Top 3 reasons you should visit Liverpool and resources

Earlier this month we had reason to visit the UK’s 5th largest city. Home to an estimated half a million people, Liverpool, historically lays within the ancient hundred of West Derby in the south-west of Lancashire. Located on the Mersey Estuary, it is best known for being a major port, home to both Cunard and the White Star Line, as well as being the hometown of the Beatles, premier league Liverpool and Everton FC and Aintree Racecourse.

Liverpool celebrated its 800th anniversary in 2007 and was European City of Culture in 2008, from which it is still reaping the benefits, both financial and cultural, with 85% of residents agreeing Liverpool is now a better place to live. Having never visited the city before, we had nothing to compare it to, however, despite the Arctic blast coming in from the north, the welcome was warm, the streets clean (we even saw men hoovering the grass!) and the people happy and friendly, with a general buzz of commercial and cultural activity happening all around.

The reasons for visiting were a mixture of work and pleasure; to experience first hand the impact of cultural regeneration and associated activities and also to experience some of the lifestyle options now available, especially the Gin! Ok so we all like a G&T, but more than that, as we discovered in last months edition, Gin is experiencing something of a renaissance in popularity and what better place to experience this than in the hometown of Liverpool Gin.

So here are our top 3 reasons why we think you should also consider visiting Liverpool:

  1. Eating & Drinking

The restaurant scene in Liverpool city region is booming, with more places to eat and more international cuisines than ever before. One of the best districts to eat out is Hope Street; home to renowned restaurants the London Carriage Works60 Hope Street and The Art School, plus Hostthe Quarter and Frederiks.

In the business district, you can dine high above the city at Panoramic 34, or try Restaurant Bar and Grill, set in a beautiful old banking hall.

For more information:

  1. Gin

Gin is the tipple of choice for many Liverpudlians and the city has a plethora of venues catering to their passion, including;

Berry & Rye Bar, Berry Street

Red Door, 21-23 Berry Street

Jenever, 29a Hope street

Ceder Gin and Fire, 62 Duke Street

Filter & Fox, 27 Duke Street

The Hub, 16 Hanover Street

Thomas Rigby’s, 23-25 Dale Street

The Botanical Garden, New Bird Street

Old Blind School, 24 Harman Street

Jenny’s Bar, Fenwick Street

For true gin aficionados, you can also take Liverpool’s chauffer driven Gin Journey city tour. A weekly event that takes place on Saturday’s and visits 5 bars, sampling gin cocktails on route.

For more information and online booking:

Also see: &

  1. Culture

From world-class architecture, magnificent museums and music legends, Liverpool is a city with culture and creativity in its DNA.

Tate Liverpool is home to the national collection of modern art in the north, while The Walker Art Gallery, part of the National Museums Liverpool (NML), is home to renaissance masterpieces, Tudor portraits and one of the best collections of Victorian and Pre-Raphaelite art in the country. Also part of NML is the Museum of Liverpool, devoted to the history of the city and Merseyside Maritime Museum, which is located in the Albert Dock and contains a variety of objects associated with the social and commercial history of the port of Liverpool, including Slavery, Borders and Customs.

For more information:

Grade 1 listed Liverpool Cathedral is the Church of England Cathedral of the Diocese of Liverpool. Built on St James’s Mount and the seat of the Bishop of Liverpool, it is the largest Cathedral in England with past incumbents including the current Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd. and Rt. Hon Justin Welby. Other significant Grade 1 listed buildings include the Liver Building, Oriel Chambers, Albert Dock and Speke Hall.

Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral is Grade II* listed. Officially known as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, it is the seat of the Archbishop of Liverpool. To distinguish it from the Anglican Liverpool Cathedral, locals call it the “Catholic Cathedral.”

Half a century after The Beatles exploded on to the world stage, Liverpool is still making all the right noises musically. Whether it is blockbuster gigs at the Echo Arena; pitch-perfect classical performances at the Philharmonic Hall; The Beatles inspired Mathew Street scene or the understated cool of Camp and Furnace and Invisible Wind Factory, there is something to suit almost every musical taste and preference.

If you are a Beatles fan especially, you can also take a Magical Mystery bus tour of the Beatles Liverpool. You’ll see all the places associated with John, Paul, George and Ringo as they grew up, met and formed the band that would take the pop world by storm.

Tours start at the Albert Dock and you get to see the Beatles childhood homes, schools and colleges and get up close to places that inspired some of their most memorable songs, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field.

For more information and online booking:

Published in Aspect County Magazine June 2017 edition




It’s easy to walk into a gallery or art fair and fall in love with a work of art. Making the decision to buy is significantly more complex. It is however a fact that the number of people buying original art today is on the increase.

There are a number of factors that have likely contributed to this rise, including increased interest in art; popularity of art-related television programmes and the explosion of art galleries on the internet.

In order to get a greater understanding of what motivates people to buy, we spoke to Colin and Linda Tucker, who purchased six original works by Simone Riley at lasts years PURE Autumn Art Fair in Battle, East Sussex:

Do you have some knowledge of art history or any art qualifications?

“No, absolutely not.

We like art galleries but we are not regular visitors; we go if we fancy a day out. We went to Tate Modern when it first opened in 2000 because Colin remembered it as a power station. So we went 50% to see the building and 50% because we’d never been to look at any modern art before.

The enormous bronze spider by Louise Bourgeois was on display in the Turbine Hall and we found that very impressive, but, the two exhibits that especially amused us and consequently we remember were a large exhibit which included a huge display of books and an installation of train track type mechanisms, which made a groaning sound you could hear very clearly all over the gallery.”

So do you now look out for exhibitions to visit?

“Not really. The only reason we came to the PURE Autumn Art Fair in Battle last year was because Colin saw the write up in Aspect County Magazine and the images of Simone’s work. He said ‘I really like that. There’s an exhibition on this Sunday shall we go? We’re not doing anything, it looks like a lovely venue and we could have afternoon tea in the Hotel.’

We enjoy looking in galleries in much the same way we visit Open Gardens and National Trust and English Heritage properties; very much for entertainment. We went to the Turner Contemporary recently and we visited the West End House Gallery in Smarden while we were on a gardens tour.

We also went to an exhibition in Salisbury recently. While having lunch we noticed a banner across the square saying art exhibition, so we went across and had a look. It was a photographic exhibition by local people, together with a collection of Black & White photographs from the 1960’s, featuring David Bailey, Mary Quant and the Rolling Stones and London landmarks such as Eros. It was so unexpected and really fascinating – we stayed for a couple of hours and chatted to the chap invigilating, who turned out to be Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL, the famous ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author, credited with introducing the term meme. It was his personal collection of photographs.”

How long have you been buying original art?

“We bought a Graham Clarke etching years ago, which is in the sitting room. While we were in Bournemouth on holiday in the 1980’s we also bought some watercolours, which are hanging in the entrance hall. It was a rainy day and we saw a sign saying exhibition. The artist was painting; I don’t think they were of anywhere in particular, just memories in his head – misty mornings, ponds and buildings with trees. They reminded us of our home and garden, so we ended up buying six and we still love them. We’ve had them reframed over the years to match the décor.

We have a small collection of old sepia photographs, of people and children that evoke memories of childhood and growing up. We also have some paintings of Kentish style houses, which appealed to us and a sculpture called the family which we bought from an exhibition in Staplehurst.

You purchased six pieces of original art by Simone Riley from the PURE Autumn Art Fair for your kitchen?

“Yes. We were delighted to find the pieces shown in Aspect County Magazine were still available for sale when we arrived at the show. It was even more pleasing to find several more available. The prices were very affordable, so we decided to buy all six, which we are absolutely delighted with, as they make a real impact in the room.

Having Vincent come to our home and hang them for us was the icing on the cake really and made the whole experience very easy. So much so, we would not hesitate to purchase again if we found something we loved.”

What do your friends say about them?

 “They are a real talking point. Even before they were hung on the walls friends and family kept asking about them and now they come in and say ‘wow, they look amazing.’

Thank you Colin and Linda for inviting us into your beautiful home and agreeing to talk to us. I think we can conclude that in your case, the reasons to buy original art have been essentially emotional.

Oscar Wilde once said “All art is immoral.” He might have also added that all art is emotional, including the buying and selling of it.

Buying original art is about having fun and being happy! It is an extremely pleasurable experience and it can evoke memories and emotions. Visiting exhibitions and art fairs and meeting artists is sociable and can be pleasingly diverting, especially art fairs which organise lots of extra activities for visitors such as workshops and talks and exhibitions in unfamiliar places, which can result in seeing and experiencing something new and quite unexpected.

Being able to admire the work you have purchased everyday brings with it a continued sense of happiness and satisfaction, which grows over time as the bond increases and the work becomes an element of your personal landscape. Being able to talk about artwork you own with colleagues, friends and loved ones gives life an enhanced sense of satisfaction and meaning and a personal sense of pride and fulfilment, both in terms of ones own taste and also in the social distinction it garners.

And if all that is not enough, there is no better way to add character, energy, stories and emotion to a home, than by purchasing original artwork!

Simone Riley’s work is currently available to view and buy at WING Art Gallery, High Street, Wadhurst and Chalk Gallery, Lewes.

If you are interested in buying original art, our personalised art advisory service gives you access to your own expert curator, free of charge. For further details please email:

Simone Riley

Simone has developed her own unique style and technique, creating images that sit between photography and fine art. Her compositions have a `painterly’ feel, slightly reminiscent of some of the `old masters’, but with a modern contemporary twist.

Her work invariably involves a combination of textures, layers and subtle colours. Always inspired by textures, she has built up an extensive photographic collection over the years, which includes images of old walls, peeling paint, rust, weathered wood and many other worn surfaces of various kinds.

Simone’s photomontage images are created by taking an original photograph and then building up overlays, always using multiple photographed textures from her own collection. Colour overlays/ alterations are also applied to all or just parts of the image. The finished artwork is therefore an amalgamation of many different layers, each with different effects applied, superimposed over the original image, with varying levels of translucency. Although these are digital works, all the images used are always her own, to ensure that the artwork is a totally `one-off’ original piece.

Simone is happy to work to commission.

Contact details:

Published in Aspect County Magazine June 2017 Edition

Exclusive Interview with Sir Quentin Blake by Lesley Samms


An undoubted national treasure, Sir Quentin Blake is passionate about Hastings, and that is why he has chosen Jerwood Gallery as the venue for his biggest and most ambitious show to date. Probably best known as an illustrator working with the likes of Roald Dahl and Michael Rosen, his exhibition The Only Way to Travel, opening on 14 June until 15 October, will show a completely different – and to many totally unknown – facet of his work.

Sir Quentin Blake is an artist and illustrator who needs little introduction. Such is his relationship with the British public that his work is as familiar as Marks & Spencer, Rolls Royce or Fox’s Glacier Mints. We think we know his work. Well, this new show at the Jerwood Gallery is set to change all that.

Invited by gallery Director Liz Gilmore to explore themes that concern him, Sir Quentin’s new exhibition at the Hastings gallery reveals his thoughts on mental health, the squeezing of creativity and the refugee crisis.

“He is an astonishing artists and draughtsman, with a unique style” says Gilmore. “Jerwood Gallery is renowned for championing the artistic spirit and allowing artists to have creative freedom. Following this tradition, seen most recently in our Keith Tyson and our crowd funded Paula Rego exhibitions; we were keen to ask Sir Quentin to create an equally ambitious show – of ‘serious art’.”

Consequently, The Only Way To Travel takes visitors on a journey through modern life and the creative mind. Featuring extraordinary beasts, machines or bizarre, narrative scenes, themes include people dislocated from their homes, loneliness, and depression, as well as energy and enthusiasm.

Jerwood Gallery wanted to give Sir Quentin the opportunity to explore these issues. The resultant pictures are sometimes serious but, in typical fashion, far from gloomy. He takes the viewer on a drawing journey, with images ranging from the size of a post card to a huge, 20’ by 9’ mural, which will be created in situ in the gallery using a cherry picker!

The Only Way To Travel is the 84 year old artist’s biggest ever UK show and will bring 100 pieces to Jerwood Gallery’s ground floor. It will feature clusters of new works inspired by the breadth of this exhibition’s brief.

“The hugely exciting aspect of this show is that Sir Quentin has produced this body of work that has not been constrained by the dictates of a specific commission,” Gilmore observes.

Aspect County spoke to Sir Quentin ahead of the show opening, to gain more of an insight into the man and the motivation behind this new body of work

Please could you tell us about your younger life and how this influenced you as an artist?

“ I was born in Sidcup and went to the local boys grammar school. My family were very nice people but did not share my interests, so everything I got, I got from school. I think education is very important. I had a very good art teacher and my Latin teacher, unusually for the time a women as it was the war years, introduced me to her husband Alfred Jackson, who was both a painter and a cartoonist, which gave me the idea that was something you could do.”

What is your earliest memory of drawing?

“I still have a drawing from when I was about 4 but I don’t actually remember doing it. I started drawing at school and drew for the school magazine and then, as a consequence of the meeting with Alf Jackson, I started sending drawings to PUNCH. These were quite bad drawings but when I was 16 I got one or two of them published and went on doing that for sometime.

I sort of got drawings published and then learnt to draw afterwards – in some sense it was like an apprenticeship.”

So after leaving school did you study art?

“No, I went to Cambridge, Downing College and read English.

I didn’t do much about art while I was there. I did some things for the student magazine. I wasn’t sure if reading English was the right thing to do at the time, but, I realised later that a close appreciation of words is one of the things an illustrator needs.

My options when leaving Cambridge were to become a teacher, which I would have been very happy doing, but, I knew I really wanted to draw and I had to see if I could do it.

I got some money from PUNCH and lived at home for a while and found I could survive and then I got into book illustration and that really was the start of everything since.

I have no formal art qualification but after I got my degree I went to Chelsea art school because I knew there was an art teacher there called Brian Robb who was a painter and illustrator. He became a mentor, which was very important and he was a friend ever after until he died. He was very good because he would say ‘don’t join my illustration class as you know too much already!’ but I used to show him my drawings and then later on he moved from Chelsea to the Royal College of Art. After a while he got me to go and teach part time there. So I went to help him and eventually when he retired I took over the department.”

What gives your life meaning and purpose – What gets you out of bed in the morning?

“Drawing drives me. I don’t work in sketchbooks – I use them for ideas but I don’t draw from life. I used to draw from life when I was a young man. I haven’t done that for years. I make it up.

I gave up the teaching many years ago now but I have over the last several years worked a lot on the campaign for drawing, giving lectures and I have been actively working on the BIG DRAW from the beginning. Sue Grayson Ford got me into it. I’ve also done all sorts of other things linked to and promoting drawing.”

Your work displays an innate sense of humour and fun– does this reflect your general personality and approach to life?

“I don’t know – I hope so. I can’t help but see the funny side. I started off doing jokes because it was something you could do. You do a drawing that makes someone smile, makes someone laugh – there may be a written joke associated with it – but what is more interesting is to make drawings that amuse people because of the drawing. Then if you go on from that you discover that humour is not just humour on its own, its much more complex than that and you elicit from people a whole range of emotions. Most of the books are cheerful and humorous but I’ve done lots of others, for example Michael Rosen’s SAD BOOK (ISBN-13: 978-1406317848).

One of the things I’ve learnt as I’ve gone along is the way drawings speak to people. I’ve done a lot of work in mental health, producing work for the walls and the reactions have always been extraordinary.”

You are well known for your work with Roald Dahl. How did the two of you meet?

“We met because the publisher put us together. It was Tom Maschler. He published me already and Roald went to him. The notion probably came from Gina Pollinger. In the beginning it was exploratory – the first book was The Enormous Crocodile (ISBN-13: 978-0141323756). We didn’t know it was going to be a collaboration at that stage. I then did another book and we actually got to know each other much better, really over The BFG (ISBN-13: 978-0141365428). I got into the way of going down to Great Missenden and it gradually built up and we became great friends.”

You are passionate about Hastings…?

“Yes. I went years ago. I didn’t mean to and I bought a house there. I used to share a house with a friend, John Yeoman, in Hythe and eventually we left because we found it too small. We found a bigger house in Hastings – It’s medieval practically. I’ve come to love it. There are fishing boats at the end of the road. I’ve gone to Hastings over the years and I’ve illustrated books there and it’s got more interesting over time; with the arrival of the Hastings Story Telling Festival and now the Jerwood Gallery. The Jerwood is at the bottom of my street and it’s wonderful.

I visit frequently. The sea is a constant; a strong presence in my work.”

Why now for this exhibition in Hastings?

Really it’s because Liz Gilmore told me to do it. But this is also a very good moment. In the past 15 years I’ve done an enormous amount of work for public spaces and those are drawings I do in the studio which are then enlarged. The largest drawing I’ve done to date like that was for St. Pancras Station in London, which was enlarged to the size of a five storey building.

I’ve done a couple of shows at the Jerwood previously, but, now Liz Gilmore has asked me to do very large drawings. This was fascinating to me as I’ve seen my drawings made very large but I’ve never actually created them very large in the first place. So this was an interesting opportunity. So I’m now doing drawing’s which are 10 x 15 ft and I’m creating others in watercolour, which is new to me at this size – 20 x 30.”

What attracts you toward drawing in large scale format?

“It was very exciting for me when Liz Gilmore invited me to produce very large drawings – as large as possible – to hang in the Foreshore Gallery. I thought ‘What a wonderful opportunity–why shouldn’t drawings be as large as oil paintings?’

These big drawings are very spontaneous, as I don’t have any way of preparing them beforehand (except perhaps in my head). They are improvised on the paper and there is really little chance of revising or correcting them, either. But it’s that element of risk that is part of the appeal; in that respect it’s in some ways like a performance. You see everything that happens.

“Another stimulus is that, at this scale, you have to rethink the drawing materials. What you thought was a big pencil suddenly looks quite small.

Many of the drawings are done with large brushes, and several with commercial decorator’s paint rollers or an ink dispenser. I’ve used things that are inexpensive and fun to use.”

What inspired the title of this exhibition?

“I chose the title because it gives me the opportunity of doing a number of different kinds of pictures on related themes. Many are comic fantasy, some are more decorative and others have a suggestion of metaphorical significance, which allows me to explore human situations and feelings. I thought also that the idea of ways of travelling was something that almost anyone of any age might relate to, and help to lead them into the pictures.”

Is there one piece in the exhibition that particularly stands out for you?

“There are going to be a hundred – It’s hard to pick one out as a favourite. I’m more concerned to get rid of the ones that aren’t good enough.”

What goals and ambitions do you have for the future?

“To keep going! I’ve made two books about my work – ‘Words and Pictures’ and ‘Beyond the Page’ and I am at work on a third, which will appear in 2018.

I have just re-illustrated The Minpins (ISBN-13: 978-0141501789), which is the only children’s book by Roald Dahl which I have never illustrated. It has lots of small drawings, and we are calling it Billy and the Minpins, to distinguish it from the Patrick Benson version.

But I’m most excited right now about the Jerwood exhibition – It’s been the most wonderful experience and opportunity.”

The Only Way to Travel opens on 14 June at the Jerwood Gallery, Rock-A-Nore Rd, Hastings TN34 3DW

For more information follow @jerwoodgallery on Twitter and visit

Interview © Lesley Samms 2017 Published in Aspect County Magazine June 2017 Edition



Top 3 reasons to visit Artists Open Studios plus visitor etiquette and resources

Home is where the art is…

Open Studios aren’t anything new. Sometimes also called Open Houses, artists have been opening their studios [and homes] to visitors for years. However, the trend for formalised Open Studio trails seems to be increasing year on year. This could be a reflection on the times we live and the current state of the economy, the decrease in galleries and gallery owners less inclined to try out new and untested artists, or it could just be that artists are more switched on and more organised now, with the internet facilitating easier and cheaper direct communication with the audience.

Whatever the reason, it’s great for those of us who thrive on the creative side of life and the surrounding spectacle, because Open Studios aren’t just a chance for artists to sell work. They are also an opportunity for artists to engage in conversations about their art directly with the public and for the public to catch a glimpse of both their unique process and their world; a real “fly on the wall” experience.

They facilitate a much more intimate “show and tell” art experience for all involved and one I personally highly recommend.

Spring and early Summer are peak season for Artists Open House and Studio events.

Some examples of forthcoming events in the southeast region:

So here are my top 3 reasons why I think you should also consider visiting Artists Open Studios:

1.  To have FUN

The definition of fun is amusement, enjoyment and playfulness.

Who doesn’t want to have fun!

Visiting an artist in their home or studio scores high on the fun meter, offering opportunities to observe art being created in real time, take part yourself and get messy playing with ink, paint and clay, just for pleasure.. with no agenda or pressure to be the next Picasso!

2. To feel GOOD

Visiting an artist in their home or studio is a relaxed and informal way to enjoy art just for art’s sake and therefore has the potential to make us feel good.

Buying the art we see, directly from the artists creating it also has the potential to trigger the release of further feel good endorphins.

3. To discover something NEW

Moving out of our comfort zone can be challenging. However, it can also be exciting and allow us to experience something new and unexpected

Discovering something new and unexpected can unlock hidden potential if we approach with an open mind and a positive constructive attitude.

Open studio/house visitor Etiquette

Don’t ask overly personal questions
Do ask about the artwork and the artists practice and methods
Be open-minded
Be honest but try to be constructive with any comments
Don’t rush
Don’t photograph or film without first asking the artists permission
Don’t post on social media without first asking the artists permission