Former post office now home to a noodle bar and art world
GETTING YOUR HAIR CUT in a bizarre art installation shouldn’t really work, but it does.
These are the words of Stuart Semple who has teamed up with Anthony Alden-Clift to offer just that in a former post office on the edge of Bournemouth town centre.
There has been no shortage of eerie looks from passers-by since the transformation of the former West Hill Post Office premises on Commercial Road.
And you can’t really blame them for a ‘post-apocalyptic’ noodle bar filled with detail and mystery.
Behind the abandoned food court, which offers no food for sale (or stamps) and through the entrance to the vending machine, an artist works to provide people with a fresh garnish.
But this is no normal living room, the walls of Blunt Instruments are covered in sought after skateboard designs and even some of Stuart’s own work.
Summarizing the project, Stuart said, “I think art is about community, so spaces where communities can come together and be in art and artists need places to work.
“Anthony is an artist and that’s it. As for the Chop Shop, I just like that narrative that doesn’t quite make sense, so you find your own meaning or your own storyline through it. It’s interesting because there are so many levels here.
“You can just see it as a work of art, so you walk past it, and you look at it or you don’t even see it as a work of art and you think about what happened to the old post office or you get to pass the vending machine and you have a whole world of Anthony’s work and artistry dating back 20 odd years. It’s just weird.
Outside the building and some remnants of the site’s past, although Stuart and Anthony have made an effort to point out that people certainly cannot buy stamps from the Chop Shop.
Anthony has worked as a hairdresser in the Bournemouth area for 30 years but has never had his own space before and is thriving.
“I’ve worked in three different types of salons, from your high street, high end fashion to a more community thing in Westbourne to a boutique spa in Canford Cliffs and I felt I had to hold myself back in some extent,” Antoine said.
“I ended up working for Lush in their R&D hair brand and realized I was losing myself even more.
“I spoke with my good friend Stuart. I always had the idea of a shop within a shop, more so to support the possibility of having a commercial space but also as a facade.
“I think the secret of something can be misinterpreted as arrogance and a bit of elitism, but it’s quite the opposite. It’s welcome for everyone as long as they come from first for a consultation and that we establish if we get on well.
“I’ve always had to cut everyone’s hair because I’ve worked for other people, whereas now I can choose because it’s something very personal. I won’t be for everything. the world and everyone will not be for me.
“To date we’ve only turned three people away and two of them were based on the fact that they didn’t like the dog.”
Across the lounge, which does not offer walk-ins, the premises also have space for the incredible work of Vissenga Leatherworks and accommodation, which can be booked on Airbnb, downstairs.
Stuart said: “I’ve done more immersive and sculptural stuff, but I’ve never really gotten to show it at Bournemouth or anywhere I show it, so to have a piece of my work that everyone can visit, any time of the day or night and seeing through the window is amazing.”
Anthony said that while everyone was polishing their storefront to encourage people to come in, they had done the opposite by deconstructing it.
“I think the proof is in the customer reviews, how many people are recommended,” Anthony said.
“We have a pretty tongue-in-cheek, feather-ruffled ad campaign going on right now. It’s offended some people, but it’s part and parcel of it.”
He added: “People have always stood outside thinking what’s going on in there.
“The magic happens. People come in and out with beautiful hair and a smile. What are we doing here? We’re making art, it’s just about the hair.
“It’s so unique and for me, I can be me. I finally feel like I’m doing what I should have been doing where I should be doing it.