Sir, — We are lucky enough to live in this stunning valley, where at this time of year the bluebells wash over our woodlands like a violet tide.
They make wonderful photos and equally beautiful paintings. I thought your readers might like to see my impression of our local woodlands, inspired by the woods at the top of Remenham Hill. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I have kept out of the debate on the Tesco roundabout sculpture thus far but Bridget Fraser’s letter (Standard, May 15) has prompted me to write.
I am very aware of the enormous contribution Bridget has made to the local arts over so many years. The shows have been exciting and she has given many young artists an opportunity to be seen, sometimes for the first time.
I must part company with her, however, when she describes people as “philistines” and says the local paper is wrong in publishing their views if they dislike an artwork.Firstly, the word philistine is a very derogatory term. Most people have an opinion about art. Some are well informed and have considerable knowledge of the visual arts, others respond or react to contemporary art using their own personal visual vocabulary.
At the end of the day those equipped with specialist knowledge, the cognoscenti, know what they like but so, too, do the public at large.It is so important in the visual arts for people to express an opinion, no matter if that opinion is in praise of a work or that they detest the work. Anything short of this freedom of speech will mean the death of art criticism.Secondly, it is the job of a newspaper to publish a range of its readers’ views and to suggest that any harsh criticism of an artist’s work should be suppressed in case it is offensive to the artist is veering dangerously close to a form of censorship.Artists are grown-up people and criticism and competition goes with the job. Leonardo da Vinci insisted that Michelangelo’s David be hidden away in a gloomy corner of the Loggia dei Lanzi rather than stand outside for all to see in the Palazzo Vecchio. Rodin was accused of making the figure of Balzac with his brains, Epstein had to watch his stone carvings be mutilated.
Artists should be capable of dealing with criticism if they choose to put their work in a public space.Ever since the great Paris exhibition of African and Primitive Art which contributed to an art revolution — Cubism — with a little help from Cezanne, new ground rules were established.Equally, ever since Marcel Duchamp used real objects in his assemblages, such as the urinal, the boundaries of art became permeable.However, there is still a need to differentiate between great art, mediocre art and poor art and this is getting increasingly difficult.
Having spent 45 years as a professional sculptor and teacher in several London art schools and being a former head of two of them, I have worked with hundreds ofÂ students.I am still a visiting lecturer at several art colleges and was, until recently, an assessor for final year students.Which brings me to the Tesco roundabout sculpture.Almost all foundation year sculpture students explore wire sculpture as part of their first year experimental work. In other words, a line which can travel in three-dimensional space just as drawing explores two-dimensional space. While some of the work was innovative and dynamic, other work had very little merit.Wound wire is very much the material and technique of the contemporary jeweller and perfectly suited to a small scale. My feeling is that as soon as this is expanded to a large scale, it fails. Small sculptures can be monumental, huge sculptures can lack monumentality.
For example, Rodin’s magnificent figure of Nijinsky fills the gallery space but is only 8in tall.So far, Henley has two very mediocre sculptures, a mermaid who has nothing of a landed fish about her and a rather repetitive and ubiquitous leaping wire armature.When Harlow in Essex began its sculpture collection, Rodin’s Eve, an early Henry Moore family group, a Frink, a McWilliam, a Hepworth and a Ralph Brown were all placed in the town centre.
Henley has had great artists living here, John Piper and Donald Hamilton Fraser, and it should up its game if it wants important art to be represented in its beautiful little town.In conclusion, garden centres and art festivals tend to show rather trivial work, ornamental decorative pieces or those termed as “fun art” which do have a place, however I wish the term “sculpture” could be used with far more discernment.When gallery space is offered to artists encouraging zany sculpture, as was the case a few years back, Henley will be stocked with zany rather than real sculpture. I can assure you that there is a chasm of difference. — Yours faithfully,
Clive Duncan, FRBS RBA SPS
We are free to criticise
Sir, — In reply to Bridget Fraser, director of the Barn Galleries, concerning the various negative comments about the sculpture on the Tesco roundabout in (Standard, May 15), I would like to say that it is very kind of her to defend Rachel Ducker’s work.However, may I remind her that in this country we are very lucky to be free to have an opinion, so people are allowed to express positive or negative comments about a work of art? If people don’t appreciate someone’s work, it seems a bit harsh to decide that they are philistines.We should be grateful that we are free to express our feelings in a newspaper like the Henley Standard. If we can only express positive comments about artâ?¦ oh dear, how worrying. — Yours faithfully,
Stylish and distinctive
Sir, — The letters last week and the week before about the “monstrous” sculpture on the Reading Road roundabout have depressed me greatly. Have those people forgotten what that roundabout was like before it was reworked — an eyesore and in terrible condition with a rotting rowing boat?Now it’s stylish and distinctive, reflecting a progressive Henley. Some people wanted it to reflect the river and rowing. Goodness me, isn’t there enough already doing that? I don’t think outsiders are going to ever forget that connection.
What the Henley “brand” needs is much more association with other strengths and activities, both business and social, to show it is progressive and embraces the needs of people today and tomorrow. This will put the town even more on the “great place to live, work, set up a business” map.As an example, I was one of more than 50 local digital and creative people who recently attended a Digital Henley meeting to learn about each other’s skills and chat about ideas that can be taken forward. Some of these ideas could result in new projects, new start-ups and employment. These meetings will be held regularly to keep the momentum going. Nothing to do with rowing, nothing to do with the river but, my goodness, what talent and skills were in that meeting room. And all next to Reading, where world-class companies employ thousands of technology people.
So, back to “that” sculpture. In any creative and design project, you can’t hope to please everybody. To me it represents the creative and artistic side of Henley which is ripe for expanding. It’s a creative side which looks to the future while Henley’s heritage for rowing and the river will never be forgotten. Surely that’s a good combination to strengthen Henley’s reputation as a great place to live and work, especially for future generations. — Yours faithfully,
Founder, Incubator Ventures,
Don’t insult vulnerable
Sir, — I read Derek Hammond’s comments regarding two statues in Henley with sadness and concern.He asserts that statues resembling, in his opinion, “a pre-pubescent, overweight nymph” and an orgasmic “anorexic female” should be “drowned” or scrapped.As a mother and counsellor with personal experience of an eating disorder, I have experienced first-hand the misery and tragedy that can ensue when a young person (often female, but not always) becomes ill.
Such complex issues often develop in early puberty and may afflict the individual throughout his/her life.Sadly, that life is all too often cut short by the terrible ravages wrought on a fragile psyche and weakened body.The shame and stigma surrounding this condition can lead the sufferer to conceal their anguish, even from close family and friends, until it is too late.
What can society do to help? Demonstrate compassion and respect for the suffering of others; be willing to listen non-judgmentally; offer counselling and/or medical intervention as needed.The last thing we need is to insult these vulnerable members of our community by implying that their annihilation is a desirable outcome.
I wonder, therefore, if Mr Hammond may wish to reconsider his unfeeling comments on this human problem.Incidentally, I personally enjoy both statues for what they are — artistic expressions of beauty and joy made real through the female form. — Yours faithfully,
Psychotherapeutic counsellor BA (Hons), Ad Dip PC, MNCS (Acc),
Ancastle Green, Henley
I’ll be town art director...
Sir, — May I also comment on Rachel Ducker’s sculpture on the Reading Road roundabout as it seems to have prompted mixed opinions? It is certainly a superb piece of sculpture and I believe we should have lots more sculpture around the town.But, sorry, whether we like it or not, Henley is a global brand and therefore we should be promoting our heritage, the river and regatta.We have visitors from around the world and as a main entrance first impressions count so either ask Rachel to add a boat/rowing theme to it or reposition it. But it certainly should not be left there as is.
Perhaps we should consider appointing (a non-paid) art director and committee for the town. We could report and recommend tasteful ideas.Phyllis Court Club has the foundation group to do exactly this, for example, where there is the newly built grandstand (river terrace), a beautiful design, then as a focal point you see as an absolute afterthought a fag shed — talk about not thought about.Design is not difficult. It’s as easy to design something nice as something hideous so let’s be proud of our town and get a focus group to guide the town council accordingly.With my one O-level, I’m prepared to be part of this team. — Yours faithfully,
Problem is affordability
Sir, — I was intrigued to read Trevor Howell’s letter (Standard, May 8) stating his idealistic, if old-fashioned, opinion that everyone who works in and supports the town of Henley should live here.
I would hate to imagine how few police officers, nurses, teachers, barmen and baristas we would have in Henley if this were to be the requirement, given that house prices in Henley exceed average house prices in the UK by a significant margin. I look forward to Mr Howell supporting the only possible way to achieve his goal — to increase the supply of housing stock in the town so that all who work here could afford to live here.
Unless, of course, his comment was a cheap shot at those who hold a different opinion to his. — Yours faithfully,
Mr R J Rea (Spouse of Ms Catharine Darnton, headteacher of Gillotts School),
Not all want third bridge
Sir, — With reference to the article concerning gravel extraction at Sonning and the impact on local infrastructure (Standard, May 15), it is important to clarify that gravel lorries are prohibited from using Sonning bridge due to weight restrictions, apart from anything else.
Sonning Parish Council’s call for a third bridge is at odds with the views of seven of the nine parish councils within my electoral division.
They believe that a third bridge, far from alleviating traffic problems, will attract more cars and lorries on to Oxfordshire roads and make the situation on village roads and in Henley much worse. To best anticipate the true response to a new bridge, a traffic modelling study will be undertaken later this year. (It cannot commence at present due to the extensive roadworks in Reading that would skew the results.) Only when we have these results can informed decisions be made. — Yours faithfully,
New crossing is essential Sir, — I write with reference to your story headlined “Roads will be at breaking point without third bridge”.
The planned new housing will generate more cars. Anyone who tries to get to work or take the kids to school should be more concerned with the traffic queues.Anyone who lives in Henley should be more concerned with the air pollution and about the additional heavy lorries thundering past their shops and properties when the Lefarge lorries from Sonning Eye commence their 15-year programme of 44 lorries a day — to and from — every 11 minutes through either Caversham or Henley.
That’s in addition to the heavy lorries and traffic already going through.All those in favour of a third bridge stand up and be counted. What is your council doing about it? Ask them. — Yours faithfully,
kate park is great legacy
Sir, — We have visited the completed Sonning Common skate park a number of times since its completion and it is very evident that it is a major contribution to improving facilities for our young people.
The initial litter problem is now well under control and it is very encouraging to see how the skate park users, boys and girls, work together to ensure “fair turns” for all, agree to stop to brush dirt from the surface and offer helpful advice to those less accomplished.
The skate park encourages and builds social togetherness, as well as providing the opportunity for strenuous exercise.Its quiet location, surrounded by trees, introduces our young people to aspects of nature that they may not have experienced before.
The universal response from the youngsters we spoke to was that the skate park was “the best” and “fantastic” and this response was reinforced by the parents we met who applauded the fact that their children now had something active to do in their spare time.
As one young lad said to us, “I don’t have to hang around the shops anymore”.The construction of a mini-skate surface for younger children in the Lea Road play area will soon start and will provide early practice before graduation to the skate park at the sports ground.
The benefits of the skate park will be with us for many years. — Yours faithfully,
Douglas and Yvonne Kedge
Unacceptable waiting time
Sir, — Why should the GPs at our surgeries spend any time at all at Townlands Hospital? Today, Monday, May 18, I asked for a time slot for a standard consultation and was told the first available time was on June 1!
Twelve days later is totally unacceptable and this service needs to be improved. — Yours faithfully,
Belle Vue Road,
The Bell Surgery replies: “We apologise for the difficulty you had in booking your appointment today.
“We are always looking at ways to improve patient access to ensure that our patients receive the best possible care.
“We recognise, through patient feedback, that our appointment system needed to be addressed in accordance with the above concern. “We will therefore be introducing a new appointment system to reduce waiting times, increase the number of appointments we offer and improve access for patients.
“This will commence on June 8 and we will be informing our patients in due course.”
Surrounded by beauty
Sir, — London National Park? Here in Henley we have our own equivalent of a national park — the Thames corridor.
On Friday last, I left Hambleden marina and cruised upstream along the glorious Thames. Within seconds, I saw the blue flash of a kingfisher darting across my bows.
Approaching Henley, there was evidence of new life on the river banks and in the river. Several families of geese with chicks were in line, formation bobbing over the ripples of river water.
Passing through Marsh Lock, helped by Nigel the lock-keeper, I entered the broad stretch of water leading into Shiplake where I moored for the night on my port side facing up river. (A reminder for those who forget their ports from their starboards — “There is no port left in the bottle”.) Here, at around 8.30am on Saturday, I heard that elusive soundâ?¦ the cuckoo. Wow, such a rare event these days made it all the more a beautiful sound.We are so fortunate that the timeless natural beauty of the Thames and the wilderness which so often surrounds it is to be found within a short walk of our lovely town. — Yours faithfully,
In praise of care home
Sir, — As a regular visitor to the Chilterns End care home in Henley, I write in response to your article regarding the inspection by the Care Quality Commission (Standard, May 15).
Despite the positive comments made in the inspectors’ report, I feel your headline quoting them as saying residents were “not always safe” was rather harsh.
Such a negative headline has been unsettling for the residents and their families and friends.
In order to encourage independence in all walks of life, risk is always a factor, however small. I have unending praise for the caring, dedicated and hard-working staff. Each resident’s needs are adhered to in a dignified, sympathetic manner, providing a happy, homely environment.
To encourage participation within the community, an excellent coffee morning is held every Wednesday at 10am to which all are welcome. — Yours faithfully,
Mrs Sue Pegg
Ignore sour grapes, girls
Sir, — Well done to all the hard-working girls and everyone at Henley Rowing Club. Another set of great wins at the Bedford and Marlow spring regattas (Standard, May 15).
What a shame it was to read about the problems facing the club (Standard, May 1), especially at such an important time in the year for the girls.Considering the training and testing that is constantly going on and the desire by the club to win recognition, I find it hard to believe that it wouldn’t be always picking the best team. Also, if you have a winning team whoever heard of someone changing the formula or not picking their best? And, let’s face it, the girls are a winning team, not just for Henley Rowing Club but for England and Great Britain.
Clearly the culprit isn’t crediting us all with any intelligence and to load this on the girls now, in mid-season, it’s almost like the person or persons involved is trying to sabotage what they can’t have for themselves.It sounds like one of the unsuccessful, less skilful princesses is having a tantrum. It’s easy, put up or shut up, or even better, go somewhere else and leave our successful girls alone. Keep calm and carry on, girls, for Henley, for GB and for England! — Yours Â faithfully,
Formerly of Henley, now living in Australia
Encounters with BB King
Sir, — So BB King has gone to blues heaven.I recall three encounters with him, starting in 1965 with the purchase of Live At The Regal and its explosive rendition of How Blue Can You Get? — “I let you live in my penthouse, you said it was just a shack, I gave you seven children and now you want to give ‘em back”.
Then in 1985 I was instrumental in dialling him into the Live Aid concert from the North Sea Jazz Festival for one song in the broadcast feed.
Some 10 years later I found myself staying in the next room to his, poolside at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, Los Angeles.
BB was playing his club at Universal in Burbank. His personalised tour bus was in the lot out back.
We met at the ice machine at the end of the corridor at about 1am, each with our plastic hotel ice buckets in hand.
As I arrived back after breakfast, he was leaving his room to board the bus. As his neighbour, I felt entitled to pass the time, again.
I told him that I was disappointed that he no longer rehearsed in his hotel room. There had been no guitar playing heard through the wall on my side all night. He confirmed that he was way past that stage in his career. Some two years later I added to the list of close encounters. I was in Manhattan and he was playing his club on 42nd Street. The show was long sold out.I went down there in sub-zero conditions and approached the doorman. He told me to stand some 10ft away until everyone was in.
Twenty freezing minutes later he called me forward and took 40 dollars from me, instructing me to stand at the bar, buy a beer and not to take a seat under any circumstances. As if I would want to sit down.
That night BB King again demonstrated that he was the blues guitarist of his era. But more than that, and not so often recognised as such, he was an even better singer, without doubt the best blues singer that I have seen — and I have worked with a few of them and seen a few more.Okay, Muddy Waters was an equal vocal talent, I admit. I guess that Muddy didn’t need to rehearse in his hotel room either. — Yours faithfully,
St Mark’s Road,
I have those old films
Sir, — I think I may be able to give your correspondent Miss Mary Burge the correct information she is looking for about the films of the VE and VJ parades in (Standard, May 15).
The 16mm colour films of the parades and celebrations were taken by Reginald Machin, the veterinary surgeon who lived with his mother at 53/55 Bell Street, Henley.
I worked for him during this period as his assistant and took part in some of the filming. We gave numerous film shows after the war to many local organisations, including the welcome home parties at the town hall for the returning prisoners of war.
Mr Machin died in March 1957 and left all his films to me and I have, from time to time, been asked to show them. In more recent times I have shown them at various schools in the area.
I have the original films, which are still in remarkable condition, and I show them on an old projector.
I have allowed the Imperial War Museum and the Henley River & Rowing Museum to make copies of them and extracts of them are quite often used in various TV programmes. — Yours faithfully,
Kidmore End Road,
Come and join the party
Sir, — Strangely enough, it’s around this time of year that many of the more elderly residents of the town begin to feel a little left out.The regatta and the festival are all well and good but if you have a little difficulty with mobility or transport these things can leave you behind.Everyone else seems to be having a good time but if you are not up to the hustle and bustle of the social scene you can begin to feel isolated and forgotten.So if you are reading this and know anyone in the local community who needs a little fillip, or if you are over 65 and fancy a convivial afternoon of conversation and reminiscence with friends, the Henley Business Partnership and Home Instead are once again staging their Queen’s official birthday tea party at the d:two centre in the Market Place on Sunday, June 14, from 3pm to 5pm.It’s free, open to all over 65 and is really just an excuse to get together for a chat, see some faces you haven’t seen since the Mayor’s Christmas party, enjoy an excellent tea (and, if you fancy, a glass of wine) while being entertained in vintage style by Kitty Mazinsky and joining in with our very own “Last Night of the Proms” at the end.
Last year went down very well with more than 100 attendees. Mayor Martin Akehurst said a few words and we hope to have similar support from our new mayor this year.To book a place, please call Gail Lewis at the Henley Business Partnership on 01628 638416 or email gail.lewis@thehenleypartnerÂ ship.co.uk We have limited transport available for those who need it on a first come first served basis.
Thanks must also go to the sponsors, Home Instead, Time Finders, Orchard House and Signature Cliveden Manor who are generously funding the event. — Yours faithfully,
Paul Westgarth Director,
Home Instead Senior Care
Thank you for support
Sir, — A huge thank-you to all our supporters in Henley who voted for Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service to win a £5,000 donation in the Nationwide Building Society’s Big Local Vote.
We are delighted to share the good news that, thanks to you, we won with 85 per cent of the vote.
Our charity, Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice Service, is already funding the Alexander’s care team, delivering respite, palliative and end-of-life care to more than 60 children in their own homes. We will be able to provide so much more when our children’s hospice is built, just off the A404M.We would love to share our story with you, so please invite us to your school, club, meeting or event to see for yourself the plans for the hospice and hear first-hand the difference it will make to families in our community. Please call 0845 055 8276 or email firstname.lastname@example.org — Yours faithfully,
Director of fund-raising and communications,
Alexander Devine Children’s Hospice
Service Grateful for backing
Sir, — The concert in St Mary’s Church in Henley on Saturday, May 9, which featured the London Welsh Male Voice Choir, the virtuoso pianist Anita D’Attellis and photographs from conflict zones by her award-winning husband John Downing, raised about £5,000 for the Chiltern Centre for disabled children.
On behalf of the charity, I would like to express our gratitude to the Henley Standard for its pre-concert feature which helped ensure a capacity audience on the night and to thank all the local businesses who contributed to the raffle and programme advertising as well as our principle sponsor for the event, Factor 21.
Finally, our thanks to the general public for their generous support. — Yours faithfully,
Chairman of trustees, Chiltern Centre for disabled children,
Successful health fair
Sir, — On behalf of the whole team at Mill Stream Surgery in Benson, may I express my wholehearted thanks and appreciation for the tremendous work undertaken by our patient panel in organising and promoting the recent Benson Community Health Fair.
It was a resounding success to bring together so many NHS and voluntary organisations in one place and to plan such an engaging and varied programme.The fair really did draw the whole community together and promote healthy living. — Yours faithfully,
Dr Stephen Harper
Mill Stream Surgery,
Soft drink and crisps
Sir, — I enjoyed your Hidden Henley item about the seats outside the Flowing Spring pub (Standard, April 24) as it jogged my memory.
As a child in the Fifties, I spent many an hour sitting on the seats outside the pub with a soft drink and eating from a packet of Smith’s crisps, with or without the little blue bag of salt, while my father had a pint with friends inside.
I could watch the hares boxing on the hillside across the road from the pub and listen to the long lost lapwings’ distinctive peewit call. On hot summer days we children would drink the very cold water from the nearby freshwater spring and fish in the stream close by. Thank you for reminding me. — Yours faithfully,
Keeping wolf from door...
Sir, — Let me tell you a fairy tale. It’s a bit Grimm, so hold on to your hatsâ?¦Has anyone else noticed the wolf stalking our town? It arrived within a cheap flash of tinsel and teeth and then disappeared, almost as suddenly as it appeared.The townsfolk who had seen it gave a big sigh of relief. However, a couple of months later the wolf was back, this time wearing a wedding dress. “Oh,” said the townsfolk, “a wedding shop, what a strange time of year for this.”
The wolf slunk away, its tail between its legs.
A month passed and the townsfolk, feeling it was safe, began to venture back into the centre of town once more and spend money in their beloved local, independent shops again.However, the wolf soon popped back up, but this time he was in disguise. “Oh my, what big teeth you have,” said one of the townsfolk, her voice quivering. Hearing the frightened cries of her voters, the Lady Mayor, her red cloak flapping around her ankles, ran down the steps of the town hall, followed by her handsome huntsman and shooed the wolf away.
“Be gone foul beast and leave my independents alone!” she commanded.The handsome huntsman raised his axeâ?¦The EndIt would be interesting to know how our independent shops feel about this tale. — Yours faithfully,
Blight of the A-boards
Sir, — Allegedly the new Henley Mayor has ordered the removal of the deformed carrot sculpture from the Tesco roundabout. It is to be replaced by a giant A-board. This better reflects the blight of Henley’s town centre. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — The gardens at Greys Court are beautiful at the moment.
There is a wisteria, which I believe is more than 100 years old, in bloom together with this fabulous clematis montana.
The bluebells in the woods are just finishing but still lovely — and all just a few minutes for the centre of Henley.
People travel miles to see these beautiful gardens but they are right on our doorstep. How lucky we are! — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — I hope you like this photograph of our labradoodle Bisto posing in the bluebells in Swyncombe Woods, near Cookley Green. — Yours faithfully,
Sir, — This photograph was taken at 7.25am on Tuesday last week looking east from Maidensgrove.
It’s like celestial noughts and crosses and this is the grid laid out before play. Wouldn’t you think these pilots could find something better to do?! — Yours faithfully,