Play at Heath Street

May 21, 2019 City Breaks, European Travel, Travel Blogger Jane Lovatt's Holiday Memoir

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Art for All in Hampstead

The Heath Street Baptist Church in Hampstead is an admirable example of how a church can enrich a community.

With free classical concerts, Jacket potato ceilidh nights and and delightful singing and music sessions for children, it has an appeal which stretches far and wide. Hampstead feels more homely here, bohemian yet friendly.

For the next six weeks an eclectic art event has been added to the special Heath Street mix. Curated by Hampstead locals Heini King and Jane Johnson, Play is an exhibition of paintings, sculptures and photographs celebrating the lighter side of art.

Work is included from professional artists and hopeful amateurs. I am in the latter category, showing a painting based on a ceramic tile from Taulellets, my guide to the beautiful tile art of El Cabanyal.

Creating this mini masterpiece was a deeply playful experience for me and it makes me smile and even laugh, to see it on the wall at Heath Street, brought all the way from Valencia in a paper carrier bag.

Heini and Jane have provided a joyous opportunity for both exhibitors and visitors to escape into the playful world of creativity. See the show on Saturdays and Sundays until 23 June, at Heath Steet Baptist Church, Heath Street, London NW3, from 12 to 6pm. Free entrance.

Playing at Art

Aged nearly 60 I have become a middle-aged woman who has hobbies. One of them is oil painting. On Thursday evenings in Valencia I get on the number 19 bus and go to the Sporting Club Rusaffa, a deeply charming artists’ studio in Calle Sevilla.

I spend two hours in this comforting place, learning how to oil paint with a lovely English artist called Josie McCoy. She is an uplifting person to be around, funny, cheerful and kind – as well as a talented painter and a great teacher. No wonder I feel better at the end of the session.

My life in El Cabanyal Valencia, where I live for half the year, is hardly stressful. I spend a lot of time walking up and down the beach, looking at the sea or swimming in it. I pass many happy hours sitting outside cafes, drinking coffee, reading and chatting to friends in the sunshine. I am slightly busy selling Taulellets – the book I published on the amazing tile art of El Cabanyal. I do a bit of writing. I go to the market and buy wonderful fruit and vegetables. I do a bit of cooking. I even do a bit of washing up.

My life is full of playful moments and I appreciate that this is a lucky state of affairs.

Sometimes though I get fed up. I worry about my mum and my daughter and my boyfriend Chris, or the enormous hole in my dining room ceiling or Brexit.

Sometimes I don’t feel like going to Sporting Club Rusaffa to paint. But I am always so glad I have been and always leave with my spirits lifted.

It’s not just because it’s fun to sit there, mixing up the glorious colours and filling in the leaves and flowers on the canvas, concentrating as hard as I can. Drinking ginger tea and trying not to distract Josie with too much chatting. It’s because painting feels like such a playful activity. Splodging on that gorgeous sticky paint and making something new and different. It’s fun, amazing, exciting – I love it.

On the wall of my flat I have some treasured paintings of flowers done by my mum and my grandma – probably when they were the same age as I am now. They are beautiful and I like to look at them and think that painting these pictures made them feel as lighthearted as painting my pictures makes me.

Play is so important, even for someone who has a pretty playful life. My dear friend the renowned artist and art therapist David Swift, has shown me many times how art can make us happy. He has worked for 30 years with people whose need to be cheered up by painting is so much greater than mine. Play and art reach parts of the brain which are neglected, malfunctioning or out of use. They make us laugh and smile and feel more alive. They help us to function as better human beings.

Now I have started oil painting I won’t stop. For a middle aged woman in search of hobbies and happiness, it’s the perfect way to play.

Taulellets, a guide to the tile art of Valencia costs 15 euros. To buy a copy contact me at