The Moving Gallery was based in a proper Reading bus, and for a period of six weeks in December and January it travelled normal bus routes; regular bus users became the audience for an exhibition of six talented artists. The art is now parked until the 27 January in the colourful premises of the Jelly Studios at the traditional heart of Reading retail, the Broad Street Mall.
Jelly is a beautiful octopus-like organisation whose creative tentacles reach into many varied areas of Reading life; from teaching art to youngsters, providing gallery space for a range of artists, to art therapy for people with mental health issues.
I was kindly invited to have a look on Tuesday evening, and I did partake in some wine and nibbles, which included a wonderful and notable Italian spinach and cheese quiche, while seeking out some of the artists.
Thérèse Lawlor, the communications guru for the Reading Guild of Artists told me about the lovely Reading quiz (How well do you know Reading?) a booklet of slightly askew paintings of Reading landmarks for children to look out for when on a bus trip. The prize-winning answer to the quiz can be seen from the upper deck of many buses at the junction of Broad Street and West Street. Her watercolour of a Broad Street building from 2012 was on display; a vibrant, colourful and charming treat.
William Lailey is a freelance photographer and tutor who created the atmospheric photographs as well as a newspaper revealing the story of how the bus was curated. The practical pictures of its creation along with small quotes capture the gravelly reality of the bus service and are quite intimate in tone.
The enthusiastic and friendly Alda Terracciano told me all about the Reading memory routes. Her audio presentation of 32 digital memories collected from Reading bus passengers can be chosen from a list and listened to on headphones. These memories have been pinned on a bus route map and then woven with string, which reminds one of arteries or an old spinning loom, depending which angle you view from. It was lovely to hear a lot of these audio messages were in a Reading accent and often referred to going “dayn tayn“. I didn’t tell Alda all about happenings on the old number 15 Whitley bus route (or 5 as it is now) as these tales would make your hair stand on end.
The exhibition was curated by Anna de Amicis. The other artists who took part in the project were Ben Mosher, Sam Stead and Tim Wilson.
I not only recommend you go and have a look, I would suggest you support Jelly Studios whenever you can as they are behind so many good things. I saw a woodcut on the wall in there on Tuesday and it reminds me of when that remarkable artist and Reading University lecturer, Robert Gibbings, asked a friend “Is it very foolish of me to try to be an artist?” and received the reply: “What else could you do?”