De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, Re-Opens After £8m Refurbishment

By Caroline Lewis | 14 October 2005
Shows a photo of the view from the south terrace of the building, looking out to the sea past a round wing of the building.

View from De La Warr Pavilion, south terrace. © Bridget Smith

The De La Warr Pavilion (DLWP) in Bexhill on Sea opens to the public at 12 noon on October 15 2005 following an £8 million refurbishment. The weekend will see an extravaganza of performances inside and out, and the inaugural exhibition, Variety, continues on the theme of entertainment until January 2, 2006.

The DLWP was built in 1935, the first public building in the Modernist style (a functional design based on concrete and steel) making it one of the most talked about buildings of the time. 70 years later, the Grade I listed arts centre has undergone a thorough 20-month makeover, funded generously by Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery Fund, that brings it right back into the public eye.

“The re-opening of the De La Warr Pavilion marks the beginning of a significant new chapter both in its history and its future,” said Alan Haydon, director of the DLWP. “We wholeheartedly welcome everyone to visit and to experience this amazing transformation and we are indebted to all the organisations and individuals who have made this possible.”

Visitors will enter into a redeveloped foyer that is light and spacious, and explore exhibitions in a state-of-the-art gallery space that includes a seminar room.

Shows a photo of the light interior of the building, with wooden flooring and a sweeping staircase.

De La Warr Pavilion, interior, south staircase. © Bridget Smith

The whitewashed, Modernist style goes hand in hand with sunshine, so it is fitting that the original open-air sun terrace has been restored. For the first time in years, you will now be able to take the stairs from there to the roof terrace – the perfect place to take in the stunning coastal panorama of East Sussex. For rainy days, the view’s better enjoyed with a cup of tea in the sparkling new café/restaurant.

There’s also a new shop full of art books and souvenirs, and a new North Pavilion, for community use.

“My fellow Trustees join me in celebrating the re-opening of the Pavilion,” said Dr Richard Sykes, Chair of the De La Warr Pavilion Trust. “This weekend’s events mark a key milestone in the major refurbishment project that Alan Haydon and his team are working so successfully to deliver.”

“Bexhill regains its gloriously renewed landmark,” he continued, “that is now set to play its full creative role as a major cultural destination and as a valuable resource for arts and education, both locally and in the south of England.”

Shows a photo of part of the whitewashed building against a blue sky.

De La Warr Pavilion, south side. © Bridget Smith

The weekend celebrations will include a grand specially-commissioned choral epic entitled Sea Tongue. The piece, by Orlando Gough and Richard Chew, involves 300 local singers, four grand pianos, 30 ballroom dancers, one percussionist and professional choir The Shout. The performance will happen at 7pm on Saturday and 3pm and 7pm on Sunday (tickets are £5).

The inaugural exhibition programme, Variety, references the venue’s past as a seaside centre for entertainments, and examines its future as a centre for contemporary arts in the 21st century. Pantomime, slapstick, burlesque, illusion, song and dance and spectacle – the traditional elements of variety – all feature in the art, which is spread over the whole building in different media, by many artists.

Variety applies to the range of artists whose work makes up the show, too – Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, Bruce Nauman and Jeremy Deller are just a handful of the names exhibiting. Jo Bruton takes on burlesque spectacle with her 84ft painting Capitaine Can-Can; while Matthew Miller creates Shadow Theatre, a sculptural installation that explores the landscape of fear by drawing on the tradition of stage illusion.

“The restoration and transformation of the De La Warr will create a people’s palace for the 21st century,” said Felicity Harvest, Executive Director of Arts Council England, “building on the vision of its original creators. We are proud to have been associated with this project over the past 10 years, as investors, advisors and advocates.”

To really get to know the Pavilion, you can book a tour for £3. They take place twice a month: October 18, November 13 (sign-interpreted) and 22 at 2pm; December 11 and 20 at 12 noon. Call 01424 787949.

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