Imagine a new use for Worthing Pier's Southern Pavilion

 

A Christmas late afternoon seafront walk took me to Worthing Pier as the sun began to set. Right at the end of our Grade II listed art-deco pier is the Southern Pavilion - a beautiful oval shaped building currently standing empty and unused after the most recent tenants Angelik (sic) nightclub were refused a renewed premises licence by the council - presumably on grammatical grounds.
    A chat with Worthing's unstoppable Dan Thompson (the man behind #riotcleanup) alerted me to the nightclub's closure and we discussed how wonderful it would be if Worthing Borough Council were to grant a licence for use of this space to a community organisation at a peppercorn rent. It breaks my heart that one of Worthing's finest buildings (with the best panoramic sea views) is closed to most of our residents, and not being a frequenter of night clubs myself, I for one have never set foot inside.
   Apparently the interior has a vast 800 people capacity dance floor. Imagine Saturday afternoon tea dances! With its unspoilt views out to sea and daylight streaming in through those curved windows it would make a make a great art gallery space, and a tea room and shop would help pay the rent. In the evening it could be the perfect place for all kinds of community groups to meet and hold events (music, independent film screenings, arts clubs, circus and of course I'm thinking ukuleles) and would totally transform the way the Pier is used.


View from Worthing Pier at sunset, Christmas Day 2011

We moved to a Better Room - Euros Childs in Brighton

Last night I travelled to Brighton in the bitter cold to see Euros Childs in concert at the Unitarian Church - part of his solo piano UK tour. It was a thrilling event. Euros performed pieces from his new album Ends - songs that are melancholy, deeply romantic and sometimes very funny all at the same time.

During a splendid set he began to give us a rousing version of Gorky's Zygotic Mynci's canine anthem Poodle Rockin'. The sheer boogie woogie joy of this tune brought more excitement to the old church piano than it had seen in years and its strings dramatically snapped half way through with one piece flying into the air and landing in the lap of a surprised woman in the front row. We, the audience, were actually all thrilled until it looked like Euros would be unable to continue without a working piano.

A short chaos-limitation break intervened when it was remembered that there was an upright piano in a room at the back of the venue. The entire audience squeezed into the smaller back room with its bright ceiling lights, completely transforming the event from one of respectful but appreciative distance (for the audience) to a much more familial, cosy and cheerful sing-along affair.

By day this room is used as a Montessori nursery for pre-school children and is a place already filled with nostalgia and warm emotion for me, as it's the first nursery my daughter went to. Euros sang and played the upright piano without amplification against a backdrop of kids' drawings (including a jolly snowman themed Christmas mural) and we sat knee-to-knee on plastic children's chairs, everyone somehow not able to believe their luck at such a happy and intimate turn in events. It was my favourite live music show of the past twelve months and a fine way to end the musical year.

For those who don't already own the entire Euros Childs back catalogue, you can start by visiting www.euroschilds.com

Transistor radio lavender bags in the Ivy Arch shop

Radio print lavender bags in white, turquoise, red and mustard are now on sale in the Ivy Arch shop! Using fabric from Kokka's Ruby Star Rising collection (designed by Melody Miller), I've cut out the transistor radios and sewn them into pouches backed with cotton, then filled them with highly fragrant dried lavender flowers from Provence. 

December's ukulele appliqué tote bags

This is the last batch of ukulele tote bags I will make this side of Christmas. They're mostly made from vintage fabrics - check out the sublime 1950s red atomic print bag.

My favourite is cut from an African wax print cotton remnant left over from a dress made for me by Dig For Victory's Eleanor Callaghan (also of top uke combo The Bobby McGees). It's the one I wore at Wukulele Festival and there's a picture of the heroic dress amongst the festival photos. I've made two tote bags in this fabric, so I can keep one for myself!



Applique ukulele tote bags are on sale now in my Etsy shop.

Upcycled party bags for the Age of Reason

It's the time of year when I need to remove all my precious ceramic pots, breakable trinkets and collection of ukuleles from the lounge. My daughter's birthday party is imminent. This year I made the party bags myself in a feeble attempt to offset the frightening quantities of landfill-bound tat that a child's birthday seems to produce. I've used red cotton gingham left over from a previous project and have appliquéd them with Jane Foster's lovely printed birds saved from the offcuts of this uke gig bag, and bright butterflies salvaged from making from these lavender bags.
Now I better go and pack away my sewing machine...

The Mighty James Hill and The Mighty Uke

Last night I played ukulele with James Hill. I should add that unfortunately it wasn't a private jam session with James, cellist Anne Davison and me - instead I formed part of the small but eager audience that travelled to Brighton on a windswept Tuesday evening to see The Mighty Uke Roadshow.
     The film has been touring for over a year now but this is the first time it's reached Sussex. I'd heard great things about it and it didn't disappoint, though it provides a distinctly North American perspective on the global ukulele phenomena so there is little focus on the UK ukulele scene and no mention of the highly influential Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain or key uke websites. 
     The night was beset with technical hitches meaning our precious jamming time with James and the film's director Tony Coleman was regrettably cut short. I wish the Roadshow had come to Worthing or to one of our neighbouring towns of Shoreham-by-sea or Littlehampton (all places with keen and thriving ukulele groups) as I know local uke fans would have turned out in their hundreds - as they did for Wukulele Festival - and given The Mighty Uke Roadshow the kind of packed, enthusiastic and downright jolly reception it deserves.
     The film is currently touring the UK and if it comes to a town anywhere near you I urge you to go along. James Hill's easy charm and ukulele virtuosity make it an unmissable experience. The high point of the evening for me was Hill performing his amazing version of Billie Jean.


Radio Art


Transistor radio lavender bags by Ivy Arch
My television broke in 1990 and this event changed my life. I’d been listening to the usual bits of daytime Radio 4 before then (eating breakfast with the Today programme, having my tea with The Archers) but it wasn’t until the telly died that I really began exploring radio and seeking out new things to listen to. 
       BBC Radio 3 gave me Mixing It, an inspirational show that opened up entire new worlds of music to me - I was such a fan I even wrote to them and did voluntary work there. Then in 1997 I went along to Kersten Glandien’s acousmatic concert series RadioArt in Germany at London's Goethe-Institut. The same year London Musicians’ Collective (LMC) published a magazine called Resonance Radio Issue. The attached CD (compiled by Phil England) contained 75 minutes of radio art works. I’ve listened to this so many times over the years that I could probably recite you the entire text of Lotta Erickson’s Please Mr Coldstream with every pause and breath in place, and if I listen to this piece again right now I know it will move me as much as the first time I heard it.
       The following year LMC founded Resonance 104.4fm (the world’s first radio art station) and it is still the most diverse, interesting broadcaster around, and one that consistently provides a really radical and joyous listening experience. The station now has thousands of fans worldwide (even L’Uomo Vogue wants a piece of the action).

I never did get a replacement television set.

Ivy Arch radio lavender bags (the perfect gift for the radio enthusiast) are on sale in my Etsy shop.

Guerilla knitting on the streets of Worthing


I went out on my bike to photograph the early setting sun and stumbled upon a monumental piece of knitted graffiti on the seafront corner of The Steyne. The Steyne’s old red phone box is now wearing a huge woolly patchwork cosy, complete with a large pom pom on the top. Inside it’s filled with intricate crocheted flowers and leaves, handmade insects, cute rodents and even a knitted bird.
     This multicoloured knitted telephone booth celebrates the radical eccentric guerilla knitting of Magda Sayeg and the phone box cosies of London's Knit The City movement - it's a splendid sight and well worth taking a seafront detour for.
     Worthing's piece of kooky craft is signed Blueprint 22 and The Wool Bar. A bit of Googling tells me it could be the start of a big outdoor knitting exhibition in Worthing. I look forward to seeing more knitted graffiti on our streets!

The dog days aren't over

More pop art Chinese zodiac dog design lavender bags in Mini Moderns fabric hit the Ivy Arch Etsy shop tonight. The first batch have almost sold out, so do be quick if you'd like to buy one. The backing fabric on these is vintage cotton designed by Paco Rabanne - it's a beautiful piece of material with strong printed colours and a crazy psychedelic design. Gorgeous!


Delicious apple Christmas decoration lavender bags

This weekend, inspired by the old German tradition of decorating Christmas trees with apples, I made some apple motif lavender bags from the remnants of the Clothkits fabric I used to make these ukulele gig bags. They turned out so well that I've made some more for the shop, and sewed a few with the fabric's flower design.

If Christmas tree ornaments aren't your thing, they can also be put under your pillow for a peaceful night's sleep, or hung in your wardrobe to make clothes smell fresh - and did you know that lavender is a moth repellent? Buy now, for the perfect stocking filler gift!



Scents of Occasion: new lavender bags for Xmas

This week my home has been filled with the scent of French lavender as I've been making the first batch of lavender bags for my Christmas shop.
This lot are made from a piece of Mini Moderns Stevie fabric, inspired by an oriental stamp collection. I love the cute illustrations. They remind me of foreign packaging, tickets for exotic journeys and in particular my collection of Slovak soft-cheese labels (which I'll reveal to you in their full glory another time).
As usual they're also available for sale from my Etsy shop.

New ukulele tote bags by Ivy Arch

I've made some more appliqué ukulele tote bags including a few designs with plain black or green backgrounds. I think the black and red ones look simply stunning! All are available to buy now from my Etsy shop.

Smashing pumpkins

With Halloween approaching, Bethany Fuson from Larky Park has put together a pumpkin themed Etsy Treasury and has included an Ivy Arch concert ukulele gig bag. Warm yourselves on this wonderful orange collection!

Concert and soprano ukulele gig bags in Clothkits fabric

These are two new ukulele gig bags made from Clothkits birds and apples print fabric designed by the ever brilliant Jane Foster
       I bought this material from Clothkits shop in Chichester. Those of us who grew up in the 70s will probably remember Clothkits pre-printed kit clothing, from which you could cut out and sew a pair of dungarees without needing to use a paper pattern. They still sell the dungarees kits today (updated with designs by contemporary print artists) as well as stunning fabrics, haberdashery and all manner of sewing kits. Everything they produce is designed and made in England. You can see the full range of their wares at their lovely shop HQ, which is worth a day trip to Chichester in itself for the beautiful collection of fabrics and all kinds wonderful and unusual trimmings. I'm saving up for a few metres of their fruit salad gigantic pom pom trim.
These gorgeous red soprano and concert sized uke gig bags (fully padded and quilted with black star print linings) are now on sale in the Ivy Arch shop. Visit the shop for more pictures and information!

Barefoot on the beach

Worthing is the only place I want to be in October. For the past three years this autumnal month has given us mostly mild weekends. I think it's the best time of year to visit the town, and hundreds of ukulele fans did just that for last year's Wukulele Festival.
    October also gives Worthing some of its longest low tides of the year and yesterday was a fine day for a barefoot walk on the beach. Walking from east to west while migrating geese flew overhead, we stopped at the Lido for a cup of tea and a toasted tea cake on the way.

Autumnal uke tote bags in the Ivy Arch Etsy shop

Three new ukulele tote bags for the Ivy Arch shop. The bag on the right is made from a rare piece of Heals screenprinted fabric called 'Herbage', designed by Susan Cook in 1968. The Victoria & Albert Museum have a piece of this fabric in their textiles collection. I think the rich browns of the William Morris print on the appliquéd uke perfectly complement Cook's design in a feast of autumnal colours.
For more pictures of these bags or to buy, visit the uke tote bag section of my Etsy shop

One less Lonely Dollop



Lonely in his youth
The Lonely Dollop is soft felt creature made from a pattern designed by Shawn Smith and featured in Therese Laskey’s excellent Softies craft project book. As the book says, he’s “a blob of poo, and he has a lonely look”.

I made one for my daughter some time ago. He’s much loved but recently, concerned about his loneliness, she’s been asking me to make him a companion “she must have eyelashes – three on each eye”.  So this afternoon we made one together using Smith’s pattern and adding a little bit of glamour. 

The Lonely Dollop is lonely no more.



Today in happier times
If you want to make your own cuddly poo track down a copy of Softies: 25 Simple Instructions for Plush Pals published by Chronicle Books

If you’d prefer to buy a ready-made dollop or to see some of Shawn Smith’s other zany creations, visit Shawnimals.

Ukulele appliqué tote bags - now on sale at ukebag.com

I've made a second batch of cheerful ukulele tote bags. You can see them at ukebag.com and they're on sale now from my Etsy shopThe tote bags are all made from different types of vintage and repurposed fabric. My favourites are the 50s barkcloth bags and the apple-printed ones made from tea towels. 

  
They're just the right size for carrying your Wukulele songbooks, the current issue of Vogue magazine, and several back issues of Private Eye. What more could one want?

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