By Gail Borrow

Catch this year’s biggest public display of young people’s art locally as ATownExploresABook20 gears up for its final weekend of exploration of H G Wells’ The Time Machine, 125 years after publication.

The festival has re-emerged onto the street as lockdown is relaxed with a stunning display of community outdoor art projects, hosted by Transition Town Hastings in their community garden at Warrior Square Station, funded by Arts Council England and Hastings Borough Council.

Richly coloured ceramic tiles are the inspiration of festival lead producer, artist Emma Harding, who has led the community project with students at Christ Church and St Paul’s Primary Academies. Vivid articulations of personal challenge have been scratched into and painted onto hexagonal clay tiles. The artwork was inspired by the Time Traveller’s realisation that the weakness of the future humanity – the Eloi – is caused by their lack of challenge.

“It is the law of nature we overlook, that intellectual versatility is the compensation for change, danger and trouble…” 
H G Wells, The Time Machine

Pre-pandemic, this exploration of challenge stimulated reflections of many relatable experiences of young people: learning to swim, forging friendships and improving handwriting skills. Since then, Covid-19 has bought a new meaning to this project as the community navigates the reshaping of life in the easing of lockdown.

Emma Harding’s project was originally planned for Gensing Gardens, where willow weaver Julie Gurr’s tunnel stands, the original framework for the tiles. Unable to use this site because of the ‘Hastings is Shut’ message, transferring the project to a new venue becomes an apt example of ‘facing challenge’.

Set up by volunteer gardeners in 2016, the bank above Platform 2 at Warrior Square station was Transition Town Hastings’ first growing project. A dedicated team led by Alison Cooper, Chris Petts and Mick Studd transformed an unloved area, creating planting and raised beds which supply the local community with free produce and a place of beauty and tranquillity beside the railway. Come and enjoy its peace!

Other outdoor art projects in the garden include Black Winkle Artists’ gloriously lofty clocks, a project created by artist Peter Quinnell, and Morokoth Fournier des Corats’ Strange Fossils in 802,701. 

Susan Miller’s project with Dudley Infant School runs along the sloped path leading up to London Road. Here, the artist plays with the concept of time – it’s the missing word on each of the clock faces. Alex Brattell and Dawn Dublin’s The Mind of a Time Traveller series of photos is hosted in nearby Southwater Community Centre. 

Artists Tatenda Michael Manyarara and Tom Harding have joined the team this year to develop skills ready to realise their own projects in 2021. And what’s the book choice for 2021? Hastings Independent Press makes the announcement annually and this time, the announcement is coming early! 

The shoreline projects that could not be realised in 2020 due to Covid are being repurposed for delivery next April. The 2021 book will be announced in the next issue of HIP.

For details of all free viewing experiences until Sunday 5th July: atownexploresabookcom/whatson and the festival’s social media channels.

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