2020 Corona Visions Innocence

2020 Corona Visions Innocence

William Blake describes Innocence and Experience as "The two contrary states of the human soul". To Blake, Innocence is a kind of organised Innocence rather than simple naivity or idealism. This collection, the sister-gallery to the Experience collection, is made up of submissions from established artists and the general public under the first period of national lockdown as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Innocence allows for rejuvenation and a freshness of vision in our fallen world.

2020 Corona Visions Experience

William Blake describes Innocence and Experience as "the two contrary states of the human soul". To Blake, Experience lacks the joy and vision of Innocence and perception is distorted through a weary lens.  This collection, the sister-gallery to the Innocence collection, is made up of submissions from established artists and the general public under the first period of national lockdown as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic. Experience results in woe and the imprisonment of the soul in "mind-forg'd manacles".

2019 Tyger - Body-Painting Event

During 2019's main BlakeFest event, in the window of Reynolds, a major local furniture in Bognor Regis High Street, Elissa Barrett from Imagine Face and Body Art transformed it into a jungle setting with a body-painted Tyger. This drew quite a crowd, as you might imagine! The result was a spectacular piece of art on a living human, transformed into a wild beast.

2019 Julie Goldsmith

Exhibited at our 2019 BlakeFest main event:

Julie works in ceramic, bronze and found objects. Taking the forms of animals or mythic creatures, influences are from literature, music and the Gothic. “I like to tell stories. For this show I have made works that are inspired by Blake’s belief in the imagination, and his visions of fairies in his garden.”
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Julie's work explores the hidden recesses of the subconscious holding both a dreamlike quality and emotional intensity. Based in London she has exhibited her widely. Last month her work was on the front cover of the International Times. 

"I love the cottage in Felpham village where William Blake lived and worked for three years with his wife Catherine. I imagine the local children today, who will learn about this partly because of BlakeFest, to be peering over the garden wall of the cottage, hoping to see the fairies that William Blake saw there.
 
The walk from Bognor Regis to Felpham along the sea-front is enchanting, and the literary tours and lectures that are part of the festival are fascinating. William Blake can be loved and understood at a simple level but there is always more to appreciate. I feel excited and honoured to have been invited for the last two years to exhibit my painting and sculpture at both Bognor Library and the Regis Centre.
 
Long may BlakeFest thrive!"
 
Julie Goldsmith 2019

2019 Aldingbourne Arts presents Tyger Tyger

An exhibition of a number of artworks created by clients attending the creative arts arm of this independent local charity in Bognor Regis. They work with adults with learning disabilities to enable them to get creative as well as exhibiting and selling their work. Using Blakes famous poem as a starting point, they have encouraged them to incorporate imagery or words from the poem, creating their own personal responses to this seminal poem so rich in powerful imagery and atmosphere.

2019 Spirit Of The South

SPIRIT OF THE SOUTH SCULPTURE – GLAD DAY after BLAKE

Now more than ever communities should look to their leaders to carry their towns and cities forward into a brave new world. Leaders by return should look at and value ideas and suggestions from those communities. In the words of JFK, ‘Don’t ask what America can do for you, ask what you can do for America’.

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Online and out of town shopping is ripping the heart out of the high street. Various initiatives and research on a global scale have been carried out in recognition of the problem, including Soul of the Community. Knight Soul of the Community (SOTC) is a three-year study conducted by Gallup of the 26 John S. and James L. Knight Foundation communities across the United States, employing a fresh approach to determine the factors that attach residents to their communities and the role of community attachment in an area’s economic growth and well-being. The study focuses on the emotional side of the connection between residents and their communities.
In its first year, the study compared residents’ attachment level to the GDP growth in the 26 communities over the past five years. The findings showed a significant correlation between community attachment and economic growth.The second year reinforced these findings, and found that nationwide economic troubles did not have a notable impact on attachment locally.In the third year of the study, researchers analyzed the connection between community attachment and economic growth and found that cities with the highest levels of attachment had the highest rate of GDP growth. Social offerings, openness and aesthetics are most related to community attachment in all the 26 communities we studied.In 2017, the John Keats sculpture was unveiled in a quiet, nondescript quarter of Chichester. The result is a thriving and vibrant micro community helped by sensitive and considered planting, seating and lighting. This coupled with top brand restaurants along with vintage, designer and curiosity shops has made this area the place to see and to be seen.So called Gateway Sculpture is an initiative to do just that, it is the label on the tin and the tin, or in this case the town, does what the label suggests. We are open for business. High rents are not helping, the result, shop closures and bleak high streets. Shop closures are the death blow. I call on the leaders, however stressed and overworked they purport to be, address the problem or move aside. Bognor Regis BID (Business Improvement District) has done and continues to do much to make Bognor Regis Better for Business. You voted “YES” for a Business Improvement to:

  • Promote a positive image of Bognor Regis
  • Reduce crime and anti-social behaviour
  • Stimulate the evening and night time economy
  • Better parking

Why have a sculpture?
1.      Tourist attraction and photo-opportunity (local history/national figure)
2.      It contributes to the regeneration of the immediate context of a community and complement the work already undertaken to revitalise these areas
3.      Raises cultural awareness on an inter- and cross-community level and provides access to the arts for all
4.      Builds upon the tourism offering of the area and celebrates and interacts with Bognor’s rich heritage
5.      Produces a positive image of Bognor Regis at local, national and international levels

Vincent Gray has worked alongside some notable and highly regarded names in the arts, engineering, military and entertainment, both in the UK and in Scandinavia. His work has introduced him to many leading lights and free thinkers, which he says, ‘do not fail to inspire and influence’. He is the sculptor of the life-size statue of John Keats in Eastgate Square and Leonard Bernstein at St Richard’s Hospital in Chichester. His ambition is to erect a statue of Blake’s Glad Day on Bognor Regis seafront

2017 Dandelion Visions

Dandelion Visions Exhibition @ Bognor Regis Library
In the unlikely location of the West Sussex seaside town of Bognor Regis a cultural stirring was occurring. The Dandelion Visions exhibition was the centrepiece of a townwide celebration of the life and work of William Blake (1757-1827) who is nowadays recognised as a visionary poet, artist, engraver and prophet despite dying unrecognised and close to poverty. This Exhibition was free to attend and was running at Bognor Regis Library from 16th September until the 7th October 2017.
 

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Blake lived in the village of Felpham, on the outskirts of Bognor, from 1800-1803 where he saw visions of Angels, was inspired to compose the text which is known as, and widely-celebrated as, 'Jerusalem' and also ended up on trial for assault and sedition after an altercation with soldier outside a local drinking establishment. In a letter to John Flaxman from 1800, Blake wrote that "Felpham is a sweet place for study because it is more spiritual than London. Heaven opens here on all sides her golden Gates; her windows are not obstructed by vapours; voices of Celestial inhabitants are more distinctly heard, & their forms more distinctly seen; & my Cottage is also a shadow of their houses." His cottage, which he described as having "a roof of rust'd gold" and being a "perfectly proportioned palace" is currently in the hands of a Trust who one day hopes to open its doors to the public. Before that is possible, due to necessary extensive restorations and renovations, as part of the Dandelion Visions exhibition, a Virtual Tour of Blake's Cottage will be available to view through VR goggles to bring a 21st Century view of Blake's existence and work at the very beginning of the 19th Century, curated and spearheaded by local resident and Blake-enthusiast Rachel Searle to gather together different artistic streams to celebrate William Blake.
 
Blake's work has spread like dandelion seeds through the generations, persistantly inspiring groups of artists beginning with The Ancients including Samuel Palmer, George Richmond and Edward Calvert, who all studied directly under Blake until his death. The Ancients inspired the pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, notably Dante Gabriel Rosetti, who resided, for a time, in Bognor and acquired a manuscript book of Blake's "from an attendant at The British Museum" which he obsessively studied and laboriously copied out. Modernists such as James Joyce clearly show Blake's influence and his influence also inspired such 60's Beat Generation poets and performers as Allen Ginsberg, Michael Horovitz (who is performing at this year's Blake Fest), John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison and Patti Smith. His legacy lives on strongly today and he has been heavily referenced by, among others, Stephen Fry and musicians such as Bono, Richard Hawley and Pete Doherty in recent years.
 
Bognor Regis is a town poised at the brink of regeneration following similar projects in Margate, Hastings and Liverpool, possibly including a major "William Blake Theatre" (in one of the proposals), which channel local Culture and Arts to enrich their current heritage and touristic allure. Blake Fest 2017 highlighted a variety of Arts in various forms around the town including acclaimed poet-in-residence Stella Bahin, who created a unique 'community poem' infusing ideas sounds and visuals, guided walk with psycho-geographer Niall McDevitt, and performances from Stephen Micalef, (the aforementioned) Michael Horovitz with his William Blake Klezmatrix Band, Tymon Dogg, Attila the Stockbroker, Martin Chomsky, Luke Wright and Gwyneth Herbert.
 
The Dandelion Visions exhibition at Bognor Library took its initial inspiration from a broken pair of Blake's spectacles, found in the garden of his Felpham cottage, which are one of the very few surviving artifacts from his life. Its curator, Mikey Georgeson, is best known as singer/frontman of conceptual band David Devant & His Spirit Wife (who also performed at this year's BlakeFest) where he was known as 'The Vessel' and showcased his installation, 'the Nonbifurcatedman'. Georgeson currently lectures in Art at The University of East London specialising in, and regularly exhibiting, his non-representational art at galleries across the country.
 
In Georgeson's words:
"Dandelion Visions is an audio-visual exhibition celebrating Blake's belief in the value of imagination and the visionary powers of every human individual. It gathers together a group of international artists who have responded to Blake's universal influence. (The) installation 'the Nonbifurcatedman' takes us on a car journey into nature and the role played by the imagination in the creation of memory and collective reality.
 
Blake's spectacles found in the garden of his cottage of Felpham will be on view as a reminder of his idea of the boundless fourfold vision of imaginative engagement. A virtual reality tour guides us through Blake's home in Felpham where he wrote the lines known as Jerusalem. Therein visitors will encounter the allegorical figure at the heart of his vision.
 
Before the opening there were workshops with Stella Bahin where participants collectively explored the poetry of time and memory found in the dandelion and its magical seeds. The resulting work will help map the exhibition's town-specific soul."
 
Mikey Georgeson curated the Dandelion Visions exhibition from many artists who have contributed work, ranging from as far as Berlin, India and Istanbul.

2016 Blake's Outsiders

SPARKLES OF FURY

“Raged with curses and sparkles of fury”

The Book of Los
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Last night something extraordinary happened to my soul, it was awakened and moved in a way that so seldom happens at art events. As part of Blake’s Outsiders, Damian and Delaine Le Bas along with the band Noiseferatu enacted a visceral slice of agit-prop performance which seemed to stop the clocks. Existing outside and of its time, expressing all the howling, hidden discontent felt towards the Sick Rose at the heart of Angerland.

Anticipation and edginess abound, Damian’s face is covered in cowboy-rustler-bad boy style with a scarf, Delaine in demonic Goldilocks fashion wearing a glittering gold shift dress  (all the better to see her with  when the lights go out)   is almost unrecognisable in a long curly blonde wig, a veil curtaining her face,. She does not speak to anyone, she is attending to various props on the floor, she is becoming her persona. The lights go out, the music begins, a moody symphonic electronica, reminiscent of Bowie’s Low mixed with bird twitterings. Two musicians, enter from a room in the back, their faces covered by devil masks, contemporary signifiers of anti capitalist political protests. Their guitars slung low over their shoulders like rifles, these sinister caribinieri move slowly among the crowd   their bass lines mimicking the sound of ominous warning bells.

Delaine crouches down and begins to intone Blake’s verses about This Green and Pleasant Land, the words are wrung out and repeated in a measured  gutteral wail.

And all the while her dress sparkles as if aflame in the darkness. As the lights go up and the musicians leave, Damian remains at the mixing desk and now the birdsong becomes increasing more evident, a pastoral counterpoint to the previous existential darkness of events.

“And Nobles and Clergy shall fail from before me, and my cloud and vision be no more;

The mitre become black, the crown vanish, and the sceptre and ivory staff

Of the ruler wither among bones of death; they shall consume from the thirstly field,

And the sound of the bell, and the voice of the sabbath, and singing of the holy choir,

Is turn’d into songs of the harlot in day, and cries of virgin in night.” [i]

I am transfixed by the sights and sounds before me, this is no bourgeois self regarding art making, this is a Blakeian call to arms, a performance that has found its time, a howl that brings to mind all the avant-garde enactments that have gone before it from Jack to Patti Smith, from Weimar political cabaret, to punk polemic.

Referring to Blake during the period he wrote The Book of Los (1795) Dr Bruce Woodcock writes “The amazing productiveness of Blake during the first half of this decade was almost a race against time as governmental restrictions began to impact on the creative artists sympathetic to radical views”. [ii]Last night that race was once again being run.

[i] The French Revolution, William Blake 1791

[ii] The Selected Poems of William Blake, Wordsworth Editions 1994

2016 BlakeFest Art

Here is a selection of the Art displayed as part of 2016's BlakeFest event.

2016 Art Exhibitions & Installations

Here is a selection of the Art displayed as part of 2016's BlakeFest event.

2019 Tyger Tyger

As part of 2019's Tyger theme, on the day of our main Festival, we commissioned body artist Elissa Barrett to create an installation in the window of a major local furniture shop in Bognor Regis High Street. This include dressing the window as a jungle to suit the theme and drew quite a crowd. We also displayed Tiger works created for us by The Aldingbourne Trust in The Regis Centre as a free exhibition.

2017 AV Tour of Blake's Cottage

In 2017, as part of our Dandelion Visions project, BlakeFest commissioned a Virtual Tour of Blake's Cottage where you could explore the place he lived from 1800-1803 in Felpham. This was the only time Blake lived outside London and there he wrote, among other things, what was to become the words to "Jerusalem". The Virtual Tour was enhanced with Blake's images and angels to create a magical and visionary experience.

2014 Art Exhibitions & Installations

2014 was the year of our first event, Golgonooza. It included art and activities in Rectory Gardens, near Blake's Cottage in Felpham and a charity Art Auction.

2019 Pop-up Gallery (photos by Sedge)

In late 2019 we set up a pop-up Art gallery, with free admission and face painting for children, in an empty shop in Bognor Regis town centre. We displayed a variety of art, including Vincent Gray's Glad Day maquette sculpture and work by local artist Marie Paul. This event was opened by Bognor's Mayor and was very popular throughout the day.

2019 Pop-up Gallery (photos by Rachel)

In late 2019 we set up a pop-up Art gallery, with free admission and face painting for children, in an empty shop in Bognor Regis town centre. We displayed a variety of art, including Vincent Gray's Glad Day maquette sculpture and work by local artist Marie Paul. This event was opened by Bognor's Mayor and was very popular throughout the day.

2019 Pop-up Gallery (photos by India Loseby)

In late 2019 we set up a pop-up Art gallery, with free admission and face painting for children, in an empty shop in Bognor Regis town centre. We displayed a variety of art, including Vincent Gray's Glad Day maquette sculpture and work by local artist Marie Paul. This event was opened by Bognor's Mayor and was very popular throughout the day.

2019 Christmas Pop-up

In late 2019 we set up a pop-up Art gallery, with free admission and face painting for children by the acclaimed body artist Elissa Barrett and her team, in an empty shop in Bognor Regis town centre. We displayed a variety of art, including Vincent Gray's Glad Day maquette sculpture and work by local artist Marie Paul. This event was opened by Bognor's Mayor and was very popular throughout the day.

2018 Actual Occasion

At BlakeFest 2018 Dr Mikey Georgeson brought his interactive multimedia art installation, Actual Occasion, to The Regis Centre in Bognor Regis. The Silent Disco presents from everything really real ordinary organisms in goggles of entanglement. One extraordinary adventure in ideas: You will dance! You will laugh... you will fall in love... this is for real.

2016 Art

Here is a selection of the Art displayed at the SeaFish gallery as part of 2016's BlakeFest event.

2014 Art

2014 was the year of our first event, Golgonooza. It included art and activities in Rectory Gardens, near Blake's Cottage in Felpham and a charity Art Auction.