See This: The Dog Show at Brighton Festival

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Regular readers may remember the love we have for Joanna Osborne and Sally Muir’s wonderful knitted and painted dogs (see here). When we heard they were participating in Brighton Festival with an open house, centred entirely around a love of dogs in artistic form, we nagged Joanna to tell us more…

It’s May in Brighton, which means the Brighton Festival and 200-odd foolhardy people opening their houses to the public, showing a variety of art and craft. Last year I decided to join the throng, with a themed open house The Dog Show, featuring ten redoubtable dog artists. This involved an almost complete makeover of our house in readiness. We cleared out my work room, and the contents expanded like crazy foam and ended up all over the house. To get into bed involved climbing over a rampart of yarn, books and files. We repainted the ground floor rooms, cleaned up the garden, made signage and chalk stenciled dogs on the pavement.

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By the time the Dog Show opened we were ready to drop, but it turned out to be a glorious event, very well attended, by both humans and dogs. Felted Fido, a.k.a. Dee McCracken, was a huge success with her extraordinarily life-like needle-felted dogs. There were wire dogs by Robin Parker and Bridget Baker, papier mâché dogs by Lorraine Corrigan, patchwork dogs, fabric dogs, dogs made from plastic and cardboard…..

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My business partner Sally Muir exhibited her wonderful dog paintings, and upstairs did on-the-spot dog drawings for charity. For the dogs, homemade dog biscuits and artworks displayed at dog level. Tea and cake in the kitchen, where unlikely alliances of people were brought together by their common love of dogs. Some visitors were completely impervious to the art, and simply wanted to poke around the house. We found one chap photographing the windows in our drawing room. It was like being estate agents with nothing to sell.

Excitingly – we were short-listed for Best Open House. Could we possibly win at first attempt? Some people have been at it for twenty years. We went to the awards ceremony, but we came runner-up – triumph – and found ourselves inevitably deciding to do it all again this year.

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More cleaning and decorating – the least one can say about an open house is that it keeps the place from becoming a slum. Some artists invited back, some new blood – Sally Matthews with her splendid hounds made of feathers, Electric Daisy Flower Farm with floral dogs, Nepal Dog with fairtrade Danger Dog signs painted on tin by Nepali artists, Light Art with their whippet and Dalmatian lights, and Vicky Lindo with her modern Staffordshire dogs. This year we are featuring award-winning photographer Alma Haser’s Photo Booth on Saturday 21st May. £20, booking essential, [email protected]

Opening your house to the public is not a project for the faint-hearted, and people’s reluctance to part with large chunks of cash on a whim can be frustrating, but it’s been a wonderful experience getting to know the artists, thinking up interesting ways to exhibit their work, witnessing the happiness it brings to so many people, and discovering the sociability of it all. Another example of dogs as a force for good.

The DOG SHOW, 33 Sillwood Road, Brighton, BN1 2LE, open weekends during May 11.00 to 18.00

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