Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

Mucha Firebasket, by Jake Bowers.

St Leonards on the up

Chris Connelley is UPbeat about UP- and- coming St Leonards, as it prepares to host a major weekend of art and design. Leading the way is UPmarket, a designers’ and makers’ fair at the Baker Mamonova Gallery.

Last Saturday’s open meeting of the St Leonards Community Forum saw most present agree that the area has been on the up for the last few years, a pleasing state of affairs mainly attributed to the effect of the physical regeneration that has seen many of our streets get a much needed makeover and to the positive impact of the burgeoning arts economy.

With hip new shops and galleries popping up all over, St Leonards is getting lots of valuable press, which imminent design jamboree UPmarket hopes to capitalise on to seal the deal about the town’s coming of age as a happening coastal creative hub.

Ring, by Kristina Ploom.

Over three days this weekend, from 28 to 30 March, the town plays host to a co-ordinated programme of events, showcasing the best in applied art and design across a fast emerging network of showrooms, galleries and bars.

The headliner is UPmarket, a showcase designers’ and makers’ fair for established talent curated at the vast, critically applauded Baker Mamonova Gallery on Norman Road, the undisputed frontline for recent trendification.

Following last year’s expansion into the former builders’ merchants, the gallery offers a hangar like space combining contemporary Russian art and a chilled café area (check out the to-die-for chocolate cheesecake), which will host 21 designers working in a broad base of materials and styles. Featuring jewellers, ceramicists, light makers, fashion designers, furniture makers and interiors specialists, the fair is all about demonstrating the quality and range of the local arts economy, whilst unashamedly plugging the option for us to buy these unique and beautiful objects in a super-cool single space. Such is the new-found confidence that UPmarket will be charging a £3 entrance charge.

UPmarket is just part of the mix, however, with men’s fashion and accessories on show UPstairs at the Admiral Benbow, music, poetry and film at the Kave Gallery, live UPbeat music at Miki’s seafront bar, and, perhaps most interestingly, UPcoming, which presents new and emerging talent at the Claremont Studios on the increasingly enticing Kings Road.

Cog bangles by Sarah Connelley (the writer's wife).

Claremont is a community interest company that occupies a large building, comprising five working studios upstairs (also open over the weekend and branded UPabove) as well as a ground-floor multi-purpose former retail space. This will be given over to a smaller show showcasing the work of 10 exhibitors to watch out for in a carefully curated setting articulated around the themes of light and dark. The focus here is on the fusion between fine art and applied design, with some amazing jewellery, jaw-dropping metal work and smile-inducing acrylic products on show from young and returning talent, including students at nearby Sussex Coast College.

Caroline Le Breton, one of the Claremont’s three directors, pitches UPcoming as the edgy and ‘out there’ fringe, or Deptford to the slightly hackneyed Shoreditch comparators that St Leonards now routinely attracts, emphasising the real promotional value for her exhibitors of a weekend that organisers hope will bring in large numbers of visitors from near and far.

For Le Breton, the weekend is all about providing an opportunity to come and have a look at what people in the area are making, and “to be amazed, and delighted. And to buy something.”

That such a small town is able to mount such an ambitious prospectus is testimony to the UPturn in fortunes that Central St Leonards is currently enjoying after years in the doldrums. All that is needed now is some half decent weather and for hordes of inquisitive folk to turn UP and make the event a resounding success.


Fullest details about the weekend here.

Posted 12:19 Monday, Mar 24, 2014 In: Shops & Things

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