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Words will be flying about the streets of St Leonards across the Easter holiday period

Words will be flying about the streets of St Leonards across the Easter holiday period

Great Expectations in St Leonards this Easter

A literary festival for readers, non readers and those who just wanna have fun is going to run through St Leonards from 30 March to 15 April. HOT’s Erica Smith shares the word on the street.


St Leonards Gardens, the site for Black Winkle Arts’ giant cucumber sculptures and the home schooler artists’ fowl and rabbit sculptures

Whose voices dominate discussion about our nineteenth century literary heritage?  Chances are that the participants of the Open Door, Hastings and Bexhill Mencap organisation won’t immediately spring to mind in answering that question which is why St Leonard’s ATownExploresABook is such an important emerging festival along the south coast, challenging assumptions about valued literary viewpoints and stereotypical notions of readers and reading. It’s at once a flamboyant, poignant and humorous festival and will bring conversations about this year’s choice of book, Dickens’ Great Expectations out onto the streets of St Leonards. And in parks and pathways. Community groups and professional artists have chosen some leafy sites to share their responses to the novel this year.


Zoom Arts’ Robert Maxted’s response to Dickens’ text

Illustrator Peter Quinnell’s distillation of Dickens’ novel from words into pictures is a shrubbery intervention titled Be Lucky. Head to Warrior Square Gardens to seek it out and be lucky.  Artist Susan Miller is interpreting protagonist Pip’s journey of discovery through life with an artwork, Railings, a Life in Words, sited on the tucked away path leading up from St Leonards Warrior Square Station to station approach. At the station itself, ten artists from Zoom Arts Collective are throwing open the doors of their exhibition space to share myriad perspectives on the novel from 27th March for two weeks. There is also an interactive ‘display of friendship’ inspired by buddies Pip and Herbert’s enduring friendship located in South Eastern’s station ticket office.


Xanadu are styling baddie Bentley Brummle in a flamboyant window display

The majority of events open on 30th March, Good Friday, and run for two weeks through the Easter holiday during which the festival’s community groups will share their thoughts on Dickens’ masterpiece in locations in town not usually associated with academic literary discussions.  Open Door, Hastings and Bexhill Mencap join with their partner organisation, Active Arts, to take over the Mencap charity shop windows in Kings Road with a variety of insights imbued in artworks, film and writing projects.  Elsewhere in Kings Road local businesses are gearing up to offer ‘write in a café’ experiences, window displays and an antiques trail.  The Temperance Bar and Restaurant are running a short piece competition asking customers to respond to a quote from the novel.  Remy’s Café Kulinarya is championing dreams, inspired by Mr Wopsle in the novel, a clerk in the church who realises his dream to become a professional actor.  Pen and paper handy in John and Remy’s charming café to share your dreams and pin them up over the fireplace. Across in Norman Road, Xanadu vintage clothing are styling Dickens’ baddie, Bentley Drummle, in a flamboyant window display while The Bookkeeper Bookshop in Kings Road is creating a window display exploring the unrequited love in Great Expectations. Biddy loves Pip but he does not love her. Pip loves Estella but… what a mess.  How like life. See what the folk at St Leonards’ fab secondhand bookshop make of it all.

Emma Harding’s exploratory work for her piece in Gensing Gardens

Emma Harding’s exploratory work for her piece in Gensing Gardens

In Gensing Gardens, artist Emma Harding is imprinting words in clay in the earth having collected testimonies from members of the community on their experience of violence.  Inspired by the violence in daily life featured in the early chapters in the novel, she has brought important conversations in the community out that don’t often get aired.  Just as Dickens highlighted the abundance of daily violence in life, so perhaps we should be sharing experiences of this aspect of life that many of us have to come to terms with.


Preparatory sketch from Black Winkle Arts for cucumbers in St Leonards Gardens’ flowerbeds

Taking Wemmick’s fantastical castle in the novel as inspiration, the Burtons’ St Leonards Society are transforming their beautiful lodge in St Leonards Gardens into a repository of emblems of an ideal home life. Inviting visitors to bring an object, a poem, a piece of art or similar to add to the exhibition, the society is joining with visitors to celebrate the desire in us all for a Wemmick utopian home life.  Local young artists are additionally decorating the flowerbeds in St Leonards Gardens with Wemmick’s giant cucumbers as well as rabbit and fowl sculptures made from discarded walking boots. On Easter Sunday, great eggspectations will abound with a boiled egg race at 11.30am. An Easter prize awaits the person who rolls their eggs the furthest down the slopes of this magnificent park.

The Wine Shed staff are sharing their affection for the novel with free wine tasting events on Good Friday and Easter Saturday, 1–3pm, themed around characters in the novel, and offering a free matinee showing of David Lean’s 1946 Great Expectations on Sunday 8 April, 3pm, after the restaurant’s Dickens’ inspired lunch serving. Booking essential.

Many other events and experiences comprise this unique two week festival running through the holiday period including ExploreTheArch theatre company’s production The House of the Identity of Things (advanced booking essential).

Words in the earth, art on railings, doodles at the café table, come and partake in the quirkiest of festivals this Easter holiday.  A trail map will be available at all festival venues from Good Friday. Please check out the what’s on page for opening times for each participating organisation and for advanced booking of some events.

For more information, visit

Posted 16:03 Wednesday, Mar 14, 2018 In: Community Arts

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