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Vintage Kingston: Public loo transformed into art gallery
5:00am Sunday 13th October 2013 in News
From October 10, 2003
Critics have long argued some modern art is only fit for the toilet. Ten years ago, a Kingston art lecturer was happy to prove them right.
Paul Stafford, from Kingston University’s art and design department, transformed a derelict public loo in the town centre into an art gallery to display the work of unknown young artists.
The idea first came to him as he was walking to work along Clarence Street one morning, and spotted the boarded-up toilet block in the alleyway between Starbucks and the Kings Tun pub.
Frustrated by the lack of opportunities for inexperienced graduates to show off their work, he struck upon the idea of converting the block into a space for showing non-traditional performance-based work, film and installations.
Mr Stafford said: “I walk to work almost every day and, about a year ago, I noticed this old derelict toilet block for the first time.
“I found out it was no longer in use and had been boarded up since 1998. I wrote to the council and said ‘How about giving me this old toilet block? It’s no use to anyone any more, but it would be a great art gallery to show off the work of young post-graduates’.
“I thought they would tell me I was off my trolley, but they were very supportive.”
Mr Stafford recruited a board of four trustees to track down suitable artists, and enlisted the help of a group of businessmen.
Between them, they cleared the dilapidated block of dead rats and turned it into a quirky and surprisingly spacious gallery.
The renovation cost just £12.50 – for a litre of white paint and some screws.
To raise money for running costs Mr Stafford asked visitors to sponsor a wall tile for £10 on the opening night.
Mr Stafford said: “It’s a fantastic new facility for the people of Kingston and, unlike the old days, a visit to the toilet gallery won’t even cost you a penny.”
50 YEARS AGO: October 9, 1963 Traffic in Kingston’s town centre was jammed solid for two hours in one of the worst blockages ever, the Surrey Comet reported 50 years ago. A combination of torrential rain and the new one-way system were blamed. Streets were crammed with stationary cars, most with their engines turned off.
25 YEARS AGO: October 14, 1988 Pianist Michael Round, of Kingston Polytechnic, was the only European to win a top music prize in Rio de Janeiro. The 40-year-old took second prize in the international Villa-Lobos piano competition. Mr Round was awarded a substantial cash prize, and was due to return to Brazil the following year for a concert.
10 YEARS AGO: October 10, 2003 Forty people were stuck 15ft in the air for more than an hour after the Safari Skyway ride broke down at Chessington World of Adventures. It was meant to be a gentle 10-minute monorail ride around the zoo. But young and old were stranded in the rain for more than an hour at the theme park.
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