AS a visitor to Hastings I would like to commend The Beacon arts centre. When you turn off the top of the West HIll and plunge down a rutted track you wonder what’s going to be at the bottom, only to see the huge rambling house and be charmed by its air of Bohemian eccentricity and the quality of its events.
You may, for instance, find the arts centre on the ground floor transformed into an air raid shelter complete with severn-piece band, as it was during the wildest gale of the winter, or you may be ushered to a table and treated to a Suppertalk like last Friday’s when biographer James Trollope spoke about the techniques and work of Sussex woodcut artist Eric Slater who studied at The Hastings School of Art and produced more than 30 woodcuts between 1926 and the outbreak of the Second World War, the majority within 10 miles of his Seaford home.
The centre is run by Judy Dewsbery who told me she had been living with her family in a small London maisonette when, 21 years ago, she bought the 20-room house, then being used as a language school.
Three years ago she began work on the space that is now the arts centre and today is used for a variety of events. Last Saturday, for example, saw a Mind Mapping course in the morning and a baby shower in the afternoon.
She was co-founder of 70s and 80s business Swanky Modes whose racy clothes attracted the attention of photographer Helmut Newton and were featured on an Arena programme. Now an artist rather than dress designer, she runs the arts centre and shares her home with various members of her family.
Judy’s artist daughter Dora and partner Tim, a chef, live on the fourth floor. One floor below is Judy’s sister Sarah Gregson, also an artist. Below Sarah are Judy’s quarters while various members of the extended family take up residence from time to time.
I hope Hastings is proud of its reborn arts scene: with the arts centre at the top of the hill and the splendid Jerwood Gallery at the bottom, it is an exciting town to visit.
For more information go to www.beaconhastings.com, call Judy Dewsbery on 01424 431305 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.