Tag Archives: Annie Brassey

‘In Conversation with Annie’

“In conversation with Annie: developing a dialogue with local heritage” celebrates £10,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Boarding the Sunbeam c 1876 (image courtesy of Bexhill Museum)

Bexhill Museum is celebrating a £10,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). This grant will fund their exciting project, “In conversation with Annie” led by local artist and traveller Louise Kenward at Bexhill Museum. The project aims to ‘develop a dialogue with local heritage’, exploring and sharing the archive collection of Lady Annie Brassey brought back to the area from her world voyages during the end of the 19th century. Inspired by Annie, Louise travelled around the world (Bexhill to Bexhill), collecting objects and observations from places where their paths crossed. She will hold drop-in sessions at the museum as she explores the stories behind 15 objects from the archives using Annie’s letters and journal entries as context, and connects them to her own travels. Visitors will also be able to take part in a series of workshops and talks which will build on the museum’s community and education programme. Reflections on current communication methods as opposed to those in practice during the time of Annie’s book ‘Voyage of the Sunbeam’ (1876-1877), will bring her journal writing to the fore and connect with the Museum’s use of social media which will play a role in telling people about the project, just as Annie’s book told of her travels.

Commenting on the award, Louise Kenward said: “Having visited other places called Bexhill around the world, I’m now really looking forward to returning to my home town, Bexhill-on-Sea and spending time with my travel companion, Annie Brassey. This grant gives me the opportunity to explore and share the collections she brought back from her voyages, now held at Bexhill Museum”.

Stuart McLeod, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East England, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, we’re pleased to support Bexhill Museum as they offer an innovative insight into the collection of one of the first female travel writers. Many of the items collected by Annie Brassey are not currently on display and this project will ensure people can access them and learn about the heritage stories they can tell”

About Bexhill Museum: Bexhill Museum is an independent charity. If you would like to support us please become a member or make a donation. We welcome new volunteers to help us with all aspects of running the museum. Please contact us to find out more www.bexhillmuseum.co.uk. Bexhill Museum is open from Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm; Saturday, Sunday & Monday 11am to 5pm. Current Special Exhibitions: ‘Bexhill and Abroad’ explores our World Cultures Collections and their connections to Bexhill (2nd February – 6 th December). ‘Something Old Something New’ showcases the museums exquisite collection of wedding dresses from 1850-2015 (2nd February – 6 th December). (Charity No: 1102638)

About Louise Kenward: Intrigued by the discovery that there are three places in the world called Bexhill, Louise set out to find them. ‘Bexhill to Bexhill’ www.bexhilltobexhill.com is an account of that journey, inspired by the local travel writer, collector and philanthropist, Annie Brassey, and the possibility of travelling almost entirely by train. Louise Kenward is a visual artist based in the UK. With an interest in the ‘betwixt and between’ of the liminal, her work explores this with regards to the physical spaces we inhabit and the mental spaces we dwell. Having completed her MA in Fine Art in 2011, her paper “Self, space and objects: relational practice through the experience of spaces” brought together arts and psychology practice, with a framework of ‘inhabiting spaces’.

Heritage Lottery Fund: From the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife, we use National Lottery players’ money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about. www.hlf.org.uk.

For further information, images and interviews, please contact:

Louise Kenward, Project Manager at Bexhill Museum on 01424 787950 Bexhill Museum, Egerton Road, Bexhill on Sea TN39 3HL www.bexhilltobexhill.com

Twitter: @bexhill2bexhill @bexhillmuseum

Bexhill Museum Logo


Next steps…proposal writing (planning for time with Annie).

For the completeness of the blog I thought I would share my reflections on the next stages of this project. My plans were always to ‘revisit’ Annie, spending time at Bexhill Museum with some of the objects she brought back from her travels, with space and time to reconsider my relationship with her, the letters I’ve written and places we have both visited. This is something I have been really looking forward to and I hope will round off my journey by returning to the place it started and the person who played such a key role, as companion and inspiration.

With this intention made there are various hoops to jump before this can take place. Most importantly the demanding and gruelling task of applying for funding…the words that strike horror and awe in equal measure. The rarity of getting something supported by public funding at all, let alone in this current climate, has made it an increasingly demanding process. It is enormously time consuming, time that must be given freely.

So I am boldly embarking on a quest to apply for funding. Preparing and writing proposals is demanding and requires a lot of planning and research. It has taken much of my time since returning to the UK, in meetings, discussions, writings and phone calls. It requires a good deal of patience and commitment, as well as copious amounts of tea. It is a lengthy and tedious process at times, requiring incredible detail and foresight. Each time, successful or otherwise, however, it has been a useful process. It makes me think about what I am intending, why and who it is for. Each new conversation raises something I hadn’t thought of, or brings a new perspective. It forces me to write in a different way, for a different audience. It brings a new light to the work and opens up new directions. Proposal writing is an art in itself, and one that develops my thinking and my work. This makes it a valuable experience, whatever the outcome, but ideas and thoughts about the project have moved on. I hope I have the chance to share my ideas and plans. Fingers crossed…

Le Meurice

Annie certainly knew how to travel. On her first trip, a train journey to Switzerland, she stopped at Paris and stayed at Le Meurice. Le Meurice is still there, with rooms that still overlook the Jardin des Tuileries. I didn’t get past reception but did enjoy the most expensive pot of chocolat I have ever had. A heady cocktail of very rich chocolat and chandeliers set me up for an afternoon walking round Paris.

Bexhill to Bexhill

Le Meurice, Paris (Louise Kenward, 2014)

Bexhill to Bexhill

Chocolat at Le Meurice (Louise Kenward, 2014)

Bexhill to Bexhill

Le Meurice, Paris (Louise Kenward, 2014)


Paris with Annie

After three months back in the UK it is time to make new plans. Next month I get back on the train and take the ‘budget’ Orient Express route to Venice. On my way to an arts residency in Italy I will stop in Paris and Turin before reaching wonderful Venice. Heading south I will join seven other artists for a 7 day residency.

Plans are still germinating for what follows between leaving Italy and reaching Vienna. Reconnecting with friends made in Canada, a trip to the Christmas markets was arranged while in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.

Another journey another journal. Hotel Meurice, Paris may not be my accommodation during this stay, but I shall find it and marvel at the views of the Tuileries Garden Annie enjoyed. With the interiors designed by Philippe Starck, Le Meurice is described as ‘one of the most elegant hotels in the world’. Her first journey through Europe to Switzerland, Annie Alnutt as she was then, travelled by train. Again, I suspect our journeys will be rather different but with parallels nonetheless.

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…

Goodbye Canada

Sad to be leaving Canada, it has been my home for nearly three months. During this time I have become proficient in ordering ‘steeped tea double milk’ from Tim Hortons, navigated the street cars of Toronto, roasted wieners on a stick over a fire at Goldstream Park in the rain. I’ve had conversations with people who genuinely end every sentence with ‘eh!’, mastered the ability to open bear proof garbage bins, watched a moose swim in Nova Scotia, met a real life mountie and seen bears in the wild. I’ve climbed mountains and walked in the the prairies. Travelled from coast to coast and even learned a few Canadian pop songs (one of which I later discover has made it across the Atlantic and it makes me smile).

Bexhill to Bexhill - Canada - Louise Kenward

Fostering cultural stereotypes, Regina RCMP (Louise Kenward, 2014)

I have met long lost relatives who I didn’t even know existed before I started to plan my journey round the world. I have been shown round by locals, met farmers and given detailed tours of a grain elevator. I’ve been shown tractors and met descendants of original pioneers. I have met up again with Annie (Lady) Brassey who accompanied me from Toronto (in spirit at least) and showed me around at Niagara Falls. I have learned that biscuits are scones and drunk maple tea. I’ve slept in a shed, marketed as ‘wilderness hostel’ and slept in a hostel with the most stunning views, of humming birds at the windows and a UNESCO listed ‘biosphere’ lake in the distance. I’ve made many friends and met new family. I have plans to meet many again in the future (and several I have already seen).

Bexhill to Bexhill - Canada - Louise Kenward

selfie attempt #12 and we finally get us and the lighthouse in…meet my ‘new’ cousin Jo, Vancouver Island (Louise Kenward, 2014)

I have utilised the full spectrum of my limited wardrobe in spanning all seasons during this time. Canada is a land of contrasts, of scenery, of climate, of scale. It is a country with at least two very good osteopaths.

I will miss Canada, as I have each and every country I have visited. Each one being my home, however briefly, and I have embraced them as such in the time limit I had. I hope to come back, there is much more to see.

Bexhill to Bexhill - Canada - Louise Kenward

Tofino sunset, Louise Kenward 2014