By David Burns 

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
William Henry Davies

Driving through the red autumn peace of Three Oaks down to The Studio, one is struck by a feeling of self-reproach.  “I shouldn’t be driving, I should have caught the train and walked”.  Such is the tranquility of this rural village a stone’s throw from Hastings.

The Studio in Three Oaks is a new initiative from East Sussex based arts organisation B&R Productions. Responding to the need for arts practitioners to have the time and space for early stage development of new work, Directors Christine Harmar-Brown and Ian Ross have developed the space as a creative retreat with specific programmes for artists a well as a visitor offer.

With over thirty years experience in the arts working in theatre, dance and television, Harmar-Brown and Ross formed B&R Productions in 1999, initially to produce new plays and contemporary revivals. Relocating to East Sussex in 2006 the company started to focus on developing creative and cultural innovation as a driver of community regeneration. This is the organisation whose work includes: relocating the internationally acclaimed contemporary dance company Jasmin Vardimon Company to Ashford Kent; developing a decommissioned school into a thriving arts hub and studio complex for over thirty artists at Rye Creative Centre; converting empty retail units within Eastbourne’s Devonshire Ward; and developing The Devonshire Collective, a cluster of studios, maker spaces and a gallery.

This latest initiative reflects the directors’ belief in the value of nature to the creative process. “The serenity of the location is key” says Christine “There are fantastic walks along the 1066 route as well as the local paths and we really want our visitors to get out and experience how walking can free the imagination.” 

It is no accident therefore that the arts development bursary programme they are launching with support from Arts Council England is called Time To Stare. The bursary allows for up to four practitioners to stay at the studio for five days to work on a specific project or work. A panel of mentors drawn from a diverse range of professions including science, architecture, the arts and local government reflect the programme’s intention to encourage creative investigation of the human condition from a wide range of perspectives. The first recipient of this bursary is Diana Scarborough and there will be another call out in early 2019.

“Mindful of the wealth of creativity in this part of the world we also want to promote local artists and the cultural tourism agenda. We are hugely grateful to Locate East Sussex for signposting us to the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and enabling us to offer the Studio to visitors who want to explore the beautiful country and coastal surroundings and experience all the cultural events on offer. We’ve also teamed up with local artists so our visitors can book an artist to run a workshop just for them.”

The Studio itself sleeps four with facilities that include a kitchenette, a workspace and wi-fi – All the facilities of a working environment combined with the comfort of a country retreat.

In this tiny corner of rural East Sussex, Harmar-Brown and Ross have created a seedbed for new ideas, a fertile environment to which artists can come to nurture and develop them into the beginnings of new works and where visitors can immerse themselves in a very special creative and cultural landscape.  

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