Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Anna Jacobs / Crystal Palace Artists' Open House

Every year in May, I try and get round to visiting some of the artists participating in the Dulwich Artist's Open House event. One year, I even took part myself. However, this year, Crystal Palace finally has its own Artists' Open House event, and all thanks to the drive and determination of Anna Jacobs. The extraordinary thing is that Anna only moved to Crystal Palace about 6 months ago, and in that time has managed to drum up enough interest and support to make it happen. It takes place this coming weekend, 27th/28th April, and the following one, 4th/5th May. The three main sponsors are: Do South, Just Giclee, and Martin & Co. In addition, Anna has had the support of an organising team, consisting of Beth Mander of The Paxton Centre, local artist, Marty Jessup, who designed the logo, Glen Keegan of Just Giclee, who designed the brochure and flyers, Liz Stovell, jeweller, who has looked after the admin side of things, and Peggy Yew, a photographer. The team have managed to assemble 83 artists, exhibiting in nearly 40 different venues.

Anna nearly didn't become an artist, as she explained to me, when I visited her at her home on Church Road recently. Although artistic as a child, she chose a degree in classics over art, followed by a masters degree in gender and social policy, while also being in a girl band called The Shrinking Violets. After her student days spent in Bristol, Anna came to London, and worked for social enterprise theatre companies, including a theatre of science for kids, called the Molecule Theatre Company, and a drama school for ex-offenders, called Clean Break. Organisational skills have clearly long been one of Anna's strengths. She set up a hugely successful Kosovo Golden Ribbon Appeal, in conjunction with the London Marathon during the 90s, and went on to do event organising for a large law firm, eventually setting up their in-house marketing department. Then, after a run of personal and financial bad luck, she found herself as a single mum, living back at her parents' home. This finally made her think about doing something artistic. She'd been painting for a while, and now based in Dulwich, she managed to get a solo exhibition at Jane Newbery's shop and gallery. The theme of her work, which remains so to this day, was birds, and Jane suggested she print them, and turn them into lampshades. She showed her first range of lampshades and cushions at Dulwich Artists' Open House, and sold out. In 2015, she showed at Top Drawer, the trade fair, in their new talent section, and as a result Heals started stocking her shades. Anna also designed the glass lamp bases, as she couldn't find suitable ones on the market. Last year she opened a pop-up in the lobby space between Habitat and Heals on Tottenham Court Road, which had formerly been a flower shop, but after 6 months of running it 7 days a week, she decided to close, as it was incompatible with being a mum of two. About the same time, she moved to the top flat at 197 Church Road, the big yellow house opposite the Queen's Hotel, which will of course be open over the next two weekends, showing not only lots of her own colourful work, but also Hannah Miller's, tiny paintings of huge buildings, Liz Stovell's jewellery, Tilt Shift Leatherworks, and Janette Garthwaite's glassware.
Anna's high ceilinged Victorian home makes a great backdrop for her work, which as well as  prints, lampshades and cushions, also includes, bedding and tea towels. It was huge fun to shoot, and I highly recommend you go a long and see for yourself. While you're there, do pop downstairs to artist, Drew Keen's flat. As well as exhibiting a lifetime's work, his flat itself  is a stunning work in progress.

Anna Jacobs wearing, and surrounded by, her art.

Anna Jacobs
197 Church Road

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

South Norwood Country Park, and South Norwood Lake

The Times recently hailed Crystal Palace as one of the best places to live in the UK, and who are we to disagree. This blog is full of reasons to love the area. The Times lists the antique shops, the cafes, the park and the panoramic views, and no doubt you have your own particular reasons you love the area. One of my many reasons, is the large amount of green space. As I type this, I'm looking out the window at woodland across the road, one of many remaining pockets of the Great North Wood, which formerly covered much of South London. Of course we are lucky enough to have one of London's most historically important parks right here, and in addition plenty of smaller neighbourhood green spaces, but only a stone's throw away, we have another much larger patch of open space, which I happened to visit on assignment just the other day. South Norwood Country Park, as its name suggests, is very different to any of the municipal parks in the area, and in fact was only designated a country park as recently as the 1980s, having spent the previous century as a sewage works. Originally it was part of the aforementioned Great North Wood. Today it is an invaluable amenity for local people, and an important haven for wildlife.
Lying in a valley south of the Triangle, local landmarks are clearly visible, including the two transmitters, the athletics stadium, and the cinema. I was also lucky enough to catch the cherries in full blossom. The forecast for the next few days is good, so if you're quick, you might catch the blossom too.

As part of my assignment, I also visited South Norwood Lake, which I discover was built as a reservoir to serve the Croydon Canal in the early 1800s.