Director Stewart Drew reflects on how far DLWP has come and the opportunities ahead
I’ve attended two farewell events this week, which have prompted me to reflect on the two distinct eras of the De La Warr Pavilion over the past 20 years, and how this has shaped where we go from here.
Firstly, I was invited to Caroline Collier’s leaving drinks at Tate Britain; Caroline was Partnerships & Programmes Director since 2014, but her significant career at Tate started back in 2005, the year DLWP reopened after the major refurbishment. She was hugely instrumental at the Tate, building national and international relationships with galleries and museums and developing a solid network and support system (Plus Tate) for the visual arts sector. In Bexhill (for Tate), Caroline led on the major Artists Rooms exhibitions Beuys is Here (2009) and, one of our top three most popular exhibitions Warhol is Here (2011/12).
Caroline was Director of the Pavilion from 1995-99, and worked closely with Rother District Council and the Friends of the Pavilion in helping to shape the organisation as we know it today. Caroline led the development of our visual arts programme, and worked extensively on the Lottery applications to help restore and increase the viability of the business model. While working on the Artist Rooms projects, she told me of her frustration that the auditorium was ultimately excluded from the Lottery applications because, on advice from the funders, it was no longer viable and the prospects were too limited.
Her successor Alan Haydon (1999 – 2011) saw through the final Lottery funding and redevelopment, but indeed the auditorium was not funded and was literally dusted off for the reopening in 2005 with facilities that were more than 20 years out of date. Alan and Live Programmer Laura Ducceschi pushed against this, launching a strong live music programme that included Patti Smith, Laurie Anderson, Goldfrapp, Margaret Leng Tan and collaborations with the Heritage Orchestra, UNKLE and Beardyman. This programme put the auditorium squarely back on the map, but lacked regularity, viability and being responsive to local audience needs.
This leads me to our second farewell event for Oliver Catchpole in Wetherspoons, Bexhill, on Thursday. Yes, the very bar chain that threatened our Grade One listed building in 2000.
Ollie, appointed in 2012, was tasked to increase the number of nights we are open, be more inclusive and diverse, and of course bring the best acts to our seaside town. I want to pay tribute to a very talented, focused programmer, who brought variety back to the Pavilion and viability to an auditorium that had previously been regarded as unworkable. We now know that the venue now bulges with audiences, with sold out gigs and that facilities that sometimes struggle to accommodate everyone’s needs (we are sorry for the bar queues and we are working hard to make them better in both the short and longer term).
Thank you to Ollie for bringing us early performances of Clean Bandit, Jack Savoretti, Everything Everything ; gigs from classic performers such as Elvis Costello, Ray Davies, Don Maclean, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Rick Wakeman and Rumer; American iconic bands Grizzly Bear and Television; stars such as Nelly; UK icons Richard Hawley, Billy Bragg, Bonobo, Dr John Cooper Clarke, Gary Numan, OMD, Frank Turner, Wilko Johnson, Pil, and of course Chas & Dave; and some of the best comedy including Al Murray, Jason Manford, Jimmy Carr, Stewart Lee, Bill Bailey and Milton Jones.
Ollie brought family shows, NT live streaming and cinema screenings to Bexhill, not being afraid to try different things, adapting to how audiences responded and to see if box office takings would sustain the programme. He challenged us as a venue with bookings from Bullet for My Valentine, The Slaves and of course the Napalm Death collaboration with Keith Harrison (Napalm Death gig threatens structure of historic De La Warr Pavilion – The Independent). Working closely with Caleb Madden on the Dear Serge programme, this approach led to the Pavilion leading on a national network for experimental music, OUTLANDS, responding to the overwhelming commercialisation of music in the UK and the inability to take risks. OUTLANDS launches later this spring.
Despite challenges, we have seen increased investment into Bexhill, and an emerging evening economy, with new restaurants, quality bedrooms for overnight stays, extensive refurbishment of the Cooden Beach Hotel and a planning application for a central Bexhill hotel.
We know that the viability discussions in the 2000s were not without substance and that running such a programme is not without significant financial risk, not in the least in the light of the disruption of rail services which have undoubtedly affected our ticket sales.
Supporting our programme has been a team of extraordinary local individuals who run marketing, front of house operations and technical aspects of events. Our tech team have a brilliant reputation amongst tour managers nationally, leading to acts and promoters returning to us again and again. Mat Mcquade our Auditorium Tech Manager, who runs the auditorium, started on work experience from Bexhill College in 2005; Tara Neville who runs our website and social media, was a DV8 apprentice. The operation is designed to support and grow local talent.
Thank you to Caroline and Ollie for your part in our story, and to you, our audiences, in supporting our work. We’re ready for the future and will announce our new Head of Live Programme very shortly.
If you have danced, been spellbound by, nodded your head to, zoned out to, or moshed to our live programme, please join Eddie Izzard, our Honorary Patron in showing your support to the Pavilion, the programme and in building the skills of the people who run it. Here are four ways you can do this:
- Buy a ticket here
- Text DLWP to 70507 to donate £5 or donate here
- Become a member and get priority booking here
- Tell us your favourite gig or event using the hashtag #dlwprocks on social media.
Director and CEO
De La Warr Pavilion