Vanilla Beer artist

(Nearly) Censored at Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, 2nd August 1998

Invited by the curator Dr Brian Hinton to exhibit at Dimbola Lodge, it was clear that he was making a bold step. Dimbola Lodge was the home of Victorian photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and it was hard to see what I could bring to her shrine.

Talking it over, it was became apparent that there were common factors. It was decided that I would concentrate on these and so I commenced the work. I called the show Acheiropoietai, a Greek word meaning things made without hands.

Several visits to the island later, to collect materials to take back to the London studio; much experimentation with unusual materials; sponsorship from The Erith Group; huge support from friends(1) - in terms of transport, lodging, hanging; eventually the opening ceremony arrived.

In the final hours of preparation I was aware that all was not well. Men in suits were huddled in corners, muttering. Dr Hinton sought me out to warn me that trouble was looming - the towns' councillors were out in force and just didn't like it. He suggested that I gave an introductory talk to enlighten them. He called the guests to order, introduced me and I talked.

Later I heard that they had been planning to let me give my lecture and then cry, get this rubbish out of here! - but two things prevented this. One was my eloquence, of course. The other was the late arrival of a guest who was a prominent labour politician, which caused a certain amount of consternation.

Hence I was NOT censored. I was however asked to create explicatory panels by each piece and an information sheet to hand out to visitors, who in turn were asked to fill a questionnaire. Some of the remarks were very gratifying; only innovation is of interest is one (quoted by the curator in his thank-you letter.)

A final aside - all of the towns councillors lost their seats in the elections.

(1) Julia Claxton and Dave Eyre, chiefly.