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“Plymouth has the most astonishing history”
Artist Brian Pollard is famous for his colourful paintings of Plymouth’s waterfront. His unique and playful style often features Smeaton’s Tower and Plymouth Sound, among lots of other beauty spots in the Southwest.
Brian’s paintings are familiar to many Plymothians.
His colourful works can often be seen decorating the windows of galleries and shopfronts on the Barbican, but his work has far broader appeal than just Plymouth.
From Brian’s garden-studio, an uninterrupted view of the shoreline and horizon can be seen as he sketches his latest work. “You’re not allowed to photograph this one” he said. “This is a surprise gift for a friend.”
The artist moved to Plymouth from the Birmingham in 1977. After qualifying as a medical doctor, he worked as a GP in an inner-city NHS Practice for 30 years.
For Brian, the highly stressful environment of medicine forged a direct path to taking up painting as a hobby. The relaxation of getting lost in an image offered a form of stress relief, something to take his mind off work. “The process of painting is very relaxing”, he said. “You really focus on what you’re doing, in the moment.”
Brian added that his paintings being so bright and colourful were also a factor in cheering him up whenever he got the brushes out.
His GP surgery would play an unexpected role in his artistic success. “I used to hang up my pictures in the waiting room of my surgery”, Brian explained. “One of my patients was a gallery owner and he quite took to them, that’s how they got into a gallery in the first place.”
He added: “I put my work in galleries by invitation only.
I wrote to a gallery once and they were so rude to me it could put you off painting for the rest of your life.”
Eventually, he was asked to exhibit his work in a gallery in London. A friend of Brian’s ran a hotel, which had its own in-house art gallery. The exhibition caught the eye of an art critic for national newspaper, the Mail on Sunday.
Brian said: “I held an exhibition there and that’s when things really changed. After the art critic from the Mail on Sunday reviewed the display – tickets sold out in about 45 minutes.”
Luckily the review was very favourable of his work. “It wasn’t considered ‘great art’, but he recognised that people really liked it and suggested that you should come and see my work to cheer up your day.”
He continued: “The same critic then came down to Plymouth and reviewed an exhibition I held here, which was astonishing. That’s when I started getting national attention.”
After some success, Brian wanted to focus on inspiring others to pick up the paint brush. He has worked extensively with schools across Plymouth, visiting almost every primary school in the city, in the hope of igniting a
10 passion for paint. He said: “You either hate this sort of art, or you love it. But either way, it attracts people. It’s why I visit children in schools, it gets people involved.
“I take children out on the waterfront and show them in real life. It’s quite surprising, some children in the city have never been out on the Hoe before.”
According to Brian, one of the best things about being involved in community projects is being invited to places you would normally never go. A stark difference to his career as a GP, he says. One particular event that comes to mind was the auctioning of Plymouth’s Elmer the Elephant sculptures, the very first one of which was designed by him. The elephant sculptures were placed throughout the city and auctioned off to raise money for St Luke’s Hospice.
Brian is full of stories and interesting tales about Plymouth. It was in the city that he met David McKee, the creator of the enormously popular Mr Ben books, which were turned into the children’s television show. As it transpires, the inspiration for Mr Ben came from a shop in Ebrington Street in the city centre. The author of Mr Ben once visited a store there, where the owner would appear “like magic” but seemed rather irritated by the idea of actually selling anything. This would form the basis of the fancy dress shop, featured in the story.
Brian even had a piece of music composed for schoolchildren to sing for the launch of the Elmer the Elephant auction. He arranged for Duncan Lamont, a jazz saxophonist, who became famous for writing the music for the Mr Ben cartoon. Sadly, on his way to hear the music performed for the first time, Duncan suffered a heart attack and passed away at Derriford Hospital.
Brian sees the city as a great place for budding artists with a very bright future. The re-opening and development of Drakes Island is a particularly welcome change. “I never painted Drake’s Island”, said Brian, in protest. “The island used to be used for children to go and visit for canoeing, climbing and all sorts of activities. So, I said until it’s returned to that, I will not paint it.”
Now, Drake’s Islands has a new owner, who has welcomed classes of schoolchildren to visit once again and has plans to build a hotel on the island. Brian now happily draws the Island in his paintings. Some of which can be spotted in his most recent works.
The history of the island, and of Plymouth generally is of particular fascination for the artist. Charles Darwin, Lawrence of Arabia, and even Napoleon, just a few of the historic names to have visited Plymouth Sound. But it’s the landscape that is the foremost inspiration for his work:
“We’re sandwiched between the Moors and the Sea and right next to Cornwall. What more could you ask for? The two most beautiful counties in the country!”
“I think the city still has much more potential to be realised. Things happen slowly and sometimes people are reluctant to spend money on arts and cultural things which is understandable, but I think that is changing.”
For any budding artists, Brian has some simple advice.
If you want to paint in a realistic style, then you ought to try some lessons, but if you are looking to paint in the ‘naïve’ style as he calls it, then you just have to paint on a regular basis.
“My art . . . people say ‘it’s the Hoe’ because it has water and a lighthouse but in reality, it isn’t anything like what the Hoe looks like. There’s lots of stuff missing, because it’s either too complicated or it doesn’t fit-in. When you’re not trying to achieve something that looks photographic, that’s what you’re trying to do.
“Art is all about observation, looking at things very, very carefully.”
Without doubt, this is something that the people of Plymouth hope he continues to do, for a long time to come.
RENT AND SERViCE CHARGE CHANGES
WE HAVE WRiTTEN TO RESiDENTS TO LET YOU KNOW WHAT YOUR RENTS AND SERViCE CHARGES WiLL BE FROM THiS MONTH.
We have written to residents to let you know what your rents and service charges will be from this month.
Our tenants get excellent value for money. Most of the social rents we charge are lower than other housing associations in Plymouth and they are also amongst the lowest in England (on average we have the fourth lowest social rents).
The majority of our rents are at least 40% lower than it would be to rent the same property from a private landlord.
Some of our tenants pay affordable rent which can be between 20% to 30% lower than if rented privately.
Because we are a social landlord, we do not pass profits to shareholders so money from rents is invested into looking after homes, estates and communities for our existing tenants, and building more homes for future residents.
HOW WE SET OUR SOCiAL RENTS
We set our social rents using a formula from the Government, which allows us to increase social rents using the Consumer Prices inflation index, plus 1%.
Any service charges are in addition to the social rent. They are set to cover costs and not make a profit. Therefore they can go up or down each year depending on what we estimate the cost of providing the services will be. This includes any
12 adjustment to reflect the actual cost of services from previous years compared to what we estimated those costs would be.
RENTS THiS YEAR
Like many businesses and households, we have experienced a significant increase in costs over the past year and these are set to continue rising next year. This means it is more expensive for us to repair, improve and manage our homes. The rents paid by our residents help us meet these costs.
We set our rents using a Government formula, which allows increases of inflation+1% (using the September CPI inflation rate at 3.1%). So this year the majority of tenants will see a 4.1% increase in rent. This applies to anyone paying social rent or living in home built in the last 10 years.
Shared Ownership residents and most customers who rent garages and parking spaces will also see a 4.1% increase in rents.
This is only the third time we have increased our rents since 2016 and means in real terms, our tenants will be paying on average just £4 per week more from April 2022 when compared with their rent from 7 years ago.
Tenants living in homes built more than 10 years ago paying affordable rents will see a decrease of up to 7% to help reduce the difference between our affordable and social rents on older homes.
To make sure our homes are more affordable,
this year we have decided to limit all our general needs rents, for affordable rents and social rents plus service charges, so they do not go above the LHA (Local Housing Allowance).
These rates are set by the Government to limit the level of housing benefit or housing allowance as part of Universal Credit paid for rents to private landlords. Although PCH does not need to do this, we have chosen to adopt the LHA rates as it helps make sure our homes are more affordable for all. Only a small number of our tenants in homes built in the last 10 years are affected by this decision, as rents for these properties are generally higher, and they will see a smaller rent increase than other tenants and, in some cases, a reduction in rent.
HOW WiLL I KNOW WHAT CHANGES ARE BEiNG MADE TO MY RENT?
All tenants will get a letter explaining their rent and service charges and what the changes mean for them.
If you pay a service charge, it will be shown in your rent letter along with any changes to the amount you will be asked to pay for the coming year. You are very likely to see an increase in your service charge this year, as the cost of utilities such as water, gas and electric have risen nationally. This is a situation most households across the country are facing and we will be sharing advice about where to turn to for financial support if you need it.
RENTS iNVESTED BACK iNTO PLYMOUTH AND SURROUNDiNG AREAS
We know that any change in household finances can be difficult. Your rent helps us to keep homes in good repair, make necessary improvements and build more affordable homes, so that we can meet the needs of local people both now and in the future. We know that your home is important to you and we make sure that your rent goes back into providing good quality affordable housing and supporting the communities where we work.
That’s the difference we make as a landlord – we give back to help residents already living in our homes and future residents.
More information and useful animations are available on our website.
Your feedback on the standard of PCH’s new-build homes
PCH strive to offer the best standards possible, whilst still achieving value for money. The Development Team wanted to investigate how PCH residents rated certain elements of a new build home to achieve feedback on value and importance.
To do this we ran a survey, a focus group, and an engagement activity at the 2021 Resident Design Conference, where we asked residents to rank the elements within different budgets and types of property.
In the consultation there seemed to be less considered importance for lighting and multi-media aspects as opposed to flooring, lockable sheds and mixer taps.
Interestingly, different age groups also showed slight variations in preference which may be worth considering re different types of properties.
The feedback was used to enable project managers to make value for money and delivery decisions regarding new build homes in the future. For more information on consultations and feedback reports please visit our website and search ‘consultations’.