33 - Aspire
My short series of posts on the wonderful shops in my neighbourhood has culminated in a marvellous opportunity to show the work that has emerged from these neighbourhood walks, at one of those very shops. Aspire – whose window hosts the ARCH gallery – is now home to my second Feetmaps exhibition “To Iceland and beyond”. Iceland, for many, is the store where the High Street ends, but, as we have discovered, those who walk no further are missing some wonderful experiences.
Aspire itself is a unique local project. Its very name is delightfully witty, and apt on so many levels, as it was started when a married couple with vision purchased the building of what was once Ryde’s parish church, with – yes – a tall spire on Dover Street in Ryde. It’s a rambling building with nooks and crannies and big open spaces now home to a vast variety of community projects, both indoors and outdoors.
I will never forget my own first visit to Aspire when I sat in the church’s crypt at a film club meeting, watching a fabulous Indian movie made in 1957 called Mother India. Both film and audience space made an indelible impact on me.
Aspire has been a huge cultural and a community asset to Ryde, and the shop on the High Street – a more recent acquisition – is a wonderful source of recycled paint, bric-a-brac, clothes and accessories and yet another community hub, with a bank of sewing machines and a sewing club, and the charity shop volunteers are always ready to serve with a smiling welcome and cheerful chat. When I popped in there this morning someone was playing a piano in the corner – a beautiful rendition of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata – a real uplift. What I hadn’t realised too is that Aspire sells second-hand bikes and has a bicycle repair service twice a week. I had been saving up for a service on my poor neglected bike and so was delighted to discover that I could get it back up and running there for just £20. I should say at this point that there is actually a wonderful bike shop – TAV Cycles at the top end of town - but my old boneshaker was a bit beneath their dignity the last time they took a glance at it, though they too were friendly and wonderful, rescuing me from a massive flat tyre by pumping me up for free, even though they were, strictly speaking closed. I shall definitely get a new bike there when the time comes…just not quite yet…
Anyway, back to Aspire. Not only is it a charity shop plus, it provides a weekly 30-minute chat service for anyone who just needs someone to talk to. Anyone who is unwell or feeling isolated can be matched up with a like-minded volunteer for contact and support. How wonderful is that! Furniture upcycling, a play group for home-educated children, “waves of wellness” for surfing and water-based activity tuition, a community café and, quite honestly, too much stuff to list are all coordinated from the former Holy Trinity church on Dover Street.
So, another year has drawn to a close, and it seems a good point to take this blog and my walks in a new direction, perhaps back down to the shoreline. What I will find there, who can say – as always in this ever-fascinating seaside town, as in life, when you follow the double yellow lines on a walk to nowhere in particular, you can always expect the unexpected… Meanwhile, for more on shops that have taken my fancy, I might well put the odd feature on my Instagram account, so it might be worth taking a look there from time to time.
After you’ve watched the video of my exhibition above, and if you are curious to hear more about Aspire, there’s a link to another good video here (skip to about 22:00 if you just want to see a great view of the crypt): http://aspireryde.org.uk/aspire-documentary/