THE BIG CREATURAMA BLOG Part 2
(Surviving a global pandemic and beyond)
BANG!!!! I’d done it. CREATURAMA opened one week after my arrival on the beautiful Isle of Wight on May 22nd 2021! I’ve mentioned in my previous Blog some of the people who helped, but I must here also mention the lovely BIG Paul Tudor, who helped move my scenery around in the days before the BIG move
That first week on the island was weird. Frankly I was in shock that I’d actually gone and done it, I’d left my friends and family to try something mad and extraordinary, with a load of cardboard!!!
I can honestly say that I’d spent a negligible amount of time away from my wife in twenty odd years and certainly a lot less time without the presence of my incredible and vibrant daughter, but the venue needed work and I busied myself preparing!
I’d created a white card model of what I could achieve with my existing creatures and newly created scenery and everything went to plan, creating an exhibition space, a shop and Workshop area…although lifting 4 x 8 sheets of 18mm plywood up a flight of stairs was no fun. Here I have to do a big THANK YOU to Karl and Mish for all their help. Fellow Nuneatonians, who moved to the Island over a decade before me and have made the island their home.
After opening my doors, it was slow at first. Covid 19 was still rife so I’d built screens and had 2 meter sections of floor marked out for visitors to keep distanced. But of course, the world was still reeling and coping with the pandemic! I’d almost convinced myself that the moment restrictions were relaxed the world would erupt back into life like a shaken Coca Cola can. This proved not to be the case, but gradually, slowly, people started to ascend the stairs to see what had landed at ARRETON BARNS.
To keep busy and fight the loneliness I started to paint, creating more product to sell in the CREATURAMA Shop. I had no excuse now. I finally had time to create new prints and even greetings cards. This was a wonderful and slightly painful experience, as I realised just how restricted I’d been over the years. The freedom to create was quite overwelming!
My move to the island had been quite furious, and huge thanks here have to go to Kev and Edward, great friends without whom I’d have never managed it! I’d managed to snare quite a nice, rented flat, at a time when rented properties were extremely difficult to find. It was unfurnished, but a few trips across the island furnished it quite quickly and it’s quite a homely little haven.
By now the tourist season was in full swing and the sun was out. Suddenly CREATURAMA was working! People were saying lovely things and Halloween was lots of fun. I began to run workshops at the venue, but Halloween was a mixed affair with successful workshops at the venue, but with the actual evening of Halloween spent alone for the first time in my life!! And away from my wife and daughter…which was very hard.
I’d written a panto for my wife’s drama company, and I popped up to the Midlands to create props and scenery before heading back to the island for the pre-Christmas shopping surge.
The festive season descended, and more workshops were created at the venue. It was frantic and we as a family spent several hours on the motorway on Christmas Eve, heading back to Warwickshire for Christmas itself.
2022 was going to be a very different year. I opened the venue in mid-February and again things were incredibly quiet at first. Then on February 27th my lovely friend Paul Tudor suddenly passed away. Paul was always a ‘Big Lad’ and his diet was appalling, but he had the biggest heart of anyone I know. It REALLY hit me hard, I suppose because I wasn’t around much in the time between him helping me leave Nuneaton and his death. RIP Paul (Still missed)
Slowly on the island I began to ‘plug in’ a little bit, but, I was still involved with the Abbey Theatre in Nuneaton, where I appeared on stage in April as a main character in a very enjoyable production of ‘CALENDAR GIRLS’ (No I didn’t take any clothes off)
The summer of 2022 was dominated by the ‘JUBILEE JOURNEYS’ ARTS COUNCIL Project, celebrating the Queens Platinum Jubilee and overseen by the ‘IOW STEAM RAILWAY’. I was placed into twelve schools across the IOW to create railway carriages with the children. This was a FANTASTIC experience, introducing me to hundreds of IOW kids and many teachers and staff across the island, and all done in glorious IOW sunshine. Not long after this I finally contracted Covid 19. It got me! Luckily a fortnight of a bad cold was all it really manifested as so it forced me to finally sit and write my 5th children’s book ‘GRUBBLES QUEST’. There will be a blog about this when the 25 illustrations needed for it are completed. Just before the Covid struck my stoic Vauxall Zafira finally bit the dust. The commuting from the island to the Midlands was just too much. Luckily as it was the summer the wife ferried me about for much of it. Eventually a replacement vehicle was waiting in the wings on the island and I became an Audi owner!
Courtesy of Mish and Karl I now also joined an IOW amateur theatre ‘The Apollo’ and trod the boards there as Mr Bumble in ‘OLIVER’ Channelling my inner ‘Harry Secombe’! This again forced me to make new friends and acquaintances. Lovely theatre, lovely people!
As we hurtled into autumn lots of my friends found time to visit, which was lovely. And then there was ‘HULLABALOO’, an island event, a weekend festival of junk modelmaking and cardboard! How could I resist so I built a large 12ft Cyberfish at the venue, it only just fit!!! All models in ‘HULLABALOO’ are created to be destroyed at the end of the festival. I had no problem with this, in fact I was looking forward to it. However, others at the event had other plans for ‘The Cyberfish’, and at the end it survived to live on, touring the south coast promoting the care of marine mammals, which pleased me no end!
Back up to the Midlands for a brief spot of scenic painting and then back to the island, again for Christmas workshops.
And so we are nearly up to date. At the time of writing this I’ve just completed workshops for the IOW STORYFEST Festival at the wonderful Quay Arts, where I’ve ran several workshops over the last year and I’m looking at some of those YOUTUBE Vids created in 2021. They’re not perfect, and I’d dearly love to re-film them, but they are not all bad, and I’m looking into ways that CREATURAMA’s YOUTUBE channel can be improved and incorporated into the exhibition.
CREATURAMA is officially based at Arreton Barns on the Isle of Wight. I live on the island. I visit Warwickshire regularly to see friends and family and my wife and daughter live there, which is incredibly hard on all three of us. But!, CREATURAMA deserved to live! The pandemic destroyed so many lives, and livelihoods and I was determined my little cardboard empire would not be one of its victims. I cannot say it’s easy. But at times it’s AMAZING and I’m thoroughly proud of the exhibition and the depth and variety of my new art created there. I do not know what the future holds, but what I do know is I had to do this. I had to try. And I will keep trying to make CREATURAMA into the universe of wonder I’ve always wanted it to be.