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Santa's Secret Tombola 

Redruth High Street, December 16th, 2006


Mulled wine, decorations, Christmas trees, lights, nibbles and art all under one roof. What more could could an art-lover want on the penultimate shopping weekend before Christmas?



Santa's Secret Tombola featured well-over 30 artists who had been asked to submit and wrap up one or more artworks that they valued at 10. The gallery was a former crockery shop at the top of the high street, its four rooms on two stories, converted for one night into a sparkling Christmas grotto.

From 4 o'clock in the afternoon, visitors were invited to take a card from a home-made tombola barrel. Upstairs was a bar, and a chill-out room. Downstairs were the artworks, arrayed around the two rooms, all wrapped and unlabelled except for a number which tallied with one on the card. Once opened by the winner, the artwork was displayed in situ for others to see. As this took a while, the show as a whole revealed itself in stages as the evening unfolded, like a slow, tantalizing striptease.


in the front room:

Participating artists (front room anticlockwise)

Steven Paige, Sara Bowler, Sovay Berriman, Rupert White, Bruce Davies, Veronica Vickery, Megan Wakefield, Daryl Waller, Marieclaire McCabe, Stephanie Boon, John Burgerman, Andy Hughes, Oliver Sutherland, Patrick Lowry, Sean Hawkridge (and late arrivals from outside Cornwall: BOWER and Harry Lawson).


in the back room:

Participating artists (back room anticlockwise)

Sharmila Cogger, Kitty Wingate, Kate Ogley, Amanda Webb, Ingo Bousa, Christopher Miller, Ann Haycock, Alison Sharkey, Marieclaire McCabe, Matthew Houlding, Sara Smith, Sovay Berriman, Jane Atkinson, Christopher Miller, Charles Napier, Debbie Lawson, Verity Lowry, Jackie Knight, Alexis Zelda-Stevens, James Ford, Georgina Kennedy


The tombola was a great way to bring a lot of people and art together under one roof on a cold winter's night, and the atmosphere was suitably festive and convivial. Five of the contributing artists were from outside the county and it was good to have them added to the mix. There was less pressure on the artists than usual to perform or conform, and the brief given to them had successfully freed them up to play with making work they might not have done otherwise.

Was this a serious show or just a bit of fun? It was a credit to the organisers that it actually managed to be both. It was a heady mix of Christmas party, Fluxus event, Emin's shop and charity art auction. Too much analysis might seem like overkill, but actually there was something thought-provoking and important about the show. It served to momentarily disrupt the normal mindless shopping frenzy that consumes us all at Christmas, and to replace it with a more provocative economy of the imagination. Perhaps significantly, for a group of artists often overlooked by local commercial galleries it offered a poignant critique of that same gallery system, by questioning the normal processes by which art is packaged and sold to the public. It was also an effective way of demonstrating that  post-conceptual art can be accessible and fun, and have a market value.

It would be really good if we could invite Santa and his helpers back another year. Perhaps to Truro where all the serious shopping takes place...

Santa little helpers  were Marieclaire McCabe, Christopher Miller, Sharmila Cogger, Ingo Bousa, Richard Hardy, Amanda Webb and Sovay Berriman.


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