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St Lawrence World War Two Bunker’s ‘Unlocks’ For Islanders For First Time

In a bid to ‘unlock’ the arts scene on the Isle of Wight after the pandemic, the owners of a World War Two bunker in St Lawrence are joining forces with Binnel Studios for a unique one-off event this weekend.

Artist Lisa and her husband and designer Linc finished renovating the Second World War site in 2017 and have taken the “unusual” decision to invite the public to the bunker’s pop-up gallery, for the first time.

‘Binnel and Bunker Unlocked’

The free ‘Binnel and Bunker Unlocked’ event will be a one-off exhibition across two venues showcasing the work of nine local artists.

The pop-up bunker gallery or what Lisa calls “the room of requirement” will showcase her slotted sculptures created in lockdown.

Lisa Traxler’s artwork has been inspired by the myths and history around the “beautiful, brutalist architecture of the bunker”, which she and Linc successfully preserved and accentuated whilst renovating the site.

Lisa and Linc

Lisa and Linc (pictured above)

Preserving the bunker’s history

One story behind the bunker, dating back to August 1943 involves 12 Nazi soldiers who arrived here by dingy hoping to steal the radar station’s secrets - but were attacked by a team of British soldiers. Allegedly, Churchill kept the incident a secret to avoid damaging morale at home.

Lisa and Linc collaborated together when renovating the site and wanted to preserve its history, Linc said:

“We used the existing bunker as our muse - quite rightly so and we wanted to build a narrative that worked in the landscape. We drew on all the shadows and the history to address those ideas and concepts.”

Lockdown influencing art

Lisa described the first week of lockdown as “complete mayhem”, with all her shows and exhibitions cancelled it meant she could retreat to her studio in the garden, see photos below.

Lisa says she was fortunate to have somewhere she could “lockdown” by herself and used the materials she had available - to create 50 limited edition ‘unlocked sculptures’.

She says they are about the shifting of time, inspired by lockdown, which allowed her to explore the shape and form of how the couple were affected by the situation, she said:

“It meant I really explored my work - probably more fully than I often get the chance to usually because the outdoor world was cut off for me….So once I had got over the initial shock of what was going on outside the door it was -how can I interpret this through a creative channel?”

Isle of Wight Radio visits Second World War Bunker

WATCH Isle of Wight Radio has been given an exclusive tour of the World War Two bunker in St Lawrence, ahead of it opening to the public this weekend...

Posted by Isle of Wight Radio on Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Meanwhile, Lincoln will also be exhibiting his work in the outside glass-wall area, which explores themes as diverse as zero-carbon buildings to how we live and die.

Lisa says she wants Islanders to enjoy a ‘“creative pilgrimage” this weekend at the COVID- secure sites at the summer exhibition.

Artist’s work that will feature in Binnel Studios include:

  • Molly Atrill
  • Matthew Chambers
  • Jane Cox
  • David Firmstone
  • Sue Paraskeva
  •  Amanda Wheeler
  •  Celia Wilkinson.

To find the bunker continue on the A3055 past Ventnor Botanic Gardens until you reach Old Park Road, you will pass The Bunker and can follow the signs to Binnel Studios.

You can come along from Saturday 29-31 August 11am-4pm daily.

Scroll through photos of The Bunker's pop-up gallery...