Phoenix Project, day 9

Posted by carlotta on Tuesday August 13th, 2013 at 12:13pm

Here is the next instalment of my daily post about the Phoenix Project, a photo documentary about the former industrial site in the heart of Lewes that is now home to well over a dozen vibrant arts and community groups. An exhibit and art trail of the project opens in a week and a half.

A symbolic afternoon

I had an afternoon that for me symbolises the extraordinary variety of expertise, creativity and entrepreneurship that can be found on the Phoenix Estate. I was there for three hours and visited five different businesses, several of which I hadn’t known existed. That seems to be the way with the Phoenix. It can have the feeling of a tardis. There seems to be no end to the hidden enterprises I keep finding. I worry that I can’t possibly document it all.

First stop was the Phoenix Theatre, where Sean O’Kane of Lewes Repertory Theatre was rehearsing a one man show. Sean described what he calls his ‘carrier bag theatre’ –  top quality performances of original material with pared down sets and equipment. This play, called ‘Richard Deferred’, takes the recent discovery of Richard III’s body underneath a car park, exploring how his ghost might have reacted to the situation.

Next stop, the silk screen printers Another Fine Mesh. Dan showed me around his new premises placed between the Community Chef and Starfish. This was one of three workshops based in a big industrial unit. I loved photographing the racks of old screens, pots of coloured inks and remnants of printed images everywhere.

I had been invited by Nic to photograph The Yard, a community of artists, musicians, mechanics and gardeners living on the estate. Located between the backs of the Skatehouse building and the river, on a sunny afternoon the setting was pretty idyllic. There were flowers blooming, vegetables growing and a sun deck being built, all right on the edge of the river. I received a warm welcome from Nic who invited me to photograph his immaculate home.

Nic introduced me to two men who work at the last industrial business based on the Estate. For the past 56 years, Cutform have been making tiny metal bits and pieces for a whole range of uses, on German machines, some of which are 85 years old. It was so surprising to find an industry like this in the centre of Lewes. John, one of the 3 machinists, has been there for 39 years.

While I was at The Yard, I met Jerome Duffell, who makes jazz manouche guitars in a small workshop tucked into the back of William Hardie’s building. He produces hand built specialist guitars and he was in the middle of making quite a few to sell at a festival in France in the summer.

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