Once upon a time at Freshwater Bay

A new exhibition at Dimbola Museum and Galleries accompanies the launch of ‘The Freshwater Circle Through The Looking Glass’ by Gail Downey Middleton.

Dimbola team

Thanks to Suzanne and Alan Whitewood for this latest news from West Wight. Ed


In a new book, published on 5th July, entitled ‘The Freshwater Circle Through The Looking Glass’, Gail Downey Middleton illustrates the connections between the bohemian Freshwater circle in the mid to late 1800s and Lewis Carroll’s famous stories.

See the new exhibition
In addition, an exhibition at Dimbola Gallery to accompany the book will run from now until 29th October 2013.

Authoress Gail has been resident at Freshwater Bay for two years and is a trustee of Dimbola. She said the idea for her new book presented itself when the Dimbola trustees were discussing the idea of a new theme for the tearoom. Her new book signals the first book published under the Dimbola Books imprint.

Gail has looked and researched the characters in the Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) books and focused on how a number of them have very similar traits to people living in Freshwater at the time the books were written.

Gail said,

“There’s a particular reference to the trailing shawls of the White Queen in ‘Through the Looking-Glass’ that got me thinking about Julia Margaret Cameron who was often swathed in Indian shawls.

“The White Queen is also described as untidy and lapsing into French which again is an accurate description of Julia.”

Opposite photographic styles
Charles Dodgson and Julia both photographed each other and he visited her on a number of occasions at Dimbola. Their photographic styles were diametrically opposed. His focus was pin-sharp whilst Julia preferred a soft often blurred quality.

Dodgson photographed Tennyson and his sons, Hallam and Lionel. They dressed identically and ran wild, a scenario not too removed from Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Dodgson often wrote about people he knew and was famous for his parodies. He would have been fascinated by the strange, unconventional world of the Freshwater circle who he met with from time to time.

Exhibition opened by Henry Conway
Actor Henry Conway had the honour of officially opening the new ‘Alice’ exhibition. Earlier he had been one of the ‘Modern Freshwater Circle’ who launched the revamped tearoom.

Gail and Henry’s friendship dates back some years and in 2007 the pair produced a book ‘Knit Couture’ featuring 20 knitting patterns plus a detailed history of knitting.

Gail’s love of knit wear dates from her career in fashion when she worked for the house of John Galliano. After a career change into acting she had a chance meeting with John Galliano and a number of fashion models got involved with fashion shows and then founded the fashion label Wear Downey in 2003 along with Amy Wear.

Two years ago fate intervened and although offered an opportunity to work in fashion in Paris she found herself drawn to Freshwater Bay.

New direction
A new direction in life opened up when romance beckoned and now Gail is just in love with Freshwater Bay and her interest in Dimbola where those discussions on the tearoom paid off and The Mad Hatters Tearoom is now the winner of the Museum+Heritage 2013 Award for Excellence.

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Tuesday, 9th July, 2013 11:05am

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Filed under: Freshwater, Photography, Writers

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