments in its name can cause financial and cultural damage rather than benefit.Some of the potential damage is illustrated by the cases of the de la Warr pavilion and Tate St Ives.
Bexhill's de la Warr pavilion has many advantages over the Jerwood proposal – the pre-existing iconic building which is an attraction in itself, its size, the constantly changing exhibitions, the fact that its staff are under local control – yet it is losing money due to lack of interest and is in financial crisis. Meanwhile, more than 3 years after the re-opening of the de la Warr as a gallery , Bexhill is still perceived as “ a once wonderful town slip[ping] deeper into the mirk.” ( Bexhill Observer letters 20.9.08). The gallery has not only failed financially but is also regularly criticised for its failiure to deliver as a community resource: eg “It is clear that an increasing number of local people - probably a majority - now believes that DLWP runs the Pavilion largely as a vanity project for the benefit and enjoyment of an exclusive group of the cultural elite. ….. In these circumstances we can only wonder how much longer our local Council (which provides so much of our money to support the DLWP) will continue to allow us locals to be treated as second class citizens in our own town.” (Observer Letters 3.5.08) Latest ideas for shoring up the failing gallery include a recent change of directors (which would not be possible at the proposed Jerwood on the Stade because Jerwood would be in sole control of the proposed gallery) and building a hotel an d other attractions alongside the de la Warr to complement it (a local group Save our Seafront has been formed to oppose this and one of the concerns is the loss of business for local hoteliers). It has also been suggested that the de la Warr is costing the area jobs instead of creating them. More than 3 years after the re-opening of the de la Warr as a gallery, its relationship with the local people is described as “ a bit like the First World War really …” and “ …them and us” ( Bexhill Observer letters 7.11.08 and 31.10.08)
HBC makes entirely unsupported, and I suspect unresearched, claims that the proposed Jerwood gallery on the Stade would bring to Hastings benefits brought to St Ives by the Tate. Tate St Ives has many advantages over the Jerwood proposal. It was built in 2003 on derelict gasworks on land that was steeply sloping and badly contaminated therefore not usable for most purposes. It already had a relationship with the town, having managed the Hepworth museum since 1980, and the declared purpose of Tate St Ives was all about St Ives. Tate St Ives was built to celebrate the modernist heritage of the town and area, in the context of naional and international art, and to make that heritage more widely accessible. Tate St Ives is not a static collection. St Ives has a station, and no matter what HBC says to try to fudge the issue, Hastings Old Town does not have one, nor even public transport between Hastings station and the Old Town. Despite these advantages, the St Ives Community Strategic Plan to 2025 now identifies as existing problems for St Ives: a chronic parking problem, lack of visitors out of season, poverty and lack of employment out of season, a lack of support for local artists, and a lack of community facilities. Furthermore, it was found in 2005 that Tate St Ives was not sustainable unless it expanded to take more land away from St Ives, the ultimate losers being the community who would lose both parking and community playing fields. “Tate expansion makes waves in St Ives… Locals mobilise against proposal by gallery that ‘disregards community' … More than 2,000 local people have signed a petition against the expansion plans, many of them believing the gallery is losing touch with the town. Some protesters object because the proposed creative centre, which the gallery and Cornwall county council want built on land above the existing building, would mean a loss of views and car parking spaces. Others, including members of the artistic community and the architects of the original building, argue Tate St Ives has lost sight of what it was supposed to be - an exciting but relatively modest gallery in a small town. There is also a feeling among some that the gallery is determined to drive its proposals through no matter what local people think of them. In cafes, galleries and shops, the talk is of how to fight the development. "Stop the Tate" posters have appeared in house and shop windows. A campaign group, Keep St Ives Special, is planning demonstrations…. The gallery and Cornwall county council, which owns the site, insist the creative centre is crucial to make Tate St Ives sustainable…” . T he economy of St Ives is now so shaped by the Tate that in 2008 planning permission was granted for this expansion. Poor old St Ives - it seems the “Keep St Ives special” campaign might be too late.Something for the artists:
From St Ives artists after 2 years experience of Tate St Ives: “I am so sick of the arrogance that has been demonstrated by the Tate, and wonder if and when they will get the message that they need to engage more and stop feeling that they have any right to dictate on this subject.” And from another artist “One of the perceptions (I'm not saying its mine) is that the arts administrators are not answerable to local people: theyre only answerable to their paymasters at the artscouncil or Tate London or whereever. Thats obviously not their fault but may be its problem with all systems that are administered centrally.” And from another artist “ For me the lack of prior knowledge or particular interest in contemporary practices in Cornwall from the Tate outside of their own small network is to me unacceptable, and as a result I have no professional respect or indeed cultural repect for [their] view points.” And from another artist “is it negative or cynical for people who care to stand and question if they fear that damage may be done ?”
The Old Town is fabulous now:
Although “culture-led regeneration” always seems to serve up as its starter a thorough badmouthing of the area to be “regenerated” – and the Jerwood proposal is no exception in bringing this vilification, as illustrated in the local press and in various local arts blogs/forums – we know that the Old Town, which doesn't currently have a Jerwood Gallery on its Stade, is the most successful community in the area both economically and as a thriving mixed community who live happily together. At weekends there seem to be more crowds around the fishing fleet on the Stade in Hastings Old Town than around or in the de la Warr. I suspect that the reason for the Jerwood's refusal to consider all the fabulous sites in Hastings and St Leonards (I seem to remember their explanation is rather coy – something like the only the Stade is “the right location”) lies in these crowds, who are themselves drawn to the largest beach-launched fishing fleet in the UK.
The suggestion that the proposal could bring cultural benefits, and that creative activities could take place on the Stade, seems to be based on the assumption that we are indeed the “dimwits” etc that the pro-Jerwood lobby has labelled us in the local press. The Jerwood proposal to show its own static collection of non-local art isn't about this place or its residents. It is a pre-existing collection from elsewhere and therefore does not repond to this place or its people in any way. Likewise, allowance for us to use the space not used by the Jerwood is suddenly being offered to us as some sort of gift, whereas the fact is that we can already make any changes to its use that we want to, and could use the space for creative activity if we wanted to.
The Old Town is a real community:
Although the jury is still out on whether culture-led regeneration actually delivers economic benefits, it is generally agreed that it cannot succeed without good public transport and parking. This counts out the Old Town, which is tiny, covered in buildings and surrounded by downland, and therefore has no spare space to accommodate any more cars at all. As Peter Pragnell said on his ask the Leader webpage, “The Old Town has very limited on street parking spaces available with narrow streets and hardly any premises with off street parking, hence when we issued sufficient [resident] permits to fill these spaces we started a waiting list. In managing the available roadside parking spaces the Highways authorities take into consideration the needs of all road users and in doing so tries to strike a balance between the needs of residents, visitors, shoppers and commuter. There is no obligation to provide parking to residents." Does this last sentence, “ There is no obligation to provide parking to residents” explain why HBC, when making its wild and apparently random projections of visitor numbers, has been entirely silent about where it thinks all these imagined visitors are going to park?
The Old Town is a working community inhabited by working people. This is part of its “authenticity”. It is not St Ives, which is nowadays almost entirely owned by landlords, people who own second homes there which they visit when the weather is sunny, and retired ex-Londoners. The Old Town is not almost entirely populated by tourists and seasonal labourers in the summer, and hollow with empty houses in the winter. The Old Town has the right to be allowed to evolve organically. And we have the right to continue to live here and to work.
To borrow some phrases from critics of Tate St Ives, the proposed Jerwood Gallery and its art collection have nothing to do with Hastings Old Town, and would be run by administrators in the pay of their London Jerwood bosses, and would not be answerable to the people of Hastings. However, there are many areas of Hastings and St Leonards that might benefit if the Jerwood wanted to put its gallery in them, particularly those areas that do not currently have a cohesive character and thriving community, those areas whose residents have not already taken responsibility for them, and those areas that are close to train stations. It is unfortunate that the Jerwood has dismissed all of those places as not right for it. Those individuals pushing the Jerwood Gallery who have attacked the Old Town with the accusation that it is “afraid of change” (or with the warlike command “adapt or die”) will probably have occasion to reflect on their careless use of these vacuous phrases when they are used against them in their own areas by would-be new Tescos, casinos, car parks, etc. It is only out of consideration for their neighbours that I don't say “I hope so”.
Is it art for arts sake
One to man the gift shop
What a strange investment
Local folk and visitors
Coaches moved to Sea Road
While many other better sites
Stick your Gallery! Anywhere
A touch of the Jerwoods
For those of us who, with the advancing jerwoods, begin to have trouble remembering names, the Jerwoodisation of virtually everything has been a remarkably convenient development, and a project one fully expected to see completed by now.
If it helps, just a modest amount of sponsorship would enable this column to become a Jerwood product, along with the John Jerwood training ship, and all the exciting new developments which, according to the foundation, "enrich the fabric of society" or, to put it another way, "jerwood the jerwood of jerwoods".
Catherine Bennett,The Guardian, Thursday 21 April 2005
The complete article can be found here, it's at the bottom of the page
"First they ignore you,
then they ridicule you,
then they fight you,
then you win."
-- Mahatma Gandhi