Being in Manchester

The fact is I had never heard of Ariana Granda …..till now that is…… or her fans, the targets of a terrorist, just for being girls dressed up to go out singing and dancing to music they loved. The sudden heatwave was a good excuse to sit & ponder and read the Guardian from cover to cover. Last Thursday there was an article by Lucy Easthope, a senior lecturer specialising in disaster response (the speeches people make). Well I didn’t like the ‘disaster response’ message of every politician and public figure in Manchester on Tuesday morning. It was too early to spout the ‘we are strong, we will survive’ message. We were not strong that morning and a pause to be angry and shocked would have been better. Lucy Easthope has the grace to admit publicly that her message of 11 years is wrong.

Judy Chicago has found a ‘hole’ in Liverpool, a derelict drain silo on the Stanley Dock. I always smile when I remember our introduction to her art in the Ben Uri gallery on one of our London trips. It’s a fabulous name Judy Chicago, but her art was not to everyone’s taste, many fled at the first sight, some paused before fleeing and just a few stayed to try and absorb her raw stark angry messages.

Jeremy Deller makes me smile even more. I remember our first encounter with this slight young figure who took to the stage for a Tuesday Talk in the old lecture theatre. His first words “I’m not really an artist, I can’t paint or make things”. But he was already a Turner Prize winner by then and he just talked about how creating events were his way of expressing himself. His pavilion at the Venice Biennale was extraordinary and most recently the WW1 memorial of all the soldiers killed in the Battle of the Somme. Like all fans everywhere when I met him again at a small event in Miss Selfridge’s I asked him for his autograph.

Judy Chicago & Jeremy Deller will be helping Liverpool to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Sgt Pepper till 16th June

“we’re here because we’re here” Battle of the Somme commemoration.


Feeling smug!

Can I still remember how to use the Blog? New Chairman is very keen on social media – must have another go…..

Since my first attempt in 2012 and the last entry in 2015 our world has changed beyond recognition, both at home in WAG, nationally and on the world stage. Philosophy is not my strongest  point so I will desist from now on.

Unfortunately I’m probably not going to get to beloved Venice this year, and I think I might like Phyllida Barlow in the British Pavilion. I have read all the reports in yesterday’s Guardian and I always believe everything that Charlotte Higgins writes. Phyllida belongs to the grey haired generation but may be in denial about it. Descended from Charles Darwin and married to Fabian Peake, son of Mervyn of Gormenghast fame, with devoted followers such as Frances Morris (Pilk 2017) and Richard Wentworth (Pilk 2009) she has a fabulous back story too.

Promoted by Hauser and Wirth, collectors of contemporary art and owners of art galleries in London, Zurich and New York and one on their farm in Somerset (FOW Tour 2017).

Compensation to be found in Hull with Lubaina Hamid of Zanzibar and Preston and now one of the Turner Prize nominees. Age no barrier now we could all chosen!






The Candidates

The Candidates

What am I to do with my vote? It’s all on their badges!




I was really hoping for a gardening week but it’s raining. The programme has gone to the printers, it will inevitably contain errors but there is nothing more I can do except sit back and hope for loads of applications .

Birmingham looks worth a visit before 6th September to see William Morris and and Andy Warhol curated by Jeremy Deller………….The centrepiece of the exhibition is Birmingham’s Holy Grail tapestries, produced by Morris & Co., and the only series in a UK public collection. Displayed together for the first time since 2008, don’t miss your chance to view these rare and light sensitive works.

Lots of Bloomsbury action in the air at the moment a new book about David (Bunny) Garnet by Sarah Knights available on Kindle so no need to find room on the book shelves. Also a new television drama 3 part series starting tonight, Life in Squares BBC 2 at 9.00pm. Not all the previews have been good unfortunately but I’ll be glued anyway.

FOW Hat-stand

FOW Hat-stand




Hat-stand returns to meeting room 2 Mezzanine Floor

Whitworth Art Gallery



Very interesting to read a review in the Guardian of Shakespeare’s King John performed in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Built by Simon de Senlis, Earl of Northampton on his return from the crusades it is a miniature version of the Church of Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. Great to have visited it on the way to London in February when we stopped in Northampton for lunch and culture.

Congratulations to Bamber Gascoigne on being such a nice person and nephew that his Aunt the Duchess of Roxburghe has left him West Horsley Place, a stately home in Surrey. Behind a door they found a long lost chalk study of Flaming June by Lord Leighton which will be sold to pay for restoration of the mansion.

Been watching and reading about Grayson Perry’s ‘House for Essex’. Sleeps six apparently, anyone interested?

Went to see Impressionists on Screen last week, good experience, the close-ups of the brushwork were amazing, plus very interesting details about the French art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel. I’m sure it was a good substitute for not being able to see the exhibition. The Guardian on Saturday had a fascinating article about the controversial Hugh Lane bequest, which includes many Impressionist paintings bought from Durand-Ruel. The collection is still being argued over by National Gallery London and the City Gallery in Dublin (which is named after Hugh Lane, who died on the SS Lusitania) – very complicated – not sure I followed all the in and outs of the story.

Exciting news for Jackson Pollock  fans among the FOWs taking the Venice extension in September!

At the Palazzo Vernier dei Leoni at the grandest end of Venice’s Grand Canal, where Peggy Guggenheim settled in 1940, & which is today a museum of her compelling art collection, a barge arrived carrying a very large, precious cargo……boxed up & bouncing on the waves came Jackson Pollock’s painting Mural. More than 6 metres wide & almost 2.5 metres tall, this epic abstract canvas is the painting that made Pollock into Pollock and gave birth to the art of our time. Quote: Jonathan Jones – The Guardian Sat 25 April 2015.

Jackson Pollock in Venice

Jackson Pollock in Venice





Highly recommend a visit to the Huddersfield Art Gallery. It is a great collection including work by favourites such a Francis Bacon, Bloomsbury Group, Keith Vaughan, John Piper and many others….

Berkshire Landscape by Keith Vaughan

Berkshire Landscape by Keith Vaughan

Coast by John Piper

Coast by John Piper

Figure Study II, Francis Bacon

Figure Study II, Francis Bacon







The Media Museum in Bradford was also very interesting, especially to those fascinated by photography and it’s history. It is part of the same museums group as MOSI and consequently under the same threat of closure. Spare a thought when we enthusiastically vote for the survival of our own cultural venues we may be condemning others to the dustbin reserved for somebody else’s museum.

I love a good coincidence; as part of the Cornwall trip in June there is a visit to Trebah garden, one of those Cornish sub-tropical gardens and the March edition of the RHS  monthly magazine ‘the Garden’ has a long article on the Trebah historic plant collections. We have had an email from Alistair Smith offering to arrange a studio visit with the artist Michael Porter (the man who painted the big triptych of trees that sometimes hangs in the South Gallery), in his Newlyn studio while we are there. Also, Lanhydrock have discovered Henry VIII’s marriage guidance book which is now on show for us to see when we visit.

I have been to some lectures at the Rylands Library recently. This monthly series of lunchtime talks introduces the New JRL Research Institute and it’s vibrant research portfolio. Each informal, accessible seminar showcases cutting-edge research on documents from the last 3000 years…….. Last month was Hebrew Collections, last week was an early illuminated Qur’an. 15 April, Interpreting Papyrus; 6th May, Curating Magic; 3rd June, Encountering Italy. Highly Recommended!

TV dilemma: to watch or not to watch the new Poldark. The daughter says “can’t watch, it will mess with my childhood”. Robin Ellis was perfect as the all round, good, sometimes bad, but always gorgeous hero, fortunately he has aged with the rest of us and now embraces life with diabetes, lives in France and writes cook books for people with diabetes. Then in the same week, up popped John-Boy Walton in The Good Wife. Anyone admitting to watching Cucumber?

Pic. A coin from 306-281 BC featuring Alexander (sometimes called ‘The Great’) of Macedonia, a gift from a friend who knows about my fixation with Alexander. It’s incredible to hold something as old as this.

Head of Alexander 305-281 BC

Head of Alexander
305-281 BC

From the Reign of Lysimachus

From the Reign of Lysimachus

New discoveries

Just back from London. Apart from bringing home fewer people than we started with (due to illness, work commitments and other London engagements) feedback has been very positive.

Highlights for Christine T were 78 Derngate in Northampton and the Victoria Crow/Edinburgh Weavers tapestry on view in the Fleming collection.

Personally the Pérez Simón* Collection exhibition, A Victorian Obsession, in Leighton House was much better than anticipated and Westminster Cathedral is a hidden ‘gem’! The IWM is spectacular but chilling. I really loved Tate Britain with two ‘new’ staircases when I was only expecting one and the ‘new hang’ is terrific, we must go back next year and spend time in the modern to contemporary section which we didn’t do justice to this time.

*Pérez Simón has assembled a collection of over 3000 paintings, including works by Dalí, Goya, El Greco, Rubens, Van Gogh and Monet. In 2010, Paris Match described the collection as the largest in private hands in the world.

Must mention, 2 Temple Place, built in 1895 for William Waldorf Astor as an office, its sumptuous wood panelling the perfect  backdrop to display the illustrated manuscripts from Blackburn Museum and the Tiffany glass from Accrington in the exhibition Cotton to Gold.

Like everyone else I fell in love with the sheep and the wonderful tapestry woven from their wool on display in the Fleming Collection.

A series of sheep portraits by Kathryn Dun

A series of sheep portraits by Kathryn Dun

The making of the Large Tree Group Tapestry

The making of the Large Tree Group Tapestry







Hope it’s OK to publish a couple of pictures taken at the Friends and Family Event. Not sure I can find the right superlatives ….perhaps readers can suggest some?

Portrait Gallery Friends and Family Opening preview 07/02/2015

Portrait Gallery
Friends and Family
Opening preview 07/02/2015

Cold Dark Matter Cornelia Parker

Cold Dark Matter
Cornelia Parker

Unmanned nature installation by Cai Guo-Qiang

Unmanned nature installation by Cai Guo-Qiang









Spent most of Thursday chilling out and reading the long read in the Guardian …….“Ever since its 19th-century heyday, Manchester has languished in the shadow of London. But that may be about to change. Simon Jenkins tells the inside story of the secret negotiations to restore the city to greatness.” This has put flesh on the bones on the wide ranging discussions with fellow travellers on the coach trip home from London. For non Guardian readers this is totally apolitical………honestly.