Who are you? Graham Ward; painter, writer, archivist and bookseller; currently operator of the Festival Café in Oscar Road, Broadstairs.
Why Margate? In all honesty, when I made the decision to move out of London. Margate would have been my very last choice of a place to settle. I made the move to take up a job that promised much but delivered nothing, and I was therefore compelled to think fast, hence the café – and initially it was a cottage in St Peters village that I renovated before a series of events rather unwittingly led me to look to Margate. Despite the privations, of which there is still much to address, Margate is a place of contrast but with a really palpable new energy, due to a new influx of folk with passion and commitment to see the town’s fortunes rise again. As always, it is the eye and brain of the Incomer that truly affects change in a place that has somehow been overlooked and uncared for. This was also a kind of unconscious ancestral return of sorts; my mother’s people were Kentish from Folkestone. Oh – and the sunsets over Margate Sands are out of this world. It is sufficient simply to stand and marvel at them.
How do you define style? Orson Welles plea to ‘Create your own visual style.. let it be unique for yourself and yet identifiable for others’ would seem a fitting maxim for the purpose. Style is often unquantifiable; put simply, it may be an innate ability to put objects together and create interiors with ease and instincti. One thing is clear; style is not concerned or connected with wealth or social status; it cannot be bought or bargained for- and you either have it or you don’t. Coco Chanel opined that ‘Fashion fades- only Style remains the same; whilst on the subject of what becomes one’s overriding pre-occuption by accident or design, this from Quentin Crisp: It’s no good running a pig farm badly for 30 years while saying, ‘Really, I was meant to be a ballet dancer.’ By then, pigs will be your style…’
If you were an animal, what would you be? A giraffe.
Best and worst thing about your move to Margate? That I was able to be away from the problems that had made the St Peters house difficult to remain in; that I have still been able to maintain the café in Broadstairs without too much travelling; that there is a sense of an artistic and creative community here which is slowly beginning to imprint itself on the town – and that I begin to feel very much part of this community. That the High – Speed link from Margate has made a day in London – or further afield – an easy prospect – which also of course allows the friends one leaves behind, the ease of also getting here to visit. I can’t truly think of a ‘worse-thing’ scenario- unless maybe it is the cavalier attitude of Margate’s dog-owners who seem to think that cleaning up after their animals is someone else’s problem.
Best and Worst thing about your renovation experience? The house was a repossession – and fairly hard-won. The best thing was that those parts I have been able to renovate in the time since I have moved in required only a cosmetic makeover. The worst aspect is probably the contemplation of just how much in need of serious attention the roof might require, and how much it is likely to cost me! That and an antiquated heating system that feels as though it were put together by Heath Robinson and which functions on a proverbial wing and prayer.
Object of desire for your home? An original painting by William Nicholson, or a classic footed bowl by Lucie Rie please…oh, and more decorative pieces by Oriel Harwood. Failing any of the above, the Isenheim Altarpiece– or more prosaically- a new boiler…!
If you could change one thing about your house what would it be? Only one thing?! Primarily I would tear down the existing excuse for a kitchen with my bare hands and replace it with the one in a picture torn out of ‘The Weekender’ magazine from a year or so back, and which I keep stuck to the walls as a reminder of my intentions! That, and getting shut of the awful Artex on the stairwell ceilings: I loathe it with a pathology bordering on hatred!
Who are your heroes? Eric Ravilious, Scott Walker, Joan of Arc, Montgomery Clift, William Nicholson, Derek Jarman, David Bowie, Paul Bowles, Irving Penn, my late father, Spencer Horne and Craig Sheppard, Michael Carlo, David Kirkup, Lawrence Mynott, Pier Paolo Passolini, Lindsay Kemp…
What inspires you? Individuals who have the courage and commitment to see past the problems that might otherwise impede them from realizing and living their dreams. In Margate it is Kiel and Stuart at Fontaine, in Broadstairs, Suzie Ball at Belle Epoque. The possibility of what you might be personally capable can also inspire if the resource and resolve is strong enough. Music is crucial to me; I cannot go a day without it. My yet-to-flourish ‘spare’ room bears worrisome testimony to my passion for books- possibly the greatest source of inspiration to me. (I was a bookseller and librarian for a number of years in London. Great photographs inspire me. Good friends are a constant inspiration and support to me.
Most recent item purchased for your home? A beautiful blue Eastern European wall cupboard from Andrew at Paraphernalia in York Street. It was originally intended for the café, but once it came into the house, it had to remain! It has formed a sort of ad-hoc Wunderkammer of photographs, puppets and small objects that were put together from my storage boxes, and it has given a new energy to a hitherto rather-overlooked corner of the basement room.
What do you collect? My hankering after possessions has perhaps gratifyingly waned these past few years, but in the main, my interests have been books, toys, natural objects such as fossils and skulls, ceramics and cabinets. An object that continues to give pleasure on a daily basis is a thing of worth to me. I do often worry about how possessions have the ability to anchor one to the earth: I wish I had a greater ability to move things on without sentiment or regret, but it is incredibly hard when one’s life has been spent effectively ‘set-dressing’ or ‘altar-building’ with objects that please the eye and gladden the heart for more than just a moment in time.
If you were given three wishes, what would they be? That I could be in a position to help myself and those I love financially without undue restraint, and to bring creative projects to fruition; to have a house in Northern Spain on or near the pilgrim route to Santiago so that I could walk it at any given time and go home afterwards to sit peacefully in a place one loved to be. The ability to travel back in time to relive the times when I was most happy.
What couldn’t you live without? Love, my friends, my cat, Black and White hairdressing pomade and a decently made Bloody Mary…!
Describe your perfect day. If we are talking Thanet- a walk along the beach with friends to Ramsgate and on to Pegwell, stopping at Sam’s Bar at Dumpton Gap for a garlic prawns; a trolley-dash at Breuer and Dawson in York Street- five minutes should be sufficient; a drive to Deal for lunch at the Black Douglas. A visit to the animals at Powell-Cotton Museum then a movie at the Carlton in Westgate and tea at Fredericks; a walk back along the sea wall to Margate, supper at Giorgios followed by a night-cap at the Lifeboat.
Best advice you’ve been given? ‘Make a decision and stick to it’.
What are your goals for the following year? Quite simply to be given the energy and wherewithal to keep moving forward.. Of imperative also, is the return in some fashion to my studio work, which has been ignored for the best part of three years. I have produced little or nothing by way of new paintings, and I need the energy and ability to somehow re-focus my energies in that direction. I also intend to complete my manuscript on the Camino de Santiago, which I have been attempting to do for the past five or so years. At my most jaundiced, I feel that all we sometimes do is add to the weight of words and images already cluttering the world, but when I allow myself a degree of creative optimism, recognize an ability that feels presently unfocused but which needs to be re-kindled.
What building would you like to be locked in overnight? Sainte – Chapelle on the Ile de la Cite in Paris. It was built by Louis IX some time after 1240 and consecrated in 1248. Considered to be the pinnacle of the High Gothic architectural period, it was constructed chiefly to house what was believed to be the Crown of Thorns worn by Christ at his crucifixion, in addition to several other supposed relics from the life of Christ. The most famous feature of the building is its’ stained glass, amongst the finest in the world, which dominates the upper interior of the building. Primarily, the windows of the eastern apse illustrate scenes form the New Testament, and feature elements of the Passion and, most notably, there is a narrative depiction of the arrival of Louis’ relics to the Chapel, including the Crown of Thorns between two bearers. It is quite simply one of the most breathtaking experiences to be inside the chapel when the sun is shining, it’s sheer scale and degree of intricacy overwhelming the senses. I would like to wake up as the dawn broke over the city, and to experience the growing light through the windows as it reaches its full power.
ROUND-UP: Grahams Grade II listed home comes with the worry expected of a property of a certain age, but the other side of the coin is the character, history and charm that only come’s with a period home. Graham has created the most beautiful and dramatic of environments in which to live. The dark and rich interiors compliment the “Altar-like” collections and as you wind your way around the building, a drama unfolds provoking intrigue at every turn.
Visit Graham at Oscars Festival Cafe, 15 Oscar Road, Broadstairs.
RECOMENDATIONS: Garlic prawns at Sams Beach Cafe, Dumpton Gap, Broadstairs.
GRAHAMS COLLECTIONS: The photograph in the top montage is of Graham Ward at The Wildgoose Memorial Library © Jane Wildgoose www.janewildgoose.co.uk
The ceramic heads in the living room and on the downstairs console are by Oriel Harwood www.orielharwood.co.uk
The painting of the tattooed acrobat is by Pavel Tchelitchew. (it was photocopied onto canvas from a book) You can read more about the painting on Graham’s blog – www.grahamward.blogspot.com
To take part in the Curio contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
All images ©Jo Willis