Photo by Adam Bronkhorst
Judy Stevens, Artists Open Houses director
Are you local?
No. I’m from London. I moved to Brighton in 1992. In my previous life I was an illustrator and a printmaker (as I still am, when I have the time!) and it got to the point where you didn’t need to live in London. Everything was going online and it was easy to work from home.
Why did you choose Brighton?
To be honest, I really fancied going somewhere like Barcelona and my partner Chris really fancied Glasgow, so we chose Brighton. I haven’t missed London for a moment.
How did you get involved with Artists Open Houses?
The roots of it were in the 70s when a group of local artists opened their studios. Then, 37 years ago, Ned Hoskins had the idea of opening his house instead of his studio as part of the Brighton Festival. Soon more houses opened in Fiveways and more trails followed. The Artists Open Houses became part of the Fringe with each area also creating their own individual maps. By this time we had moved to Brighton and I was already participating in the Open Houses. Chris is a graphic designer, so we had the idea of creating a brochure that included all of the houses - 150 at that time - and suddenly we had a festival.
How has it changed over the years?
It’s always been a really important showcase for established artists and makers - the quality of work is amazing - but now there are an increasing number of younger, emerging artists working in new ways, not necessarily making work to sell. It’s an opportunity to put their work in front of gallery owners and a massive public audience. There are also quite a few community venues showing work by excluded and outsider artists; artists who are marginalised maybe through learning difficulties, mental health, drug or alcohol issues, or others who have experienced homelessness. As far as we know it’s the biggest festival of its kind in the country. We have 200 venues with an average of 8-10 artists in each. There are different things for different audiences and in any one trail you might experience them all. That’s a big part of it, the serendipity of not knowing what the next house will be.
Do you still open your house?
Not anymore, we can’t. It’s quite disruptive turning your house upside down and just at that moment when you’ve got to be preparing, we’re busy getting the brochures out. We want to be able to visit as many of the houses as possible, to see what everyone is doing.
Aside from the Artists Open Houses, what do you like most about Brighton?
It’s a really good size. You can get to know it well but there’s always a new bit to discover and so it never gets boring. You can get to grips with it.
What don’t you like about it?
Apart from it not actually being Barcelona… I occasionally hanker after being in the countryside and having a studio where I can get on with printmaking without having to worry about anything else.
Where’s your favourite place in the city?
We live just up from the station, so I have the Battle of Trafalgar (the best pub in Brighton), the Sussex Yeoman (the best place to eat) and my gym right there, so I very rarely have to go anywhere else.
Where would you live if you didn’t live here?
I quite like Lewes, or Lisbon. With everything that’s going in the UK at the moment, the rest of Europe does seem very attractive.
2018 Artists Open Houses Festival, weekends from the 5th-27th May.