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We Are Collective celebrates micro-publishing

20 Aug

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In the week that publishing house DC Thomson announced it was to end the printed edition of The Dandy  – home of Desperate Dan and chums – after 75 years, a tiny contemporary art studio in Andover was celebrating the thriving culture of small-scale publishing.

Chapel Arts Studios – based in a converted chapel in the graveyard of Andover’s St Mary’s Church – is a cultural oasis in the centre of the town’s otherwise uninspiring centre: sadly more Basingstoke that Winchester.

Home to several artists’ studios and a small gallery space, Chapel Arts is like a mini version of Bristol’s Spike Island, and a real hive of creativity.

And over the weekend of August 11 to 13, We Are Collective gave members of the public the chance to see – and have a go at creating – small press comics, limited edition ‘zines, video and sound art and print-makers.

Apparently the place was heaving on the Sunday, so we’re glad we took the opportunity to visit on rainy Monday, giving us the chance to meet artists in a relaxed atmosphere.

And so we met people like art student Andy Reaney, who was helping visitors to make lino printing blocks with craft knives.

These were then used to create prints on his home-made bottle jack press, all of the parts for which – with the exception of the compressed air jack itself – were found in a skip.

We also met freelance illustrator Murray Somerville, the publisher of the ‘zine Macro Shrub.

Last year one of Murray’s designs was chosen to illustrate eight million bottles of Becks beer, as part of the Art Crawl initiative.

If he’d been given a quid for every bottle (or even 10p, come to think of it) he’d be a rich man but, I suspect, still pouring his heart and soul into Macro Shrub, printed in mega-limited editions and sold for £4 each. The covers are quality prints of works of art in themselves.

Meanwhile event curator Tom Mortimer – who was spending his 25th birthday entertaining visitors, such was his dedication – helped six-year-old junior chronicler Milo to create his own comic, using cut-out pen and ink photocopies and a packet of felt tips.

Needless to say Is the Lost Land Real? Is a work of genius. And Chronicler Milo’s verdict of We Are Collective? “That was brilliant!”

There you go then. For more information about Chapel Arts, and forthcoming events, log on to

Hat’s entertainment – clowning around at Winchester Hat Fair

9 Jul

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One thing you need to know about Winchester Hat Fair: it’s not, strictly speaking, about hats. The Milliners Guild – the representative body for the hat-making industry – runs a number of fine events, but Winchester Hat Fair is not one of them.

Winchester Hat Fair is, in fact, the UK’s longest running festival of street theatre, comedy and music. It’s called the Hat Fair because, essentially, it’s a busking festival – all of the acts are paid by the crowd, who (hopefully) throw money into their hats at the end of a performance. This is called ‘hatting’.

So, there are hundreds of free events (well, free if you have no conscience) alongside a handful of ticketed spectaculars, one of which French company Generik Vapeurs’ very exciting sounding new Waterlitz show, including an explosive display of pyrotechnics (ooh!), breath-taking aerial stunts (gasp!) and a 30m high giant made of shipping containers (aah!), was… cancelled due to the bad weather.

Still, plenty more going on – the town centre was taken over by dozens of acts on Friday and Saturday, while on Sunday the fun moved to Oram’s Arbour, a lovely park at the top of town, which is where Festival Chronicle (still feeling a bit tired and soggy from Avebury Rocks the night before) spent a few delightful hours. Continue reading

Salisbury Festival Family Fun Day at Danebury Hill Fort

27 May

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We rocked up to Hampshire’s Danebury Hill Fort, just across the county border, with the lure of an AfroReggae Family Fun Day.

Fun. For kids. An ancient hill fort. Summer sunshine music. Sounded great. Continue reading