23.7.12

Sea shanties in Hastings

I love a sing song, and sea shanties make the best sing-along songs - with simple melodies and repetitive choruses to go with the kind of nautical heave-ho work they accompanied. So, when I heard there was a Sea Shanty Festival in nearby Hastings, I got my bike up to London Road station (taking my folder as it's lighter, knowing there'd be steps to negotiate) and headed east. At Lewes, I changed for the fast Ashford diesel, which is only two carriages so it was a bit of a squash, what with all the pushchairs. I'd arranged to meet Erica Smith, so I got off at St Leonards Warrior Square (and yes, there was a footbridge with steps) and we cycled along the seafront to Rock-a-Nore.

  Erica at the Jerwood gallery

First, we popped into the new Jerwood Gallery, tucked in amongst the black fishermen's huts. Erica had a magic ticket, so I got in free. The latest exhibition was the painter Gary Hume. I do like his stuff, and own a print and drawing of his. He paints on aluminium sheets using household gloss paint. But why? You'd think it was to get a perfectly flat finish, like on his sculptures, but no you can see the hand of the artist, and things not clear in reproduction, like toes, that transform what looks like an abstract into a figurative painting.

  Jerwood cafe

The permanent collection is pretty impressive too, mainly smallish paintings from between the wars and after. There's a nice LS Lowry of a bridge and chimney, a Ruskin Spear (Roger's dad), William Roberts, Frank Brangwyn, Dod and Ernest Proctor, John Piper - everyone except Ravilious and Bawden... plus several winners of the Jerwood Painting Prize such as Craigie Aitchison and Maggi Hambling. It's also got a cafe with balcony, and great unisex toilets. The windows are spectacular too, going right down to floor level so you imagine you might fall onto the shingle outside.

  Jerwood window

Dodging the miniature railway, we collected our bikes and trudged over the pebbles to the sea shanty 'stage' - a fishing boat, where we caught the end of a Polish group of unaccompanied singers. There then followed Graeme Knights, who did a solo set, and then The Hastings Shanty Singers, who after a rousing sing-along of 'What shall we do with the drunken sailor' were joined by the ensemble cast for the final couple of songs. The event was to be repeated on a proper stage, that evening. And Sunday was going to be Pirate day!

  The cast finale

I grabbed a Fishermen's roll from Tush and Pat's stall - two fillets of fried plaice on a bun, fresh and straight from the sea, for £2.50. Heading back to Brighton, the train was packed to the gills, but had thinned out by Eastbourne. It was home to watch history being made at the Tour de France final time trial, as Wiggo and Froome came in one and two, like Le Tour itself, and then it was out to see Anal Beard at the Albert to round off the perfect day.

  Tush and Pat's stall
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