“ Address: Jewry Street / Winchester SO23 8SB „
Situated on Jewry Street in the city centre, Winchester Discovery Centre houses a public library, gallery, exhibition area, gift shop and coffee shop. I was visiting a friend one day, and we stopped at a small Internet cafe opposite the centre for coffee. She told me that she had thought we could visit the centre, but she didn't recommend their coffee. I took a seat in the cafe facing the window, and I couldn't help but notice a large banner outside the centre advertising their current exhibition. Entitled "The Figure in the Landscape," it was an exhibition of modern British sculpture that included works by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. I was delighted at the prospect.
We went into the Discovery through one of two entrances, leading into the open area of the gift shop. To the left was the cafeteria. What immediately impressed me was the huge wall hanging on the wall ahead. Designed by Alice Kettle, it is entitled "Looking Forwards to the Past." It measures 16 metres by 3 metres and is a colourful work with a collage feel to it. I asked if photography was allowed in the centre and was told it was, other than in the gallery. I did take photographs of the hanging, but it is so wide that it was impossible for me to photograph the whole work. My friend noticed a pile of brochures for the sculpture exhibition in the shop; we picked one up and were pleasantly surprised to find that they were free of charge.
There are lifts in the centre, but we walked up the ramp to the first floor. The gallery is quite small, but the exhibition was nevertheless well organised in the limited space. As we entered, an attendant offered us a printed leaflet giving detailed information about each piece of work on display. This was to be handed back at the end of our visit, but that didn't matter as we had the brochure with coloured photos as well. There were quite a few people looking round, but the works were sufficiently well spaced out as to allow people to get a good view of them.
On leaving the gallery we were faced by the library area which is in a circular form. It struck me that it was a much more civilised place than the new library in my home town, Southsea. Admittedly the Southsea library is smaller, but the cafeteria there is too close to the bookshelves. Sometimes parents sit having a drink and allow their young offspring to run around, even to climb on the bookshelves. Winchester's library allows visitors to sit and read in peace, at a distance from the cafeteria and shop.
As we were going out through a different door to the one we had entered by, I stopped to admire some teacups and saucers in a showcase. We decided to go back in and have a look at the exhibition area on the ground floor that holds displays of work by local artists. There was at the time a show of textile-based work, mostly applique pieces. All the work was for sale, and there were also greetings cards using textiles and items of jewellery. It would be the ideal place to come to find unusual gifts.
It is possible to hire rooms at the centre for dinners, meetings or performances. The largest hall can accommodate up to 182 people. One of the smaller rooms has a kitchen, and audio-visual equipment is available for hire.
There is a short-stay car park next to the centre. The Discovery Centre has disabled access and parking as well as audio CDs, listening posts, induction loops and large-print books. There are toilets, baby-changing facilities and a lift to upper floors. The centre offers free Internet and has wifi access as well as a photocopying, scanning and colour printing service.
I would thoroughly recommend visiting the centre, especially to anyone interested in art. Admission to the exhibitions in the gallery is usually free. If you are after a good cup of coffee, however, do as we did and visit the little Internet cafe over the road!