Hastings & St. Leonards on-line community newspaper

All Saints Church in sunshine, watercolour by Maureen Connett

Over and Out for Artshelter?

During the long wait for a bus, local artist and writer, Maureen Connett, has been pondering what can be done to cheer up the town centre, in particular the bus stops at Queens Road. She would have liked to share her art portraying local places in Hastings on the empty spaces at the bus shelters, but it looks like the Pandemic may have put paid to a ‘laudable initiative’. We can take another look at Maureen’s art here.

The Bandstand, Alexandra.Park, Hastings Watercolour by Maureen Connett

Queen’s Road must be one of the dreariest roads in Hastings.  It is redeemed by the wonderful  Alexandra Park at the end of the road with its important collection of trees.  The Park deserves to be better celebrated.

Tackleway, Old Town, Hastings by Maureen Connett

There was a laudable initiative to display images of historic and beautiful sites in the bus shelters, called Artshelter.  This is an excellent idea and needs to be implemented.  During the lockdown, in particular,  would-be bus passengers have waited…and waited, but let’s have something to look at, at least.

“This is another great example of how the money raised from local businesses can get used to make Hastings a brighter and more attractive place at the same time as supporting and promoting local artists,” said Catherine Parr, White Rock Hotel – Chair of Hastings Business Improvement District. This was a bit premature, Is there any money in the pot? Maybe local businesses are no longer in a good financial position to fund this, but is there someone else who might step into the breach?

Hastings Beach by Maureen Connett

It is a shameful fact that, in such an historic town as this, the major museum and art gallery is always struggling for funds and that the museum in the Old Town, so popular with visitors has actually closed down. Historic and important sites need to be attended to and not just in museums.  To its credit, the Fishermen’s Museum, staffed by volunteers, is thriving.  Everyone loves the fishing boats on the Stade and enjoys seeing how they developed.  It is a stimulating area and is very popular.

The Brassey Institute, Hastings Central Library, watercolour by Maureen Connett

So is the library – a triumphant restoration.  I had just come back from Venice when I first saw the frontage in brilliant sunshine and was full of admiration.  I managed to
draw and paint most of it on the spot and the similarity to the glorious Venetian architecture is striking.  A wonderful sight with its perfect proportions and rich decoration, it is an amenity that is indispensable for all ages.

Hastings was evidently more religious in the past.  Huge churches show that large congregations gathered there regularly.  Now things have changed and people have adapted.  Churches and places of worship are used in other ways, too, particularly for music of all kinds.

His Place church facade, now also also a premier venue for music performance also known as Opus Theatre, watercolour by Maureen Connett

The space, the acoustics and the atmosphere are conducive to both rehearsals and concerts. Now traditional churches like Christchurch in London Road and St Johns in Pevensey Road are ideal for sacred works such as Handel’s Messiah.  The mighty Big Choir and the celebrated Hastings Philharmonic have found a natural home.  Smaller venues such as the Tabernacle, now known as Cambridge Hall and His Place, also called Opus Theatre, are needed and used for smaller ensembles.

All this is an interesting riposte to the masterly poem: Church Going by the great  20th Century poet Philip Larkin.  He begins by wondering what will happen to churches when faith and belief have gone and congregations have dwindled  A fine but gloomy writer, he is unduly pessimistic and recognises this by the end of the poem.  He concludes that people will always need and attend churches because there is a profound longing for spiritual sustenance and for a place which ‘ is proper to grow wise in’.

The Spirit of Cricket, Priory Meadow, watercolour by Maureen Connett, excludes the vintage icecream van!


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Posted 07:35 Monday, Aug 17, 2020 In: Visual Arts


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  1. Alison Castellina

    I collect Maureen Connett’s prints of buildings to adorn my flat and loving buildings I value her focus on the shapes of dark windows, towers, arches entrances, and domes, some in St Leonards, Sissinghurst and Florence. I love the Hastings church facade in this article too. The colours she uses can be lovely, so surprising. I agree with her comments on churches. A world without churches, their spires, shapes and shadows, their holy stillness and their contribution to local life would be unthinkable.

    Comment by Alison Castellina — Sunday, Sep 6, 2020 @ 20:06

  2. Chris Cormack

    An anonymous contributor mourns the loss of the Cricket Ground still and sees a different spin on the meaning of ‘the Spirit of Cricket’:

    The “Spirit of Cricket”  is the creation of Allan Sly, who, amongst other things taught at Hounslow and was rated very highly indeed by his students. It memorialises the cricket ground now gone and controversially replaced by commercial and retail ‘therapy’, the balm of free commerce. It is a naturalistic piece. Yet, is there some irony here? What is the ‘Spirit’ of cricket exactly? Is it fair play? Was the Priory Meadows development ‘fair’? The name Priory Meadow harks back to a time when the area was part of an Augustinian Priory estate. It is a site of layered history and the present development is the flower of our own aspiration. Not cricket, fair play, but buying and selling. The cricketer is an action man! He has scored! Belted the ball ‘for six’. The cricket ball is embedded in the wall of Hinds, you will have noticed…high up in the brickwork. However, his skewed body has disturbed the bale, atop the three stumps. He’s out! It is a pyrrhic victory, only an apparent success. The autopsy report declares him: Dead!

    Comment by Chris Cormack — Wednesday, Aug 26, 2020 @ 20:23

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