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Into Cheltenham in the evening to Chapel Arts in Knapp Road for the launch of Cheltenham Open Studios where as Patron I am giving an opening speech. Very nice to see Tony, then Stephen the vice Chancellor there too. Stephen thanks me for my nice comments about the University. Chapel Arts is a very nice space and I chat to Ian James who owns it and compliment him on the way he has transformed it into an exhibition and performing space - a cultural hub here in Cheltenham.
Into Cheltenham for 5.30 to visit the University’s degree show at Hardwick campus. Bob Davison takes us in but leaves us to make our own way round. Its a stunning show and Katie Davis the course leader comes up and thanks us for coming. She says if we want any help in selecting the award winner she is happy to advise. We bump into Stephen the vc again who takes us over to say hello to his mother after I have enquired how she is. In fact we meet several people we know en route and I introduce Mike Carter of Artshape to Bob. Eventually, having previously said I prefer it to be one prize, I end up splitting it between two, Rita Long a mature student who did a two year foundation course in Stroud before joining in the third year of the degree course at the University. Her work is both sensitive and powerful and very pertinent to this era where climate change is having drastic effects on our ecology and it seems all the more relevant since President Trump’s statement of yesterday pulling the US out of the Paris climate agreement. Its a rather mysterious hanging of yucca branches with seed heads painted a blackish grey and suspended from the ceiling so each casts it shadow over one of the seven images Rita has made using various techniques in monochrome on the same theme. The other prize winner is Steve Nulty whose large painted canvas mimics that of a screen on a games console. The mostly abstract composition depicts an explosion or similar act of violence so that facets seem to be drawn out towards us. He’s trying to reference and draw our attention to the fact that these games, films etc that use violence as their subject matter, are in danger of deadening our response to the violence of war situations etc when they are transmitted through news reel. Its touching to see the way all the students respond when I announce the winners, each of them embraces me then each other before big hug-ins from the whole group. Rita tells me its the best thing about the whole three years, which makes me feel very privileged to be in that position.
Have been working in the studio and Richard has just called me dinner when there’s a newsflash on his iphone - a major incident on London Bridge. A white van has driven into people walking across the bridge - deaths and multiple injuries. I phone Nathan to make sure that he and Clemantine are not in that part of London. They have just taken Jai out for the evening but are luckily not in that vicinity. As the night unfolds the scenario becomes even more horrendous as three terrorists had then leapt out of the van and gone on a murderous killing spree with knives through the bars of Borough Market. The police are absolutely amazing as within 8 minutes of the attack they had shot all three of the terrorists.
Tragically many of the people so wickedly mowed down are internationals from other countries. An Australian staff nurse who had run to help the injured, only 28 and working in our hospitals and a younger Australian woman of just 21. A few days later the body of a young Frenchman is found in the Thames. Almost fifty people injured, some of them critically. Again, wonderfully cared for by the nearby hospitals. One doctor had been cycling home after his shift when he heard the commotion so immediately turned back to the hospital to assist.
Contemplating in studio
Up to London to hear Samuel in the public speaking competition. We arrive just before Henrietta at the Church. Samuel is in the younger section, having won his place, his speech being best in his class. We are very impressed as he makes good eye contact and speaks beautifully clearly on his subject matter of cats. We take them for tea and cake before taking them home as Henrietta had to go back to her school to work. we leave their house at about 6.45pm to go over to Nathan and Clem’s in Hackney for supper. A delicious aroma drifts from their doorway as Nathan is cooking a spaghetti bolognaise. A lovely way to end the evening catching up with them both and looking at pictures of the wedding they have just been to in New York (one of Clementine's best friends has just married a a television and film actor) and of their his latest projects.
Polling Day in the General Election. Work until 4am listening to the election results. The exit poll commissioned by the BBC, Sky and ITV, forecast that the Conservatives will not get the surge of votes that they hope for. Giving an even greater mandate to Theresa May to go to the European negotiations with the ‘no deal is better than a bad deal’ approach which as a Remainer makes me feel very sad. I hate the thought of severing ourselves from our European neighbours in such a way although I know that as a democracy I have to respect the majority vote from the referendum. But it seems to me there are better ways than a hard-nosed nationalistic approach. I’m very heartened that the Scottish Nationalist Party have lost 22 seats as the Union between our countries seems again essential to me. The poor old Liberal Democrats have lost some and gained some, being now 4 up, two of those being in Scotland.
In the afternoon we go over the Gloucestershire College campus in Cheltenham to see Robbie and the Foundation students who have just set up their end of year show both for the assessors and as part of Cheltenham Open Studios. Its a lovely tall space with a angles roof and lots of light coming in - ideal for their exciting show. There are just thirteen of them who all seem to have got places on different university courses next yet year, some like the Chinese girl who took us in who is going to study textile design, another very nice girl who tells us she lives quite close to us in Woodmancote, is going to Goldsmiths to study design.
The most dreadful inferno has engulfed Grenfell Tower in London, a 24 story block housing people and families of many different nationalities in the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. It seems to have started on the 4th floor but within minutes the fire spread at alarming speed. Terrible stories of families and children screaming for help, out on those high balconies. One mother indicated she was going to throw her baby down and miraculously it was caught by a man who ran to do so. The people on the upper storeys didn’t stand a chance; many will have died from smoke inhalation. The fire brigade were heroic in entering a building from which others were running. They managed to rescue many but said it was horrendous as they had to make choices about who to bring out, the heat was so intense and platforms and hoses could only really reach up to the 12th floor.
People are coming not only from London, but further afield trying to give help to the survivors of Grenfell Tower and the number of those thought to have perished keeps rising.
Receive my royalties statement from the Bridgeman. Its always exciting to see where my paintings have been reproduced which includes some French books and Japanese wine labels.
I’m trying to get things finished enough to hang in the studio tomorrow as well as the two huge pigs which we are going to put outside the entrance to my studio. So we don’t get to bed until 7am.
When I look out of the bedroom window I can see one of the pigs sitting in the sunshine. Entering the studio I’m greeted by my lovely friend Joyce with her two delightful grandchildren Holly and Freddy, who are beautiful and so well behaved. She bearing a beautiful deep mauve/purple lily for me. Gill Henry from the National Star and her husband John, are also there and she buys one of the engravings. The studio begins to fill but as it’s such a glorious day we have the french windows open onto the garden where we have put tables, chairs and sunshades for people to drink their tea and eat their cake at. Some people we know and others who don’t. People all commented on how nice it was to be able to sit in the garden too which of course isn’t a possibility when I have my Christmas Open Studio. Our lovely friends Richard and Lesley Chatham arrive and volunterily take over the washing up and tea making which is a tremendous help. Toyah arrives with David Singelton’s wife Indeg - they moved down here from Broadchalke and one of their daughters is on tour with Robert and King Crimson at the moment. Edward and Alyson arrive on their bicycles whilst Wallace has driven all the way from Banbury with George who is in his 102nd year. He’s full of excitement as he’s been filmed and interviewed by Joan Bakewell as part of a tv series she’s doing on centegenarians.
Its been a very enjoyable afternoon and we’ll even have raised over £3000 for the Star and £1000 for LINC
Very nice invitation from Monrusha who with her father Shamsul, runs Curry Corner the award winning curry house in Cheltenham. We met then in London a few years ago when they were receiving an award and had then gone onto the House of Commons to meet Martin Horwood who was our Lib Dem MP and friend who brought them along to my opening in Cork Street. She says it is a spontaneous invitation to the first Cheltenham and Gloucester Ramadan banquet. I think its holding out the hand of friendship after the recent horrible white van attack on worshipers leaving the mosque in Finsbury Park where one man was killed and several injured in what appears to be a reprisal terrorist attack by someone from Cardiff.
Toyah comes for tea and to collect her painting; its lovely to catch up.
E mail from Eiji telling me that my four paintings had arrived safely in Tokyo at the weekend and that they will arrive at the Museum next week after undergoing checks in Tokyo. They plan to exhibit the works in the next year after the curators have done more in depth research. And that they also plan to make some Museum souvenirs of the works and that their collection is enriched by the addition of these paintings.
Most people are seated when we arrive at Curry Corner and we are very pleased to be guided by Monrusha to seats next to Meurig and Rachel Bowen who we haven’t seen for some time. Meurig is the director of the International Music Festival and Rachel trains several choirs as well as teaching music. Monrush comes and sits with us for a time and I tell her about our experiences in Saudi Arabia and she tells me about going on the Haj when she was 11 years old and what a profound effect it has. Also that is only recently that she has started to cover her hair with a with a beautiful red hijab which was her own choice just as it was to become a more devout Muslim. How meaningful it is to her and how it enriches her life. Its a wonderful feast and starts with eating of a date and followed by many different rice dishes. Its a lovely evening full of the best of humanity and friendship. We also see Richard Smith there who has moved from the music festivals to the NHS in Gloucester as a fund raiser but when we first met him he was working for the National Star College.
Diane comes with her son to collect her miniature. We sit and chat over a glass of elderflower cordial after which its almost time to leave for the Friends of the Wilson (Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum) AGM in the Council Chamber where I’m giving the welcoming opening speech. Its a particularly warm evening as the temperature’s been over 30. At the end of the meeting Hillary (chair) and I present Jenny Ogle with a bouquet of flowers and an exquisite silver necklace made by the Gloucester Guild of Craftsmen as a celebration of the 33 years she has served as a founding member on the committee of the Friends. Also Jan Turner is standing down. Whereas Jenny will continue to work on behalf of the Holst Museum where she is a trustee, Jan becomes president of the Gloucestershire WI. After this there’s a very interesting BBC TV film on Cheltenham in about 1985 where a very young Dr Stephen Blake who worked at the Museum, talks to the presenter about Cheltenham’s architectural and cultural scene. Afterwards Dr David Wilson, one of the Friends’ Patrons and great nephew of Edward Wilson the explorer, Artist and doctor, who has travelled up from Folkstone especially to be here, comes back with us for dinner which we eat in the garden by candle light. We sit and chatter, getting to know each other until after midnight.
In the morning I come down to say goodbye before Richard takes David off to the station.
In the evening its over to Gloucester campus of GC where I am presenting the Arts & Media Awards whilst the master of ceremonies is Joe Lemur the Radio Bristol early morning DJ. Its always such a joy to see all these youngsters who have worked so hard during their courses, receiving the awards. There is a brilliant video presentation at the beginning and end of the event showing the creative and performing art students work, which is hugely exciting. To my delight, one of the students, Ellie, who is in a wheelchair and has been studying drama, receives one of the awards. We both recognise each other from the National Star College. Its always pleasing when students from the Star go on to study at Gloucestershire College. The evening has been beautifully choreographed by Jane Jenkins, head of the school of Arts & Media and I am very pleased to meet the vice chair of the governors Gillian Hayes who I am sitting next to before the presentations.
Back to work on the pigs and some gardening too.
Gill and Ian arrive in the evening bearing a beautiful cerise orchid; two bottles of Chateauneuf du Pape knowing that it is my favourite and some beautifully designed environmental boxes one containing a bird feeder, another a bird box, the third is an insect hotel with layers of wood between which I imagine they stay and the fourth is a bee and insect nester with lots of little wooden tubes looking a little like a honeycomb. All in celebration of my birthday next week. We sit in the garden with our glasses of wine and chat before moving indoors for Japanese style salmon dish that Ricard has cooked. Its lovely to see them and catch up.
After breakfast and more chatting we wave them goodbye on their way back to Bedfordshire.
Mid afternoon the doorbell rings and there to my delight are Nathan and Clemantine who come on their way back from camping on the Welsh coast in the Gower where they have been surfing. Its such a joy to see them both and they have come especially as Nathan will be working Ireland for a couple of weeks (on a Guinness advert) on my birthday. He’s bearing the most glorious bunch of flowers, white roses, lilies and chrysanthemums and stocks which he puts in a large vase of eater for me. We sit and enjoy a leisurely late lunch with them - a gravadlax that Richard has been preparing for four days, with a pomegranite salad.
Such a lovely weekend. We wave them off about 7pm.
We receive an e mail from Paul Tarling at the National Star College telling us that the creative and Performing Arts evening will be on the 6ht July. Their theme this year will be Essence and he tells us that the art students have produced breathtaking art work inspired by their passions and interests. That Orchestar have made some glorious music representing the essence of Gloucestershire whilst the drama students have produced musical theatre and puppet theatre and a number of films have been made combining different disciplines. They have also written and recorded a College song which is uplifting and celebrating who they are. So Richard and I can’t wait to enjoy it all on the 6th.
After working in the studio through to the evening, I start putting together some answers for a feature in an educational magazine on my ‘favourite teachers’. Also have to sort out some appropriate photographs for it too.
Am greeted with an array of parcels that have come through the post and pretty cards, the largest of which is a beautiful flamboyant urn with flowers rather similar to those we have in the garden, drawn in colours by Richard. And another hand-made card from George on which he has painted three roses - all the more remarkable as he a hundred and one and a half. A wonderful card with four red buses from David and Denys - I wonder how they knew it was my birthday and how they found a card that was so appropriate based on the same subject as their painting Ticket To Ride.
R ad I spend the day busily pursuing our tasks but am delighted to receive a call from Henrietta and later one from Isaac and Samuel and later still one from Nathan in Ireland. So its lovely to hear from them all.
We’re off to London to see Isaac in Aladdin, playing Razoul and Samuel in the accompanying ensemble. Henrietta’s saved us a place and we are in good time having even arrived before Kev. Such a brilliant performance its hard to believe that these players are all 11 or under years of age. The excitement is palpable. We’d been greeted outside by Isaac and his friends all in costume. I’m truly amazed how beautiful their singing voices are and how they all remember their lines and the performance is seamless but full of intense joy at performing and how they are proud of one another. It is such a marvellous little school.
After the excitement of the performance and congratulating them, we go bake to their house for a delicious birthday meal that Henrietta has prepared, salmon en croute followed by fruit salad with meringue and ice cream or yogourt - mine had a candelabra with a candle and Isaac played Happy Birthday on his guitar while everyone sang. Then opening my beautiful card, a watercolour collage which the boys proudly tell me Mummy has made with little drawings inside by each of them and a beautiful picture, sillouettes of all of us, created by H’s friend Jules. We leave at about 10pm for our journey home when I read a long e mail with birthday greeting from dear friend Dr Margus Laidre, the Estonian ambassador in Helsinki and Tiina.
We’re back at work - I’m trying to catch up in the studio. I must get these pigs finished!