Cotswold Voice

Ig­nore Lon­don. We’ve a jewel of a gallery here in Cirences­ter

Cotswold Life - - CONTENTS - CON­TACT adampotlick­ers@icloud.com @cotswold­hack ADAM ED­WARDS

Iwould take a small wa­ger that most Cotswoldians (is that the right de­monym?) have never vis­ited the Ched­worth Ro­man Villa, Broad­way Tower or the Bibury Trout Farm. I would take an even larger gam­ble that the ma­jor­ity of the res­i­dents of these hills have not got the faintest idea where, for ex­am­ple, the Cotswold Mo­tor­ing Mu­seum or the Me­chan­i­cal Mu­sic Mu­seum are sited (Bour­ton-on-the-wa­ter and North­leach re­spec­tively, on the off chance that you might ask). The only peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in such things are, in the par­lance of West Coun­try slang, ‘grock­les’, who are known more po­litely here as tourists.

It was much the same when I was in Lon­don. No­body who ac­tu­ally worked and lived in the cap­i­tal had ever been to the Tower of Lon­don, taken af­ter­noon tea at the Ritz or knew the where­abouts of the Princess Diana Memo­rial Foun­tain. On the other hand, those of us liv­ing per­ma­nently in the Cotswolds who go up to town reg­u­larly in our best bib and tucker (it is easy to dis­tin­guish Cotswold man or woman from a Lon­doner in the cap­i­tal – the for­mer are al­ways bet­ter dressed) have prob­a­bly ex­pe­ri­enced these things.

This year, for ex­am­ple, I have been to see the Pink Floyd ex­hi­bi­tion at the Vic­to­ria and Al­bert Mu­seum, ‘Amer­ica Af­ter the Fall’ at the Royal Academy of Arts, a Rus­sian ex­hi­bi­tion, an Andy Warhol sale and eaten in an ex­tra­or­di­nary Jewish restau­rant in St John’s Wood. No­body I know in Lon­don has been to any of the above and yet, with the ex­cep­tion of the Jewish eaterie, many of my Cotswold friends have been to most of them.

There is one other ex­hi­bi­tion that a num­ber of my ru­ral mates have seen this year that I have missed – the cross-dress­ing artist Grayson Perry’s ‘Most Pop­u­lar Art Ex­hi­bi­tion Ever’ at the Ser­pen­tine Gallery in Kens­ing­ton Gar­dens. One of the rea­sons that I didn’t bother to go was the warn­ing by the gallery that the artist is so pop­u­lar that ‘there may be a queu­ing sys­tem in place’. Some years ago I went to see a pop­u­lar ex­hi­bi­tion at Ox­ford’s Ash­molean Mu­seum that had a sim­i­lar warn­ing. In front of ev­ery pic­ture was a ten-deep gag­gle of gap­ing global vis­i­tors. It was an ex­pe­ri­ence not dis­sim­i­lar to a be­ing at an air­port check-in desk when an in­ter­na­tional flight has been de­layed. It was a fu­tile ex­er­cise. And so it was, I gather, with the Perry ex­hi­bi­tion. It took ages to get in and was choc-a-block when you did fi­nally get through the door.

The other rea­son I didn’t bother to go was that there was a Grayson Perry show at the New Brew­ery Arts cen­tre in Cirences­ter. It was free and there wasn’t a queue. It has been some­thing of a coup for the arts cen­tre to stage a pair of Perry’s large ta­pes­tries. Fur­ther­more it was well-lit, in­for­ma­tive and not at all crowded. It was in fact ex­actly how one wants to see works of art – enough to en­joy and ab­sorb but not too much to over­whelm. New Brew­ery Arts has be­come a small but per­fectly crafted jewel in the Cotswolds. It has stu­dios, gal­leries, cour­ses, work­shops, a shop and a café. It is the town’s civilised an­ti­dote to the dom­i­na­tion of the bar­barous Cirences­ter Agri­cul­tural Uni­ver­sity and as it grows in con­fi­dence it is giv­ing the cap­i­tal of the Cotswolds a much-needed cre­ative heart. The stag­ing of the Grayson Perry ta­pes­tries dur­ing the same pe­riod that the Ser­pen­tine Gallery boasted a new show by the artist was, for ex­am­ple, not only a mea­sure of the Brew­ery Arts’ re­cent blos­som­ing but also a gen­tle rasp­berry to the cap­i­tal.

And yet the odd thing about the Cotswold ‘Perry’ ex­hi­bi­tion was, de­spite the bright yel­low signs advertising it on all roads lead­ing to Cirences­ter, no­body I know who reg­u­larly goes to Lon­don to see ex­hi­bi­tions went to see it, in­clud­ing one friend who had made a spe­cial trip to the Ser­pen­tine Gallery be­cause she was “mad about Grayson Perry”.

I don’t know what the name is for this syn­drome – there must be one I sup­pose. But what­ever the maxim I com­pletely un­der­stand that part of the joy of liv­ing in the Cotswolds is the leav­ing of it, even if it is only for a day, to en­joy a dif­fer­ent and en­rich­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Even so I find the care­free shun­ning of Grayson Perry at the New Brew­ery Arts by the ‘go­ing up to town’ crowd some­what baf­fling.

Above: Julie Cope’s Grand Tour: The Story of a Life, by Grayson Perry

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