"Wherever art goes regeneration follows. Art always gets there first" Tracey Emin

I am an official BT Storyteller for London 2012.

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Monday, 9 January 2012

200 days to go - Olympic hopeful & Secretary of State visit HOFS

Today I met the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles when he visited Hadleigh Old Fire Station and toured the artist studios. Olympic rifle-shooting hopeful, James Huckle from Harlow also came up to the studios to take a look round.

The restored station clock, which stopped at ten-to-three when the fire service moved out of the building, was ceremonially re-started by Eric Pickles to mark the final phase of the building's return to being the iconic centre of Hadleigh.

200 days to go to the opening ceremony.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Hadleigh Art Trail and Open Studio Weekend

Following a successful launch night on Thursday, a manic 'press day' yesterday and the Hadleigh Art Trail kicking off today - Hadleigh Old Fire Station is officially open to the public!

Thanks to everyone who stopped by the studio today for a chat. Hadleigh's inaugural Art Trail saw businesses, churches and even an undertakers open their doors to the public to show off some fantastic artist's work. A long day but very enjoyable.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Familiar places through another's eyes

Storytelling at it's best here at

Ruth's Coastal Walk

Fellow BT Storyteller Ruth Livingstone undertakes an epic journey around the coast of the UK - on foot! How refreshing to read about familiar places through another's eyes.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Dig & Sow at the Community Archive Grand Launch

Here is my 'stand' at the Hadleigh & Thundersley Community Archive grand launch day on Saturday 17th September at Hadleigh Old Fire Station. Met some lovely people. I passed on the opportunity to dress in period costume though!!
some Fire Service archive equipment on show too...

Thursday, 15 September 2011

We're Open - HOFS Open Studio weekend/Art Trail

National Portrait Gallery - Private Tour Road to 2012

I was delighted to meet the curator Anne Braybon, Commissions Manager for the Road to 2012 project at the National Portrait Gallery. Anne delighted myself and fellow BT Storytellers as she gave us a private tour of the photography exhibition.

Emma Hardy, whom I met at the weekend and Finlay Mackay's work is  hung separately but against the the strong colours of the gallery walls, the vibrancy of which was matched only by Anne's sartorial splendour. Contrasting in both style and technique, Hardy uses available 'ambient' light to capture the serene, relaxed and static poses of the men and women a who have shaped the London 2012 games, whereas Mackay's often artificially lit subjects are dynamic and captured 'in action'. Often larger format photographs, Mackay takes several shots at the location and later seamlessly combines the images into one large photograph. Hardy uses film and no manipulation of the image post processing.

I preferred the more subtle, quiet approach of the latter - more atmospheric but it was great to see the images in contrast with each other. A most enjoyable evening.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Dig and Sow Hadleigh, Essex. Let's get digging!

Hadleigh Dig & Sow flyer. Get involved - it's going to be amazing!!

Sign up here or contact me at sue_willis@btopenworld.com for more information.

It is most important that you complete the form as soon as possible so that information for the dig can be sent out to you.

Let's get digging!

Dig & Sow Ashwell, Hertfordshire 10/09/11 - Follow that!


The first On Landguard Point Dig and Sow event in the 'model' village of Ashwell, Hertfordshire. Looks amazing - hope we can emulate that!!

Sunday, 11 September 2011

In search of Cunning Murrell

I joined the Hadleigh & Thundersley Community Archive group at Hadleigh Old Fire Station as they conducted auditions for the part of Hadleigh's "white witch" James "Cunning" Murrell ahead of the official Archive launch on Saturday 17th September, 2011. Colin Firth and Brad Pitt were apparently "busy" so in the absence of any competition Robert landed the part. Great fun..

Thursday, 1 September 2011

London 2012 Cultural Olympiad coming to Hadleigh

I am delighted to be supporting the Pacitti Company with their Dig and Sow project in Hadleigh, Essex taking place on Saturday 8th October, 2011.

Pacitti are creating On Landgaurd Point (or OLP) - a range of region-wide participatory projects for the East of England as part of Artists Taking the Lead (Arts Council England) commissions at the heart of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. OLP is a project about HOME. It explores how we construct our diverse notions of home, what home means to each of us, and what it means to host others in our home.

On Landguard Point’s Dig and Sow invites members of the public to participate in a search for traces and even fragments of home, and to consider how much we really know about our own homes. With 205 one-metre square test-pit excavations planned to take place in six clustered locations across the region - one in each county of the East of England. Communities, families and budding archaeologists are encouraged to take part in this unique opportunity, under the supervision of one of the UK’s leading Archaeological teams. This is the perfect excuse to gather friends and loved ones together to undertake something truly adventurous!

Dig and Sow is coming to Hadleigh!!

The digs are free to take part in, they will take place in people’s own back gardens, and will take place over one day. OLP are looking to find 34 sites to excavate during Dig and Sow as the community of Hadleigh hosts Essex’s contribution to this mass archaeological excavation event as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Dr. Carenza Lewis (University of Cambridge and ‘Time Team’ presenter/contributor) and her team at Access Cambridge Archaeology will lead this programme of activity providing expertise and support to oversee the digs.

“Digging into the ground provides an umbilical link from the present to the past. Trade, migration and the many waves of settlers over the centuries are physically represented by finds from different places – we expect to find pottery which has been made and/or used by Britons, Romans, Anglo-Saxons, Normans, Huguenot refugees, Dutch engineers. Other objects may range from Ipswich-made Saxon pottery to modern Danish Lego to eighteenth-century Chinese porcelain.”
Dr. Carenza Lewis (University of Cambridge and Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’).

Participation in this part of OLP requires participants to register an interest to be involved, so we can share information on how to make your dig; share what you should do if you discover something; and so that everyone can stay safe by following a set of best practice guidelines.

Timed to coincide with Hadleigh's inaugural Art Trail the Dig and Sow project will take place on one day with a planned celebratory gathering at the end of the day at the newly created arts and community hub at Hadleigh Old Fire Station (HOFS).

If you’re interested in taking part contact On Landguard Point’s or ask me for more details. And do please pass this on to anyone in Hadleigh you think may be interested in taking part.

Dig and Sow has a growing number of supporters. Please lend your support to this fantastic project. We are planning information sessions at the Fire Station and Morrison's (dates & times to be confirmed).

I really hope you will want to be involved and am looking forward to hearing from you.

OLP’s Terms and Conditions and more information regarding On Landguard Point events please visit www.onlandguardpoint.com

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Shared Space

"Shared space" is a phrase that seems to be the buzzword of town-planning and a controversial element of the ongoing redevelopment of my local towns. The term resonates with me on many levels from topical news items and our newly shared space at HOFS. I was intrigued, therefore, when I saw this, approaching Southend seafront

Surely it's not for real? Is it art then? Or just a social commentary? Whatever, it has captured my imagination for some reason!

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Hadleigh Art Trail 8th - 15th October 2011

Looking forward to participating in the very first Hadleigh Art Trail. All studios at Hadleigh Old Fire Station will be open to the public for the weekend 8th & 9th October 2011.

The trail runs from 8th -15th October.  More information at Visit Essex


See you there...

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Supermarkets, public art and a little bit of Yorkshire

As last weekend a little bit of London arrived and departed on the same day so, today a little bit of Yorkshire came to Hadleigh, Essex.

Morrison's supermarket, with it's roots and Head Office in Yorkshire, is well established in the town. One of many in fact: Lidl, Iceland, and now Costcutter which is set to take over the former Woolworth's store that has lain empty for a number of years. I wonder sometimes how a small town can sustain so many supermarkets.

Morrison's are redeveloping their existing site and the neighbouring (former car showroom) site next door as part of the Hadleigh's Regeneration Masterplan due to be completed in 2013. As part of the redevelopment, Morrison's have commissioned two artists to create two works of 'Public Art' for the store and car park. I met the Yorkshire-based artists today as they undertook a day's consultation with the people of Hadleigh, asking for their views and ideas.
Consultation with the public in Morrison's car park, Hadleigh

Graham Ibbeson chats with Morrison's architect

Graeme Willson's website describes him as "probably the UK's leading mural artist, with a distinguished track record which stretches back over 25 years" and Graham Ibbeson famous for his hugely popular Eric Morecambe statue created for the Tern Project in Morecambe. Two artists with an undeniable track record having worked together on similar projects for Morrison's elsewhere in the UK.

I chatted to both artists today as well as the architect for Morrison's and urged them to look beyond the London 2012 mountain-biking event and the ubiquitous iconography of Hadleigh Castle for inspiration. Whilst both undoubtedly important there is more to Hadleigh, the town especially, which is steeped in history with a strong sense of identity and community.

I am most interested in the role art can play in urban regeneration and I will watch with interest how the projects progress and how the people of Hadleigh engage with it.

I was put in mind today of Ian Yearsley's Hadleigh Past which proved a great source of information and inspiration for my own projects earlier this year. And yes, inevitably, it has a picture of Hadleigh Castle on the cover!

Friday, 5 August 2011

Olympic Posters

Can't wait to see the posters designed for London 2012.
Tracey Emin

Tracey Emin, Fiona Banner, Michael Craig-Martin, Martin Creed, Anthea Hamilton, Howard Hodgkin, Gary Hume, Sarah Morris, Chris Ofili, Bridget Riley, Bob and Roberta Smith and Rachel Whiteread will each create a poster.

Exhibition of Visual Art - Southend Central Library to 24th August

An eclectic mix of art from six local artists (that's Five-plus-one-more) in the newly created Central Gallery (formerly the cafe!). A real treat, described by the Southend Library team as 'the best and most professional show so far". Take a look - ends 24th August.

Central Gallery, First Floor, Southend Central Library, Victoria Avenue, Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

Well all the hard work paid off and our new show is up!

In case you can't make it here are a few piccys


Tuesday, 2 August 2011

In search of inspiration - for #BT Storytellers

My first BT Storyteller contribution. Images from Hadleigh Farm Mountain biking event from a kind of 'arty' point of view. Not much use if you are after results or mountain-bikey-techy stuff!


...and BT use my picture as their website banner and story leader column.....

Monday, 1 August 2011

Back in the studio at Hadleigh Old Fire Station

Back to the studio today after a week's holiday. Still all to do as we are not 'moved in' just yet. Didn't get this shot yesterday but the former Fire Training Tower looking resplendent in the evening sunshine wrapped in London Prepares banner thanks to the Essex Legacy team, who are currently based on the floor above us in the Fire Station. Yesterday I chatted with Jason Fergus (Head of 2012 Legacy & Strategic Sport for Essex County Council) he was really positive and upbeat about how the test event had gone.
Main focus at the studio today was to take down the mini art exhibition in the former Appliance Bay. For the last two weekends the Fire Station has been a hive of activity as Essex County Council have run activity days, last week to coincide with 'a year to go' and this weekend to complement the Hadleigh Farm  event. Many sports and workshops have been available on a 'no registration necessary' basis. From Boccia (no, I didn't know what that is either but the organiser explained to me that it is a type of bowls and is an official Paralympic event) to a pinhole camera workshop and they even had my 12-year-old daughter trying out pitching and putting!!

So the works are all packed up now and off to our next exhibition at Southend Central Library which we will hang on Wednesday.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Hadleigh Farm, Essex Mountain Biking Test Event today

Well I nearly didn't make it!! Thanks though to Astin at BT and a relatively smooth journey home from Portugal I eventually made it to the mountain biking event this afternoon. A great atmosphere and a well run event, made me proud!

Here are a few shots of the event. Well done Hadleigh!


Saturday, 23 July 2011

Hadleigh Old Fire Station Opening Saturday 23rd July

One year ahead of the Games, Hadleigh Old Fire Station opens as artist's studios and as an Olympic information point for the Mountain Biking event. We have some art work on display for the event and another next Saturday 31st July when there will be a test event for the venue.


Friday, 22 July 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

My photo featured on local website

The website Hadleigh-essex.co.uk use my 360 degree view from a bench pic as a banner for their website. The photo is also a link to this blog. Thanks guys - I wondered why my hit-rate had increased so much!! Thank you and good luck with the site.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Hadleigh Old Fire Station - "wherever art goes regeneration follows"

Tracey Emin is quoted as saying "Wherever art goes regeneration follows. Art always gets there first."

The newly refurbished decommissioned Fire Station will open as an Arts & Community Centre as part of Hadleigh's regeneration plans. Looking forward to sharing a studio space with some inspirational and supportive people. Opens 25th July - one year out from the Games.
aerial view courtesy of Google maps

Friday, 15 July 2011

Jaywick Martello Tower


A community arts project in what has been described as the country's most deprived area.

On Languard Point (OLP)

Another London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Artists Taking the Lead project - this time in the East of England. Lots going on with this one including opportunities to be in a feature film or contribute to the creation of an Encyclopaedia & Cookbook.


"Everything about the On Landguard Point project is participatory and accessible, offering meaningful experiences to every person present."

The Boat Project

The Boat Project is the South East's contribution to the Cultural Olympiad. Members of the public are invited to donate a piece of wood that will go into making the boat. The wood must have a story which will be recorded for the project.


Now this is the kind of project that engages with 'storytelling'. Just the kind of thing I aspire to create for Hadleigh, Essex in the coming year.

Thinking cap on!!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

BT Storytellers Launches 14th July 2011

BT Storytellers is a nationwide campaign run by BT for members of the public to share their stories of London 2012 and what it means to them. One year to go, follow my story at: