ZELLA COMPTON: The Arts Lodge is a dash of colour in a grey world

The city needs to be careful not to become a can of sardines

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 26th October 2016, 6:01 am
Updated Thursday, 27th October 2016, 5:11 pm
The Arts Lodge in Victoria Park
The Arts Lodge in Victoria Park

I am thus completely gutted that the lease has been skewered for its current residents, cut short by some five years. And yes, I get that the council is talking about helping community groups make a new café and all of that, but there’s something unique about the Arts Lodge which comes from the combination of management and staff and premises and its current ethos as a community hub.

If you haven’t been there, the Art Lodge is Victoria Park’s old gate house. Thus it has a quirky layout that has been harnessed by the tenants with wild colours and eclectic arts. It has a barman who dances while he pours drinks. And a fire pit in the slightly wild, overgrown back garden. It reminds me of the secret garden, and a house you pass by as a child that looks terrifically exciting but slightly scary. That’s what makes its compelling.

If you were to ask me where my favourite cafes are, not one of them is a chain. Don’t get me wrong, I do use Starbucks, I do use Costa and I do use fast food joints (but less and less as either my taste buds are maturing or their meals are getting grimmer, fattier, less real). But favourite places are born of the love of the premises, the owner, manager and staff. They are quirky, they are different and often they have something that you want to have a little grumble about. They’re not perfect, so they attract the imperfect and that’s what makes them so compelling.

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In Portsmouth, the population is jam-packed in like sardines; outside London it is one of the most densely populated areas of England. The city needs to be careful not to become a can of sardines, with people and places exactly the same, uniform in length, colour and life.

The Arts Lodge offers a break from the sterile, and has been championing artists and the community for years. It’s a tough choice for the council, to choose one group over another in a commercial arrangement. And given the popularity of the Arts Lodge, I wouldn’t want to be the one making that decision. But the decision I can make is to enjoy it in its current form as much as I can, while I can.

Older heads would do well to remember talents of youth

I came across the Urban Vocal Group recently. This is a local charity which primarily runs to support young people from across the area to sing – you can find out more online.

In a nutshell, UVG organises rehearsal spaces, teaches singing, and then gives young people the opportunity to perform in a professional arena.

I was captivated by two sisters from Petersfield who blew me away with their vocals, and own compositions.

It reminded me that often, when we see the label ‘youth’ – whether it’s dance, theatre, signing, arts or sports, we can dismiss it and wait for the ‘professional’ version.

That’s such a mistake. There’s gold out there, and you don’t even have to look at the end of a rainbow.

I um and ah as I flick through the paint colour charts...

Words designed to fill me with dread are these: what colour shall we paint the hall?

Most people would probably be cheerful that work was about to be undertaken to refresh their house, but me?

I’m left with bitter dread knowing that last time I made this choice, many years ago, the canary yellow of our then hall and stairways glowed demonically . . . it was like walking through a tunnel of margarine.

Grim. I am older and wiser now, but still, this is the biggest space in the house, and I don’t want to get it wrong.

Paradoxically, I can’t let anyone else make the decision.

And what could be worse than that? An indecisive control freak.