How Barbara Hepworth’s magical St Ives sculpture garden was inspired by music

Writer Jeremy Miles photographed in Barbara Hepworth’s garden in St Ives. Picture: Hattie Miles

Walking through Barbara Hepworth’s strange and wonderful sub-tropical garden in St Ives it’s hard to imagine that it was once little more than a working space where the sculptor created some of the most radical works of the 20th century.

The lush exotic plants and swaying palms that provide such a magical setting for her powerful and instantly recognisable sculptures seem to have been there for ever. They delight the tens of thousands of visitors who each year seek out Trewyn Studio, her old home, long preserved as The Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden.

It’s easy to assume that it was this garden as much as the discreet facility offered by the studio’s town-centre location that drew Hepworth here in 1949. After all she’s inextricably linked with the place. She lived, worked and eventually died at Trewyn. Her death at the age of 72 was caused by a fire believed to have been started by a dropped cigarette. It sealed her association with this house. To this day her studio remains frozen in time exactly as she left it. The date of her death – May 20th, 1975 – is still on the wall calendar.  

In fact her initial interest in Trewyn was purely in finding a suitable space to work. She had just separated from her second husband the painter Ben Nicholson and had been invited to produce two major commissions for the forthcoming Festival of Britain. Trewyn was the perfect answer.

Hepworth’s Studio at Trewyn. Photo: Hattie Miles

Hepworth had enjoyed a growing reputation among the artistic elite in London but the birth of triplets – Simon, Rachel and Sarah – and the outbreak of World War II had temporarily derailed a glittering career.

As German bombs threatened to rain down on the capital she and Nicholson decided to move their family to the relative safety of Cornwall.

Living in Carbis Bay they soon became central to what would become St Ives’ golden era as an artist’s colony. It wasn’t always easy. Nicholson could be autocratic and controlling and Hepworth, not the easiest person herself, was forced to put domestic chores before art.

The breakdown of the marriage and the move to Trewyn gave her the freedom to fight her way back into the public eye. With international success came the opportunity to re-model her working environment and in the mid-1950s Hepworth set about transforming the blank canvas that was the Trewyn garden. Over the next few years it slowly turned into what author Miranda Phillips, an authority on the garden,  describes as  “almost a showroom for potential buyers and people who might commission her.”

To achieve this Hepworth took advice from her good friend the modernist composer Priaulx Ranier and also Will Arnold-Forster who had established a marvellous garden at  Eagles Nest, the house high above Zennor that would later become the home of the artist Patrick Heron. Arnold-Forster was a well-travelled retired Colonel who had written the influential 1948 book Shrubs for Milder Counties. Ranier meanwhile possessed an encyclopaedic knowledge of plants both from her native South Africa and across the New World. Hepworth could count on extraordinarily informed advice to help plant a garden that would perfectly combine the beauty of natural forms with the strange power of her stone and bronze sculptures.

Hepworth’s garden. Photo: Hattie Miles

A wonderful mixture of the traditional and exotic gradually took form as the garden was landscaped and planted with fan palms, bamboo, honeysuckle  magnolia, eucalyptus, Japanese anemones and roses. Rockeries were built, paths laid and an old pond rescued and given new life. The result combined with Hepworth’s sculptures was a mesmerising display of colour and form that continues to evolve to this day.

Miranda Phillips worked with the Tate and Hepworth Museum for many years.  She is the author of Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden (Tate Publishing). Written with former Tate curator Chris Stephenson, the book was developed from a popular guide she had put together after being constantly quizzed about the plants in the garden by visitors to the museum.

It follows the plants at Trewyn through the seasons, examining their relationship with Hepworth’s sculptures. “People are constantly fascinated by the garden,” she told me. “Hepworth certainly used it to impress potential buyers but the sculptures she sited here were very much her own favourites. Phillips believes that Hepworth used the garden – “with its spiky primeval forms and the ancient nature of some of her sculptures” – as a source of inspiration. “Placing her works in this setting with the interplay of light,shadow and movement allowed her to see how different sorts of light and even dry and wet conditions would work on the sculptures. I’m sure it influenced her art.”

On a bigger scale the rugged and ancient Cornish landscape was her inspiration too. Hepworth had originally fallen in love with large sweeping vistas as a child in Yorkshire. In Cornwall she was able to rediscover the feel for weathered rock, lichen and windswept heathland that had been hardwired into her infant soul. Trees twisted by the wind and storm lashed beaches provided a wealth of material.

Despite her great achievements –  internationally feted as an artist and made a Dame of the British Empire in 1965 – Hepworth did not have an easy life. Her work was physically tough and she also endured two divorces, the death of an adult child ( her eldest son Paul died in an air crash in Singapore in 1954) and terrible health problems. By the end of her life she had received treatment for throat cancer, was almost crippled by a fractured hip and her hands were full of arthritis. She was also heavily dependent on pain killers and drinking heavily.

“I think she ran on nervous energy, drove herself terribly hard and wasn’t particularly interested in physical comfort,” says Phillips. “Beyond her work she didn’t have much time left for living.”

 The general assumption is that the fire that caused her death was an inferno, the final ghastly chapter in an increasingly miserable existence. Phillips sees it slightly differently. “There was actually very little fire. It caught some plastic.” She believes Hepworth was probably already asleep and succumbed to fumes.  “To be honest life wasn’t getting any more pleasant. She was already in great pain and she wasn’t going to get better. In those circumstances, to die in the place that you love surrounded by the things that you love is no bad thing.”

 *Visit the Barbara Hepworth Museum & Sculpture Garden at Barnoon Hill, St Ives, Cornwall TR26 1AD The book Barbara Hepworth Sculpture Garden by Miranda Phillips & Chris Stephens was first published in 2002 and reprinted last year.

How Tina dumped abusive husband Ike and eventually found fame at a whole new level

Tina Turner on stage during a 50th anniversary concert

I was so sorry to hear of the death of the incredible Tina Turner. At the age of 83 she was a wealthy woman and global megastar, a uniquely talented singer and performer whose life had taken her from a childhood of near poverty in rural Tennessee to one of luxury in Switzerland. In between there were years trapped in a singing career and abusive marriage controlled by her first husband. Her ultimate success was not only well-deserved but a testament to her talent, courage and determination. As the tributes flowed in I found myself reflecting on an interview I once did with singer and one-time member of The Ikettes, PP Arnold, who was herself an abused wife and worked with Tina during the toughest of times.


I was a callow 15-year-old schoolboy when the then 26-year-old Tina first roared into my life as part of the support package on the Rolling Stones 1966 UK tour.

To be honest I hadn’t been expecting much. As far as I was concerned I was simply excited to be going to a Stones concert, particularly one with The Yardbirds (featuring both Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck in their line-up) as a support act. 

The fact that the Ike and Tina Turner Soul Revue was also on the tour had only been of passing interest to me. Then they hit the stage. Wow! The band and their three girl backing singers, The Ikettes, roared into action, a glorious wall of sound with sexy, sassy Tina strutting her stuff and delivering soaring vocals that dominated a performance fuelled by frenetic energy and shaped by carefully choreographed precision. I’d never seen anything like it.

Of course, at the time I had no idea of the personal tragedy that lay behind that amazing outfit. I didn’t know that Svengali-like bandleader Ike Turner was a controlling and violent man and that Tina was trapped in an abusive marriage that would last 10 more miserable years.

With hindsight it is possible to view that Stones tour and the events that led up to it as the first step that Tina took to free herself from Ike’s control. It had been their transatlantic hit with the Phil Spector-produced River Deep Mountain High that,  just a few months earlier, paved the way for the invitation to join the Stones on tour. It had also perhaps offered an early taste of what Tina could achieve as a solo artist. 

Although the single had been credited for contractual reasons to Ike and Tina Turner, it was LA’s famous session team the Wrecking Crew who played on the recording. Ike wasn’t even in the studio. The writing was on the wall.

Among those who observed what was happening was singer P P Arnold who  appeared on the 1966 tour as one of The Ikettes. Years later she told me how Tina became her friend and mentor and saved her from her own troubled marriage.

Los Angeles born Arnold was just 18 years-old and already the mother of two young children when she auditioned as a backing singer with Ike and Tina Turner’s soul revue back in 1965. A year later she was a fully-fledged member of The Ikettes and enjoying life in the road with the Rolling Stones.

But behind the glamour that would soon see her launch her own successful pop career was a bleak tale that had seen the girl from the wrong side of the tracks break away from a vicious circle of drudgery and violence  Arnold, who was born Patricia Cole in Los Angeles’ notorious South Central, in 1946, had been facing a dead-end life. As the sound and fury of the Watts race-riots and gangland clashes echoed around her once peaceful neighbourhood, Cole found herself struggling to survive.

Pregnant at 15 she had been railroaded into a shotgun marriage by her controlling father. She was forced to work as an office clerk by day and a factory worker by night just to get by. Her young husband felt trapped and resentful. A few miles across town soul revue stars Ike and Tina Turner seemed to have it all but as Pat would soon discover their relationship too was marred by troubles.

PP Arnold

A curious chapter of accidents would bring PP Arnold into their life and offer the young singer a path to freedom. Amazingly the fortuitous audition happened entirely by chance. “I never dreamed of being in show-business,” she told me. “ I was married, I had two kids, I worked two jobs. My life was hard. But one day Maxine Smith, an ex girlfriend of my brother, called me up. She and another girl, Gloria Scott, were due to audition for Ike and Tina and a third singer who had been meant to go with them hadn’t shown. Maxine called me out of desperation to make up the trio.”

Ike and Tina were impressed by the girls and to Arnold’s astonishment they were offered the job on the spot. She admits she was terrified. “At first I said ‘No, I can’t possibly go out on the road. I’m married. I’ve got two kids and I have to get home now!  My husband doesn’t know where I am and I’m going to be in trouble when I get back,’ “Tina just said:  ‘Well if you’re going to be in trouble for nothing why don’t you come to Fresno with us and see our show tonight and then make up your mind?’ 

“It was just one of those moments when you suddenly think ‘Yeah, well why not? I might as well go with them.’  Fresno was a 300 mile drive from Los Angeles. Arnold had never been so far from home. “Man, I’d never even been to Hollywood. It was a long way away,” she chuckles at the thought of her naivety and inexperience.

Ike and Tina in the early days

She loved the show but still wasn’t sure about joining the band…until, that is, she finally got home. “I got back about six o’clock the next morning and the door opened. He was furious.. Something in my head clicked. I was thinking: ‘I prayed to God yesterday morning to show me a way out and 24 hours later I’ve got an alternative.’  The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways.”

Arnold, who went on to score British chart hits like The First Cut Is The Deepest and Angel Of The Morning, says that that fateful day marked the beginning of her liberation. But first she would witness Tina Turner suffering an all too familiar fate at the hands of husband Ike. 

Being on the road as an Ikette brought Arnold into close contact with the Turners’. dysfunctional and violent marriage. She soon realised that their disastrous relationship was far from obvious to outsiders  Every night on stage the band drove fans to a frenzy as Tina strutted her stuff looking totally in control. Few noticed glowering guitarist Ike directing the show in the background. He was an inspirational musician but also a controlling often angry figure whose spiralling drug use would over he years lead to increasingly violent behaviour.

Arnold, fresh from her own domestic problems witnessed the growing abuse. “Of course I saw  it happening,” she said.  “We travelled together. We were family. We went on the road on 90 day tours and we were working real close together for 87 of those days. I genuinely felt for Tina. I felt what she was going through so deeply. It was very frightening.” 

Ike Turner died in 2007 from a cocaine overdose. He was 76-years-old. The marriage to Tina ended in divorce in 1976.

Judy: Still rattling the chandeliers at 80

Judy Collins: Tivoli Theatre, Wimborne (19th January, 2020)

Now this was a strange one. Strange but nice I should point out. The wonderful Judy Collins – 80-years-old and still possessing a voice capable of rattling the chandeliers – acting as her own support act and delivering what was at times close to a stand-up routine.

Of course there was plenty of music too and many classic songs from a career that has spanned 60 wonderful years. But what happened to the advertised support?  Norwegian folk singer Jonas Fjeld – Judy’s collaborator on her latest album, the excellent Winter Stories, was notable by his absence.  The album and indeed Fjeld himself got a couple of honourable mentions in despatches from the stage and two of its numbers, River and Jimmy Webb’s sublime The Highwayman were undoubtedly among the high points of the show. But there was no explanation.

The concert opened with a couple of vintage tracks, Maid of Constant Sorrow and Chelsea Morning, with Judy on guitar accompanied by her longtime musical director Russell Walden on piano. To be honest she took a little while to get into her musical stride but when she did she was extraordinarily good, punctuating the set list, including classics like Both Sides Now, with  anecdotes and some rather whiskery jokes about Keith Richards.

After the interval she was back and wearing a sparkling crimson jacket – an 80th birthday gift from her old friend and fellow sixties survivor Joan Baez. Abandoning the guitar for the piano, she demonstrated a technique that revealed the classical training she received before joining the burgeoning US folk scene of the 1950s. 

Becoming a folkie was a shrewd move that at the time did little to impress either her mother or her piano tutor but ultimately it brought her into contact with everyone from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to Joni Mitchell and Stephen Stills. And do you know what? I think we’ve all benefitted. Certainly audiences at The Tivoli have. Although modest in size the venue has become one of Judy Collins’ favourite UK theatres over the years. It’s a privilege to see her perform there.

Jeremy Miles

Hey Bungalow Bill you’ve not had your fill…

Beatles and wags with Maharishi
Left to right: Jane Asher, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Cynthia Lennon, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Pattie Boyd, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Jenny Boyd.

When I was asked to introduce Beatles insider Jenny Boyd at Wimborne Literature Festival last week I jumped at the opportunity. After all this is a woman who effectively lived with my record collection during the 1960s and 1970s.  Whatever I was listening to or reading about in my teens and twenties there was a pretty good chance that Jenny Boyd was actually experiencing it first hand.

Continue reading “Hey Bungalow Bill you’ve not had your fill…”

Suzanne Vega – the girl they once called the Joni Mitchell of the Filofax generation



Suzanne Vega
Suzanne Vega


Suzanne Vega: Lighthouse, Poole

I first saw Suzanne Vega 25 years ago when she was flying high on the reputation of breakthrough hits like Luka, Tom’s Diner and Marlena on the Wall.  The media, expecting just another New York coffee house folkie, were stunned by her capacity for producing intelligent, emotionally charged lyrics.

Continue reading “Suzanne Vega – the girl they once called the Joni Mitchell of the Filofax generation”