Small steps back – but a kick in the teeth from the PM

OUR diaries, like those of many thousands (millions) of people, have been empty for weeks.

Suddenly, we had not one but two events to go to, both on the same day – a private view at The Art Stable and a sale and tasting at preserve maker Ajar Of’s “Jammery” at Hazelbury Bryan.

Small steps, but they felt like an incipient return to normal, or at least towards the new normal.  It was good to be out seeing people, properly socially distanced, of course.

The weather was perfect for the private view of Gary Cooke’s Higher Ground at The Art Stable at Child Okeford. The gallery is in the yard of Gold Hill organic farm, next to the farm shop, the cafe and other makers workshops. The cafe was not open, but there was a queue for the farm shop, and those of us who had come to see Gary’s watercolours and drawings of Hambledon Hill could admire the real thing, looking down on the farm, as we waited to go in.

Most of the people waiting and talking to the artist knew the hill well, and perhaps particularly at present, when for so many weeks walking has been our only permitted reason for going out.

Gary Cooke’s pictures capture both the dramatic topography of the hill, and its mysterious atmosphere, with its connections to human beings going back through millennia to Neolithic times. The exhibition runs to 18th July.

On the other side of Sturminster Newton, up on Bulbarrow, award-winning preserve maker Tracey Collins opened the garden at her home at Hazelbury Bryan for friends and customers to stock up on jams, marmalades, chutneys and more

People came steadily, happily waiting in a socially distanced queue to buy a selection of Ajar Of goodies, and to enjoy the beautiful gardens and the views.

It was a low-key reintroduction for those of us who have missed seeing exhibitions, meeting people and enjoying food with friends.

The news of the reopening of pubs, hotels and restaurants is welcome – we have missed stopping off for a drink on our way back from an early evening walk with the dog. And millions of people will be glad to get their hair cut.

But we were appalled that Boris Johnson’s announcement – which included the reopening of cinemas – and looked forward to nail bars being able to reopen soon, made NO MENTION of theatres and concert halls.

If you wanted proof that the Prime Minister (and presumably his special advisor) and at least some of the cabinet do not care about – or even think about – the performing arts, it could not have been made clearer.

We despair.

Of course we hope Oliver Dowden (he’s the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, in case you haven’t heard of him) will do something soon for the arts. But in the meantime, today’s news also included the announcement of the possibility of 100 redundancies at Plymouth Theatre Royal.


Pictured: Hambledon Hill from Gold Hill Organic Farm by Gary Cooke; Tracey Collins and Ajar Of Clementine Marmalade with Cointreau.

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