In 2008 Val bought 49 High St, a four storey Georgian building in Hastings Old Town with a shop and living quarters above. After renovating it, Val opened WPS (Williams Project Space) in the shop and held a number of exhibitions and events. At the same time she considerably expanded her collection of amateur paintings and found ceramics, some of which were shown at WPS.
Eventually, Val handed the shop over to her daughter Megan, who set up Bell’s Bicycles there- the exhibitions continued for a while alongside the bikes. After one final event, a concert by Swedish sound artist Dan Fröberg in Jack in the Green Week in 2014, the shop was used as an occasional dining room, Bells Bicycles having relocated to larger premises in George Street. Val sold the building in 2015, and it is now enjoying a new life as a home and shop. For some years, 49 High Street housed Val’s archive, which was finally, in 2012, sorted, boxed, and acquired by the Library of Birmingham.
Val also contributed to PhotoHastings 2014 as part of a PARC partnership with PH and the Electric Palace Cinema to curate two film nights, one devoted to Martin Parr and one to Vivien Maier.
Val’s friendship with Robert Mucci, the owner of Robert’s Rummage, led to the exhibition ‘Postcards from Roberts’ in 2015 and ‘Pictures from Roberts’ in ‘Finds 1’ in 2011. All the objects in both shows were purchased from Robert’s. Robin Christian, PARC’s project manager, made a film about the shop, ‘From Roberts’ which was shown at PhotoHastings in 2014 and during the ‘Postcards from Robert’s’ exhibition at PARC.
The opening of WPS coincided with an expansion of cultural activities in Hastings. Grace Lau and Andrew Moran set up PhotoHastings, photographer Alistair Hendy bought and renovated the shop in High Street which became the remarkable Hendy’s Homestore, the Dragon Bar in George Street began its exhibition programme and plans were afoot for the new Jerwood Gallery on the Stade.
Exhibitions at WPS
- Mixed exhibition of photographs including work by Daniel Meadows and Harry Peccinotti.
- They Had a Go: Amateur and Found Paintings.
- Homer Sykes: Green Man and Friends (Jack in the Green Week, May 2009).
- Alpine Adventures: Paintings and photographs of mountains and alpine scenes.
- Modern Kimonos
- Interiors. The Fishermen’s Huts: Amanda Jobson.
- 20th Century Types: Grace Lau’s Chinese Studio in Hastings.
- Jason Wilde’s Free Photographic Studio (Hastings Carnival week)
- Dan Froberg concert