KEN TOWL’s been on his travels again, discovering a potential excursion to… Bexhill
With a cluster of bank holidays approaching, and the weather, tentatively, getting warmer, it is time to start planning a trip or, as Chaucer put it in The Canterbury Tales more than half a millennium ago, “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote, The droghte of March hath perced to the roote…Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages.”
Bexhill sits coyly on the south coast some 25 miles to the east of its party animal kiss-me-quick cousin Brighton and, at about an hour further on the train from East Croydon, it plays a little harder-to-get-to. But the schlep is worth it, especially if there is something worth seeing at the De La Warr Pavilion.
And there is often something – or someone – worth seeing at the De La Warr Pavilion. Just a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to see the phenomenal Wilco Johnson, just one event in a perennially impressive concert line-up.
The iconic modernist building has resulted in some referring to the town as Bauhaus-on-sea. It has served the town as a concert hall and restaurant since 1935.
There are currently two exhibitions, Still I Rise in the main space and the separate but inevitably related Displaced Choreographies in the smaller upstairs space.
The former, as Inside Croydon’s literate and relatively “woke” reader will surmise, is a reference to Maya Angelou’s 1978 poem in which she rails against patriarchal and racial oppression, reflecting the intersectional approach of the exhibition.
A thoroughly mixed media and non-didactic approach ensures there is something for everyone. On one wall a collection of posters allows us to explore the fluid relationship between art and political protest while on another we find a film of working class Birmingham women bemoaning the uselessness of the (male) architects that have given them such small kitchens.
When I was there a group of women were taking part in a workshop led by a local artist in which they were learning to make their own fanzines. The exhibition is on right through our four-bank holiday spring time, until May 27.
The exhibition is characterised by strong images and powerful, often provocative sentiments whether expressed in polemic, sculpture, painting or photography. It makes a welcome and stimulating contrast to the sleepy town that surrounds the Pavilion. For more details and information on related events, click here.
Upstairs, and until June 2, Hayv Kahraman’s Displaced Choreographies continues the intersectional motif, particularly through the Body Carpets, strips of handmade carpets made by women from Iran, Afghanistan and Kurdistan, cut into the shape of the artists’ body and left part folded, part outstretched on the floor, a sort of anti-Antony Gormley, a conscious reduction of the person to the superfluity of a mere image.
Some of the images are quite stunning, but all of them have a dark and unnerving heart. You would expect no less, perhaps, from a woman of the Iraqi diaspora.
The café, while not the restaurant of the 1930s that I imagine, boasts a reasonably priced and modern menu and, better yet, the best views in town. You may be reminded of the big ticket TV event of Christmas 2018, The ABC Murders, starring John Malkovich as Hercule Poirot, since some of the exterior shots were filmed here. The British seaside is, of course, notorious for its changeable weather and the Pavilion’s design takes this into account. Thus, if it is cold and windy, the glass front affords a panoramic view, and if the sun shines it shines rather beautifully on the balcony that runs along the sea-facing facade.
Beware! This is not London; the café closes at 5pm.
Indeed, in Bexhill on Sea it appears that just about everything closes at 5pm, so you are advised to get there early. There are, however, a couple of decent restaurants just over the road from the Pavilion, both of which deserve a mention. You can get decent brasserie fare at Rocksalt-On-Sea and “Neapolitan street food” at Rustico, one of a family-run local mini-chain next door. Both offer outside seating.
So there you have it, art, culture, polemic and pizza, and all of this in addition to arguably the most stunning building on the Sussex coast, and a long, long pebble beach.
More savour-me-slowly than kiss-me quick.
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