Creative Gibraltar : Paper crafts with Sarah Devincenzi

Born and brought up on the south coast of England, a cross Europe road trip in her early twenties brought Sarah Devincenzi to Gibraltar for the first time. She loved it so much that she came back and made it her home. Now married and with three children in school here, Sarah has been able to devote some of her time to her first passion; arts and crafts.


Sarah says she has always been creative: “Always… it’s my default setting! I’ve always been creative in a visual way”. As a child, in her free time, when she wasn’t at school or competing in athletics, she was to be found drawing. She was sporty but teachers forced her to choose between sport and art – art won out. Sarah continues, “after A-levels I got a bit disillusioned at school, so decided not to go to art school like my friends”.

Instead of taking the academic path, Sarah began an apprenticeship with a sign writer who was a friend of the family. “I went along reluctantly,” she said “but I had an amazing 3 or 4 years, it was really creative stuff; we painted murals by hand”. It was after this apprenticeship, that along with her two best friends, Sarah set off on the adventure which was to become documented by Rebecca Faller in her book Renault 5 (which Sarah designed the cover for). “It was an escape from reality for all of us – we just thought what now?”

When Sarah first came back to Gibraltar to live, it was hard for British citizens to get ‘proper’ jobs, so she spent several years waitressing before landing a job at a sign writing company here. Sarah says that her time working with lettering forged her love with letters and type “and that morphed into art”. When Sarah’s children were born though, she said that the creativity stopped for her “I couldn’t be creative and have kids”.

Sarah found her stifled creativity frustrating so began making cakes but says it was a lot of hard work. Then three years ago, a friend suggested that she should get involved with Gibraltar Arts & Crafts Association, she says “it gave me a purpose and reignited everything! I had always drawn and painted, so I started on paper maché”.

Sarah began experimenting with paper maché “I love getting dirty so I enjoyed making it”. She was soon producing bowls, brooches and other items for the Gibraltar Arts & Crafts Association’s two shops in Casemates Square and the cruise liner terminal. One of her best sellers has been fridge magnets with collages of the Rock of Gibraltar, of which she has sold “hundreds” – there may be one lurking on a fridge near you….

Along with the Arts & Crafts Association, Sarah has been a stall holder at the annual Convent Christmas Fair. Her beautiful Gibraltar baubles are a real hit at the fair and in the shops as visitors like to have a souvenir from their holiday to hang on their tree.

Sarah became part of the committee which runs the Arts & Crafts Association, although she has now stepped down to allow her to follow her creative journey to the next stage. “I feel torn” she says, having to produce a lot of stock for the shops limited her time for other creative endeavours but “it was a catalyst for me, I got clients through being with the Association and they wouldn’t have known about me otherwise”.

Sarah’s paper maché creations led onto collage, another passion of hers.

Sarah has been able to put her love of all things paper to good use and recently created a piece of work to raise funds for a very worthy cause. After attending a talk given by Dan Teuma, a Gibraltarian who has worked in migrant camps in Greece, Sarah decided to make something to raise funds for the cause  The World Wide Tribe on the Rock. She covered a chair with découpage made of Beano comics and managed to raise a substantial amount of money.

The power of Facebook meant that the chair was seen by thousands of people. Sarah says she now plans to make more items like this and donate the proceeds to The World Wide Tribe on the Rock and support the work they do.

The future looks bright for Sarah, who is currently working on a project she has always fancied having a go at “I’ve been asked to illustrate a children’s book, I’m really excited by that”. Sarah also teaches craft classes to middle school aged children at the Gibraltar Heritage Trust. Working alongside Eli Farrell, a retired teacher, she says the children are taught about a subject from Gibraltar’s history and then they create something along that theme, be it a mural of the Battle of Trafalgar “with water skiers and piranhas or cannons which the boys really enjoy!”

You can find Sarah on Facebook  and for more information about the Gibraltar Heritage craft classes for children, please contact Gibraltar Heritage Trust.

Other posts in the Creative Gibraltar series:

Creative Gibraltar : Watercolour painting with Deborah M Lawson

The Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast Episode 004: Rebecca Faller 

Creative Gibraltar: Fashion Design & Dressmaking with Dorcas Hammond 

A stroll around Gibraltar No.19 : Whithams Cemetery

I may be had up for trade descriptions on this one, it’s more of a dig around Whithams Cemetery than a walk… (and no, it’s not what you think!).

If you have followed Postcard from Gibraltar for a while, you may remember that last year I took you for a stroll along Rosia Road and down to the sea; A stroll around Gibraltar No. 12. During that walk I went slightly off piste and showed you the fascinating place that is Whithams Cenetery.

I’ve become rather bewitched by this atmospheric place since the first time I happened to look over the wall which stands above it. The large abandoned graveyard is boxed in on all sides by buildings and looked so unloved and sad yet mesmerizing to me.

Since that first time I laid eyes on it a year or two ago, I have pressed my nose up to the cemetery gates many times craning to see more of what lay inside. Over the months, it became obvious that it hadn’t been completely forgotten about as the trees were pruned back and there was evidence that some work was underway to clear the area and attempt to restore it to its former glory.

A chance conversation with a friend of mine back in November revealed that she was one of the team of volunteers who are currently trying their best to wrestle the graveyard back from the brink of ruin. I went along one morning to lend a hand and join in.

I arrived dressed for the job, in old clothes and boots, brought my own spade and gardening gloves – which are necessary as there are lots of nettles and prickly weeds (the Heritage Trust did have a supply of gloves and tools for volunteers too).


We worked for just over 2 hours in the cool morning light. Thankfully, because of it’s position, it was only starting to get really sunny as we packed up. My grave digging (joke) pal and I made great progress clearing a stretch of about 3 metres across to about 6 rows of graves deep.

The team of volunteers bagged up a large pile of sacks containing weeds and unwanted shrubs to be taken away off site. A lot of progress was made, but as it’s such a large plot and the weeds keep coming back, it’s going to take quite a few more mornings like this one.

Sadly, a lot of the graves are in a very poor state of repair and some have been vandalised in the years that the cemetery was left abandoned. The Trust is planning to use a grant to repair some of them once the clearance work has been completed.

It really is a beautiful, atmospheric place, and not at all eery.

If you are in Gibraltar, are free on Monday mornings and fancy joining in with the rescue work going on at Whithams Cemetery, please get in touch with Gibraltar Heritage. You can get hold of them on: (+350) 20042844 or at their headquarters at the Main Guard in John Mackintosh Square – they would love to hear from you. 

 

 

 

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 12 : Rosia Road to Camp Bay

There is a walking route which I do fairly regularly which isn’t really on the tourist map. It’s a really popular route for walkers, dog walkers and joggers especially in the evening. It starts just south of the end of Main Street and takes you almost to Europa Point (well you can carry on going if you want to, but on this stroll we end up at the seaside of Camp Bay). Care to join me?

The walk starts at the northern most end of Rosia Road and follows the line of the old sea wall until you reach the sea and the popular summertime destination for many Gibraltarians of Camp Bay. It begins with the lovely pedestrianised area you can see above – pedestrianised areas and even pavements can be few and far between here in Gibraltar – so it’s quite a big deal! The railings you can see on the left mark the edge of the old sea wall, and there’s a considerable drop on the other side. It’s hard to believe that once upon a time, the sea once lapped the base of this wall and the naval dockyard (below) wasn’t there!

The dockyard often hosts visiting Royal Naval ships and submarines, some of which the public are allowed to visit. A couple of years ago, we all went onto HMS Bulwark when it was in visiting. The little postcards loved exploring the bowels of the ship and even got to sit inside a helicopter and wear a helicopter pilot’s helmet. I’m not sure whether they will be signing up to join though, they were happy with a look around, less so about disappearing off to sea for months on end! 

Looking south from this point you can see the path continues for quite a distance, it also features a lovely Italian restaurant which we have been known to frequent occasionally.

It’s not that terribly long ago that this area was home to many families housed in Nissen Huts. They must have been incredibly hot to live in during the summer months.

A short walk along from here is Whitham’s Road on the left, at this point I am going to take you on a slight detour…

We had lived in Gibraltar for almost 5 years before I had the need to walk up Whitham’s Road towards St Josephs’s Church and I was amazed with what I discovered. Not only a derelict Middle School (which is now being converted into luxury housing) but also a cemetery. A cemetery which looked like it had been completely forgotten about.

(Old St Josephs school in the background)



The cemetery which is also described as Sand Pits Cemetery in some documents (due to it’s proximity to the Sand Pits area) is the final resting place of around 300 people, many of whom were the wives and children of military personnel based here between 1765 and 1850.

A large proportion of those who are buried here lost their lives in a small pox epidemic in 1787. The graveyard has been largely abandoned over the years although there have been several attempts by volunteers to clean up the area. At the moment the Gibraltar Heritage Trust are organising a programme of works which began in March when a visiting squadron began clearing the vegetation and improving the paths. There is a sponsorship programme underway to restore some of the headstones which have been damaged as well as plans to open up a pathway through the cemetery.

As you can see from the photos, it’s in a very poor state right now and is bordered on most sides by blocks of flats. It’s such a shame it has been left to rack and ruin in the past, but at least now it’s getting some attention. It is a really atmospheric place, although I’m not sure I’d like to spend too long there at nighttime!!

 

Retracing our steps and heading back on to Rosia Road you can soon see the top of the church tower of St Joseph’s poking out above the housing here. The view of the other side of the road is a little uninspiring (hence the lack of photos) as there’s an industrial estate here. The estate backs up to the GibDock dry docks. It’s here that ships from all over the world come to be repaired. It’s interesting to see where they have come from, I’ve seen ships from Panama, Scandinavia and Africa.

The docks are dominated by this lovely clock tower.

Also in this area is the main police headquarters for the Royal Gibraltar Police. If you watched the UK Channel 5 programme Gibraltar: Britain in the Sun, you may recognise it as the location of some of the interviews.


A little further on and you reach the 100 ton Victorian Supergun. Which is one of two which were based Gibraltar (the other one is no longer there but stood on the site of the City Fire Station). The 100 Ton Gun is a tourist attraction and quite an interesting summer holiday visit with bored children for half an hour or so! We may be going this summer, so I’ll tell you more about it if we do!

The huge cannon sits right beside Rosia Bay, which you can see in the photo below. It has an important part in the story of the Battle of Trafalgar as it’s where Nelson’s ship HMS Victory was moored after the victorious battle. It is a lovely spot, but in need of a little tlc – there are plans to smarten it up and make it more than just a fishing and diving destination as it is now. Sitting guard above the bay is Parson’s Lodge, a Victorian bastion which is now a field centre for the Gibraltar Museum.

Also above the bay is the 200 year old Naval Victualling Yard, and the home to one of Gibraltar’s veterinary practices.

The crest above the entrance to the yard was restored in 2012 to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

Here the road narrows considerably around the yard and sandwiched between that and Parson’s Lodge appears a little tunnel – the narrow tunnel offers one of the two routes south to Europa Point on the western side of the Rock. It sees a fair amount of traffic and can be a little treacherous for pedestrians at busy times.

It’s worth taking the walk though because it opens up into Camp Bay, the end of our stroll. Here you can smell the ozone from the waves lapping on the pebble shore and see the huge boats close by in the Bay of Gibraltar.

This spot, with it’s access to the sea and couple of swimming and paddling pools for children is incredibly busy in the summer months. Whole families decamp here for long days of relaxing, swimming, eating and having fun.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed this little stroll, thanks so much for stopping by!