16 October, 2010


Boating and sailing are very big in Manteo; as they are in Bideford too. We've been out on Jamie Daniel's kayak a number of times now exploring the 'mosquito lanes' which connect houses and boat moorings to the open water and getting out in the sound where the water is a bit choppy from the wind. You see fish jumping here, an osprey if you're lucky as we were, pelicans woodpeckers and frogs. Here Sadie is seen in front of the reproduction Elizabeth 2 and I was reminded of a similar image from Bideford, where I'm rowing in front of the 3 masted schooner Kathleen and May.

14 October, 2010

Searching for the real Manteo

We met up with John Wilson, Manteo's ex-Mayor and architect, and responsible for the reproduction Roanoke Marches Lighthouse and the look of Manteo today; a look that is making it a tourist hit and has put the town in the top 10 places to get married in the country. But what does Manteo look like away from the waterfront, where the 'real' people work and live? Here is a selection of photographs of a Manteo you rarely see in a Google or Flickr search:

13 October, 2010


Connected historically through the first American colony of 1587 (later known as the 'lost colony') under the command of Sir Richard Grenville, Bideford's Lord of the Manor; Bideford (Bidufud) and Manteo (Maneo) are twin towns or sister cities.

The towns were twinned in April 1984 in Bideford and this is a photograph, by Angel Khoury from her historical book Manteo A Roanoke Island Town 1999, showing the American flag flying from the town hall during the ceremony. Like the colony the details of this twinning were lost with a change of administration. In 2008, after an embarrassing prompt in the form of a gift brought to Bideford from Manteo and international press coverage (which did no harm at all to the towns' tourist industries) a delegation left from Bideford to make amends.

Here is the Harry Juniper traditional sgraffito harvest jug brought to Manteo at the time on the lap of Mayor Andy Powell, because it was deemed too fragile to travel in any other way; and the other picture shows the reception area come council chambers at the Town Hall in Manteo where Harry's jug is displayed in a cabinet and two of Graham Hobb's panoramic photographs of Bideford adorn the walls.

I talked with Kermit Skinner, Manteo's town manager, about the importance of art in the town and he agreed with me that it is related to culture and heritage and tourism and so to the whole economy of the town. Manteo is built on it's heritage but also it's art and the same is/could be true of Bideford. It's interesting that gifts exchanged at a twinning ceremony are gifts of an art/craft nature, something handmade or unique reprosenting each town.

06 October, 2010

Art Heritage

Manteo laps it's history up, where it exists it is exonerated, where it is vague the mystery and myth are celebrated and where it doesn't exist it is subtly added. Yet it has the vibrancy of a college town rather than the sterility of a heritage site.
Sunshine brings it alive, the first for 5 days put the last farmers market of the year in the shade of trees by the waterfront. There are no farmers in Dare County, except for the Island Farm, the oldest building on Roanoke Island dating from the 1850's and now a historical interpretation rather than a producing farm. The market is made up of artists and craftspeople, everything has to be handmade including bakery, coffee and lemonade. The work on sale has a regional, Outer Banks (OBX) flavour jewellery with shell motifs, concrete slabs embossed with starfish or in the shape of giant flip-flops decorated with genuine recycled Manteo glass fragments. We were attracted to the old hard-backed books that had been taken apart and reassembled with the addition of note making pages. And also to the work of Mike Tames who works in the antique business salvaging obscure items to make new art items; a similar process to Bideford's Rachel Sumner.

Warren had invited us to see him at the wonderful reproduction Elizabethan ship, the Elizabeth 2, made here in Manteo 20 years ago. The original 55 tonne ship of the 1585 voyage would never have docked in Manteo as the waters of the Roanoke Sound are too shallow for a ship of it's size. Smaller, partly assembled boats, were part of it's cargo and these took the 55 crew from the ocean to the Island. This ship is hugely popular and the 'flagship' of the Roanoke Island Festival Park, which also has an Indian Village based on John Whites drawings, and a recreation of the original settlement with historic costumed interpreters. There's an army of costumed interpreters in the summer but we learned plenty from the few that were left in October; the lone Scotsman manning the fort performed a fine blacksmithing demonstration and made Sadie a square sided nail.

One of the eye-catching, photogenic, enhancements of Manteo's waterfront is the 2008 reproduction lighthouse, based on one which used to stand on stilts in the marshland. This genius piece of town planning replaced the town's water treatment plant (I'd call it a sewerage works) with the most photographed building in Manteo.

01 October, 2010

Flooding in Manteo

After 5 days of rain and the Easterly wind blowing the sea up into Manteo from Roanoke Sound we got flooding this morning on Elizabeth Street. I was alerted to this from a new photography friend at 7am by a phone message. This is a real rarety here so we should be pleased to witness it. Let's hope the sun comes out soon!