Friday, 25 April 2008

Some art down by the coast

As the weather's getting better, now may be a good time to think about a trip to the seaside. Trains run directly from West Brompton and Kensington Olympia every hour to Brighton, so in just over an hour you can be breathing in some healthy, briny air.

English seaside resorts are not everyone's cup of tea, of course, but if your tastes run to something more sophisticated than kiss-me-quick hats and fish and chips, then Brighton has plenty to offer by way of more sophisticated venues. And in May, it really makes a splash on the art scene with the Brighton Festival of Open Houses.

Now in its 28th year, the festival is based upon individual people opening up their own homes as temporary art galleries for dates in the month of May. It's now a big event - there are 221 venues and a staggering 1,000 artists and makers involved, many of whom open up their own homes and studios. The venues run from grand Regency houses to humble beach huts (well, you are beside the sea).

The art is extraordinarily varied: paintings and photography predominate, but there is also plenty of sculpture, woodwork, ceramics, textiles, glass and jewellery. Styles range from classic landscape watercolours to cutting-edge sculpture from reclaimed waste. The artists are often present if you want to discuss the work, and many venues provide a cup of tea and some home-made cake as an added temptation! The web-site gives full details of which venues are open and when, as well as useful maps.

Most of the venues are grouped together as trails, the idea being that people can walk from venue to venue at a leisurely pace. It also helps to keep the carbon footprint down - if you want to be really green, the Journey On website will help you plot a low-carbon route: taking the car, or (better) going by bus, cycling or walking. It tells you your carbon footprint, and how many calories you will burn off if you cycle or walk! (Besides, parking in Brighton's narrow and often steep streets is simply nightmarish).

So, a combination of sea, sun and free art. What a nice way to begin the summer.

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