Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Bermondsey Review: Southwark Park - 150 Years at CGP Gallery Cafe, Southwark Park SE16

"Well mate, back then you wouldn’t go near it, in it, through it or ‘round it!"  It’s fair to say that twenty or more years ago, Southwark Park was an unloved, derelict waste ground; tolerated by yobs and avoided like the bubonic plague by families and anyone who valued their own life.  Gone were the Victorian glory days of Sunday afternoon strolls by the lake and carefree concerts at the bandstand.  Southwark Park was dying a lingering death.  Until that is, the arrival of a saviour: the Friends of Southwark Park.

© Bermondsey Beach 2014
This year, the park is celebrating the 150th anniversary of the passing of the Southwark Park Act in 1864 with a cornucopia of events, the latest being a free exhibition of photographs and art at the CGP Cafe Gallery in the centre of the park.  Entered by ordinary residents into the Friends’ second photographic competition, the images capture both the dynamism and tranquil beauty of the park’s flora and fauna.

© Bermondsey Beach 2014
Tse Leung’s colour image of a cob swan lifting itself out of the water to chase away a threat to his cygnets was the winner by a Southwark-mile.  Leung also captured enchantingly two pigeons sauntering side-by-side somewhere through the park.

Many of the photographs ascribe effortlessly human qualities to the park’s animal and plant residents.  With clever composition, and some limited use of filters, passion and pride in ‘our park’ radiate out from every shot.
Anonymous, CGP2170 (image from CGP website)
As a final treat, there are 15 separate paintings and drawings from the local Rainbow Arts Group.  Octogenarian Mary Wiu’s landscape of a pathway bordered by trees and bushes uses vibrant colours to propel the viewer forward in time from the historic images at the start of the exhibition,

So, what about Southwark Park?  Well, do go near it, in it, through it and around it.  In case you’re in any doubt, hang about and watch the photographic slide show just before you leave the gallery – then you’ll see why and how this park was saved by the Friends. 

Untitled painting from the Rainbow Arts Group

With news on the grapevine that Southwark Council has plans to build swanky new apartments behind the café on the north-eastern end of the park, it’s high time Bermondsey and Rotherhithe used Southwark Park and embraced all it has to offer – including this outstanding and inspirational exhibition.
The boating lake
More information:

CGP London, Cafe Gallery, Southwark Park, SE16

The exhibition runs from 16th - 24th August
Wednesday - Sunday 11am - 5pm

Friends of Southwark Park

© Bermondsey Beach 2014

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