Heaven & Hell: Tom Brent

Tom Brent in his Suffolk studio

Tom Brent in his Suffolk studio - Credit: Submitted

Tom is MD of Urban Resolve, with over 40 years’ experience as a designer. In 2012 he designed and built the Thorpeness Emporium, Restaurant and Barnhall flats. When time allows, he is a sculptor. This weekend he invites you to visit the BallroomArts in Aldeburgh, Art for Cure FEAST exhibition, which is all about food, for those who have an appetite for great art. Here he talks to Gina Long...

How has Covid-19 impacted you, and how are you adapting?

Like so many other’s endeavours, Covid along with Brexit has significantly affected the BallroomArts project, particularly with the supply of materials and skilled craftspeople. In my other business, Thorpeness Emporium, we had to close, and we and the Emporium traders have suffered income loss over the last two trading years. A benefit is the realisation that many people can now work from home and Aldeburgh/Thorpeness being well served with broadband is a viable and for many a joyful alternative to city life. After two years of isolation and zooming the re-emergence of cultural cross fertilization is refreshing.

What is your connection to East Anglia?

My family and I discovered the glories of East Anglia about 30 years ago and we were fortunate to rent and then eventually acquire a dilapidated cottage hidden in the forest - a perfect counterpoint to London life.

What is your East Anglian Heaven i.e. what do you love most about East Anglia?

Too many to choose from, but early morning, crisp and sunny winter swims on Walberswick beach is high on my list.

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What is your East Anglian Hell i.e. what you hate most about living here?

The erosion of Suffolk calm during high summer.

Tom Brent outside his studio

Tom Brent outside his studio - Credit: Submitted

What’s your favourite East Anglian landmark?

Bluebell woods in the spring.

What’s the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?

Distinct seasonal changes, and the benefits of a close connection with the landscape.

What is your favourite restaurant?

L’Escargot Sur Mer in Aldeburgh which appeared suddenly right next door to our emerging BallroomArts building. Highly Ironic, as I fully re-designed their legendary Soho establishment in 1981.

What is your specialist Mastermind subject?

Knitting patterns of the 1920’s.

What is always in your fridge?

Greek yogurt, sauerkraut and dark chocolate.

What’s your simple philosophy of life?

Embrace challenge. Always.

What’s your favourite film?

A Matter of Life and Death, Directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.

What was your first job?

At 12 years old, plucking and cleaning Christmas turkeys.

What is your most treasured possession?

My dog Lola. Not so much a possession as a crucial member of the family.

Who do you admire most?

In my creative work, the sculptor Rodin for his minute recording and reinterpretation of the human form.

What is your biggest indulgence?

Building my own sculpture studio at our Suffolk cottage.

What do you like about yourself most?

Perseverance in the face of adversity.

What’s your worst character trait?

Stubbornness.

Where is your favourite holiday destination?

Apart from Suffolk, India.

Best day of your life?

The birth of our first child.

What’s your favourite breakfast?

Wild mushrooms and garlic on toast with lashings of butter.

Your favourite tipple?

Armagnac.

Tom Brent at the new Barn Hall building in Thorpeness which now has an indoor market, cafe and ten

Tom Brent at the Barn Hall building in Thorpeness - Credit: Archant

What’s your hidden talent?

A recent discovery of figurative sculpture. Not completely hidden now as my work was selected by the Society of Portrait Sculptors 2020 and the 2021 Sculpture in the Valley show at Potton Hall.

What’s your earliest memory?

Being alone in my pram at the bottom of the garden.

Tell us something people don’t know about you?

I was born left-handed when it was considered undesirable and being trained to use my right hand and am now ambidextrous.

What’s the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?

‘How could you?……’

What do you want to tell our readers about most?

A few years ago, I was fortunate to be able to purchase the property now known as BallroomArts. Taking on this highly relevant, well-placed building with a heritage of arts and events, meant digging deep into my many years of experience.

The site cried out for a contemporary redesign and spatial reorganisation, to make it fully accessible by all. A major challenge was to lift the visibility of a side orientated courtyard building from both the High and King streets and connecting the first floor and ground floor galleries. The result we feel is an ambitious re-working of what was the grand function room of a provincial hotel, an important landmark in the centre of Aldeburgh. 

The building has now been liberated from its previous associations to develop and forge its own identity as two rental venues for the Arts and Events. BallroomArts will help to further enhance the profile of Aldeburgh as a cultural hub and a highly desirable year-round, seaside town destination.  

With so many artists and galleries looking to East Anglia as an attractive and viable option to London and the Midlands, BallroomArts is set to become a magnet for both established and emerging creative talent. Do come along and visit Art for Cure FEAST, an exhibition all about food, for those who have an appetite for great art. 

Visit ballroomarts.org and artforcure.org.uk

If you have a story, email gina@hallfarmfornham.com or follow Twitter: @geewizzgee1 Instagram: @ginalong_geewizz