A fine evening on Friday. Balmy would be overstating it, but spring was in the air, it hadn’t rained for over a day, and it was light well beyond eight thirty. Near perfect conditions for the private view of the open studio exhibition at Johnsons Island. Brentford Is Brilliant, banners on the streetlights proclaimed, with definite overstatement, as we walked from the station down to Catherine Wheel Road. At the end of this reassuringly shabby street, with its 1970s light industrial feel, a path leads you across a footbridge to a small island on the Grand Union Canal. It’s quiet and leafy, hidden away, and a hive of creative activity. Inside the jumble of buildings is a warren of studios, and it was encouraging to see such a variety of work, as well as to get a sense of an artistic community. I particularly liked the funky bicycle bags by Roy Bacon of Marsupial Bicycle Bags; Across the Water by Colin Campbell, a marbled, Richter-esque painting; Sarah Stanley‘s mosaic pieces in earthy, bronze tones; and the wire and paper sculptures by Dianne Preston. Her sculptures of birds, dogs and other critters are delightful and full of character.
Back across the footbridge, we stopped at the Brewery Tap for a bevvy or two, and discovered another thriving local scene – live music, with Johnny Bull and John Coverdale playing eclectic versions of songs such as When I’m Sixty-Four and Tequila, intermittently supplemented by punters who’d brought along their own instruments: banjo, swanee whistle, maracas cunningly disguised as a lemon and an avocado. We left smiling and uplifted. Perhaps, on reflection, Brentford is brilliant.