Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The De La Warr Pavilion

If you were to visit the sleepy seaside town of Bexhill on Sea you could not fail to come across the the De La Warr Pavilion.

There is no denying that this building is different from anything else you are likely to have seen before. Not a week goes by without mention of the Pavillion in our local paper. Over the past few years we ratepayers have had to shell out millions of pounds in maintaining and repairing this iconic construction. It prompts an opinion from everyone who visits it. One other falls in love with it or finds it hideous and a blot on the landscape, there is no middle ground.

Completed in 1935, what we have is the first and largest modernist building in the UK. It was commissioned by the Earl De La Warr, designed by Mendleson & Cherayff and officially opened by the Prince of Wales, soon to be crowned King George IV. Built in a style mid way between art deco and industrial, its use of concrete metal and glass was a pioneering method of construction and one which typifies the decadent style of the decade. At its centre is a breathtaking steel and marble spiral staircase.
So what is its purpose? It has often been described as a skyscraper on its side. The ground floor alone houses a theatre, a prestigious art gallery, art education workshops, a retail shop and an arts library. All these facilities are in constant use with performances of ballet, music and comedy taking place alongside international exhibitions, children’s art clubs and cultural television programme production. On the first floor there is a restaurant and bar, above that a vast roof terrace which looks straight out across the sea.
But with all facilities of its type, it’s often seen as elitist and inaccessible by those residents who have to support it through their taxes, yet have no wish to neither use it nor tolerate its continued presence in our town.

Me? I love it!

A hall a marble floor
A flash of mirror steel
twisting skyward
Glass, seductive curves
Signs black on white
Strings and wind
Discordant tuning
The maestro taps his baton
then a quilt of harmony
cossets the hushed crowd
Unheard outside
Figures creep silently
twixt sculptures, images
Standing back
Contorting bodies
finding the best angle
to view
A table in a hall
littered with paint and crayons
Surrounded by tiny stools
where children just sat
Art pegged to a string
on the wall
The ding of a till
Books chosen then wrapped
Painting bought
Small works of art
taken home
Above, a clatter of cups
and glasses
Excited chatter
The air filled
with the smell of food
and wine
Out on the roof
couples cuddle in the breeze
Stare out to sea
like actors on the set
of Titanic
Sun sets at the end of the day
White concrete glows pink
in the setting sun
Glass reflects
the dying rays
It sleeps
let me read my poem to you


  1. Your readings give life to your poems Keith.

  2. Interesting building and an even more interesting poem Keith You are getting really good at it.

  3. Its always subjective this creatve issues....but still, I loved the way you used that to weave a lovely poem around it...

  4. I'm so glad you love it because I do too. And so versatile! I love it when a building is put to good use like that. I'm sorry that some folks resent the upkeep. Perhaps some of the shows could offer discounted admissions occasionally. Then they could participate more.

  5. very interesting.. the poem was too good!!

  6. I think the building is a beautiful structure but I don't live there and have to pay taxes for it. But to me it is a great arhitectural designed building.



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