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A New Blue Monkey Network

By: Judith Alder

Blue Monkey Network is an artists' organisation run by artists for artists. Organiser Judith Alder, runs the Network in partnership with Eastbourne's Towner gallery, who invited Blue Monkey to establish the Network in 2011. Since then the group has held monthly talks and networking events at Towner. For 2013, the Network is supported by a Grant for the Arts from the National Lottery through Arts Council England.


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Angela Smith. BMN's Angela Smith's image as seen on a-n's front page

Angela Smith.

BMN's Angela Smith's image as seen on a-n's front page

# 39 [20 March 2014]


After a great evening out last month at Fabrica with Sharon Haward, we were back on home ground at Towner last night for our latest Network event.

The evening took a format which we've followed before - 5 artists talking about their work for 5 minutes each & showing 15 images, Pecha Kucha style. It's a great discipline for the presenting artists to make those essential decisions about what aspect of their practice they want to present and how to do it concisely. It's also a great way for the audience to get an insight into our members' really diverse and inventive practices.

We had a really entertaining evening and saw (& heard) some great work by a painter, a musician-composer, and 3 artists working in very different ways with  sculpture & installation.

As always it was a pleasure to meet some artists' we'd never met before who'd come along to find out more about us, and also to welcome our visitor for the evening, Laurence Dube-Rushby who had travelled from Salisbury to visit Blue Monkey & Towner for the first time.

Our hard working and very well prepared presenters for the evening were :  

and thanks are due to all of them for sharing their thoughts and their work with us.



Sharon Haward, 'Space Interrupted', February 2014.

Sharon Haward, 'Space Interrupted', February 2014.

# 38 [20 February 2014]


One of our Blue Monkey New Year Resolutions is to get out more, meet new people, make new friends and see more art!

This week, one of our members, Sharon Haward, has been spending the week at Fabrica, Brighton, using their unique and challenging space to explore ideas in her practice. It's part of Fabrica's Making Space project - an opportunity for artists to use the space when it's not being used for exhibtions, to try out new things.

This evening, we're going to hold our monthly network event at Fabrica & we're looking forward to seeing what Sharon's been up to and hearing about how the week has been for her. Sharon's been blogging about the week too at

Hopefully the evening will give us the chance to meet some Brighton artists who don't manage to get to our events in Eastbourne very often too, and offer the opportunity for some of our members to find out a bit more about Fabrica & how they might be able to use its Artists Resource and tap into the support it offers to artists.

Blue Monkey volunteer Nikki Davidson Bowman works alongside Chiharu Shiota's assistant on the installation at Towner


Blue Monkey volunteer Nikki Davidson Bowman works alongside Chiharu Shiota's assistant on the installation at Towner

# 37 [10 December 2013]


Long time, no blog! Since my last post we've welcomed some lovely guests to Eastbourne to talk at our events, including Sheila MacGregor and Ruth Wilbur from Axisweb* who ran a couple of workshops  and offered 1-2-1 sessions to half a dozen of our artists. That was way back in September and in October another very welcome guest was Stephen Turner who came and talked to us about his amazing Exbury Egg* project which we very much enjoyed.

For a little while we're now focusing on our own members experiences in a series of events where we're making opportunities for artists to share information, knowledge and experience. Last month 3 of our members gave their time for 8 long, strenuous days, helping to install the amazing Chiharu Shiota exhibition, Other Side*, at Towner. Next week the 3 will take us on a walk through the exhibition and tell us about the physically demanding and labour intensive processes which went into the installation and we'll talk about what they learned by working behind the scenes at Towner, and the pros and cons of volunteering.

Our out of hours look at Chiharu Shiota's Other Side exhibition will take place next Wednesday, 18th December from 6.30pm with our volunteers, Sheila Hay, Nikki Davidson-Bowman and Katy Oxborrow at Towner.

'Judith Alder'. Blue skies for our Blue Monkey trip to Margate

'Judith Alder'.

Blue skies for our Blue Monkey trip to Margate

# 36 [19 September 2013]

An outing, a new group, a workshop and a big event!

Things have been pretty busy here at Blue Monkey this last few weeks. Admin queen, Cat Ingrams, has been working her socks off trying to get everyone organised! What with a day trip to Margate, our new Crit Group and our big Axis event coming up next week, Cat's Inbox has been bulging.

A small but enthusiastic group of Blue Monkey members LOVED their day out to Turner Contemporary to see the fantastic Curiosity show just before it closed. We successfully negotiated the 4 minute train connection at Ashford International and then made the most of the time we'd saved by taking an hour to do the 10 minute walk to the gallery, stopping for 2 fag-breaks and a coffee on the way! We all loved the show AND the chance to talk about our favourite bits on the journey home.

Crit Group is now almost fully formed (though there is still one space available if anyone's interested?) We're looking forward to starting on the 9th October with 12 artists each showing work in progress over the course of 6 sessions. It should be a great chance to explore some ideas surrounding people's work and hopefully the commitment of attending all the sessions should lead to some interesting themes developing over the course of the weeks.

Next week we're very excited to be welcoming Sheila MacGregor and Ruth Wilbur from Axis. Sheila and Ruth are running 2 workshops for us on Thursday & Friday all about maintaining an effective online presence. There's been a great demand for these workshops and out of a total of nearly 50 spaces over the 2 sessions, there are only 4 spaces left - book NOW if you think you want one of those last 4 spaces!

Last but not least in this busy month is Blue Monkey Studio's BIG BIRTHDAY BASH to celebrate 10 good years since Wycliffe Stutchbury, Cat Ingrams, Alison Haddon and I set up our shared workspace. We could never have guessed then that we'd still be going strong 10 years later! Happy birthday to us!

Some of our Blue Monkey members!


Some of our Blue Monkey members!

# 35 [24 August 2013]

OO something new!

We're just launching one of the new initiatives which our Grant for the Arts is enabling us to provide. It's one of those "luxury items" which it's incredibly difficult to measure as far as value for money is concerned, but it's something we think is incredibly important. Not everyone will want to do it because, at certain stages during the cycle of our practices, the last thing we want to do is talk about or get feedback on our work - and at other times we'd give our last hot cross bun for the chance! So for a fortunate dozen or so artists who are at THAT stage of the proceedings and within reach of Eastbourne, this is a great chance to be part of a group of artists who will dedicate a couple of hours a fortnight to get together and talk about each other's work and the wider contexts and implications of it at a new Blue Monkey Network Crit Group.

The idea is that 10-12 artists will commit to attending the group for the whole 12 week period, meeting once a fortnight. At each session, two artists will bring along work for discussion and feedback in an atmosphere of mutual trust and co-operation, and be part of a stimulating conversation and critical discussion about each other’s work and the wider issues surrounding it.

The group will be facilitated by Blue Monkey member Sheila Hay and we plan to get started round about the beginning of October through to December 2013, at Towner, Eastbourne. Cat and I are going to be there too to take part in the conversations and we're really looking ofrward to getting to know more about our members' work. Exciting stuff!

Sharon Haward. ... finally cut the dolls' house in half

Sharon Haward.

... finally cut the dolls' house in half

# 34 [9 July 2013]


Sadly, officially our Buddy Group has ended now - how quickly it seemed to go. Next week Buddy Leader Anne Barrell and I will be meeting to evaluate the scheme. The official six week period ended with an entertaining evening when the Buddies gave a talk to around 30 Network members, telling us what the experience had been like for them.

Every Buddy pair was represented by at least one partner and it was great to see new work they had made during the 6 week period, see photographs of experiments, visits and expeditions and hear about the conversations they'd had (with an entertaining performance/reading by Clare Whistler based on e-mail conversations between herself and her buddy, Christine Binnie).

A feature of many people's buddy experience was the effect that their buddy relationship acted as a catalyst, prompting action on things they'd been putting off. Sharon Haward cut her doll's house in half ("it’s only taken me about 18 months to get around to doing this") , Steph Grainger set up her blog (, Steve Croft "got away from the computer" and started transforming his digital collages into cut-and-stick-paper-and-paint collages on canvas. Of course some people had more productive experiences than others, but it will be interesting to see the long term effects of these relationships; no doubt some will fade, but others may flourish. I will look forward to following their progress and think we might need to have a buddy reunion soon so that we can all catch up with each other!

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This scheme sounds very interesting particularly the way in which meeting someone else as an artist commits you more to your own work. Meeting with another artist with the focus on your work really makes you face up to the way your work comes across to others. It's quite a brave thing to do and very challenging. I haven't done anything quite like this but I have had a portfolio review with ZAP and that has prompted me to start making a lot of changes to the way I present my work and to try blogging. It's also helped me network with other artists and become less insular. In the end these interactions can only help you to relate better to the world with and though your work. I am so impressed by artists who are so well organised that they can initiate a scheme like this which has all kinds of creative consequences for the participants, this is such constructive work.

posted on 2013-07-12 by Simon Fell

Judith Alder


Judy Martin. Work in progress.

Judy Martin.

Work in progress.

Judith Alder


Steven Croft. Work in progress

Steven Croft.

Work in progress

# 33 [11 June 2013]

Another extract from Buddy Leader Anne Barrell's weekly update to buddies:

" Week Four Already... Here's a report from Clare Whistler, buddy with Christine Binnie, on their busy schedule:  "We met again at the David Kefford talk, after a flurry of emails. It seems to have turned into a busy time right now, but I think we have already accepted that our 'buddying' will go on after the 6 weeks. There is progress though, Christine's kiln is working and in general she feels that thinking about art has been more focused and present.
Before and after the first buddying meeting we sat on the beach and looked down the list made from our first 'jumping over the fire' May 1st meeting. We are finding many overlaps and many possible 'makings'.
The definition and use of the word 'artist' and how we use it has had much discussion, as well some time spent thinking about Clare's website, which has got a possible way forward planned, which would be a big step.
Christine is busy with the Art Car Boot Fair followed by Jevington Fete and Clare has a performance at Battersea Arts Centre next week. We hope that Christine will be able to visit Clare, with her mother at Bunces Barn in the next week or so."

Steph Grainger and Felicity Truscott have set up a studio visit to follow on from a day of drawing they had at Pevensey Castle. Felicity has been working hard preparing for a show at The Black Shed Gallery. Steph is going to visit and see the work she is considering selecting for the show. 

Jennie Walker and Victoria Bathurst have been continuing to support each other with email. Jennie found the David Kefford talk inspirational and her 1-2-1 on Thursday reinforced her process of making/drawing and painting. She has also completed her work ready for her Jerwood application.
Victoria Bathurst has spent a day at the V&A doing academic research for her Samuel Palmer walks. Her painting is on the back burner at the moment. Sometimes just thinking and planning, a period of refelection, can move your work forward."

Last week the buddies had an informal and sociable evening in the pub. Anne writes, "Here are some pictures taken with my camera in the pub of Judy Martin's work in progress on "We are already forgetting you", and also some images from Judy's buddy Steven Croft on this shared theme. Judy has started looking at the serial murders of women working as prostitutes in Ipswich and Steven's work has been influenced by leaving his job."


# 32 [8 June 2013]


I'm just about to enter a new and slightly unknown phase of activity with Blue Monkey Network. Part of our Grant For The Arts for 2013 included a sum of money to enable me to work with consultants to explore ideas about planning for a sustainable future and developing the Network. So far I've had some help with writing a brief for consultants and putting out a call for expressions of interest and proposals.

I was thrilled to come across Sarah who runs the artist-run space Meantime in Cheltenham - Sarah was kind enough to give me a valuable half hour of her time for a very interesting and enjoyable phone conversation in which we were able to compare notes about our organisations and about our very similar consultancy projects. She's a little bit ahead of me having already advertised and selected a consultant and so she was able to give me some very useful advice about e.g. the value of having a selection panel to help with the selection process.

So I'm beginning to get the ads out there and have had my first enquiry. Now it's a question of waiting to see what happens and who expresses an interest. I'm excited to see who might apply and what might come of it.

David Kefford, 'Thank You for Staying'.

David Kefford, 'Thank You for Staying'.

# 31 [4 June 2013]


Blue Monkey artist Anne Barrell writes, "I very much enjoyed the David Kefford talk at Towner on Wednesday. Part of what he talked about was the importance of artists support networks and about how through this you become connected to the wider art world. There was also discussion around making your own luck, talking to other artists and curators, networking and taking opportunities as they present themselves. The flipside to this was focusing on yourself as an artist - Quotes for this week: "It's good to be embarrassed by your work", "It's good to touch the edges of the human condition" and  "Drawing is a wonderful way for me to have a stream of consciousness- to get stuff out of my head"

Anne wasn't the only artist who enjoyed meeting David. A total of 6 artists had 1-2-1 consultations with David about their practices. Without exception they all came away with very positive feelings - "encouraging supportive and valuable conversation", "really enjoyed the 1 to 1 chat today - very thought provoking" and "he was very helpful and has enabled me to understand my work a lot better". Thanks David!

Victoria Albuquerque and Mike Tann


Victoria Albuquerque and Mike Tann

Mike Tann, 'Steam Punk Wheelchair', Mixed media.

Mike Tann, 'Steam Punk Wheelchair', Mixed media.

# 30 [4 June 2013]

Week Three News

Extracts from Buddy Leader, Anne Barrell's weekly mail-out to the group.

It's been great hearing what the buddies have been up to and some lovely ideas are coming forward.

Sarah Mulholland and Catherine Walsh have been sketching together down at the pier, creating lots of interest from the passing public and even being photographed. They have also been visiting several exhibitions and most importantly drinking coffee. This is a great way to exchange ideas.

Mike Tann and Victoria Albuquerque started off by visiting the Fiona Rae exhibition and then visiting each other's studios.  Mike says: "Victoria has suggested that we each spend a day or half a day at each other’s studios producing something following the work structure used by that person. This may not produce an end product but will give both of us more of an insight into how we both work and hopefully we will be able to take something away that will enrich our own practices. What that will then lead to we will have to wait and see. We are also in the back ground throwing around business ideas to promote our  practices and art work but this will mainly be by email."

Victoria says: "This week, Mike and I have been busy looking in greater depth at my work as an artist.  Mike came over to my studio for a whole day.  I had laid out a number of different mediums that I use to explore a new subject, and together we worked with these mediums exploring the same subject.  The results were rewarding for both of us.  I have attached a few photographs from the day. In return I will go to Mike's studio next Friday and work with him on a number of different mediums including collage which is something I have never done and am keen to explore."

This sounds a great way of really getting under the skin of the way the other person works and the key is keeping an open mind and seeing where it leads.

Victoria Bathurst and Jennie Walker have been keeping in contact by email. Victoria has been very busy with life....but she says "However I have been furthering my project to take people on Samuel Palmer walks in his "valley of vision" at Shoreham in Kent. He did his  best and most original work during an 8 year stint there in his twenties and I hope to get the guided walks up and running by Mid June." That's nearly upon us Victoria, good luck with what sounds like a really lovely project.


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Judith Alder

I'm a visual artist based in Eastbourne. I'm co-founder of Blue Monkey Studio, and founder/organiser of Blue Monkey Network, Eastbourne.