A visit to Prema

We both wanted to combine a visit to Prema in Uley to have a coffee in their new cafe and to vote for our favourite photograph in the exhibition of the finalists from Stroud Life's photographic competition.

The coffee was strong and flavoursome and the ambience was delightfully relaxing as we laid back in the enormous sofa reading books and magazines whilst surrounded by the photographs. I thought the standard of the twenty-five images was very good. The local newspaper had called for entries in five categories, which were then short-listed to the best ten in each category, and then printed in the paper over five weeks. Readers were asked to vote by text message for their favourite each week. I had an entry selected in one category but since even I didn't vote for it, I wasn't surprised not to reach the final exhibition. Helena and I chose different entries to vote for, so we shall wait for the results to be announced in due course.

Prema is an Arts Centre established in an old chapel by my friend Andrew Wood, who had bought it when it was in a rather ruinous state in the mid 1970s. I used to visit him when he lived in the lean-to at the rear of the chapel over the next few years, before he created the trust which eventually transformed the building into a small complex of artist's facilities on the ground floor and a large performance space on the top floor. It has thrived ever since and become a notable addition to the arts facilities of Gloucestershire, with artists in residence, courses, workshops and exhibitions as well as regular music and dance performances.

After voting I wandered about the building to see how it had changed and I had a peek in the pottery studio sited at the rear where Andrew first lived in that one room for many years, with his wonderful dog, Gypsy. He passed the Prema into the contorl of the trust and moved to a nearby village, before setting off on longer journeys to California and eventually to Tuscany for the last eight years. Now he has just returned to live in Stroud town to live and set up a studio where he will return to his ceramics and probably run drawing courses. I wish him well.

I went upstairs to the performance gallery, where another small exhibition of photographs of a local farmer's life is showing. There was only the ambient light from the large windows, which created lovely pools of light when the clouds cleared and the sunlight could shine in.

I followed Helena as she wandered round the exhibition and liked this shot of her looking up into the beautiful timber roof structure from which the lighting rig is suspended.

When we got home, Helena disappeared upstairs for a while and when I went to find her, she announced that she was now a Blpper. Hooray. I am really pleased she has chosen to join us all. I hope you might like to meet her world too at Woodpeckers.

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