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Rose Wylie on show at Hastings Observer Building

Rose Wylie paintings on show at the Wet & Dry private view

Breathing life into the Observer Building

Dawn Dublin (right) talking to Caf Fean and Karen Simnett of Jericho Road.

Dawn Dublin (right) talking to Caf Fean and Karen Simnett of Jericho Road.

It is always amazing to see how generous the Hastings and St Leonards-ites are with their time, energy and creativity to make things happen and improve life for people in the area.

If you want something done, ask a busy person. And Dawn Dublin of the St Leonards Film Society and Erika Holland, formally of the well known Gritti Palace on the Pier, who works in Hospitality and Catering at the Sussex Coast College, are two busy people dedicated to community projects.

For one year, they have taken on the creative, social and cultural task of breathing life into the well loved Observer Building.

Plans are at present flexible, but so far they’ve hired and given opportunities to disaffected people, who have helped clear five storeys of thirty years of rubbish.

The developers are sorting out the windows, electrical points, windows and doors – and then Dublin & Holland can get on with the creative business of producing a flexible, sociable space. Plans are in progress. Ideas are buzzing. There will be food vans to demonstrate food diversity – Mexican, Caribbean, Nepalese food (and that’s for starters); the creation of a stage, an exhibition space, space for film screenings – to promote local talent in exhibitions. Altogether it will give people and families somewhere to go  for healthy food, social spaces, creative and constructive exhibitions and workshops.

So far, the Observer Building has had something like 12 owners and 21 planning permissions. It was rumoured the building was structurally unsound, however, it turns out that this is far from the truth; apparently built like a brick shithouse, only military structures are sturdier.

Invited to the opening party were as many ex-employees and family members as they could track down. Amongst them was a great, great grand daughter of F J Parsons, creator of the Observer Building. Porter says: “There were great stories – people thought of The Observer as being part of a family.” And the team are intending to make a film about the people and the history of the building and offer it to the BFI National Archive.

One of the stories they heard was when the building was finally closing and everything was stripped out, no one wanted any of the old printing equipment. Consequently, a linotype machine was summarily junked; a sad loss of the history of the printing works .

The Observer Building will open as part of Coastal Currents on August 29. The current exhibition Wet and Dry, showcasing Matthew Burrows, Simon Burton, The Baron Gilven, Gerard Hemsworth, Mario Rossi and Rose Wylie is open this weekend, 2 August 12–5pm.

Posted 14:23 Wednesday, Jul 29, 2015 In: Community Arts

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