Louisa Milsome on how to get your own Eurovision trophy here in Norwich and why East Anglia is the perfect home for artists
PUBLISHED: 11:33 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:11 21 August 2019
Louisa Milsome is Director of Riverside Art and Glass Ltd, a contemporary art business with two successful galleries - Riverside Art and Glass in Wroxham and Gallery in the Lanes in Norwich. She is the curator of a major new exhibition of art glass by internationally renowned Swedish glass artist Kjell Engman, at Gallery in the Lanes from 18 May to 28 June. She lives in Norwich with her partner and young family. Here she talks to Gina Long MBE
What is your connection to East Anglia?
I live and work in Norfolk having moved here from London just over ten years ago. I had taken a break from a successful career in business development, marketing and recruitment to study at Central St Martins. Norwich offered opportunities that weren't available in London.
What is your East Anglian Heaven ie what do you love most about East Anglia?
My East Anglian heaven has to be a combination of the incredible landscape (I love the big skies, the countryside and the coast) the immense history and the creativity of the people. That's the reason I've forged a second career here and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
What is your East Anglian Hell ie what you hate most about living here?
Having been born and raised in London I struggle with the apparent lack of diversity in the region, but have found that if you look for it, it is there. The global food scene on Norwich market is a great example.
What's your favourite East Anglian restaurant?
For dining out I always choose the River Green Café in Trowse. All their delicious food is vegetarian or vegan and proves that you don't need to have meat or fish to eat well.
What's your favourite way to spend an East Anglian evening?
I'd start early at one of the many terrific art exhibition openings on offer every month throughout the year. This would be followed by drinks at Cinema City before going to see one of the 'Exhibition on Screen' series that gives exclusive access to major shows around the world - weaving the artist's story into behind-the-scenes footage from top galleries. Then home to bed.
What's your favourite East Anglian landmark?
There are lots of things to choose from but the saltmarshes at Stiffkey, now owned by the National Trust and part of Blakeney National Nature reserve, are stunning.
What's the best thing that happens in East Anglia every year?
Not strictly every year but still a regular event, the East Anglian Art Fund curates an open art exhibition which goes on display at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery. It's a terrific survey of the art being made in the region at the time of each show.
What your specialist Mastermind subject be?
This probably sounds a bit obscure but it would be Ukrainian artist Vladimir Piven. He's an amazing painter who is very popular in the Ukraine but isn't, yet, very well known here. Riverside Art & Glass represents him in the UK so I've acquired a thorough knowledge of his life and work.
What is always in your fridge?
I'm trying a cows-milk free diet so at the moment it would be oat milk and sheep's cheese. The Green Grocers on Earlham Road in Norwich has been excellent for trying out alternatives.
What's your simple philosophy of life?
There is a quote attributed to American painter Georgia O'Keefe which goes something like: 'I'm frightened all the time - but I never let it stop me'. I think we can all learn from that. Take your internal fear and turn it into fuel for your success.
What's your favourite film?
High Society - starring Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly and Frank Sinatra. A romantic musical comedy with a super-stellar cast - you can really lose yourself in the glamour of this movie.
What was your first job?
I was a piano teacher.
What is your most treasured possession?
I've got a collection of drawings, paintings and prints by my grandfather Arthur Milsome. They were made during his time teaching art at the Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria and they are very precious to me.
Who do you admire most?
Artist Tracey Emin has written an intriguing and sensitive memoir called Strangeland which I read shortly after it was published in 2006. Reading about her private life in her own words gave me a new perspective on her public persona and I've had great respect for her since then.
What is your biggest indulgence?
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Being surrounded by art and handmade objects at work means I indulge myself if there is something I really love. Like all art buyers, if you love it - you've got to have it! I've got a wonderful mixed-media work by Alfie Carpenter a contemporary artist based in Suffolk.
What do you like about yourself most?
I juggle many things in life including work and family. I would say that I'm my own harshest critic. My colleagues in the gallery tell me I'm patient, calm and a good listener - which is nice to hear. I was very fortunate to hold a position of responsibility at the local branch of a national charity which provides a listening service for people in extreme distress. Listening can be an underrated skill.
What's your worst character trait?
I would say I'm a little impatient, but luckily my colleagues seem to think the opposite!
Where is your favourite holiday destination?
I love Rome, it's stunning. I once spent Christmas there and discovered that all museums and art galleries are open and free to everyone on Christmas Day. Very civilised.
I also have a new favourite which is Kosta, in Sweden. Whilst working on our forthcoming Kjell Engman exhibition I visited his studio at the Kosta Boda glassworks in the heart of the forests in the Swedish province of Småland. I stayed at the world famous Kosta Boda Art Hotel which is out of this world and which I highly recommend - I've already planned my next visit!
Best day of your life?
The day I got my current job is right up there. I love what I do, and I've never looked back.
What's your favourite breakfast?
What's your favourite tipple?
An Amaretto Sour - preferably served in Las Vegas.
What's your hidden talent?
I can paint but haven't had the opportunity to do so recently. I think many creative people dream of taking a break from life's responsibilities and returning to making their own work.
When were you most embarrassed?
I occasionally feel embarrassed speaking to a large audience - stepping onto a stage can be quite overwhelming.
What's your earliest memory?
I was on holiday in rural France when I was very young and I remember a kingfisher by the river. It was a special thing to have seen and it has stayed with me ever since. We're lucky to have kingfishers on the Norfolk Broads so when I'm at Riverside Art and Glass I always hope I'll get to see one.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
I love Let the River Run by Carly Simon. It won an Oscar and featured in the 1988 film Working Girl. Radio 4 did a fantastic piece about this track in the series 'Soul Music' exploring why it feels so anthemic to so many people.
Tell us something people don't know about you?
I'm secretly addicted to US TV Series Nashville. I saw the cast in concert at the O2 last year and they were incredible.
What's the worst thing anyone has ever said to you?
I hate it when people tell you that you're 'overthinking' things. I find that very patronising and a wholly inaccurate description of what it's like to have a mind busy with thoughts.
Tell us why you live here and nowhere else?
The quality of life here in Norwich is hard to beat.
What do you want to tell our readers about most?
The Eurovision Song Contest trophy was designed by Kjell Engman and we're going to have some limited edition miniature versions of it in our exhibition Kjell Engmam: Journey of Dreams at Gallery in the Lanes. The exhibition opens on the same day as the Eurovision final - ie today! - and Kjell will be here in Norwich for the opening.
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