Monday, March 21, 2011

The Rag Factory Apricot Gallery

I went to Brick Lane today, an area of London known for it's abundant selection of curry restaurants. The last time I'd come, which was also my first time, was over a year ago when I was in London on my 'toe dipping' adventure. It was already dark then and outside all the restaurants were employees, scooping people off the streets with tantalising descriptions of why their restaurant was the best on the very long lane.

Today I emerged from the tube at almost half four. The sun was warm and glorious all day but had retreated behind clouds. Still, the sky was lit up white and stark and the many choices for dining lay dormant, awaiting six pm, when most people would begin to leave their offices and wander in this direction for a curry and a beer.

I made my way along the bricked road, enjoying the feeling of old stone beneath my sneaker clad feet. I'd worn my rainbow shoes - a bit of my art to be worn for inspiration in light of my task.

Last week my search for a gallery came to an end. This trip today was the final step but my mind was already made up. As soon as I read the description and saw the price, as soon as a quick response came back to my few queries, I knew that I had found exactly what I was seeking.

Located just off of Brick Lane, only a short five minute walk from the Aldgate East Tube station, is The Rag Factory. This collection of galleries has a long history of being artist studios, belonging to the likes of Tracey Emin. In it's current incarnation it has been broken up into rehearsal space for theatre groups and art galleries for less financially able artists. It's central but affordable. I know I'd be hard pressed to find a Londoner who'd not heard of Brick Lane. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the lane is famous enough the world over to be recognisable in most countries.

I stepped past the iron gate of the Rag Factory into an enclosed courtyard with an open roof. A scruffy looking bloke sat on a bench, cigarette in hand. His fingernails were rough and cracked, as were his vintage leather boots. A thick mass of wild and woolly hair framed his face from the top of his head to the tip of his chin. I introduced myself, said I was there to meet someone and get a tour of a gallery space.

His eyes sparkled as he spoke, his voice full and rich. He spoke as only a master of the stage can, his words dramatised in their own wonderful way, "Ah, then you'd be here to see me."

The woman who arranged the meeting, with whom I had been emailing, was his sister. She lives in the Lake District and only occasionally comes to the Rag Factory. This is Silas's project, his baby, and he showed me to the Apricot Gallery with a sense of pride.

I let him know my mind was as good as made up. We discussed some of the technical aspects, the set-up, opportunities for marketing, that sort of thing. Then we went back out to the courtyard where one of his colleagues was taking a quick smoke break. Together the three of us had a nice natter about nothing of any particular import, enjoying the simple relaxation of a conversation amongst creatives and amateur philosophers. Eventually I bid them both farewell, thanking Silas and shaking his hand. I put great importance in a handshake, and his was firm, solid and confident.

I've just now sent off the email confirming that I will take the space for a gallery showing (Date to be announced) and now I must plot and plan and prepare. Now I must begin the real work, because all I have right now is a room full of potential.

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