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Starting point: the Battle of Hastings.

Starting point: the Battle of Hastings.

Hastings Embroidery goes on show in Rye

Following a well-attended and enthusiastic launch on Thursday evening, the Hastings Embroidery is now on display at the new Bridge Point creative arts centre in Rye, where further exhibitions and events are already in the pipeline. Nick Terdre reports.

The Hastings Embroidery will be on display to the public at Bridge Point on six weekends between now and October, starting this Sunday and bank holiday Monday.

At last Thursday’s launch the (British) champagne flowed freely and canapes were consumed as 150 or so invited guests and members of the press enjoyed the first opportunity to see the Hastings Embroidery, a complement to the Bayeux Tapestry.

All were enjoined by the artistic director Tim Hopkins to leave drinks and snacks behind before entering the display hall, where they were able to follow the trail of the 27 panels which make up the artwork, taking us from the Norman invasion in 1066 through pivotal events in Britain’s history to 1966.

Caxton and the arrival of the printing press.

Caxton and the arrival of the printing press.

At a time when we stand before a momentous turning-point in our history, the exhibition is intended to give us an opportunity to contemplate the past that has made us what we are.

“It’s a document of its time,” said Sarah Kowitz, executive producer of the event and, together with her husband David, founder and funder of Bridge Point.

Long sweep

“The fact is, there’s a long sweep to look at. It’s an emotional and fraught subject to be British.”

The embroidery was conceived by war hero, Group Captain Ralph Bagshaw Ward to commemorate the 900th anniversary of the last successful invasion of this island. It was he who chose the 80 or so events it depicts, but otherwise it was a female enterprise which brought it to life, principally the 17 stitchers of the Royal School of Needlework who created the images using an appliqué technique.

The embroidery was first displayed in the old town hall and later on the pier. But finding a suitable place to exhibit it proved problematic, and it has spent recent decades in unseen storage at an undisclosed location in London. Hastings Borough Council, which owns it, says it would be happy to provide it on a long-term loan to whoever could give it a permanent home where it could be on view.

“When I went to see it in storage with [HBC marketing manager] Kevin Boorman in November, I saw its vibrancy and beauty; it’s a piece of folk art exquisitely made,” Mrs Kowitz told HOT. “I hope someone can take on the mantle of giving it a permanent home.”

Members of London Contemporary Orchestra perform Robert Thomas's specially commissioned work Stitched.

Members of London Contemporary Orchestra perform Robert Thomas’s specially commissioned work Stitched.

Immersive experience

At Bridge Point the embroidery is presented as part of an immersive experience, accompanied by a new work – Stitched – by composer Robert Thomas and surrounded by an installation by Mr Hopkins on which images from Britain’s history are cast. The first performance of Stitched was given by five members of the London Contemporary Orchestra.

“We took an old piece and made new stuff around it,” said Mrs Kowitz. “We want to make this a space for creative people to do new stuff.” Bridge Point, she said, is conceived as a multi-disciplinary project.

While planning permission is being sought for the whole site, events are being presented on a pop-up basis.

Days on which the tapestry will be on display are:

Sunday 26 and Monday 27 May
Saturday 8 and Sunday 9 June
Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 July
Saturday 25 and Sunday 26 August
Saturday 14 and Sunday 15 September
Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 October.

Opening times 11am to 3pm. Entry adults £3, under 26s free. Bridge Point is in Rock Channel, Rye TN31 7DE, at the bottom of St Margaret’s Terrace.

Future events include:

Sat 8 June: Your England Poetry workshops about England with Dan Thompson (registration required)

Sat 15 June: Tango Night Works by Astor Piazolla with Hastings Philharmonic

Thurs 27 June: Salome With Ediface Dance Theatre, music by Philip O’Meara, played by Hastings Philharmonic.

Into the 20th century: Armistice 1918 and the first direct Atlantic flight.

Into the 20th century: Armistice 1918 and the first direct Atlantic flight.

Posted 12:05 Saturday, May 25, 2019 In: Visual Arts

4 Comments


Please read our comment guidelines before posting on HOT
  1. Ms.Doubtfire

    This is shocking news indeed – this staircase was entrusted to Hastings council for safe keeping – to think that it has been destroyed and possibly now forms part of the balustrade for someone’s balcony adornment is utterly shameful.
    It does appear this council has been feckless, irresponsible and accountable to nobody for many many decades.

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Tuesday, Jun 4, 2019 @ 21:00

  2. Heather Grief

    In response to Ms Doubtfire, Bohemia Mansion and its items recommended to be saved included the staircase. Everything known is included in my book
    Bohemia Farm to Summerfields Estate: a History.
    Most of it was almost certainly destroyed, but some of the balustrade is said to have been re-used for a balcony on someone’s house.
    Hastings Library / the County Library should have a copy of the book, and there is a photo.
    Last September I brought out a Hastings Hikes: the Cream Tea Path booklet, which includes other photos that came to light afterwards. This is for sale at £2-50, from the History House, Hastings Museum, Fishermen’s Museum or direct from me, at 64, Tower Rd West.

    Comment by Heather Grief — Tuesday, May 28, 2019 @ 20:26

  3. Ms.Doubtfire

    Whilst we are on the subject of the hidden historical gems of Hastings can anyone tell us where the magnificent staircase from the Bohemia House has gone? When this lovely house was demolished sometime in the 70’s this staircase was considered of such quality that the council was charged with being the custodians. Despite many requests nobody has ever come up with any answers. So – someone in the council must know – where is the staircase councillors??? (there is an excellent resume of the fate of this building on the 1066 website. Makes for uncomfortable reading).
    https://www.1066.net/summerfields/history-of-summerfields.htm

    Comment by Ms.Doubtfire — Monday, May 27, 2019 @ 11:30

  4. Heather Grief

    Very glad people will have the chance to see it again. Some corrections: it was first displayed in the Triodome on Hastings Pier – I went to see it there. Due to the Triodome roof leaking, it was moved to the town hall, where it was displayed on weekdays only until the space it took was turned into the Tourist Information Centre, and it was moved to the Sussex Room at White Rock Pavilion. When Labour won control of HBC it was taken off display by some workmen and put in storage at Momart’s Leytonstone warehouse – a freedom of information request found this out. A small committee of eminent historians chose the scenes to be included as the most important in England/the UK’s history – one of them was Asa Briggs.

    Comment by Heather Grief — Monday, May 27, 2019 @ 00:05

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