Category Archives: Outreach

A Window of Opportunity

Walking for exercise is all very well, but walking for a purpose appeals more to some people. The Easter Art Walk 2 – 5th April achieved both, with walking for pleasure thrown in. Plumstead Open Studios involves quite a lot of effort for those who take part. With current restrictions precluding visitors in the house, but 6 people being allowed to meet outside, Plumstead became an ‘open air studio’ instead. 35 local artists used their windows to display a selection of their work. Tidying the front garden and cleaning the windows involves less work than preparing for Open Studios!

Based on the map made available shortly before the launch, the Art Walk seemed to split naturally into two sections – from Lower Plumstead up to the far end of Swingate Lane to include the Common, and the other section to encompass Shooters Hill. Both are substantial walks, with hills to climb. By the time everyone had bumped into everyone else and enjoyed a decent chat, a couple of hours had gone.

As a bonus, Saturday saw a series of hourly alphorn recitals by Anneke Scott. The alphorn is a magnificent beast, rarely seen or heard in the UK. You can find out more about this instrument here, and the following video is of the alphorn being played in a local park – not far from where Kate Bush grew up.

Virtually Perfect Poetry Competition

Although things have been ‘a bit quiet’ since the New Year, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been stirrings of activity within Art Plumstead. The online Improshrews sessions have continued and recently the annual poetry competition took place via Zoom. Obviously it wasn’t the same as being in the Old Mill, but speaking as a spectator, it worked. Everyone could have the drink of their choice to hand during the proceedings and the muting (and unmuting to allow applause) was centrally controlled by John who appeared as usual in a tuxedo and managed the whole evening.There were over thirty entries which were whittled down to three sets of four which were performed by a selection of readers. From these the most popular in each cohort went forward to be judged in the final round. This time, instead of collecting pieces of paper it was simply a case of each audience member privately messaging John with the letter assigned to their favourite poem to be totted up. In theory, if there had been hordes of listeners, it might have been a problem but as there was a similar number of people who would have been at the live event (34 or so) it worked like clockwork. As is often the case in the previous competitions there were a couple of very close rounds, which added to the sense of excitement. It helped that by now the format is familiar.

There were a few issues with the technology – Sparky’s Magic Piano came to mind a few times – but it was still possible to listen and react to each poem. The results were as follows

Plumstead Poet Laureate 2020 – Sarah Myers – There’s No Art
Runner-up – Graham Buchan – Noise
Third place – Jane Lawson – Christmas Day at the Foodbank

Sadly, the laurel wreath couldn’t be presented by the previous poet laureate, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, each winner was able to see the medal they had been awarded with the assurance that it would soon be winging its way to their address for gloating or modest pride depending on their temperament.

 

The Sweet Taste of Success

Under starters orders…

The sixth Plumstead Pickle Festival hosted a varied array of 15 chutneys and pickles. As it isn’t clear what the difference is between a chutney and pickle it is an established tradition that all entries are peer judged alongside each other without differentiation – after all, it all goes down the same hole. An estimated 35 locals came along to sample what was on offer.

A break from the serious job of adding up scores

By now, the voting system, adjusted last year to include the category of texture, is familiar to most, with no more than 5 points being allocated between up to 5 entries in each section. Butter, biscuits and cheese were all pre-prepared and issued to tables to accompany the various offerings. No bread though, too much was wasted last time. Voting slips and pens followed shortly afterwards. Meanwhile a food-related soundtrack played in the background to add to the atmos generated by a well-liked niche event attended by a cross-section of Plumsteadites discussing the merits and demerits of everything on their plates.

Erik in full flow

First for Appearance

Second for Appearance

Third for Appearance

First for Taste

Second for Taste

Third for Taste

First for Texture

Second for Texture

Third for Texture

Erik provided the whimsical banter while the scores were totted up and told a chutney-related gag too dire to be worth repeating here. Dee and Geoff were i/c the laptop to quickly add up the scores, and Kevin was called upon to write out the winning certificates once the results were known. Rob was on hand to take photographs and record the event for posterity. This time there were some new winners which mixed things up a bit as well as seasoned regulars being placed. Anyone determined to do better next time would be well advised to make next year’s entry now and store it in a cool dark place to mature.

All tasted and judged

Passionate about Conceptual Art

Art Plumstead take Conceptual Art very seriously, to the extent that an evening is devoted to it every Plumstravaganza in the garden of The Volunteer. This year’s entries were more in the spirit of the movement in that the artefacts were relatively simple, and had to be explained for them to make sense. As usual, Alison as curator of the exhibition was suitably attired for the occasion (see above).

Themes covered a range of social and political issues, quite serious at times but without being too po-faced. it was Monday night, after all. For instance there was a short interactive performance piece involving the audience’s consumption of passion fruit, symbolising the inadequate protection of historical buildings by outdated protocols – shown by a flimsy basket made from an old magazine – which, once they are disposed of or destroyed can never be recovered.

 

The magic piece of glass highlighted the way in which it becomes possible to place one’s bum very close to someone’s face in a public situation which wouldn’t normally be acceptable when seated on the tube or DLR. The Death in Greenwich exhibit was a comment on the environmental damage wrought by cruise ships arriving at Greenwich. Erik improvised a skit about house buying with reference to a bird box that just happened to be lying around the garden along with a brimful ashtray. There was a presentation about who should be consigned to a Wicker Man for their relentless unnecessary questions, an exposition about the meaning of the letter yaz in the Berber alphabet, and a tongue-in-cheek funding bid for a series of sculptures made from found objects in multiple locations covering the themes of loss, bereavement, separation and regret.

After all the exhibits had been explained and discussed, it was time to mingle and make plans for Halloween, before making the epic journey up the hill to The Old Mill where Dee blagged a selection of bar snacks to help us concentrate.

Dipping into The Spiral Garden again

The Spiral Garden hosted another swap/sell/donate event as part of Plumstravaganza. The early arrivals had the chance to taste a delicious German apple cake with crumble topping made by Maggie, washed down with a cup of coffee. Soon, however, there were brown turkey figs and crystal apple cucumbers (a heritage variety bred in Australia in 1933) from people’s gardens to sample as well. The home made raspberry jam was sold in a trice by those who already knew how good it was from last year.

A good selection of assorted plants to swap or to buy were brought into the garden by visitors and before long the central table was covered in a sea of foliage before gradually dwindling as purchases were made and plants were found a new home.
Numbers were up on last year and those who came stayed for longer than last year, seeking advice and exchanging information, but also enjoying the social occasion. The power of the social media helped to pull in people from different sources but the Art Plumstead mailing list played its part. There were flyers advertising Good Food in Greenwich and the Cookery Clubs offered by GCDA, held down by painted stones, such a big thing everywhere last year, and revived latterly by a public spirited soul in Plumstead

High and Dry

The foul weather of Saturday was safely over by the time Art Plumstead hosted a stall at the Shrewsbury Park‘s Lark in the Park a day later. There were plenty of other stalls in the main area and several types of food on sale along the path leading to the field where the dog show took place. Live music was provided by a number of different musicians and John and Rob went around promoting PLUnk, Plumstead’s week of International Music

Art Plumstead’s stall sold cards, small paintings and hairsticks (handmade and gender neutral, as you would expect). It was jazzed up by a length of Hungry Caterpillar bunting from The Woolwich and Plumstead Roses WI lucky dip jar raffle at Make Merry in June; this is already its second outing since then, so it was £1 well spent. When we weren’t selling our wares, we were using the time to capture the atmos. Meanwhile Martin practised calligraphy to publicise the classes he will be running from September at Shrewsbury House.

The Fair finished at 4 pm, which allowed time to go home down the hill, quaff a mug of tea, then nip over to the well-attended Plumstead Live on Winn’s Common for more mingling with familiar faces accompanied by more live music. There had also been the final concert in the Plumstead Peculiars Concert series during the afternoon but you can’t be everywhere at once. Still, we could console ourselves with a cooling pint from the beer tent.

Preserving an Art Plumstead Tradition

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Tasting under way – which will be the winners?

By now, the Pickle Festival is an established event in the Art Plumstead calendar. As usual it was held in The Old Mill, and as usual there were a few tweaks, not for a phoney ‘new, improved service user experience’, but just to make it easier to manage. The main change was the re-introduction of texture as a category in this, the 5th Plumstead Pickle Festival. By the time the competition started, 15 pickles and chutneys had been delivered in time for judging at the start of the competition a couple of last minute entries bumped it up to 17. Butter, cheese and biscuits were pre-prepared ready for distribution to all the tables and there were also three sour dough loaves baked by Ashley that day and delivered by Julia from the Plumstead Pantry next door. 

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Her Maj at the pickle table

20181204_202808.jpgAll three categories were judged concomitantly, with up to five points to be awarded among any pickles in each category. Most of the tasters divided their plates into labelled sections to facilitate identification of the pickles. The peer voting system tended to sift out clear contenders for first, second and third place, all collated by Dee and Geoff. Meanwhile there was a buzz of lively discussion about the various offerings  – who knew the world of preserved fruit and veg could be this gripping?! Erik, as master of ceremonies exchanged whimsical banter with Alison as Badge Queen of Plumstead while the certificates were written out by Kevin. 

mine's a pint

The Badge Queen of Plumstead en promenade

The results were as follows:

Appearance 
 
1st Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
2nd Gilly Loader  Piccalilli
3rd Angela Fletcher  Pear Chutney
 
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1st Gilly Loader  Piccalilli
2nd Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
3rd Gilly Loader  Tomato and Red Wine Chutney
 
Taste
 
1st Ross Jardine  In Persistence of Piccalilli
2nd Malcolm Fletcher  Festive Fruit Chutney
3rd Keith Hawkins  Apple, Choko and Date Chutney.
 

pickle-winner-2018-2.jpgAt the end of the evening, the vanquished collected the dismal remains lurking in their jars while the victors went home clutching their certificates and corresponding rewards but there were some new faces and everyone present had got out of the house and mingled instead of sitting at home watching rubbish on TV.

Pickle winner 2018 (3)

The winners

 

Spiral Remembers 100 years on

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A lone poppy at Spiral Garden

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Art Plumstead created a remembrance display in collaboration with two local Plumstead schools on the 100th  anniversary of the end of WW1.

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Art Plumstead Poppy

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Seen from above

In addition to the outline of a poppy made from stones painted by Art Plumstead and arranged to be visible from the street above, there were also stones painted by pupils from Gallions Mount Primary School. These were placed on the upper level of the garden.

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Gallions Mount Poppy before…

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Gallions Mount Poppy after…

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Gallions Mount Poppy brightening up a dull corner

Rockliffe Manor Primary School provided paper poppies which had been part of a special assembly earlier that day. These were displayed on the circular table in the middle of the Spiral Garden.

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Paper poppies made by Rockliffe Manor School pupils

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Poppies at the Spiral Garden

Rain swept over from the west later on Friday and fell on everything in its path, but not before the entire display had been captured on camera.

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Hallo again to Workhouse Wood 2018

Clown a

A horrible clown came along

Art Plumstead’s Halloween Event returned to Workhouse Wood this year in a slightly different format, with people invited to share their own ghostly stories to supplement the planned programme of entertainment. The motley crew began assembling on Winn’s Common shortly before 8 pm at the top of the steps leading down into the woods, with a hi-viz jacket or two helping nervous first-timers find the meeting place. In all, 18 people (plus one dog and who knows how many restless spirits) came along. Making a last sweeping pass of torches across the expanse of grass for any latecomers, Kevin led the party down into the bosky gloom and the divertissement began.

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The adventure begins

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Kevin reads Part Two of Abraham’s Boys by the Chestnut Tree

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Same scene, different camera!

After a brief foray into the woods the first performance site was reached. The story was an edited version of Abraham’s Boys by Joe Hill (read the full text here). As it divides naturally into three parts, the further two sections were read out as the group traveled further and further into the murky woods. Mysterious ornaments, made from bunches of herbs hung from the trees. Ever and again the more discerning noticed the faint smell of lavender. There was even a mysterious shrine to add to the eerie atmosphere, featuring Moriarty the cat who appeared in Art Plumstead’s Halloween two years ago and apples cut crosswise to reveal the star shape so beloved of witches.

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Moriarty the glittery cat peeps out from the Halloween shrine

The final part of the tale was read out at the site of the old pig sty, before John told a true tale of Mary Wickens , the Blue Guardian, who was in charge of the welfare of children at the Woolwich Union Workhouse at 79b Tewson Road Plumstead. Set in the 1870s it is the tragic story of the death of two small sisters and Mary’s ghost that roamed the hospital afterwards trying to right the wrong she had done. Then Margaret described the spooky goings on at The Cage in St. Osyth, Essex which have forced the owner to put the property on the market – no takers so far. Finally, after Erik’s recital of the 1899 poem Antigonish by William Hughes Mearnes, there was a lighthearted improvised question and answer session about the supernatural hosted by a three-headed monster performed by John, Mark and Erik. No ghosts materialised, and crucially nor did the promised heavy rain. When all the tales were over, mulled wine was served before the crowd dispersed, some going to The Old Mill for an extra drink to calm their nerves, and the rest fleeing for the safety of their own homes, vampires permitting.

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Whooooo!

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The true tale of The Cage in St Osyth, Essex

The three headed expert answers questions on the supernatural

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Taking a bow

 

Volunteering to Share Ideas

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The blood, sweat and tears of everyone involved in planning Plumstead Make Merry

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Conceptual Art is a serious business

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The first concept is explained

Art Plumstead hosted its second pop up Conceptual Art show in the garden of the Volunteer on Plumstead High Street. When it was launched last year, the intention had been to debunk the idea of conceptual art by sending it up. In the event, all the pieces had been carefully considered and encouraged serious thought and discussion.

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Mottainai – tribute to Japan or cultural appropriation?

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How to have a reasonable debate

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Plumstead – please don’t judge a book by its cover!

This year an equally thought-provoking collection of exhibits was assembled with displays exploring the power and meaninglessness of advertising, waste in the fast fashion industry, the unfairness of judging a book by its cover, how something entirely false can be used to accomplish positive ends and the dichotomy between the desirability of slimness in one part of the world compared to another. A good proportion of the exhibits didn’t seek to establish one absolute view over another but to air an idea and encourage a balanced opinion. The pictures and text can only hint at the meaning behind the art pieces presented on the evening, and the only way to fully appreciate them was to have been there.

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Same world, different problems

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So, which one came first?

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They are their own work of art

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Real or fake – and does it really matter?

By the end of the evening, a range of theories had been aired and examined through animated conversation, all accompanied by a drink or two. There was plenty of non-art related chatter at the same time because after all, participation in Plumstravaganza is entirely voluntary.

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Luckily, Alison was on hand to see that no Crimes against Art were committed