Gilkes Street Art on Tour

I always count myself fortunate to work in an office surrounded by artists and their artwork. For the next month I will be sharing my good fortune with visitors to the Heritage Gallery at Cargo Fleet, as Gilkes Street Artists display their work in an exciting new exhibition.

The exhibition encompasses recent work from all of the Gilkes Street Artists, including painting, drawing, printmaking and tapestry weaving. It is a truly eclectic mix of subject matter as well as media used to express it. Yet the groups’ work sits so well together.

You are immediately struck by the giant stylised heads of John Wheeler on one wall but then drawn into the more intricate lino-cuts of Jenni Thirwell or Leanne Jackson’s detailed portraits. I could not believe Jenni’s comic poster cover was created from scraping away at lino. Unbelievably patient and skilled work.

Dot Seddon’s tapestry and the abstract shapes and colours of Emma Bennett take you on further adventures of discovery. Dianne Bowell, has had a major exhibition at the Python Gallery until the last week and so has been extremely busy painting away. I love the idea that her portraits could flash across your peripheral vision. So much movement and mood.

Dot Seddon tells me that her beautiful tapestry of a Teesside industrial icon would have taken her hundreds of hours to perfect. I love the idea that Dot performs a traditional craft to depict the industrial mass production that all but superseded the cottage industry. The value of human craft is once again much prised and sadly is the manufacturing skills that seem more under threat. The colour and texture of Dot’s work is very arresting.

Emma Bennett is very attracted to late 20th century modernist architecture but she abstracts those forms from the cold concrete into altogether different planes and colours that leap off their new natural wooden panels.

John Wheeler is no stranger to this gallery. Earlier this year he exhibited a body of work showing the evolution of his techniques in his figurative work. These recent portraits are bold, minimalist I approach but certainly not in scale.

Ray Husband’s colours bleed across his abstract landscapes. Brian Russell’s portrait of Acklam Hall depicts Middlesbrough’s only Grade 1 listed building in an image that is crying to become a jigsaw.

The Gilkes Street Artists include Emma Bennett, Dianne Bowell, Ray Husband, Leanne Jackson, Brian Russell, Dot Seddon, Jenni Thirwell (Lino Cut to the left) and John Wheeler.

The artists studio group, which set up in 2012 have studio spaces on my floor of the Brentnall Centre, Gilkes Street in Middlesbrough and regularly exhibit as a group, as well as individually and hold an open studio event every autumn.

The show will continue at Heritage Gallery until 5th May. Opening hours are Monday to Friday 8.30pm- 5pm. Oh and you can eat while you browse the show as the bistro is open 8.30am to 3pm and is very popular for breakfasts and lunch. Big recommendation to them from me.

Cargo Fleet Offices is on Middlesbrough Road, it was the former Cargo Fleet Iron Works Offices used more latterly by Langbaurgh Council and British Steel Teesside HQ.

Heritage Gallery

More information on Gilkes Street Artists www.gilkesstreetartists.co.uk

 

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Trashterpiece – Saturday

This Saturday is the only weekend opportunity to see musician/artist, Teesside voice, and so much more besides, Kingsley Chapman’s exhibition and statement Trashterpiece at the House of Blah Blah.
trashterpiece-introWith a bar and some amazing Boro memorabilia to see as well as the artwork then what better way to spend your pre-match build up to Boro v Burnley. Oh and amongst that memorabilia are the giant heads of Ravanelli and Emerson that paraded the Wembley turf in our cup finals season 1996/97. Now I know you are going to want to see them.
To my eyes this is an amazingly impressive exhibition. Paintings dripping in gold, fake velvet and oozing decadence from every pore. It is an exhibition that points fingers, foam fingers and asks questions. What does Teesside mean? What is the future of Teesside? Can we escape our past?
You can bathe in the nostalgia buzz and reminisce about your favourite former nightclubs whilst watching the ZDS Northern Final highlights; you know the one we actually won, with Bernie’s amazing pivot and goal.

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There are Boro and Teesside items festooning a special alter. Including a pin badge of Jet the Gladiator, no less.

trashterpieceOh and there is unique merchandise to buy, including t-shirts and tee towels.
Kingsley, as singer with the Chapman Family and then Kingsley Chapman and the Murder has never been shy in coming forward and making commentary about the local area. He is such a good and opinionated writer that he has scribed for many music and arts magazine and his opinion even courted by the NME.
trashterpiece-artThinking about, that last Christmas I commissioned Kingsley – posh way of saying, asked – to write me a piece for Fly Me To The Moon fanzine reflecting on his 2016 and the bigger picture (arty joke) for Middlesbrough and Teesside. His final piece was typically forthright and hard hitting but also very funny. It has made it onto some of the merchandise at the exhibition.

I will put his words up online later this week to give you a better sense of his viewpoint. But for now I want to promote this event on Saturday. If you don’t know the House of Blah Blah it is an amazing warehouse type venue, close to Middlesbrough Railway Station and almost under the A66 fly over. It is bang next door to Teesside Archives and opposite what was the Royal Exchange site. Once the main postal sorting office and now is an arts venue and performance space. Exchange House, Middlesbrough TS1 1DB
This event is 11-3pm this Saturday, 8th April. Get down and see the art, the Rav and Emmo heads and watch the ZDS Northern Final win v Aston Villa. Then you can head down to the Riverside for the first ever Fan Zone 12-3pm outside the North Stand. You cannot fall off for things to do pre kick off on Saturday.

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BALDRIC’S BIG ADVENTURE

Local children have been welcoming an un-feathered friend into their homes and hearts.  A very popular artist Janice Foley has written and published her very first book, a children’s book describing the perils and the adventures of a real life garden visitor. Now Baldric, the unfeathered friend, has struck a real chord with children and grandparents alike and the first print run has absolutely flown out.

Janice runs Yarm Originals website, an online gallery that champions local and national artists and brings affordable art to people. Jan’s own paintings of Roseberry Topping have proved to be a real hit, often featuring the enigmatic Roseberry.

I met up with Jan in her Eaglescliffe home to hear all about the unfortunate bird Baldric and how the book has been such a sensation. Oh and I was so lucky because after the interview Jan read the first chapter to me. It was wonderful.

So let’s celebrate International Women’s Day by talking about the first book of a much loved local artist, Janice Foley.

baldrics-big-adventureQ: Jan please tell me about the book and the bird, Baldric?

Jan: Baldric is a real bird that appeared in my garden on April 1st last year.

Q: April Fools’ Day?

J: April Fools’ Day, yes, and everyone thought that I was pulling their legs until I took a photograph to show what he actually looked like. He had no feathers on his head. He was like a little miniature vulture.

Q: Very distinctive then?

J: Yes and quite jittery and jumpy and didn’t mix with the other birds.

So I looked up online why you would get a bald headed black bird and it could be a virus or a ring worm or it could be stress. Maybe he needed to find a mate.

So in my head when people started commenting that he would be cold and he needed a hat and he needed a mate and things like that, I decided to just think about why he was bald and maybe stressed. And I decided he was scared and he was going to be anxious and worry about everything.

Then one day he met the lady in the shed, the artist. That’s me. That is where I paint. The lady in the shed told him that he needed to go off and find himself and have some adventures and to be happy again.

Q: And you captured his adventures in a book.

J: Yes. Thirteen chapters. He sets off and leaves me and heads off to Roseberry Topping. Because that is where most of my paintings are set. And the Roseberry Hare does feature in the story but only for a brief moment because the book isn’t about him, that is a different book.

Q: The hare is a character that you introduced into your paintings and it became very popular.

J: Three years ago now and it is still incredibly popular. The Roseberry Hare has travelled all around the world. Hong Kong, Tasmania, Australia, Europe and America.

Q: Is this the first time you have actually written?

J: I have never written anything before in my life.

Q: That must have been quite a challenge for you.

J: Yes but I found it fairly easy really. It just flowed. Once I had the idea of the storyline, where he needed to go off and have adventures, it just happened. It was quite easy.

Q: I would have struggled even more writing for children.

J: I got the ideas from stories I remembered from my own children, my daughter in particular. I probably shouldn’t say this but she used to be scared of going to the toilet and bathroom on a night time in the dark. She was fine until she had to cross the landing and we could hear her charging across the landing. She was safe in the bathroom and then she had to charge back.

That was one idea of a scared child and a storyline for the blackbird. So that is in the book.

baldric-3Q: So do you think this story of the scaredy-bird will help children overcoming their own fears.

J: I think so because a part of the story in the first chapter is that the bird has no friends in the garden. Because he is different the other birds avoid him, and the snails make fun of him and the hedgehogs don’t like him and they scare him when they scrape under the gate late at night. So he has got no friends.

The lady says you have got to leave this garden, with the high fences and go off and make some friends.

It all works out quite happily for the bird, he does manage to find some friends. The book goes through the seasons as well. At some point it gets really cold and wintry and he has to find a hat for his head because he is so cold.

Q: So, back the suggestions at the start.

J: Yes, the ladies that suggested I knit a hat for him, yes. So, yes he does end up with a hat.

Q: Has the book made it into schools?

J: I have a couple of teacher friends and I have given them copies and they have taken them in and read them to four and five year olds over the course of a few days because it is quite a long book with eleven chapters so they couldn’t take it all in, in one reading session.

It has gone to ten year olds in a school. And they very kindly wrote to me. I got seventeen reviews back, which were absolutely brilliant. I got some lovely comments from them, very positive. I have been invited to go to another school and read it. I have done a book signing with it. And I have been invited by the WI to give a talk on how I started off to become an artist first and then to write my first book. I am doing that in April.

Q: It was April 2016 when this all started.

J: Yes, so it is about a year since we all met Baldric and I can go and talk about how I started painting initially and then I went from that to someone that wrote a book.

Q: I don’t suppose you would have imagined this time last year that you would have completed a book.

J: No, not at all. Although people have always asked about the Roseberry Hare, did he have a story? And he does and that will be coming out at some point. But not yet, for a while.

Q: Was this a limited print run?

J: The first run is a limited edition and we will soon be sold out of those.

Q: It is a really quality publication.

J: That was important to me. Nice thick paper. I have seen copies that children have looked at and had for a few weeks and they still look as good as new. The pictures had to be good quality for the illustrations. So it was important to me that it was a hard back, hard wearing, nice thick pages and large print. A lot of people that have bought it are quite elderly and have bought it as gifts for their grandchildren so they could read it to them. So it is quite important that the text size is big as well.

I have actually taken it into a nursing home and read it to some of the elderly people in there and they have loved it. They found it funny and entertaining.

Q: All those things that you list from the hard back to quality illustrations and nice big text that is how I remember books from my childhood. It used to be that way, didn’t it?

J: It did, yes. The difference between my book and what children are reading now is it is a lot longer and has a lot more words in. Although some children have actually said it is too long because they are used to very short, brief, a few lines to a story. But teachers have said that is one of the best books they have seen lately because it is different. But it is different in that it has gone back to how I would see books when I was young.

Q: Speaking to some teachers they tell me that some of the children try and move the pages of books with their fingers as if they are a smart phone screen.

J: I have seen that yes, I can understand that. I have done that on my computer screen and wondered why it isn’t working.

Q: It must be nice to produce a proper book.

J: It is nice to see that some children actually still read proper books, yes definitely.

Q: You have achieved a lot with this book. Is the next step to do another print run?

J: I think there will be some more copies but what they will look like I don’t know. Obviously I want to keep the price down and get it out there into some book shops. At the moment I am selling them myself. To get them in bookshops is another ambition. Also, to maybe take them into hospitals and children’s homes and get them out there to people that actually can’t afford the books would be nice as well.

baldric-and-janQ: Have you sold these books in the same way that you sell your paintings.

J: I have yes and it has mainly been online. Or people have come to me because they have heard about it. Not so many local people but this is the way the paintings go as well. My paintings go to people all around the country far more than they do locally.

Q: Have the people around the country got a link to this area?

J: Sometimes yes, they have moved away or they have visited here for holidays and have a special memory of Roseberry Topping and this area. They are bought as gifts as well for people that have lived here to give to family members etc.

Q: There is something about Roseberry Topping, isn’t there?

J: There is something magical about Roseberry Topping. We have all got a good memory of it and it is a place that you notice when you are coming back home. It is visible from so many miles around that we all see it is a landmark that means something to us in lots of different ways.

My uncle and aunt used to live at Great Ayton and as a child we used to go on two buses on a Sunday morning from Eaglescliffe to get to Great Ayton and it seemed to take hours and hours to get there. And then there was Roseberry Topping and just the magic of Great Ayton really. My uncle was an artist, just an amateur, he painted for pleasure. He did a few Roseberry Toppings and he always put a little snail in his paintings as a symbol. A lot of people see my Roseberry Hare as my symbol but there is actually another symbol that is hidden in the paintings as well. Some people know about it but I’m not going to say what that is, not just yet. At some point it will come out. But you can find it if you go looking for it.

Q: So, we should all look closely.

J: Yes, you should buy a painting and then you can see what it is (laughs).

You can order the last few copies of the book and view both Jan and other artists work online

www.yarmoriginals.com

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Searching For New Authors

Middlesbrough has a bit of a literary tradition from Ernest Hornung author of gentleman thief Raffles to Mel Small and (Sherlock) Holmes as a Boro lad. You could be the next in line on the ever growing Tees library shelf thanks to a brand new initiative being launched by Writers’ Block North East.

The Middlesbrough based creative hub that is Writers’ Block has forged a partnership with literary agents from ‘Watson, Little’ and ‘Hardman and Swainson’, is searching for new and emerging writers in the North East.

Sixteen writers will be selected to take part in Block 1: a nine-month writer development programme consisting of workshops, one-to-one mentoring and advice from industry professionals, culminating in a networking and showcasing event which will be attended by literary agents and other industry gatekeepers.

“We’re looking for anybody who wants to produce a brand new long-form narrative prose work, and wants the opportunity to present that work to a selection of agents in 2017-18,” said Laura Degnan, Writers’ Block director and mentor. “We want to support aspiring writers from the grassroots up.”

When Block 1 is complete Writers’ Block and the literary agents will then work together to select the eight writers whose projects are closest to completion to become part of Block 2: an additional, accelerated, 3-month completion programme, after which the eight participants will re-submit their work to the agents for final feedback.

All workshops will take place at The Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (mima) in Middlesbrough town centre and mima will be a key partner in the programme delivery, offering professional support and further development opportunities to writers. Participating writers will become mima writers in residence, producing written creative responses to their collection and working with the wider mima team to explore and expand their practice as writers.

Writers’ Block will provide ongoing one-to-one mentoring and a series of four intensive story development days for the chosen writers, as they develop an idea from scratch into a completed manuscript, including workshops delivered in partnership with Northern Film and Media and New Writing North.

The aim will be for the 16 writers to have produced a draft long-form manuscript at the end of Block 1, which they will then be able to pitch to agents.

Block 2 will include two further development days and mentoring from Writers’ Block and a literary agent.

“We’ve had a good record with introducing regional talent to national agents,” said James Harris, WB mentor and workshop leader. “People like Cathryn Summerhayes (William Morris) and Camilla Wray (Darley Anderson) have been very impressed with the standard of writers at our events, and all have said they’re keen to come back. Following our 2016 Meet the Agent event, two writers are represented by agents and a further three writers are in ongoing talks regarding representation.”

“If you’re a writer, or you think you’d like to be one, we’d love to hear from you,” said Degnan.

The deadline for applications is 5pm on Friday 17th March 2017. For further information please contact Laura Degnan on wbne2017@gmail.com or visit  www.writersblocknortheast.com/2017

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Middlesbrough Memories at Dorman Museum

There is a second chance to view the Memories of Middlesbrough photo exhibition and that means twice the memories for free. A unique collection of images of buildings and people from the town in bygone days was recently exhibited for a week at Python Gallery, at Royal Middlehaven House, not far from the railway station.

dorman-memories-1The exhibition images were provided by posters on the mega-popular facebook page. The photos might originally have been taken to show for the family album but behind a sister, brother, mother, father, aunt or uncle there could have been a view of a house, pub, shop or public building. Many of these street scenes have greatly altered others have totally vanished. Mind you a street view in suburbia of leafy Linthorpe has hardly changed at all, except for the addition of cars.

Memories of Middlesbrough now occupy a space in the back corridor of the Dorman, close to the thought provoking and must-see d-Formed exhibition of Kev Howard. Now, this is where we get double value because along the same wall and just the other side of an internal door is a semi permanent collection, also from posters of the memories of Middlesbrough facebook site. This second collection has been showing for several months now but is being constantly refreshed with different photos from former schools, houses and shop frontages.

dorman-lowcocksIn the newer exhibition there is a focus on old Middlesbrough, or Over The Border as it became known. There is an amazing shot of the old Town Hall appearing to hang perilously over a gaping hole where the building beneath has been demolished. We see photos of busy streets leading up to the old market place. Or a view along North Street with the old Customs House cloaked in scaffolding.

The photos in the two exhibitions span a century of memories. There are handcarts outside of old shops and then kids standing outside of their front gardens in the 1960s.

Then there are the old businesses of the town. How many people used to buy Lowcocks lemonade? Maybe from the vans that stopped around the estates.

Memories of Middlesbrough facebook page and group, were founded in 2012 by Sue Martin who never dreamed how interest would absolutely mushroom. In less than five years the group now boasts 30,000 ‘ likes’. Members include thousands still living in and around the town, but also those no longer based in Middlesbrough scattered across the globe as far afield as Australia, South Africa and U.S.A.

Do drop in to our free town museum, the Dorman Museum and let your mind wander back through the streets, faces and former trading places of Middlesbrough. You might as well grab a cup of tea at Dressers café on the way out.

Dorman Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday 9.30 am – 4.30 pm
Last entry 4.00pm

Closed Mondays except Bank Holidays.

FREE

 

 

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