Category Archives: Bexhill

Talk at Bexhill Museum

bexhill to bexhill

All welcome to Bexhill Museum’s talk next Thursday, 21st May. From 3-4pm I will be sharing photographs and stories of my journey to places called Bexhill, stopping in at a couple along the way.

Admission will also include a chance to look at the work in progress of In Conversation with Annie, a Heritage Lottery Funded Residency developing a dialogue with heritage and connecting mine and Annie’s journeys. Several other lovely exhibitions currently running at Bexhill Museum are also open to visitors: Something Old Something New; Bexhill & Abroad; & The Kings German Legion in Bexhill.

Open from 10-5 Tuesday to Friday and 11-5 Saturday, Sunday and Mondays. For more details about how to get there click here.

Italy residency.

Eight artists and 7 days in Corigliano D’Otranto finished on Tuesday. I arrived by train, taking 7 days to reach the south of Italy, through Paris, Turin and Venice, the route of the Orient Express. Then on to Bologna to catch the night train to Lecce and finally Corigliano.

I met the rest of the Navigato artists last Tuesday, a sunny day on the ‘heel’ of the country. All of us connected by Bexhill and the De La Warr Pavilion who supported the project. A meal far too big for any of us to get through kicked off proceedings and set the standard for the trip.

Seven days later and there have been performances, dinners, drinks, processions, work made, work hung, work seen and dismantled again. Trips to surrounding areas have been made and dips for the brave in the Adriatic. Gelato, pastries and coffee have been consumed in varying quantities. New friends have been made.

I have been shown lace making by Joanna and great warmth and kindness by many other local people. In return I ran workshops with the lovely Penny, where we talked about stones, walls and castles. Local school children received us warmly and produced some wonderful work.

I have a few more days in Italy and then head to Croatia. A long and winding train journey through Europe to meet Christiana in Vienna for the Christmas markets.


Rosa, Giuseppe, Penny, Francis and me (and another lady who’s name sadly escapes me, who makes lace) on our visit to the ‘mission’ in Corigliano.

P1240934.JPGWorkshops at the school, Louise Kenward (2014)

IMG_1560.JPGMaking work, a wall of contemplation, close to the station where I spent many hours… (Louise Kenward, 2014)


Workshops held at the school, Corigliano with support from the wonderful Anna. Run in collaboration with Penny (Louise Kenward, 2014)



Dolce, Louise Kenward (2014)

P1250058.JPGCorigliano, Louise Kenward 2014

First stop Omsk

Trail of breadcrumbs part one…

Stones, pebbles, rock. Universal objects and materials. Multitudes of uses, meanings and metaphor. A pebble beach, Bexhill coastline is filled with all shapes, sizes and colours of stones, with varied patterns, striations and markings. Collecting pebbles, skimming stones, picking them up and putting them down again, universal activities for so many beach visitors. The satisfying crunching sound they make under foot, albeit unstable, is one of the noises synonymous with time at the seafront. That and the inevitable caw of the seagulls cutting through the wild, calm and ever moving sea. I have tried to take sound footage of the seafront, trying to capture the atmosphere. Sounds are so evocative. The beating of the masts on the sailing boats. The sound of the sea whether crashing waves with frothy white tops of spray or barely there shoreline kisses and caresses, it is a constant. A reminder that the sea is a truly powerful beast, it holds me with such a strong connection. It is soothing, energising, frightening, exciting. It puts things in perspective. It is also at risk, our oceans are under enormous pressure. Something I will come back to, but for now my focus is the pebble. The humble, brown, blue, round, pebble.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Pebble collection, Louise Kenward (2014)

My intention for my journey was to make connections, make links. It was to see what unifies us and the things we share around the globe, irrespective of culture, creed, race or language. I have a small collection of stones and pebbles from times in my life and places I have been. I don’t remember the story of them all, and for that I am sad, but they are all important to me. So to collect pebbles along my route was an obvious intention. Travelling ‘light’ the idea of collecting stones in this way was was not very practical. I have picked up my back pack more than once to exclaim ‘what’s in this, rocks?’ only for it to gradually dawn on me that yes, there are certainly a number of stones in it. I have been careful of what I have collected, conscious of what a minefield collecting anything from the beach is in many places. So I hope, I have certainly tried, to be as conscious and aware of this all the time. What I have actually brought back is very little, but each object has been carefully labelled and stored, waiting to be sorted and accompanying stories told.

In addition, I learned to crochet last summer. I wanted to make something along the way. Crochet was an appealing medium. It was a new skill, it was portable, I could make a blanket en route to keep me warm in Canada. The practicality of this was short lived and my task was to find something that would be manageable. My friend bought me a gift from a charity shop and my project was formed…

from Nicole

from Nicole

A trail of breadcrumbs as I have since referred to it, is a trail of pebbles I have found and collected on the way between places called Bexhill and beyond. Crocheting a cover for each one was sufficient ‘intervention’ after which I would replace the now covered pebble where I found it, or would leave it at the next place I arrived. Or an alternative suitable spot. It became a challenge to find the ‘right’ place to leave each one. This became as important as selecting the pebble and making the crochet for it. A very ‘female’ act it felt a surprisingly rebellious thing to do. Crochet is an activity for firesides surely, I have an incredible woman in my family who I have fond memories of in association with crochet. The influence of women on this trip cannot go without comment. Annie (Brassey) is obviously a huge influence, who may or may not have crocheted (it was then considered a ‘poorer’ version of lace making from cursory research). Kate Marsden, another incredible woman from Bexhill. I tried to find trace of Kate through Siberia in her quest for a cure for leprosy but without success. She remains present in her connection with the museum and her adventures. And thus it seemed fitting to use an unapologetic ‘female’ ‘craft’ in my interventions around the world. Two words that can often draw negative connotations in themselves.

So, I launched on my quest from Bexhill (itself a place where crochet is not out of place). A town often known for it’s older population and being slightly old fashioned in many respects, this is one of the reasons I have such affection for the place. Armed with crochet hook and yarn and a book of patterns to follow I headed off to crochet my way around the world. The first week or so was a bit of a whirl of train timetables and deadlines, with little time for dawdling or pondering. Until I reached the Trans Mongolian Train. Here I had five days to do little else but ponder and dawdle, interrupted only by the routine of making tea and noodles, watching for wisps of smoke from the houses in the distance, and an occasional game of ‘Dobble’. Train travel is perfect for pondering, wandering and crochet.

To start with it felt a little clumsy, finding a way of introducing my new found friends and companions to my crochet exploits. I was a little sheepish, it took a while to get used to. It draws attention. Crochet is indeed an act of rebellion, perhaps. My later meeting with the Knitting Nanas was wonderful, a truly incredible bunch of ladies doing wonderful work while also making fabulous woollen items.

And so, the first place we stopped, where I had enough confidence to get off the train and know it would not leave without me, was Omsk. Here I collected my first stone, from the railway tracks…

This time last year…

…I left Bexhill. An hour on the train and 37 miles later and the world awaits. The first and arguably most crucial step, I was escorted by Sam from the Community Rail Partnership. I discover this stretch of line, the ‘Marshlink’ is not a popular route. I am stunned. The gateway to Europe and the world is waiting at (the now renamed) ‘Ashford International’. Since the Channel Tunnel opened, Ashford is the last stop before France, Belgium, Germany, and from there, well anything is possible. Train travel alone can take you to Singapore, India, Central Asia, North Africa.

The ‘Marshlink‘ is a hidden gem, a beautiful journey in itself. I can’t believe I haven’t made this trip before (on leaving the train at Ashford I had already promised myself to take this line more often, mentally planning future travel itineraries). Along the south coast with the shore line and coloured beach huts, and then up into the marshes (as it’s name suggests) with the open landscape of wilderness and wilds. I missed much of the scenery, engaged in animated conversation with Sam, so pledge to return for that part of the trip again. 

Bexhill to Bexhill

Here we go…leaving Bexhill, UK (Louise Kenward, 2013)

Living in the south east of England, it is often under the shadow of London. To travel anywhere you must first reach or cross, or circumnavigate the city. Access to London is fantastic (debates around train services aside), I am grateful it is so close, but to go anywhere else in the UK it’s a time consuming irritant. I recently spent a particularly tedious afternoon rediscovering the M25 between junctions 4 and 5 in great detail. The only direction you can go without encountering the capital’s metropolis is south. When you live on the south coast this is pretty restrictive. The opening of the Channel Tunnel has changed this. Growing up in Kent, I remember writing about the prospect of the Channel Tunnel at school, a fairly fruitless exercise on arguing a debate. I didn’t know very much about it, there were some vague fears about being physically connected to France and the risk of animals with rabies wandering through, security risks and generally being closer to France. I was intrigued by the discovery that this had not been the first time such a venture had been mooted. The first proposal was in 1802. Albert Matieu was a French engineer with ambitions of digging the tunnel by oil lamp and with horse drawn carriage. In 1881 a pilot tunnel was made with a boring machine, stretching 1,893 metres from Shakespeare Cliff, and 1,669 metres from Sangatte. In 81 years the tunnel had made an average of almost 44 metres growth per annum. It did not seem promising. Coincidentally this was also the time Annie Brassey was venturing around the world on the Sunbeam‘. The project was abandoned the following year owing to concerns a tunnel would jeopardise national defence. Sitting in my classroom I did not imagine for a moment it would happen. 2014 brings the twentieth birthday of the Channel Tunnel’s opening.

It was only later I learned that my uncle was involved in it’s construction. An explosives expert, there is a photograph album full of images of rock and dark spaces, wires and labourers as he documented his time there. Often with connected tales of camaraderie and work mates. So I feel some personal connection with the tunnel. Living so close to the entrance the opportunities for travel are amazing and, in part, provided the inspiration for my journey around the world. This time last year I arrived at Ashford, the first section of my journey complete. Small but perfectly formed, and in good company.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Ashford International, Louise Kenward (2013)

Bexhill to Bexhill

‘Bexhill to Bexhill’ meets TarpSpace

In a development from my ‘trail of breadcrumbs’ (collecting, making and placing crochet pebbles along my journey), I made a piece in response to an arts group call out from TarpSpace. TarpSpace are an artists run initiative based in Adelaide, some of the artists from which spent much of last year on a road trip around Australia in ‘Henry’s Mobile Studio‘. It was this project I had hoped to have the chance to collaborate with. With dates of my trip not quite matching up with theirs, however, it was a shame not to have been a part of the HMS. Despite that, as an extension of the project (mine and theirs) I was commissioned to make a piece once I arrived in Bexhill, New South Wales. I was also very well looked after in Adelaide by the tarpy crew (arriving just in time to enjoy the fringe as well as Grid Festival) and had the great pleasure to meet Jessie, Jock and Brad. 

TarpSpace “aim to work outside of the constraints of traditional gallery spaces. Rather than having the artist fit the work to the space, we want to fit the space to the project. The only consistent factor is the use of a large blue tarpaulin – other than that, how the project develops and where it happens is entirely up to the artist involved…pushing the boundaries of what and where an art space can be.” Jessie Lumb. This worked really well with my own model of practice, often working in public spaces.

Once I arrived in Bexhill, my time was initially spent seeing as much of the area and talking to as many people as I could. While planning for this part of my trip I had anticipated making some work in connection to the train tracks which run through the village, the Open Air Cathedral and/or the disused brickworks, famed for their incredible blue waters. The train tracks and the brickworks won my greatest attention, drawn to things disused and abandoned. 

I collected some stones from the train tracks. Along with a pebble from Tasmania that I had collected the previous week, I placed several crochet pebbles/stones on the railway tracks (also long abandoned). I spent time walking along the tracks, imagining what it would have been like when the trains were running. The presence/absence of a train service altering the community considerably. 

Then, armed with a shiny new sheet of bright blue tarpaulin, not entirely dissimilar to the shade of water at the brickworks, I set about making a crochet pebble with it. Sited at the brickworks I found a lump of brick suited to the task. I needed to make a larger scale version of the previous ones in order for it to work. The tarp strips needed to be thin enough to crochet but wide enough not to split. This was a trial and error that took me much of my travels along the Queensland coastline to establish a working model. On my return to Bexhill a few weeks later I completed my task and placed the brick back at the brickworks, now covered in blue tarpaulin crochet. A frame was made from the edging of the tarpaulin sheeting, suspended at the boundary of the water. Liz, whom I stayed with, was an able and willing supporter, took photographs documenting the installation and placement of said brick. It, along with my other pebbles and stones have been placed and left. Liz said she would visit to see what happens to it.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Work in progress, fine tuning crochet hook sizes, ‘yarn’ width etc. in Queensland (Louise Kenward, 2014)

Bexhill to Bexhill

Installation of work at the waters edge, old brickworks, Bexhill, NSW (Liz Anderson, 2014)

Bexhill to Bexhill

‘Bexhill to Bexhill’ meets TarpSpace – crochet brick, old brickworks, Bexhill, NSW (Louise Kenward, 2014)


Elevators, eh

Aside from learning that the railways are king in rural Saskatchewan, I also had a lesson on elevators this week.

Central to life in this area for the farming community, elevators are also the reason there is a place called Bexhill in Canada at all. Strictly speaking the train was first, but the elevator was needed for the train to have reason to stop. They are one of the few landmarks in prairie country of any height, so are significant in their stature as well as their function. In 1927 when the railway track was extended from Assiniboia southwards, elevators were built at the stops the train made. Principally for the transfer of the grain harvest, they would also be used for other things, to store coal for people to access for example. In Bexhill there was another shed alongside the elevator, heated, so that cream and milk could be left out for the train to collect, and not freeze in the winter. A flag would be put up to signal to the train coming through that there was something to pick up, be it produce or people. “You could set your watch by it” I’ve been told several times while in Assiniboia, the train was so punctual, coming through twice a day. It provided a link between farmers and their families, and the wider community. Everyone had a few cows, so could sell milk or make cream to sell as well as the grain they grew. Nowadays lentils, peas and canola grow as well as wheat and barley.

Bexhill Elevator, photograph courtesy of Assiniboia and District Museum, taken by Lilia Martinson 1978

Bexhill Elevator, photograph courtesy of Assiniboia and District Museum, taken by Lilia Martinson (August,1978)

Bexhill after the elevator was removed, Louise Kenward (2014)

Bexhill after the elevator was removed, Louise Kenward (2014)

I’ve been so concerned about the winter times, having been urged so severely not to arrive until at least the end of May, that I’m curious what does happen here when everything is frozen, covered in snow, and 40 below. Art tells me that the roads would be accessible still, that he remembers having to walk home from school on occasions, following the snow fence for his bearings. He also told me that more than once he had tipped over with the wagon as compacted snow makes a solid ridge, less forgiving than that the more recently fallen. In general though it seems that things just carry on, the elevator would be heated so continues working and people just don’t go out so much, if at all.

Replica of the Bexhill elevator, Assiniboia Museum (Louise Kenward, 2014)

Replica of the Bexhill elevator, Assiniboia Museum (Louise Kenward, 2014)

The elevator in Bexhill continued to be in operation for nearly 50 years, and remained a landmark for a good deal longer. But as horse and wagon moved to tractor and trucks, it was easier to transport the grain to neighbouring Assiniboia. Five miles along the road was no longer much of a distance to travel. As trucks got bigger and carried larger loads, so the smaller elevators could not cope. Fewer and larger elevators are being used today and many have been dismantled. A unique icon of Canada they are of historical and architectural significance as well as uniquely identifiable markers on the landscape.

Photograph of Bexhill elevator taken the evening before it was demolished. Very kindly contributed by Rose and Dave Young, photograph by Dave's uncle.

Photograph of Bexhill elevator taken the evening before it was demolished. Very kindly contributed by Rose and Dave Young, photograph by Dave’s uncle, George Young (1982).

And so, Art goes down in history as the last farmer to deliver to the Bexhill elevator in 1976. He is mentioned in all the local history books and is something of a local legend, everyone knows Art. I am very lucky to have had such a good guide.