EXHIBITION HALL Decoration of former chapel with murals and texts featuring phrases spoken by two year old "Tilly" @ Ventnor Central Hall on the Isle of Wight / Photos by Chris and Lucy Jones / 2019
Background Built in 1879 by Edgar James Harvey (better known for Ventnor's Cascade Gardens down the road) the "Bible Christian Chapel" quickly merged with the Methodists, and later became the general purposed Victoria Hall. For over 50 years it then served as Ventnor's youth club, until around 2014 when the Conservative government's austerity measures shut down this and other key local buildings and services.
Ventnor Central is now destined for redevelopment and almost certain demolition, a typical fate of neglected community buildings, regardless of heritage, deemed unviable by unimaginative, cash-strapped councils. The latest plans for this site stalled last year due to lack of funding. Stalemate situations like this often last for years, with even the most basic maintenance abandoned. The building is left literally to rot to the ground, whilst many local businesses and projects are starved of affordable premises and facilities.
Update, 2020 The work, paid for and executed by myself alone, remains half finished since the Town Clerk, David Bartlett, confused and/or annoyed by what I was doing, threw out the pop-up gallery without discussion, quoting laughable minor health and safety concerns. Countless others from across the Island have been enthusiastic and supportive, particularly if they remember the bare and neglected state of the hall before I gained access to set up occasional exhibitions. Another independent project, Baby Box for young families, has been permitted to continue, apparently in no danger from falling brickwork. I have not made a complaint; there is no point since it would land in Mr Bartlett's office. Nobody else in the council dares oppose him. But along with others I patiently await regime-change, an end to ruthless austerity, more competent grass-roots governance, and the chance to complete a project which grew painfully dear to me.
I'm devastated that I've been refused permission to complete my monumental and thoroughly harmless task.