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Artist Susan Miller worked with children from Dudley Infant Academy to transform the station footpath. Photograph © Alexander Brattell.

Erica Smith has worked with Hastings and Bexhill Mencap’s Active Arts artists to create an ‘Owl Trail’ of 150 owls across the town. Photograph © Alexander Brattell.

A Town Explores A Book Festival in full bloom!

The first week of A Town Explores A Book has taken St Leonards on Sea by storm. Erica Smith gives a round-up and a taster of treats in store.

Artworks created by young artists in tandem with creative professionals have appeared across the town from flowerbeds in Warrior Square rose garden to collaged poetry posters around building sites. This year’s theme of Edward Lear’s Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets has allowed explorations of everything from children’s poetry to botany. The Owl Trail has inspired over 150 owls to be created and displayed in homes and shop fronts across St Leonards.

Dr Robert Peck’s book about Edward Lear.

The Bavard Bar launched the festival on 1 April with three international speakers: composer Daniel Mudford talking about John Cage and mushrooms, Scientist Dr Ljiljana Fruk who explained why scientists should always explore ‘non-sense’, and Dr Robert M Peck from the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University in the USA who spoke eloquently about The Natural History of Edward Lear.

Winners of the Children’s Nonsense Poetry prizes were announced on Easter Sunday – the winners were both pupils at Christ Church CofE Primary Academy – ‘The Geeze’ by Sonny and ‘The Skwemling’ by Charlotte. Both children win an illustration of their poem drawn by artist and writer Ed Boxall.

Festival Director Gail Borrow said: “The festival brings families to a book in myriad accessible ways all over town. Parents are reporting that local children love looking at the Owl And Pussy-Cat trail, vibrant shop window displays and outdoor art and are delighted to go home and read the book and draw. It the most uplifting and exciting approach to literacy and totally accessible. Over 1000 young people have been involved in the festival’s outreach projects overseen by the festival’s artists and partners.”

Lead festival artist Emma Harding and Aaron Hosannah working on his new mural on the wall of Teddy Tinker’s Antiques Emporium. Photograph © Alice Beadle.

The Easter weekend also saw an Owl and Pussy-cat themed mural being painted on the side of Teddy Tinker’s antiques shop by brothers Aaron and Lawrence Hosannah.

Already this week, there have been Zoom private views for The Nutcrackers and the Sugar-tongs doodle project and automated machines used to illustrate Edward Lear’s The Story of the Four Little Children Who Went Round the World.

Alison Cooper and Hannah Collisson launched their #NutsAboutLear doodle gallery and Esme Fisher premiered her film Cranks, Cogs and Cams this week. Photographs © Alexander Brattell.

Tomorrow, Thursday 8 April, young song-writers from Hastings Thrives get to perform their songs at an online event hosted by Isolation Station Hastings at 7pm.

Next week the festival celebrates the independent shops re-opening on 12 April. Gail Borrow explains: “The creative businesses in St Leonards on Sea have been central to the festival from its inception. Like many shop owners in Kings Road, Claire of Paisley and Friends always produces a stunning window display that festival viewers rate as one of the key experiences in the festival.”

Claire Paisley working on her Jumblies window. Photograph © Alexander Brattell.

Liz Emtage who created the beautiful botanical window in Pelhams, Kings Road. Photograph © Alexander Brattell.

Calneva’s window goes full-on Owl and Pussy-cat. Photograph © Alexander Brattell.

This year, Claire’s window features The Jumblies. Little Mashers’ window display is themed on the Edward Lear short story The Story of the Four Little Children Who Went Round the World and includes some stunning crab sculptures. Pass Muster’s window contains a beautiful textile response to Lear’s botany section of the anthology, among many other treasures, and Kate Rosie of Teddy Tinkers at 134 London Road has picked up on the botany theme with a creative nonsense plant sculpture called Teddylicious-Limb-Hand-Eye which children love. The trail set up means that children have been able enjoy these experiences within covid regulations.

The Bookkeeper Bookshop has created a nonsense narrative that springboards from Lear’s nonsense in many surprising ways, incorporating artist Linda King’s owl.

Next week’s activities continue with a ‘Stuff and Nonsense’ spoken word event on 15 April and the festival ends on 18 April with an Isolation Station broadcast ‘Lear Was Here’ which explores Lear’s connections with Hastings and St Leonards.

Check out everything that the festival offers – across the open spaces and through the windows of St Leonards, and online at the Festival website and social media. The festival runs until Sunday 18 April.

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Posted 21:57 Wednesday, Apr 7, 2021 In: Arts News

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