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   Inside Out - South East: Monday January 30, 2006

Artists of the South East

Kaddy and the three artists
The next big thing - Kaddy with three young artists

We've all heard of Damien Hirst's formaldehyde cow and Tracey Emin's unmade bed, but which new artists will have us talking about their defining pieces for the next generation?

Inside Out meets three aspiring artists as they enter a unique competition to find out who will be the next big thing.

New generation

Like many areas, the South East is full of wannabe artists who dream of making it big.

Inside Out meets Mark Canning, an art dealer and gallery owner who has been called the Charles Saatchi of the South East.

He's about to be the judge in a competition which will decide which of three promising artists will get to display their work in a prestigious Kent gallery alongside some of the country's best artists.

These three budding artists have been picked from relative obscurity for the opportunity to convince Mark they have what it takes.

It could be their lucky break, but first they have to compete against each other for Mark's undivided attention.

Mark's got three specific criteria in mind when it comes to making his decision. He says:

"It's got to have energy, it's got to be alive, and only the best will do."

Chainsaws and cars

First up is Ross Lockhart, whose tool of choice is rather unusual - a chainsaw.

Ross is probably Britain's youngest professional wood turner, having taken up the craft three years ago.

He now works from a small workshop in Tunbridge Wells where he creates decorative pots and bowls to sell at farmers markets.

Ross Lockhart welding
Kaddy watches art being welded by Ross Lockhart

His work commands intense concentration and skill, but unless he can bring his work to a wider audience, he'll have to keep working at a local pub to make ends meet.

Even more unusual than the chainsaw is a car as an artistic tool.

This is exactly what Nicholette Goff, who lives in Staplehurst in Kent, uses to create her work.

Anyone driving past as Nicholette is working might think she's just driving back and forth over an old rug, but it's what's underneath that counts.

When she's satisfied her secret ingredients have been pulverised enough, Nicholette gets out of the car to examine her work - an imprint of squashed apples, leaves and twigs, which, when dried, can be framed and hung as a work of art.

While her work is certainly popular with the locals, some of whom have attended her workshops on how to have a go at home as a form of therapy, Nicholette's hoping to boost her reputation by exhibiting her work on a professional platform.

Journey of exploration

Our final candidate is Grant Foster from Sussex, who prefers the paintbrush as a more traditional method of creating art.

Artist Grant Foster
Grant Foster - bidding for the top of the artistic tree

Grant studied art at Brighton University and he's invited us into his studio to see exactly how he paints.

The inspiration for his current work is an image from a magazine, but if he's not happy with how he thinks the piece is working out, he just starts again.

From an initial idea or image, Grant takes his paintings on a journey of exploration, not even knowing how they'll end up or what they'll mean.

Judges' verdict

As the three finalists come to submit their work it's decision time for Mark, who has to choose between Ross's ornamental bowls, Nicholette's embossed flower print or Grant's etchings.

Winning painting
An instant modern classic - Grant Foster's art work

After much deliberation the winner is finally announced.

So who is officially, 'The Next Big Thing'?

The title goes to Grant Foster, whose work will now be displayed along award-winning artists at The Fairfax Gallery in Tunbridge Wells.

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Sussex follies and Mad Jack

Mad Jack Fuller c/o National Portrait gallery
Mad Jack - true British eccentric
© National Portrait Gallery, London

Inside Out looks at some unusual features on the Sussex landscape, and asks if their creator John Fuller was mad or just slightly eccentric?

A pyramid isn't what you'd normally expect to see in an English graveyard.

But this pyramid isn't in Egypt - it's in Brightling, East Sussex.

It's not the tomb of an Egyptian pharaoh, it's the tomb of a Georgian squire - Mad Jack Fuller.

The real Mad Jack

So who was the real Jack Fuller?

Born John Fuller in 1757, Mad Jack was MP for Lewes and incredibly rich.

He got his nickname from the way he spent his money, trying to make sure he was remembered.

Today he is remembered, as 'Mad' Jack.

But how mad was he? To find out, Inside Out has assembled a team of experts:

  • Keith Leech - member of Mad Jack's Morris Dancers.

  • Celia Caulkin - leads walks around Mad Jack's follies.

  • Geoff Hutchinson - he's written a book about Mad Jack.

Sugar Loaf

So was Mad Jack actually mad? Let's look at the evidence!

Keith Leech says that Mad Jack was a very keen gambler.

Keith Leech and Sugar Loaf
Keith Leech stands by Mad Jack's Sugar Loaf

He had a bet that he could see Dallington Church spire from his house. When he got home, he discovered that he couldn't.

Rather than losing the bet, he built the Sugar Loaf.

In Mad Jack's day days sugar used to come in conical shaped containers, hence the nickname.

The important thing about the folly was what it looked like from Jack's house, a mile or so away.

From the horizon, the Sugar Loaf looks like the spire of a church.

It must have cost Jack a small fortune, much more than he would have won on the bet.

Conservationist

Bodiam Castle is an East Sussex landmark, one of the most beautiful castles in the world.

But in Mad Jack's day the castle was in a terrible state, and it was on the verge of being demolished.

The castle's owner was Sir Godfrey Webster. Unlike Fuller he wasn't a rich man.

Bodiam Castle
Bodiam - the castle that Mad Jack saved

Sir Godfrey simply didn't have the money to maintain the castle.

The damage that had been done to it in the civil war had never been repaired, and the whole building was gradually falling into ruin.

So Sir Godfrey decided to auction the castle.

A group of builders from Hastings builders were the favourites to buy it, and demolish it to use the stone from the castle to repair local roads.

The builders would have got away with it too if it hadn't been for Jack Fuller.

Documents show that Jack stepped in and bought the castle, for £3,000, and saved it from the demolition team.

"Whenever I visit Bodiam Castle I always tip my hat to Mad Jack. Subsequent owners of the castle did a huge amount to restore it to the wonderful attraction it is today.

But if it hadn't been for Jack Fuller there wouldn't have been a castle here at all." Geoff Hutchinson.

Tower of dreams

Another of Jack's magical projects was a strange tower which looks like something from a magical kingdom.

The Tower
Mad Jack's magical tower in the middle of a field

Nobody knows exactly why Mad Jack built his tower surrounded by trees in the middle of a field.

Celia Caulkin says that some people say he built it so he could signal to Bodiam Castle.

But in reality you can't even see Bodiam from here.

Maybe he just built if for a bit of fun?

Job creator

Another surviving example of Jack's buildings is a wall extending right the way round Fuller's estate at Brightling Park.

Mad Jack had it built around 1816. The wall is six feet high and it extends for four miles.

Today the wall looks a bit excessive but there was a good ulterior motive for it.

Following the Napoleonic wars there was no employment. So Fuller built a wall around the estate to provide much needed employment at a critical time.

"This was an act of philanthropy, not insanity," says Geoff Hutchinson.

There was clearly method in Jack's act of madness.

The Obelisk

One of Mad Jacks' more bizarre creations is The Obelisk, an impressive folly with no apparent reason behind it.

"Whenever I bring people here, they always ask, why did Fuller build this?", says Celia Caulkin.

"It does look like it's been put up for a reason doesn't it? But it has no inscription on it and Fuller left no explanation for why it was built here."

This is the frustrating thing about Fuller. Just when you've decided he was mad, he does something sane.

And just when you think he's a rational, sensible man, he goes and builds a 65 foot tall needle with no point.

Life saver

In the early 1800's the stretch of coast near Eastbourne was notorious for shipwrecks

In February 1822, Jack Fuller looked out to sea and to his horror he saw a vast 1,500 ton ship which had run aground.

On that day he decided that what this place needed was a lighthouse so Jack built the Belle Toute.

Sadly his wooden lighthouse no longer exists. The second Belle Toute we see today was built on the same location, close to the cliff edge.

The lighthouse was just one example of Jack Fuller's desire to share his wealth and do something to help others.

But despite the good intentions his lighthouse didn't work very well. Up on the cliff top, it couldn't be seen by ships in the mist.

So we've seen the evidence, now we need a verdict. Mad or not mad? What does our panel of experts think?

"Mad. Definitely mad. I don't think we could call ourselves Mildly Eccentric Jack's Morris." Keith Leech.

"Oh no. Not mad. A colourful, fascinating, eccentric."
Celia Caulkin.

"Child of the times. A typical Georgian squire. Larger than life, very generous, very eccentric. And totally sane." Geoff Hutchinson.

So our panel has decided by two to one, that Mad Jack was actually sane. But perhaps he wouldn't mind what we call him, as long as we remember him.
.
He'd probably he'd just be very pleased, lying there under that pyramid, to know that more than 170 years after his death, people are still making a song and dance about him.

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The couple who loved dogs too much...

Stray dog
Helping abandoned dogs - a tough challenge in Greece

Maureen Samaras lives in Bournemouth, but her whole life has been turned upside down by her efforts to help stray dogs in Greece.

Her sanctuary has recently been criticised on Greek television.

Inside Out tells her story.

When Maureen moved with her Greek husband Jimmy to Thessaloniki, nearly 40 years ago, she had no idea her life would be dictated by dogs - thousands of them.

The couple were both physiotherapists, running their own private sports centre.

Eventually, they had three sons, and acquired some dogs as family pets.

Then people began abandoning dogs outside their door.

"If they see you have dogs, they'll leave you the ones they don't want any longer," says Maureen.

She and Jimmy never turned an animal away.

Helping stray dogs

There is no real animal welfare structure yet in Greece, as there is in the UK with its long established animal charities and shelters.

The problem for Maureen and Jimmy was exacerbated by the Greek reluctance to neuter their pets, and lack of money so to do.

And Maureen says she found other Greek attitudes hard:

"They'll buy a puppy for the children at the beginning of the long summer holidays - then when the children go back to school, and the puppy's bigger, out it goes."

It's a seasonal variation of the British tradition of buying a puppy for Christmas - but without national dog homes to take them in.

When the Samaras family moved to a big modern house on the outskirts of Salonica, the number of dogs grew.

"The police started asking Jimmy to collect dogs - from road traffic accidents, or dangerous dogs, or dogs that were being a nuisance … looking after one dog is easy, two dogs okay - when it's 350, you just cope."

The couple also made room for horses, ponies, goats and donkeys.

Most had several things in common -they had been badly treated or abandoned, and they were sick.

Looking after them all over decades cost the couple dearly, says Maureen:

"First you lose your jobs, because you only have time for the animals. Then, with the food and the medication, you lose your house. Our house is now owned by the bank."

Animals well enough to leave were rehomed.

Foreign animal charities and some newer shelters in Greece took large numbers.

Greek house with dogs
Too much to cope with - the villa with its dogs

Maureen and Jimmy were left with the chronically sick: the reason, Maureen says, why their shelter seems so open to criticism.

On top of which, neither Maureen or Jimmy believe in euthanasia.

"You can treat them, use tranquillisers, care for them - but euthanasia? Only God has the right to do this." says Jimmy.

This goes against the thinking of the majority of animal charities that visited them, including the RSPCA, and certainly did not make life easier for the couple or for the dogs.

Family troubles

Maureen fell desperately ill and returned to Bournemouth two years ago, leaving Jimmy to cope on his own.

Family concerns - her mother too was ill - kept her in England.

Inside Out went back with Maureen on a flying visit to check on the dogs, Jimmy and the house.

Maureen was devastated. "It's terrible, Jimmy, why?" she asked.

At 74, Jimmy appeared to have lost control.

There were perhaps only 100 dogs left at the shelter, but they had free run of the house - and the mess was incredible.

The dogs were fed, and Maureen said that bar one or two, they seemed to be healthy.

Vets were due soon to check them out. But Jimmy himself felt desperate.

Greek tragedy

European charities had offered to sort out the sanctuary, deal with the current dogs and let Jimmy leave.

Maureen
Maureen Samaras - worried about the future

He obviously longs to have a better life than living in the one room of the house he has to himself.

"I want to die with dignity, with my family in England," he says.

But it's not enough for him to have the existing dogs removed.

He says he won't leave until someone takes over his unofficial job, collecting unwanted dogs from all over northern Greece - and that is not likely to happen soon.

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