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Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Simon Carter: Painting on the Essex Coast

In 2013 Simon Carter collaborated with artist Robert Priseman to co-found the artist led group Contemporary British Painting; a group who donated paintings to the Swindon Collection several years ago, including two of Simon Carter's paintings. Simon recently was interviewed by Katie Ackrill in her 'Meet the Artist series, you can see it here. Apologies I didn't manage to press the record button for Simon's talk. I took some quotes from Simon's web pages:

'My work is based on the stretch of Essex coast where I live and have my studio. This coast is where the gardened landscape of East Anglia starts to fall, literally, into the spare and elemental spaces of the North Sea; where any idea of landscape as static and timeless is replaced by a sense of dynamic flux.     I use the elements of the coast, the creeks and estuaries, saltings and seawalls, as an archive of shapes and colours, of weather and of objects, trying to find a dynamism and passion in the paint that will match those in the landscape whilst retaining a structural clarity that allows observed fact to become something pictured and true.'

Simon talked about the nearby coast to Frinton 0n Sea where he lives including Landermere Quay, Beaumont Cut and Walton on the Naze, all exotic sounding places to someone like me living in Swindon, about as far from the sea in England as one could be, and longing to visit the water's edge. He showed us his painting process through a series of slides. I took photos of the screen and so can share them here:

Above on the left is Constable's painting of Flatford Mill which can be seen at Christchurch Mansion and on the right, Simon's painting of the same view.
A view of a house on Landemere Quay, and I think below a photograph showing where the house is situated
Another view where as you can see the horizon dominates.

A particular favourite painting is Landscape with Ruined Castle and Church by Jacob van Ruisdale in 1665:

Simon's method of working is to make sketches of a scene, and then work them up into paintings:
Below is an example of a painting on two canvasses
The view below has inspired the paintings below it

Simon gave us a view of his studio
and a view into the distance
and then finally a photo of his exhibition at Messum's in Wiltshire in 2018:

There was more information on a web page about Simon:

Simon Carter was born in Essex in 1961. He studied at Colchester Institute (1980–81) and then North East London Polytechnic (1981–84). Recent exhibitions include Made in Britain at the National Gallery of Poland, Gdansk and Contemporary British Painting at Yantai Art Museum, China both in March 2019. The RWS Contemporary Watercolour Exhibition, London, 2019. Solo Exhibitions at Messum’s, London and Messum’s, Wiltshire in 2018 and The Minories, Colchester in 2017. In 2016 a solo exhibition at SEA Foundation, Tilburg, Netherlands. 

Carter has work in collections including Ipswich Borough Council, Rugby Museum and Art Gallery, Swindon Museum and Art Gallery, Yale Centre for British Art, USA, Tianjin Academy of Fine Art, . Simon Carter is represented by Messum’s and is currently President of Colchester Art Society.

Friday, 19 March 2021

New Cultural Quarter Plans Revealed

 Yesterday Swindon Borough Council released a press release about their latest plans for the new Cultural Quarter, please click here to find out more. 

I have sent a copy of the Cultural Quarter investment Prospectus to all members of the Friends, it gives more details of the specifics of the project.

Further details about the proposed Cultural Quarter projects are below including images of what some of the new buildings could look like.

A copy of the Cultural Quarter Investment Prospectus is available on request

 Media contact: Kevin Burchall, Communications Lead – Media Relations, Swindon Borough Council, 01793 463105. | Email:


Art Pavilion
  • The town’s Art Collection is a superb, international quality celebration of painting and studio ceramics, much of it among the very best work of British artists at work in the mid-20th Century. The collection is loved and cherished but deserves to be seen by many more people – and to be a visitor destination for the town in its own right.
  • To achieve this, the Cultural Quarter will feature a new and dramatic Pavilion at the heart of the new public park in the Kimmerfields development. It will act as a permanent home for the display of the collection and its appreciation through permanent and changing displays of art and ceramics – in a landmark building – set in a public realm that will itself be a place for public art and for outdoor and informal performance.


  • The town’s Museum collections tell important stories about how Swindon came to be – and about the lives of its communities down the centuries. For new communities, and for young people growing up in Swindon, the Museum collection is important in defining what it means to be a ‘Swindonian’.
  • To ensure the widest possible access to and enjoyment of these collections and stories, the Quarter will extend to an imaginative project to consider their redisplay at the Town Hall, from which Swindon Dance will move to the new Dance Centre, linked with the town’s Central Library, at the southern end of the Quarter.

The Theatre

  • The Wyvern Theatre is nearing the end of its lifespan and even essential repairs would incur £20m of costs. As with many theatres of its time, its facilities are ill-suited to the more flexible and diverse uses of the modern performing arts, and there are significant access challenges.
  • The market appraisal has led to the development of a vision for a 1,200 seat number one touring house – a major theatre receiving the very best touring theatrical and musical productions and with the flexibility in its auditorium to welcome music concerts in all genres, including for standing audiences.
  • Many local groups will continue to present their work in the Theatre, including in a high quality 200-seat studio alongside the main house. Together with the other venues of the Cultural Quarter, the Theatre and its studio will provide formal and informal spaces and facilities for festivals as diverse as the Spring Festival of Arts and Music and of Science.
  • The landmark building will attract 400,000 visits a year, and be sustainable – from its performance economics, its extensive food and beverage provision and its contribution as a conference, event and exhibition venue at the heart of the town centre.
  • As a net zero carbon major theatre – the new Wyvern has the opportunity to be a national exemplar for the 21st

Dance Centre

  • The proposed new Dance Centre will provide fit-for-purpose, professional standard studios, facilities for therapy and recovery and for student learning, together with a performance studio designed to meet the needs of dance and expressive performance. It will change lives and inspire tens of thousands of young and older people from the town and region to participate, to express themselves, and to explore their professional potential.

Media and Arts Production Centre

  • An innovative combination of theatre, film and digital arts production organisations and independent cinemas will occupy this characterful new facility at the gateway to Swindon’s Cultural Quarter. This new facility re-homes Prime Theatre and Create Studios, who currently occupy inconvenient and cramped spaces on the top floor of the Wyvern Theatre.
  • The vision for the building has been developed with the young people who drive Create and Prime – as a contemporary and welcoming space with facilities for exploration, engagement and expression – supported economically and reaching a large audience through provision of independent film and media screens and social facilities.
  • Already Create Studios and Prime Theatre work with more than 30,000 participants annually and Create’s online presence reaches digital audiences of more than 3.5m. With these new facilities and continued super-growth in the sector in the town, these metrics are set to grow exponentially over the years to come.
  • The specification embraces new digital, film and live recording production facilities, rehearsal and informal performance studios – providing the facilities for many organisations in the town to continue their growth into digital - and three state of the art cinemas showing independent mainstream and alternative film and providing screening facilities for the town’s screen industries cluster.

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Minster, Manor and Town: Excavations at Berkeley Castle 2004-2019

 For our second talk in February, we were lucky enough to welcome Dr Stuart Prior who talked about excavations at and around Berkeley Castle where he was Co-Director over a 14 year period. The background to the project, up until the current day when they are launching a new community collaborative project at Lower Hazel can be found here.

I looked up the village of Berkeley on Wikipedia and it gave me the following information:

 'Berkeley is a small town and parish in Gloucestershire, England. It lies in the Vale of Berkeley between the east bank of the River Severn and the M5 motorway, within the Stroud administrative district. The town is noted for Berkeley Castle, where the imprisoned Edward II was murdered, as well as the birthplace of the physician Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine, the world's first vaccine. The parish includes the village of Berkeley Heath, which runs along the A38 Bristol to Gloucester road and the adjacent B4066 towards Berkeley.' 

Stuart started by saying that it was important to understand minsters, and their role in the birth of christianity. There are lots of minsters in the area of Gloucestershire where Berkeley Castle is situated, they are generally a days walking distance apart which I think Stuart said was 14 miles. The Norman feudal castle became a minster in 660AD, before this Berkeley lay in the Kingdom of Hwicce which means witch. Berkeley is a double house minster, housing monks one side and nuns on the other side, and is the longest continuously occupied building in England.

There is evidence of a Roman wall in the excavations, there were Roman villas nearby and it's not far from the Fosse Way. The photo below shows where the wall was situated if you click on the link above:

I was more interested in what artefacts were found, to a beginner like me, this seems to be the most exciting part of archaeology. There were something like 20000 artefacts discovered, some were displayed in the windows of people's houses in 2016 leading to the team receiving an award for Archaeology Research Project of the Year

I made a note of 3 artefacts: a high status ring from 9-10th Century, an astel, which is a page turner so the reader doesn't get the paper greasy, and a whetstone.

The talk was videoed and appears on our website where you can find quite a few of the talks we have had. If the talk doesn't appear on there, it's because the speaker was new to Zoom and requested that we didn't video it.

I've added these two photos, the first is an aerial view and below another photo of people working on the dig.
If you are interested in being involved in working on the Lower Hazel dig this summer when restrictions are lifted, then please contact me, and I'm hoping we can visit in person later on in the year. I'm not setting dates yet...