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Arts in Alexandra Park on a sunny Easter Sunday.

Arts pavilion opens in the park

Locals in their hundreds were bowled over by the new arts pavilion which has opened in Alexandra Park. HOT’s Chris Connelley joined the Easter weekend revellers sampling this new fount of wellbeing activities, and also took the photos.

Take one sunny Saturday, one bank holiday weekend and a former bowling pavilion in a much loved green flag park. Add a stellar cast of artists and musicians, competitions and a couple of thousand enthusiastic guests of all ages and what do you get?

Pretty much the perfect Easter garden party to celebrate the opening of the new Art in the Park Pavilion. Think chilled-out- family-friendly festival meets village fete in the heart of happening Hastings.

The idea of taking a disused building and putting it to good use on behalf of the local community is the brainchild of Tara Reddy, the founder of the highly regarded Arts on Prescription project. Set up in 2018 as a not-for-profit social enterprise bringing together artists, therapists and wellbeing providers, AOP seeks to forge a strong connection and collaboration between the creative and health professions through the provision of a  wide range of activities spanning different disciplines — the visual arts, dance, writing — designed to promote wellbeing.

Guided by a dual vision of the arts “as a healing balm for good health and wellbeing” and “a philosophy of Art for All,” the group have sought to reach out to all social groups in every part of town audiences, debunking the idea that it is somehow only suited for an elite minority of gifted folk and trumpeting the idea that “that art is something anyone is capable of, at any stage in their life, and that art has the ability to heal, unify, transmute and edify individuals and communities”.

AOP also commends the arts as often providing better support, both emotionally and physically, than medication, with creative interventions seen as having a big effect. As their mission statement puts it, “a simple activity can change and even empower the mindset of an individual convinced they are in a hopeless state. The arts are a form of cognitive behavioural therapy…helping people to feel that their lives have more options, possibilities and better support can ameliorate health inequalities within society; helping people to take control over their own health and well-being.”

Safe sanctuary

The latest project, Art in the Park, takes the group’s work to a new level, rehabilitating a disused space and potential magnet for vandalism into a place of beauty and safe sanctuary for all who are looking for some peace and inspiration in turbulent times.

This weekend’s fete was devised as a preview and sampler for what Tara anticipates will be a comprehensive programme of events and classes, happening outside and around the pavilion in Alexandra Park, starting with a programme over the upcoming Platinum Jubilee weekend on 4-5 June, when work will begin on a compilation of people’s memories of the park curated by esteemed local artist and near neighbour of the park, Peter Quinnell.

Muffin on greeting duty.

A packed former bowling green demonstrated the strong support for Art in the Park, with young and old taking in the atmosphere and enthusiastically trying out all the activities on offer. Local mum Gina Hewitt commented, “It is really nice to see the bowling green enlivened and great that what’s on offer is free, opening it up to everyone.”

Volunteer Muffin, working as a greeter on the door, echoed the sentiment, expressing delight at the numbers attending. “With around 400 people present at any given time, and with constant movement, we reckon that over the course of the day several thousand people will have come through the gates, which is a phenomenal achievement on day one.”

A proud Tara looked across the packed arena and said, “What a magical experience. This place has clearly really struck a cord from the very outset, and just imagine what amazing things we can achieve as we get fully up and running”

More details of what’s on offer can be found on the group’s Facebook page. For more information on how to book or to get involved please email info@artsonprescription.org.

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Posted 18:14 Monday, Apr 18, 2022 In: Grassroots

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