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Sussex Art Shuttle returns this spring connecting cultural gems

Sussex Art Shuttle returns this spring connecting cultural gems

March 25, 2024

The Sussex Art Shuttle at Charleston. Pic by Thomas Broadhead

The popular Sussex Art Shuttle returns this spring and will again link Towner Eastbourne, Charleston in Firle, Seven Sisters Country Park and Charleston’s arts space in central Lewes, where a fantastic season of new exhibitions opens to coincide.

Spend time in East Sussex this season exploring a range of artistic endeavours combined with time in the iconic South Downs National Park.  ‘Route 39’ will run with four services a day Friday, Saturday and Sunday from Sat 30 March to Sun 27 October inclusive. The service will also run on bank holidays and guests are invited to hop on for a single journey for just £2 or hop on and off for a day for £3.50.

Since its autumn 2023 debut, the route has connected over 1,000 visitors per month, operating Fridays through Sundays. The scenic journey includes iconic landmarks like the Seven Sisters cliffs and Cuckmere Valley, alongside charming stops at Alfriston and Litlington, where there are plenty of opportunities to explore local cuisine, beverages, and independent shops.

The Sussex Art Shuttle is being part-funded by Arts Council England (ACE) and South East Museums Development (SEMD).

The service will set off four times a day this season from Towner Eastbourne, reaching Charleston’s venues in Firle and Lewes in under an hour. The Star at Alfriston, the Long Man Brewery, Cadence Cycle Club, Rathfinny Wine Estate and spectacular South Downs National Park beauty spots are all accessible along the way, bringing the full Sussex experience to life and allowing both visitors to the county and members of the community to easily explore the wider region in a day or two.

The bus is a great way to see the Turner Prize at Towner before it closes on 14 April, or to experience three new exhibitions from 9 May. Emma Stibbon’s solo exhibition, her first large-scale show at a major UK institution, will look at the warming environment of the polar regions and the impact this is ultimately having on the changing UK coastline. Maria Amidu’s new paper and text-based installation and accompanying sound piece exploring the dialogue between paper and writing, and a major interdisciplinary installation by internationally renowned choreographer and visual artist Florence Peake, will also open. Towner’s new restaurant Light,is a wonderful stopping point for a delicious breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea or sundowners.

Charleston’s exhibition programme continues across both sites in Lewes and Firle. The launch of the second season at Charleston in Lewes on 27 March sees exhibitions including the work of Dorothy Hepworth and Patricia Preece, a duo whose secret collaboration remained hidden for decades. Alongside this, ‘Duos: The Art of Collaboration’ is a new group exhibition showcasing the dynamic working practices between two creative minds. A number of new initiatives have been introduced with these exhibitions to welcome more people from the community, including Quiet Mornings and Pay What You Can Days.

At Charleston in Firle it’s the final few weeks of ‘David Hockney: Love Life’, a chance to experience rarely-seen early drawings by one of the most popular and recognisable artists of our time and an exhibition of textiles, prints and drawings by Osman Yousefzada reimagining the migrant experience. Additionally, ‘The Faces of Bloomsbury’ an exhibition within the house at Charleston explores rarely seen portraits that reveal the intimate lives of the Bloomsbury group. At both Charleston sites, Caccia & Tails offers the ideal opportunity for a coffee stop or bite to eat.

Alongside experiencing the creative delights of the Towner and Charleston, you can stop off at Seven Sisters Country Park, home to the iconic Seven Sisters chalk cliffs, the sinuous Cuckmere river and rare chalk grassland filled with wildlife from Adonis blue butterflies to wading and migratory birds. You can enjoy an easy stroll down the accessible Miles without Stiles path or try a more vigorous step onto the South Downs Way. The Cuckmere audio trail provides the sights and sounds of this beautiful site or you can listen to “We Hear you Now”, an audio trail embedded in the landscape that showcases contemporary speculative fiction, poetry and new myths by Sussex-based writers of global heritage. Seven Sisters has fully accessible toilets including a changing places toilet, and you can hire bikes, kayaks or mobility scooters. Top off your experience with a trip to the newly-refurbished visitor centre and browse for local crafts and gifts or grab some locally made coffee or snacks.

Joe Hill, Director and CEO, Towner Eastbourne, said: “Visiting the area by bus is a fantastic opportunity to explore the wider region and see some of the best culture Sussex has to offer this season. Catch the final days of the critically acclaimed Turner Prize or mark your diary to see a brand-new range of exhibitions from May here in Eastbourne.”

Nathaniel Hepburn, Director, Charleston, commented: “The return of The Sussex Art Shuttle opens up new opportunities for visitors to engage with the vibrant cultural scene of the region. We’re delighted to be connecting new audiences with our new season of spring exhibitions, not to mention the breathtaking landscapes surrounding them.”

Tim Slaney, Chief Executive (Interim) of the South Downs National Park Authority, said: “We’re proud to be supporting this innovative and sustainable shuttle service that links world-class arts and heritage destinations that are all on the doorstep of Seven Sisters Country Park.

“A day-out by bus can be a real family adventure and offers a different way of experiencing the National Park, removing the stress of trying to find a parking space, and offering a bit more freedom to really enjoy these amazing places.”

Read more about the Sussex Art Shuttle, including route and timetable information at https://www.charleston.org.uk/sussex-art-shuttle/