This weekend it was open studio day at Eel Pie Island. Twice a year, in June and December, this private island, which has become a haven for artists over the past few years, opens to the public.
Eel Pie Island is in the middle of the Thames near Twickenham. This weekend (and next too) the drawbridge goes down and people are invited to wander along a well-used path and enter the studios of the various artists who live on the island.
The island is just a short walk from Twickenham station. You cross the bridge and wander around an eclectic mix of houses and gardens. Of course the purpose is to sell artwork, although there’s no pressure to buy. I didn’t buy anything, since I’m still effectively homeless and the last thing I need is something else to throw into my storage unit.
Instead I spent my time there indulging my favourite fantasy where I am sitting in an artistic commune with nothing more demanding than producing my next piece of artwork (the problem is, after producing it I somehow have to sell it, and this is where the fantasy becomes a little unstuck).
Eel Pie island has an interesting history. At one time it contained the Eel Pie Hotel, famous as the home of rhythm and blues, where Long John Baldry, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie (then called David Jones) and a whole bunch of others performed. The hotel closed in 1967, re-emerged briefly as a rock venue for artists such as Black Sabbath and Hawkwind, then burnt to the ground in 1971.
There are now some local venues in Twickenham where they try to keep the musical traditions alive, but Eel Pie Island itself is now a somewhat quieter place.
The island has around fifty homes along with the artist studios and a couple of boatyards. It also has a couple of nature reserves (not open to the general public) and is home to Twickenham Rowing club.
If you fancy it, the island will be open next weekend (1st/2nd July) or else there is a long wait until December when you will get your next chance.