29 posts categorised "Museum and Art Gallery"

The Plant Hunter

There can't have been many exhibitions at the Art Gallery that make you want to get out of there in a hurry, but their latest is one of them.

The Plant Hunter

Mrs Anke's favourite tree, the Tibetan Cherry, prunus serrula.

The Plant Hunter is an exhibition celebrating the work of Bedgebury Pinetum, one of the most important collections of incredibly rare trees in the world.

On display is a showcase of photography by world-renowned photographer Edward Parker, some spectacular fine drawings by the Bedgebury Florilegium, a display of intriguing objects used around the Pinetum, and lots lots more. A reason alone for visiting is the cabinet of giant pine cones, I can't imagine the size of the squirrel that picked them!

The Plant Hunter

We liked the exhibition so much that we jumped in the car and sped off towards Bedgebury and enjoyed lovely day out in the sunshine trying to see who could find the biggest pine cone. Naturally I won.

The Plant Hunter

Mrs Anke enjoys the lovely surroundings of Bedgebury Pinetum.

There are some terrific looking events coming up at the Art Gallery to coincide with the exhibition. The Botanical Drawing Class (Saturday 3rd of May, £6), and the Behind The Scenes Tour (Tuesday, 13th of May, Free) both look especially good.

The Museum have also put the video that you can see at the exhibition online so you can watch it from the comfort of your sofa.

If you're looking for something to do this Easter then you'd be mad not to pay the Art Gallery a visit in the morning and then spend the rest of the day enjoying the Pinetum.

Are Comic Books Art?

That is the question our Art Gallery at the Museum is asking for the next couple of months with their new exhibition, Dave McKean: A Retrospective.

Dave McKean A Retrospective at the Art Gallery

Opening tonight (Thursday) and open to all from the 24th of January until the 30th of March, the new exhibition showcases a terrific range of work from a local working artist. From album covers, to comic books, to children's illustrations, to movie posters, and everything in between, the broad gamut of styles and talent on show is something to behold.

Dave McKean Leaflet

This is a bit of a departure for the Art Gallery - something a bit different from their more traditional displays of the past. It's a showcase of work that they hope will appeal to a younger and wider audience, and one that will challenge your view of art.

When I got talking to Jeremy and Liz, the two people that helped to get the display into the gallery, it's quite clear that this is something they are all really excited about. Please, if you can, grab either of them when you go along and pick their brains about the work on show, they are both so enthusiastic and knowledgable and you'll get a little bit extra out of the exhibition as a result I promise. Even if you don't though, you are in for a real treat.

As Liz gave me a personal mini-tour I was most taken by the enormous range of techniques on show, particularly impressive were the three-dimensional pieces which were then converted into two-dimensional cover art, later made easier with the advent of Photoshop. Most noticeable of all though was the fact that Dave McKean never seems to stick to the same style or look yet retains that underlying darkness to his work, especially evident in the children's illustrations - tell me that they wouldn't have struck the fear of God into you for your entire childhood. I think it shows the professionalism of an artist working for exactly what a client wants whilst still retaining his own character.

Dave McKean A Retrospective at the Art Gallery

As well as the main exhibition there are some themed events running at the Art Gallery, Library, and Museum over the coming weeks too:

Maus and the Holocaust by Dr Axel Stahler - Monday 27th January - £6.
Getting into Graphic Art Career Panel - Thursday 13th February - Free.
Women in Comics: Roundtable Talk/Debate - Saturday 8th March - Free.

It's quite an apt exhibition too as a new comic book store, the Comic Café, has opened on Camden Road recently, so if do you get a bit excited by all the graphic art on display then you can pop along there to fill your boots. There are also some of Dave McKean's books for sale in the Museum shop and Waterstones mentioned to me they might get in a few more copies just in case too.

Those lovely people at the Art Gallery and Museum have given me two free tickets to give away to the Maus and the Holocaust talk by Dr Axel Stahler on Monday 27th January. Just leave a comment below to enter, be sure to leave your name. Competition is now closed.

Regardless of whether you are a graphic novel fan or not I heartily encourage you to visit this exhibition, especially if you've never ventured into the Art Gallery before. Oh, and don't forget to fill in the "Are Comic Books Art?" questionnaire after you've seen the exhibit too.

The £12 Million Dream

I am now the most excited I have ever been about the future of our town. Why? I finally finished reading the 95 page feasibility study for our new cultural hub.

Behind the Library

Some of the wasted space between the Library and the Adult Education Centre. Hopefully not for much longer.

I can hear a few stunned quizical silences out there so if you’re one of the handful of souls who haven’t heard about this new cultural hub then let me give you a quick summary.

The Library, Museum, Art Gallery, and Adult Education Centre are to be redeveloped and expanded. Big time! £12 million worth of big time. The aim, and I love this sentence, is "to grow our role as the cultural centre of the Kent and Sussex High Weald, so that in 2024 the Borough of Tunbridge Wells is nationally recognised for its vibrant cultural provision".

The feasibility study for this expansion plan, conducted by Gleeds on behalf of TWBC and KCC, was to demonstrate how feasible it would be build the cultural hub in the town centre, and the major result of this was that it would fit perfectly into the ageing Civic Centre. The study was officially launched at a meeting this week (which I couldn’t get to at the last minute and I am still beating myself up about it) and you can download a copy of the document at the end of this post.

Tunbridge Wells Cultural Hub Concept

Concept drawing of new cultural hub. Copyright Gleeds.

To help raise the necessary £12 million for the plans it was also announced that the next stage of the project would go ahead as soon as possible with the preparation of a Heritage Lottery Fund application, or the purchase of a Lotto ticket, although I think the first one is more probable.

Hang on, so far so exciting but what is a cultural hub?

1,850sqm worth of museum and art gallery space.

It is the idea of bringing together every aspect of learning under one roof. It will enable visitors to enjoy something in the museum or art gallery, carry out some research on it, have a cup of tea and a sticky bun, and then set about creating their own wonderful creation, all the while being surrounded by like-minded people to further fuel their creativity. Or as the Council puts it, a place to “bring together all the materials, information, resources and collections that enable people to access and explore their local heritage".

I had goosebumps trawling over the minutiae: creative learning spaces, exhibition halls, lecture theatres, research facilities, studios, a café, the list goes on and on, but best of all is the 1,850sqm worth of museum and art gallery space. Drool.

The museum will grow enormously in size from its current 700sqm. The giant new space will also include the new “Tunbridge Wells Story” designed to highlight why our town exists, and at 200sqm you can imagine how detailed this special area will be when compared to the 1sqm that the current display occupies.

Imagine all that lovely light space. Imagine how wonderful it will be to finally get to display the 90% of the Museum’s artefacts that you can’t currently see. Imagine how much of a boost it will be to our local economy (according to one statistic Margate has enjoyed a £20 million boost to its economy following the construction of the Turner Contemporary).

Aerial View of Library, Museum, and Adult Education Centre

Aerial View of Library, Museum, and Adult Education Centre. Imagine this with a glass roof. Spectacular!

This has fortified my belief that Tunbridge Wells has really turned a corner this year, what with the So Create proposals, the upcoming shared space at Five Ways, the revitalised Pantiles, and now this. The future indeed looks bright (ignoring the Ritz of course).

Niggles? Not many of course but I would like to have seen a proposal idea for incorporating the town hall into the design, but according to the report it wasn’t worth pursuing as an idea (Page 41 of report). I disagree, I think if you’re going to spend £12 million on converting it you might as well spend £20 million and convert the whole thing. I really encourage you to download and read the document and to let TWBC know your thoughts.

...nobody balls this one up please.

Of course, all of this is pretty dependent on the Heritage Lottery Fund application, which will bring £3.5 million of the total £12 million build costs, being successful. So, just in case the worst happens, philanthropists I am talking to you now, this is your time to come out of the woodwork. This could be your time to shine. Rummage deep down the back of that sofa. Actually if donations are what it takes then consider me first in line.

Not to get your hopes up too much but the anticipated milestone timetable lists the front doors opening on the new complex in 56 months time. That’s Wednesday, August 1st, 2018. I’ve already put the day on my calendar.

Finally, I’m looking at all of the people in charge of this when I say, nobody balls this one up please. Let’s see this through to the end. Oh, and 3, 14, 16, 25, 32, and 44, just in case it helps TWBC.

What do you think of the plans? What do you general idea? Let me know in the comments.

Library, Museum, and Art Gallery Open!

Finally, after seven long weeks, the library, museum, and art gallery reopened their doors this morning.

Having a look around the art gallery.

I popped in right after opening time and the place was already buzzing, possibly helped by the six-foot bright yellow lion beckoning people in through the door. It was really heartening to see so many people enjoying the place and smiling, the smiles on the staff were noticeably bigger.

So what's new?

Good question.

There's a new lift, much requested for many years, and I had a quick ride in it and can confirm it's up and down facilities work just as they should. There's new carpeting and a new lick of paint. There are new books, I won't list them here. There's a new room in the museum (opening soon) and there is a new children's library downstairs too. There's shiny new signage and equally as shiny new toilets and baby-changing facilities. The whole place feels fresher, more roomy and bright.

Exploring the Tunbridge Ware Gallery

A new exhibition at the art gallery opened today too. 'A Grand Tour' is an exhibition exploring the experience of Georgian and Regency visitors to the High Weald in the days before mass-tourism. It focuses on the three local estates which would have been on the itinerary of any self-respecting tourist; Bayham, Penshurst and Eridge: unlocking their stories and revealing some of the treasures that these tourists would have seen. The highlight of the exhibition, which runs until the 12th of January 2014, is a collection of portraits by Gainsborough, Reynolds and Lawrence, which have never before been publicly displayed.

There's only one way to experience it and thats to go and see it for yourself. Please drop in, have a look around and support them.

To celebrate I am giving away one of the new gifts that you can buy at the museum shop. To win the rather snazzy Tunbridge Ware Fridge Magnet just leave a comment below.

It's a Civic Complex Situation

I've recently read two documents pertaining to the Civic Complex that have been of great interest.

I'll firstly have a look at the second one I read, this will make sense in a minute. This document was recently released on the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council website and was prepared for the Council and English Heritage by The Architectural History Practice.

Unusually for documents of this type it was actually quite the interesting read, most of it coming from the history-nerd angle that I like so much. For a document that you would expect to be quite negative I actually turned the final page with the pleasant feeling of appreciating the building even more. The writing style helped here as it seemed to come from someone who really appreciates architecture and possibly had some sort of affinity to the place.

Crescent Road Car Park. Soon to demolished?

Skipping most of the 73 pages of text, you can read it for yourself, I got to the end of the document to a pleasant surprise. There at the end in the conclusion, was the plain and simple answer that the Civic Complex is worth leaving intact just as it is. Sort of.

The only visible changes suggested were in the form of demolition to some tatty outbuildings and to the Crescent Road car park. Hang on a second, demolish the car park? Surely not. Where would all the cars go to park? Anyway, that's a whole new debate of which there isn't enough room on the Internet.

The car park is quoted as being "positively harmful in the way it overshadows...the site", "the Civic Complex site is severely blighted by the multi-storey car park... [it] closes all views from the west...looms uncomfortably...", and "conspicuous and ugly...and blights the setting of the buildings all around it...", in conclusion it doesn't come across very well and the architect obviously thinks it should be demolished.

Should it?

In fact the car park is actually stated as being "the key to the positive improvement of the whole [area]". He's making quite the case for destroying it isn't he?

Should we?

...severely blighted by the multi-storey car park.

Back to the main buildings. The value of which was split into four areas: evidential, historical, aesthetic, and communal value. All of which it was said that it is either of good or exceptional worth in preserving the buildings. This left the architects to suggest the best route for potential change would be on the inside. Well there was a line which suggested that there is scope to add another storey to the top of each building but this does sound rather far fetched.

The Museum, Library and Assembly Hall are listed as being culturally important and should therefore remain as they are, possibly with some extensions and alteration to bring more internal space. It's the Town Hall though that comes in for the most interesting recommendations for its future use. Two of which are of special interest: retail and residential.

"It might be possible to adapt the interior of the Town Hall wings, for example, as boutique shopping arcades with a series of small retail units off the spine corridors…"

Anyone who has ventured into the Town Hall will know that this would look very odd indeed and really wouldn't work. In fact it's such a daft idea that I'm surprised it was even mentioned.

As for residential:

"...[the complex] would lend itself most readily to conversion, with apartments either side of the spine passages in the wings."

I would buy one.

The usual pedestrianisation proposition comes up throughout the reports conclusion but I really can't see this happening, look what happened when Grosvenor Road was recently closed to cars - apparent economic catastrophe ensued.

The idea of turning the current car park in front of No.9 and No.10 Crescent Road into a landscaped public space is a nice thought, but again where would the cars go?

Like I said before, I finished the document in quite the buoyant mood and I think that there was some really nice ideas that should be seriously considered. Have a read of it and see what you think. The link to the PDF is up above.

Now onto the first document I read. This was by the Civic Society and was entitled "Towards a Vision for Tunbridge Wells Civic Centre". It set out what the Society thinks the future of the complex should be. It will surprise you.

You would think the Civic Society would want to preserve the building as much as possible and would resist all changes. Yes in a way they do but just like the architects above they are suggesting lots of internal changes to bring the building into the 21st century as well some surprising external modifications too.

They do say a picture speaks a thousand words and this article is lengthy enough already so scroll away and take a look at the two sketches below to see some of their ideas (more available in PDF download).

Civic Society sketch idea, copyright of The Tunbridge Wells Civic Society.

Civic Society sketch idea, copyright of The Tunbridge Wells Civic Society.

As you can see the external changes the Society suggest are rather wonderful. It's one of those ideas that makes you slap your forehead and go "oh yeah, of course that's what they should do". The joining of the Town Hall to the Museum with a huge glass atrium would be something fantastic and would not only make more space available for the huge numbers of exhibits that currently lie hidden but would make this museum a destination for 50 miles around. The Society thinks that this would cost approximately £10 million. Bargain! I'll pitch in. There was also some cheaper additions to tide us over whilst we save up for the big stuff with some new steps either side of the War Memorial and the addition of some fountains. Both thumbs up from me. What about you?

Do any of these plans tickle your fancy? What would you do with the place, if anything?


  • I am a spritely 30-something living with my beautiful wife in the most fabulous town in the entire world, Royal Tunbridge Wells.

    We love to soak up the culture, the lifestyle, the nature, the history, the people, the art, the architecture, and the countryside in this idyllic part of the Weald, and because we love our town so much we made our blogs to share it with the rest of you.

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