South Barn

It has been a dry hot summer. The Barn is known for having no heating, not being wind proof, sometimes not even waterproof, and today there is one of those miserable damp misty sea fret sort of days. Perched on Seaford Head the rest of the South Downs National Park is hidden in mist, the normal views of the Seven Sisters and the Channel obscured. The sheep are there though. The walkers too, and that is why the Barn is being ‘volunteered’ by art groups into becoming a Seaford Arts centre. Talks on local history, the nature of art, music and the inevitable classes in tai chi are all, ad hoc, happening. They are encouraged by both the estimate 350,000 walkers who go past the site every year, but also by the presence of an entrepreneurial coffee station rapidly turning into an unofficial caretaker/facilitator

There is no running water. There is no mains power. The lighting is LED and powered by a generator. The toilet is a ‘portaloo’. But the building has footfall – and as Mr Hilton’s mantra ran, it is all about the ‘location, location, location’. Not just the walkers, but every dog owner in Seaford probably passes by most weeks, and it is at the head of the footpath down to the Cuckmere Haven.  The famous Coastguard Cottages site on the Cuckmere is now effectively condemned to disappear by the SDNPA*, Environment Agency etc.. This despite attracting visitors and film crews from around the globe. Many of the visitors think it should be an International World Heritage site so it is strange that a nation that values heritage so highly and sees it as a draw for tourism should be willing to let this site vanish. But then our bureaucracies have always been dumb, haven’t they?

What is good about the shows at the barn is that they are driven not by someone with a space to fill or an agenda on what to promote but by artists themselves looking for a space to show in, or by local groups using art to publicize themselves. As I write the show is by a group led by a talented local artist/printmaker. Joining together through the year this is the groups second annual show, this themed around the Sea. It is one of three or four shows that have taken the shoulder months. The next will be an open show on behalf of the charity that wants to defy the bureaucrats and save the iconic cottages. It follows on from the spectacular success of their show last year that raised over £12,000 as their percentage of artist sales to go to fighting for permission to restore their sea defences. They are funding this themselves and the sea isn’t keen to wait for the slothful planners at the National Parks to do their jobs, and time is, of course, money.

Their show to ‘Celebrate Cuckmere’ adds to the tourist numbers by being a part of the Lewes District Council’s Annual ArtWave event in which dozens of small venues and artist‘s studios (including mine) open for visitors to see art and crafts. This enables the public to discuss art and craft making with the creators and there is also the opportunity to buy direct and take the purchase away. This annual event runs from 3rd to the 18th September in 2022 (check with the brochure for venues and opening times as they vary). Seaford has produced its own studio tour map, available from the Tourist offices alongside the ArtWave brochure.

I hope you will come a patronise the shows. Great efforts are made to showcase the best of art and crafts from professionals at all levels in a variety media, and we look forward to showing off our work. The South Barn is one end of the Seaford Art Trail that includes the historic Crypt and the various other 70+ venues in Seaford. I hope you will see, as I do, its enormous potential for development into a self-supporting Arts Centre and a flagship for Seaford’s part in ArtWave and the arts on the South Coast. Perhaps one day it will receive some gentle fettling to be able to be used all year around.

There may be on running water, but there are enough lights to show case the talent of the Arts in Sussex, so come along and enjoy the shows. Entry is free, the sheep keep away and there are views and walks to satisfy. My own show in Seaford opens throughout ArtWave and the weekends of Coastal Currents the neighbouring county event too. I’m in Seaford, 4th house along on Headland Avenue, and will be delighted to see you

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*South Downs National Park Authority, one of our unaccountable, slow moving, obstructive bureaucracies