Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Paxton Centre

In the course of the last five and half years of blogging in SE19, I've met some pretty inspiring people; people who campaign and contribute hugely to the local community. Beth Mander, whom I first met on the Handmade Palace stall at the market a couple of years ago, is someone of huge energy and determination to get things done. She originally set up the stall as a Transition Town project, and its success spawned off-shoot Christmas markets and the monthly Makers market. At the same time, she was pursuing her own creativity as a potter, as well as offering pottery classes. Now she has brought all those threads together by taking on the lease of the former Paxton Hotel, halfway down Anerley Hill. With this large, light and airy high-ceilinged space, it has been possible to house all her projects under one roof, and throw in a cafe for good measure. Here, the work of artists can be displayed in a way not possible on a market stall, creating a gallery setting for regularly changing exhibitions. In addition, The Paxton Centre not only hosts pottery classes, but a variety of other activities, including life drawing classes, an adult and kids' art club, a venue for choir practice, quiz nights, a hot-desking / co-working club, and with the cafe in place, it's able to hold regular creative social events. Coming up soon, there will be a Bonfire Night, pop-up curry evening, and in the new year, a series of music events is planned. Impressively, Beth runs the centre with a team of volunteers, who in return, can earn free classes or hot-desk sessions. There's a buzz about the place, and Beth is delighted that what started as Handmade Palace, has been opened up to a whole new audience.
The 150 year old building housing all this, has an interesting story too. Beth was drawn to the building's "resilience" in the face of adversity, after seeing old pictures posted online of the structure standing proud, while surrounded by bomb sites. On 11th July 1944, a bomb fell nearby, killing 13 people. A split second earlier and it may have killed many more, as a bus had just pulled away from the scene. Drinking at the bar at that moment, was a man named John Markham, finishing his pint. He dashed out to help rescue people from the bombing, and 11 years later, when the pub finally re-opened, there was a pint awaiting him on the bar. As Beth relates this tale to me, she is busy finishing a ceramic plaque, which will be fixed to the building's exterior to commemorate those who died in the attack.
So this is the start of a bright new future, for Beth, for the building, and for the creative community in Crystal Palace.

Prints by Gerri Keniger and David Wolverson
Jewellery by Nicoletta
Tea-Lightful Candles by Harriet Jarvis
Cushions by Laura Hawkins
Cushions by Terri Dean
Postcode cushions by Saundra O'Shea
Familiar looking coasters!
Photographer, Janet Berry

Ceramics by Sally Durran
Crochet cards by Libby Holloway
Baby Kimonos by KIKI

The multi-purpose mezzanine with a painting of the building by Martin Jessup


Paintings by Mila Moroko, the current featured artist
Beth Mander
Beth at work on the commemorative plaque

The Paxton Centre
52 Anerley Hill
020 8659 4701

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Six Sphinxes

The restoration of the six remaining sphinxes in Crystal Palace Park might have happened sooner, were it not for an untimely rendez-vous between London's former mayor, and a wealthy Chinese businessman. Funds had been allocated back in 2013, but were put on hold during the thankfully unsuccessful negotiations between Bromley & Beijing. There was much despondency locally after community lead efforts to clear the undergrowth overtaking some of the sphinxes and adjacent steps, which had directly lead to the granting of funds in the first place, appeared to come to nothing.
However, at the start of this year, with the Chinese distraction finally laid to rest, work was finally able to start. The tender for the restoration project was won by Skillingtons, with money coming jointly from the Mayor of London, Historic England, and the Borough of Bromley. Works commenced in April and by the summer most of the work, including the complete rebuilding of the south steps, was done. All that was left to decide was whether to paint the sculptures or leave au naturel. I was somewhat sceptical at first, thinking that as well as the proposed terracotta colour, which had been based on remaining original fragments, the conservationists might also choose to pick out facial features and hieroglyphs in other colours. Thankfully this proved not to be the case, and I have to say the results are wonderful.
However, the sphinxes are only the icing on the cake. The cake itself, comprising the two levels of arcaded terraces, further flights of steps in various stages of decay, plinths and statues, all desperately need conserving and restoring too. So my hope is, that this is only the first stage of bringing such an important landmark back to life. And as some of the following pictures show, people are drawn to these structures, whether as places to meet, exercise, or simply get away from it all with a good book. They could also, as I've heard discussed, make a great setting, for staging of music or drama. Let's wish the sphinxes well, as copies of 4000 year old original housed in the Louvre, they have a long history, and hopefully now a long future too.

The south steps during reconstruction

Restoration complete

The south steps would make a perfect stage. It would also be good to see the grass encroaching on the wide path leading to the north steps cleared

Peeking above the fenced off top terrace

And they look even better in the sun!

It would be good to see the north steps restored next.