Sidwell Street, Exeter
Sidwell Street and I go way back. Give it a few months and it will be twenty years ago that I lived and worked there. It’s at the grubby, top end of Exeter High street and even twenty years ago it was a bit grim. But it was home for a couple of years whilst I was in my second and third year of uni. Me and my two flatmates, Tim and Fiona lived above Kent’s, a crumbling, antique jewelry shop. Mr Kent was our landlord. He ran his dusty old shop down stairs and we had the wonky flat upstairs. The flat wasn’t separate from the shop so if Mr Kent wanted he could just stop in for a chat. Rather kindly, he always hollered up the stairs first. And usually only did it if we hadn’t paid our rent.
Our student digs were literally falling part. The floors of each room were concave, the windows didn’t fit in their frames and the door of my bedroom once fell off in my hands. I used to lift it into place every night because I don’t think Mr Ketn sent anyone round to fix it. It was the oldest part of Sidwell Street, I think it used to be a farm building (but I could be making that up, can’t really remember).
Kent’s hasn’t been there for a while and I assume Mr Kent is no longer with us as he was pretty antique himself. It now looks like it was knocked down and rebuilt, the brick work is all new and the windows aren’t on the wonk.
It was a few doors down from the Odeon. I worked at the Odeon for about five years. It was my job while I was at uni and a couple more years beyond that as well. It’s a proper original Odeon, built in 1937. There’s some great original features behind the scenes. Sometimes we would go and explore the dungeon-like basement, or rummage upstairs beyond the projectionist’s box but that was frowned upon, especially when we got found out.
I’d wash my clothes at the launderette, go to the pub on the corner, buy tobacco and cheap wine from Alldays and stuff my face with KFC and Dominoes pizza because they were all on the doorstep. So yeah, Sidwell Street and I know each other well.
An Opportunity to Showcase Crochet
A couple of months ago I saw a post on Facebook asking for local artists who were interested in an opportunity to display their work. More and more vacant shops have been appearing up that end of town, so it started to look not just a bit shabby, but really run down. Then along came Adam who could see the potential for something different. He works at Eat the Bird, a restaurant sandwiched between empty shops. From what I understand he contacted the owners of the buildings who agreed to let people like me display their art free of charge. I thought it was a marvellous idea so I got in touch.
Last Saturday I took a crate load of crochet into town and chucked it in the shop window of the old Halfords. Sort of. I actually knew exactly how I wanted it displayed, I even drew a picture. As soon as I heard that I’d been chosen to have my crochet go in a window, I got myself down to Ikea and also did a hasty order on Amazon for spray paint. (If it had been this weekend, I doubt I’d have been able to do that, Ikea has shut its doors now – oh Lockdown).
The night before, the boys helped to put together the Ikea bits and we got going with the spray paint (it was so much fun, I think I might become a Grafitti artist next… ). My budget was small, I spent £17 on the Ikea bits and about the same on the paint and tape that was needed.
Then I packed up all my crochet samples and spare blankets. I thought I was taking way too much but actually ended up displaying it all. Most of it is probably being permanently sacrificed to the Crochet Gods, I don’t think it’ll survive four months in a shop window. It’s unlikely to come out looking exactly like when it went in. It’s a sacrifice worth making, no? I can just crochet it all again if I want to! I just hope people see it now.
Social distancing and the closure of the shops and restaurants that were still thriving means that the foot fall will have dramatically decreased. That’s OK. Even if some people don’t get to see it, at least I can say I have achieved a major thing in my crafting career. I’m dead proud and hopefully those that do see it will be cheered by the sight of lots of colourful woolly bits. I’ve got crochet on the high street, and that’s completely awesome!
It’s there until July. There are also other shop windows with artist’s work on display so if it is at all possible, perhaps on a quiet day, go and check it out.
I’ll post some pics below. First, lots of photos of the space and then the crochet goodness. Let me know what you think! Cheers. x
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And then the display starts to come together.