Open House Old Hands

During last year’s Brighton Festival our flat was an ‘art open house’ for the first time. We felt positive enough about it to try again this year, showing paintings by our daughter Lily, who had spent much of the time since May 2017 painting.

Many things were similar and reminders of what we liked about it last time, particularly meeting friendly neighbours and visitors to Brighton. Once again, we had a few more… er…demanding visitors (“Yes I’d like a cup of tea; isn’t there any cake?”; “Why can’t you tell me about that attractive plant in your neighbour’s garden?”). Some things were new: last year we did not have any visitors press-ganged by my octogenarian mother-in-law into joining her on the sofa to watch a chunk of Royal Wedding; and having two visitors simultaneously both wanting to buy the same painting was a very welcome new problem for Lily.

The pictures focused on two themes: individuals and small groups in everyday moments: in the garden, the park, the pub, the station; and very detailed, almost miniaturist, paintings, 8” x 3”, illustrating a novel or play. The second were sold as cards in bookmark format, with a quotation from the book on the back where copyright law allowed.  They sold well, and, maybe predictably, most popular was the one suggested by ‘Brighton Rock’ (shown here). The ‘Importance of Being Earnest’ ran it a close second, the quote on the back seemed to appeal strongly to school and university teachers: “The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound. Fortunately, in England at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.”  Now Lily is in discussion with the Jubilee Library about offering the bookmarks for sale, and with a Gallery in Alfriston about selling her originals.  Fingers crossed!

Of course, we now feel like old hands at the open house game, and we thought we could share our advice for others contemplating it.


  • Keep the kettle on
  • Be ready to smile through the inevitable rainy day when lots of people will tramp round your home in wet shoes
  • Have a thick skin for occasional visitors bringing a “customer-is-always-right-and-I’m-not-happy-with-the-art/refreshments/stairs/prices/colour of the carpet/absence of freebies/etc” mind-set, even though they’re not actually customers as they won’t buy anything


  • Be disheartened if nobody comes for a couple of hours
  • Be disheartened if 15 people come at once
  • Allow your elderly relatives to get hold of the TV controller.

Robin Webb


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