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We’re delighted to announce a cracking line up for the opening gig for the Eyes All Around opening on Friday 6th May. We are proud to present the legendary Bob Collins with his band The Full Nelson, ably supported by punk poet and gentleman raconteur Unlucky Fried Kitten and the hypnotic Joe Cottiss.
All are welcome to the opening of the Eyes All Around exhibition, which takes place between 6:30 and 8:00 pm at the Brook Theatre Gallery, and we’d be delighted if you would join us for this gig just down the road afterwards, from around 8:30.
We’ve had a few questions about this coming Friday, so it seems like a good idea to post a potted itinerary. Plus, we’ve got some news. Our regular readers will all by now be aware of the exhibition Two Sides of the Same Coin (see Eyes passim) that opens between 6:30 and 8:00 pm on Friday 4th February at the Brook Theatre in Chatham. This preview, to which you are all invited, is just the first half of what promises to be a belter of an evening. From 8:30 pm we have a stunning line up of live music at the Nag’s Head in Rochester. Wheels and Lupen Crook will be sharing the bill, and we’re delighted to announce that they are being joined by very special guest Dave Read, formerly the front man with local legends The Claim, and one of the finest songwriters we can think of. So there.
The exhibition itself showcases the stunning work of artist Daisy Parris, supported by photographer Phil Dillon. It’s about local influences and talent and is as much about the fellow creatives the work points up as it is the artists themselves. Ultimately though, it’s about Medway, its culture and its catalysts.
Steve invited Medway Eyes (that’s Rew and Anna on the left) to meet Keith Taylor, the Green MEP for the South East (foot on stump) and members of the Medway Green Party to talk about the new bus station that is to be built on the Paddock. Trees have already been felled in preparation for this, despite reports that only 360 of Medway’s 250,000 population have actually been consulted about this (and even then, 69% of those canvassed didn’t want the station to be built on the Paddock). We discussed this lack of consultation and the environmental impact of the project. We were surprised to learn that Medway Renaissance and SEEDA are no more (something that we hadn’t seen in the local press) and pleased to discover how Brussels can sometimes help to bring councils to account.
We took the Greens for a walk along Desolation Row to discuss our ongoing multimedia project, the area’s history, empty shops and the tragedy of the Theatre Royal. There was general agreement that what we were walking through didn’t feel like a city, and we went on to discuss the individual character of each of Medway’s distinct towns.
It was interesting to discover how much we all had in common, something that party politics will never quite be able to grasp – at least not while infantile point scoring, careerism and ideology are deemed more important than dialogue.
One last note: At no point did the Greens ever preach policy at us or ask if they could count on our votes, and we – not being party political – found that very refreshing.
Possibly its most important event this year, the Medway Eyes Photo Walk drew attention from far and wide. Due to coverage on the BBC, in The Independent, Amateur Photographer, the British Jounal of Photography, as well as local papers, Monaxle and Medway Eyes became momentarily famous for all the wrong reasons. Medway Eyes didn’t set itself up as a civil rights group, but found itself at the heart of a debate which has been snowballing since legislation was introduced allowing police officers to arrest anyone, for
any reason, under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000.
Section 44 is one of the more controversial laws introduced during New Labour’s tenure; part of an avalanche of more than 3600 new criminal offences set to bury us all in bureaucracy and undermine our rights. Under Section 44, the police need not have any grounds for arrest at all. So, if you carry a camera, or a mobile phone, or a rucksack, or if you drive a van, or wear a beard, then watch your back, because that’s all it takes. Abandoning all common sense, it seems, the government has exercised extreme stupidity
in order to legislate against extreme stupidity. What’s it going to do next? Arrest itself?
Despite the events which inspired the photo walk, the day itself saw a hefty contingent of happy photographers descend on Medway from all over the place. A slideshow of what they saw can be seen on the Rights and Wrongs page on the Medway Eyes website.
You can follow the details of Monaxle’s case on his blog.
And here’s some video. The first is from The Independent. The second is from Babycravat.
Dillon, who has been described as “a cult”, exhibited a variety of works showcasing Medway and its musicians alongside some of his well-known London photographs and some of his more impressionistic work.
Desolation Row is an ongoing collaborative multimedia project that is Medway Eyes’ response to the regeneration that is taking place in Medway despite a lack of sufficient public consultation.
We believe that respectful management and preservation of a place’s heritage is the key to a successful regeneration, yet we have seen the Theatre Royal demolished, Aveling and Porter groundlessly condemned, and Sun Pier left to ruin. The council can see Sun Pier from their plush new offices. We’ve asked them when it is going to be fixed. We have not received a reply.
We also observe that regeneration in other areas has opened up waterfronts. Not here though. The waterfront will be covered in flats and closed off from the town by a bus station in the wrong place.
Sunday 15th March saw an assortment of creative locals – musicians, photographers, film makers, writers, artists and designers traipsing around the forgotten stretch of the Chatham/Rochester Hight Street. The plan for the shoot was to make it up as we went along and then go to the pub.
Our only disappointment was that the Bob Dylan which had been stencilled onto the side of the Jade Garden (by Redlock, we subsequently discovered) had been painted over. A real shame as it was the only thing breaking up the ghastly shade of Dull that the rest of the building was painted in. Anyway, thanks to our vigilant photographers, we’d heard of a second Bob Dylan painted on Bath Hard Lane. We found Bob to be wonderfully photogenic and a
real hit with the ladies. We did the second Desolation Row shoot two weeks later. We filmed some interviews and singing by the river and drank more beer.
Unfortunately, there was one thing missing; Bob Dylan. The second Bob had been painted over too. He’d been stencilled onto a filled-in railway arch on a scrubby bit of wasteland, so who would paint over it and why? Given that other graffiti had been left behind, including an indecipherable, artistically devoid tag about six feet high, we could come to only one conclusion; the council had been out with the whitewash again. It seems we were right, too. Medway Eyes photographer, Garry Jenkins was in the papes again for the second time in a week. The caption beneath his photo read “This Dylan image has since been painted over by council workers”. While they were at it, the council painted over another historic piece of graffiti; a tribute to Thee Milkshakes which had adorned the wall by the railway bridge for more than twenty-five years. You see, the council can’t have the general public seeing validity in vandalism. How will it manipulate us into believing that Medway needs regeneration if the crappy tags have to compete with artistic graffiti? So they painted over Bob and the Milkshakes leaving the rubbish behind in the name of making Medway a “cleaner and safer place”. The council whitewash is not for our safety, it is a tool of censorship, used to blunt our senses to its persistent cultural vandalism.
We’re letting this project find its own path and allowing it to take as long as it needs to to record change. There will be video, music and maybe a book. It is possible, but unlikely, that a physical gallery exhibition will accompany this project, so don’t be upset if there are no postcards of the hanging. The chances are we’ll manage another gig.
See the Desolation Row page on our website for more information.
Friday 3rd October 2008 saw the opening of the first Medway Eyes collaborative exhibition at the Brook Theatre Gallery in Chatham. The work involved in organising an exhibition is immense. When so many people are involved, the shortlisting alone can take forever. Before anything even makes it onto the walls there’s decision-making, printing, measuring, glass-cutting, framing, promotion, more measuring, headaches and, in the case of this exhibition, carpentry. Luckily, Jack Picknell had that covered.
Look At Medway featured the work of 19 local photographers. We were overwhelmed by the volume of traffic through the door on the opening night, and it and remains the most visited exhibition ever hosted at the Brook Theatre.
Special thanks to Ben Jones, Burn Paper Tigers and Groovy Uncle for playing cracking sets on the opening night too.
You can see the exhibition HERE.