By Helen Murphy and Nick Pelling

Celebrating the royal family can be a bit divisive. We are not all monarchists, so the Jubilee may bring some people out in republican hives. However, Tara Reddy from ‘Art in The Park’ and her niece Megan Donfrancesco Reddy, from The Dirty Old Gallery, have found a clever way around the political minefield by posing the question, Who Is YOUR Queen?  

As Megan says, “it is basically about celebrating someone in your life who you think deserves a crown.” Anyone, from professional artists to dilettantes and doodlers, can contribute a piece of art to the Dirty Old Gallery in Old Town. Submissions must arrive by May 29. There will then be an exhibition at D.O.G in June. There will also be a free art workshop for children happening at the old bowling green venue (home of Art in the Park) in Alexandra Park on 5 June, when kids will be encouraged to get messy with their own monarch. This will be a part of a whole family-oriented Jubilee Picnic in the beautiful park. 

Left: By Sara; Right: By Rose

Art in the Park has only been in place since Easter, but Tara Reddy has already established an extraordinary range of activities and classes. There are all manner of options, such as well-being Wednesdays, Kids workshops on Thursdays, Qigong, painting workshops and various taster days. Tara has several local artists, such as Louise Whitham, Alice Mason and Marta Munoz, helping her at different times. She also appreciates offers of help from volunteers. And one of the things on offer on Tuesday mornings is life drawing inside the old clubhouse.  We decided to go along. Tara facilitates the whole thing in a very welcoming way and with great enthusiasm. The model, on this occasion, was the poet Jemia de Blondville. It was only her second time of modelling but she was brilliant, holding her poses with an impressive stillness. 

Although many artists will say that drawing the human form is the bedrock of learning to draw, it is also true that life drawing is curiously therapeutic. Tara is the driving force behind Arts on Prescription – a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to helping people enhance their emotional well-being. This can be part of a way of helping people who have issues impacting on their mental health but it also can be just about reducing isolation or loneliness. There is no pressure in these drawing classes, the atmosphere is non-judgemental and people soon enter that meditative state you reach when you are seriously looking at something. Attempting to draw a hand, for example, can send you into a peculiar trance when everything else around, except this particular hand, dissolves into nothingness. Some gentle cello recordings also helped. 

On a more prosaic note, materials are provided and there are several types of easel to work from. There is also a cup of tea in the break, when everyone can have a bit of chat and get to know each other.  The whole experience was actually lovely. 

If you think this might be for you, it would be advisable to contact Tara first –the space in the clubhouse is relatively small. Having said that, Tara is keen that drawing might occur on the green itself with bigger groups but, obviously, the model will not be entirely naked. Hastings is not quite ready for that, I feel.  

Overall, we left with a roll of messy charcoal drawings but also a sense that Tara really is an extraordinary woman. In fact, I think she is our Queen. 

More information about ‘Art in the Park’ – including a call out for a proposed ceramic mural in Trinity Triangle and the Jubilee Picnic on 5 June can be found on www.artsonprescription.org


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