............COMES TO HASTINGS.........................





Friday 27th August 2010

Further pix click: banksy... .

'I think I met Banksy'

In July 2009 I drove up to the Lake District for a kind-of reunion. The daughters of an old friend had organised a surprise celebration of his 60th birthday. Being of a dispassionate nature, this friend of mine took it all in good humour, and it turned out to be a fabulous few days: several superb walks (ie, an easy amble to Tarn Howes & back; a miles-long wander along the banks of Coniston water; a demanding stroll over the fells near Coniston), and a terrific nostalgic booze-up with old acquaintances not seen for decades.

From home I'd first driven west to Stroud to include in the trip a few days at my sister's. She and her partner have a fine setting overlooking the Stroud Valley. From there, I could hit the M5 to Birmingham then the M6 to Cumbria and be at Coniston in an easy half-day. Likewise on return. And so it turned out. Excellent.

Back at Stroud, I hitched a lift one day with my sister who works in Bristol. She'd mentioned Banksy and his famed augmentations at the Museum and Art Gallery there, which had so far attracted huge public interest and commensurate queues. I was going to Bristol anyway, but wondered if I had the psychological stamina to stand in a queue for more than maybe a half-hour.

Leaving my sister at her place of work, I wandered through the town centre and up the hill to the Museum where a small queue had already formed. By then it was 09.30 and the museum was scheduled to open at 10.00. 'OK,' I thought, 'There's about 100-people. They won't take long to shuffle in, and it's not every day one gets a chance like this. I'll be out of there by 11.00 with the rest of the day to enjoy, and probably feeling much enlightened.'

I joined the queue at a lucky point - with several great conversationalists - so even the waiting was terrific! But within minutes the length of the queue had doubled, and soon it stretched down the hill to infinity.

So that's how I came to experience Banksy's work - or some of it. And there's a load more on the above link to his website (which I notice has recently been updated to include videos).

Then last week on my way to Ravenside Retail park near Bexhill, I passed a small crowd on the St Leonards seafront. Some people brandishing cameras had spilled onto the beach. What were they photographing? What were they looking at? I could hardly see when I peered over the railing and through the little throng of voyeurs. It was a painting all right, that was clear; of what, though, I couldn't quite see. The bits I was able to make out gave, at a glance, the impression of a combat soldier with an AK-47 guarding a fort whose crenellations had been imperfectly peppered to form the word 'TESCO'. I recognised the style, but failed to twig where from. I decided to view the work properly on my way back - so on I pressed, thinking no more about it.

On my return maybe an hour later, now in West St Leonards but still on the shingle track - five or ten mins from reaching where the painting was - an unwashed matt-black BMW containing three people drove up beside me. The driver leaned his head out and asked:

'Know where the Banksy picture is?'

It was at this point when I twigged: Of course, Banksy! 'Yeah,' I replied, 'Which way have you come?'

'From the west.'

'OK, about half-a-mile towards Hastings, opposite the Victoria Hotel just this side of that massive building you can see that resembles a ship, is a car park. Go in there, and it's on the sea-wall behind the beach-steps at the west end of the car park.'

He nodded, 'Would you say Hastings is an up-coming town?'

'Yep, I reckon,' I said, 'They're building a Jerwood art gallery near the lifeboat house in the Old Town. And the place has had recent publicity as the home of that guy who does the big 3D-letters pictures, which attracted the PM's missis to the point where he bought one to give to Obama when visiting the White House recently. You can see examples around the town.'

'I can't decide whether to move to Whitstable or Hastings,' he said, 'If Hastings is looking more up, then maybe this is the place.'

'I'm not sure if proposed developments are good,' I replied, 'I like the bohemian feel of the place, especially in the Old Town... wouldn't want to lose that.'

'Dead right.' he said, 'Agreed. Thanks mate, been nice talking to you.' And off he drove...

About 7-minutes later I was there. A small crowd lingered as before, but now I could easily see the whole picture. There were about a dozen cars in the car park but no BMW (nor those who were in it).

I took the shortest route home, biked back with a camera and took the shots pasted above.

Later via google I found a site with a picture a couple of years old and purported to be Banksy. If the BMW driver was him - and it well could have been - he was about the right age (~40) and build (light/medium), except now his hair was receding and perhaps he'd lost a bit of weight (unlike the trend in these days of increasing obesity).

But was it him or wasn't it? Some of our conversation was pretty curious, so I continue to wonder...

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