Unseen rock memorabilia to join art and furniture at curious café in Northumberland

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock.
Picture by Jane Coltman
Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock. Picture by Jane Coltman

What links the Animals bassist and Jimi Hendrix producer Chas Chandler, kite surfing in Brazil and a café and gallery in rural north Northumberland?

Perhaps you think the answer is absolutely nothing, but you’d be wrong as Kate Chandler, the daughter of the late musician, producer and manager, is the common theme between them all.

Emma Whittingham at the  Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock.
Picture by Jane Coltman

Emma Whittingham at the Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock. Picture by Jane Coltman

Having previously lived for 10 years in Brazil where she trained as a professional kite surfer and ran a cabana-style, palm-roofed hotel, the 34-year-old now owns the Art Rock Café and Gallery, at Rock Midstead Farm.

When Kate, who grew up in Cullercoats as well as going to Berwick High School, first returned to the UK, she worked at The Furniture Barn in Berwick.

Upon deciding to move to Alnwick, she envisaged continuing to focus on furniture, while selling coffee and cakes on the side, ‘but it’s gone the opposite way’. Nonetheless, all the furniture at the café is for sale and constantly changing.

They opened for business on Valentine’s Day this year and the initial offering was limited to coffee and cakes before expanding to the likes of scones and then toasties. “Eventually we got busy enough to get Emma Whittingham involved,” Kate said.

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock.
Picture by Jane Coltman

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock. Picture by Jane Coltman

Emma will be well-known to foodies in north Northumberland, not least for her Game On recipe book, and Kate said that her arrival has given Art Rock another dimension.

They are now open every day except Tuesday during the daytime, serving the likes of cullen skink and crab soufflé omelettes.

The food is made from local produce; the fish comes from Seahouses and the meat from Turnbull’s butchers in Alnwick, for example.

“It’s going well and since Emma’s come in, it’s changed things – the menu’s more diverse and it’s attracting more people,” Kate said.

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock.
Picture by Jane Coltman

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock. Picture by Jane Coltman

As suggested by the name, the venue also plays host to artworks, over and above the varied furniture, so works from Northumbrian artists can be appreciated over a cup of coffee or a spot of lunch.

If the weather is cold, you can keep warm by the fire, but if it’s a nice day, there is a courtyard garden at the back of the café.

But next month, the venue is to host a unique event, which is sure to be of interest to music fans of a particular generation.

In the year that marks the 20th anniversary since her father’s death, in July 1996, the café and gallery is going to host a very special exhibition – his previously unseen, private awards collection, which includes various silver, gold and platinum discs and various other awards for his work with Jimi Hendrix and Slade as well as in his band, the Animals.

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock.
Picture by Jane Coltman

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock. Picture by Jane Coltman

While the Animals are still a popular and very well-known band – their version of The House of the Rising Sun remains ubiquitous – Chandler’s discovery of a young Jimi Hendrix remains a pivotal moment in the history of modern music.

The exhibition, which is set to attract international attention, is going to run from Sunday, November 20, to Sunday, November 27, but may be extended if there is sufficient demand.

“It will be nice to do,” admits Kate. “We eventually convinced my mum to do it.

“My little sister was only four or five when my dad passed away so she’s never seen them, but I remember them as a child in his study on the wall.

“When you are young, everyone has ‘normal’ parents; mine weren’t normal and I just wanted normal parents!”

Rock may seem a slightly strange place to host such an exhibition, which deals with some of the most famous rock songs from the 1960s and 1970s, but it is actually quite appropriate.

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock.
Picture by Jane Coltman

Kate Chandler's Art Rock Cafe and Gallery at Rock. Picture by Jane Coltman

Kate explained that back in the 1950s, her dad and his friends, who lived in Byker and Heaton in Newcastle, used to travel up to Rock and go camping in the woods, simply because they liked rock and roll. The village was even the place where he had his first beer.

And if that wasn’t enough going on, Kate is also about to open a second café in Alnwick, in the new premises of Real Fitness.

Kate’s partner, Matthew Pearce, helps run the gym, which is expanding and has moved from its previous home to South Road Industrial Estate.

Northumberland to Brazil and back again

Living in Brazil was ‘amazing’ and a ‘fantastic experience’, according to Kate, who worked as a writer and blogger while she was out there as well as running a hotel.

But she was drawn to the South American country by the promise of consistent wind and conditions for kite surfing, something she learnt to do at Beadnell.

While in Brazil, she became professional and travelled round the country to take part in competitions. Kate still has one sponsor and likes to go kite surfing when she can at Bamburgh and Beadnell, but she has been fairly busy with her other ventures recently.

She did have one very unpleasant experience in Brazil, when she was attacked by armed men and ended up having stitches in her head after being hit with a gun, although she ended up staying two years after that.

“You can’t write off 10 years of good stuff,” she said, but did admit it played a part in her eventual decision to return to Northumberland.

Information on the two cafés

The Art Rock Café and Gallery is located at Rock Midstead Farm, NE66 2TH. It is open every day except for Tuesday, from 9.30am to 5.30pm weekdays and 9am to 5.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays, serving breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. Contact 01665 579339 or search for The Art Rock Cafe & Gallery on Facebook.

The as-yet-unnamed new café in Alnwick is based in what was office space at the new home of Real Fitness – Unit 3A, South Road Industrial Estate, NE66 2NN, serving health-inspired food as well as some traditional favourites.