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Life Class

Chris Wadsworth is a born storyteller. With its cast of painters, hustlers and eccentrics, her memoir reads more like a comic novel at times. If you've ever wondered what it's like to run a provincial art gallery, this is the book for you.
Blake Morrison

'It was pure theatre,' says Chris 'with a large cast of Interesting people - art lovers, eccentrics and artists passed through the gallery each day. I never knew what would happen next but something dramatic invariably did.'

In this memoir Chris tells the stories of some of the people, the art works and the situations she encountered in her 25 years  at Castlegate House - the gallery she began almost by accident, which became an overnight success and took over her life.

Was the knob man a serial killer? Was the relief she found a genuine Ben Nicholson? How did she get her Magic Knickers?

You will find the answers in this book which is in turn hilarious, informative and sad.

Life Class
Price: £5.00
Complete Trail Collection

Purchase the complete trail collection for a copy of all 6 trail brochures in an attractive folder.

Makes an ideal gift or collectors item.

Complete Trail Collection
Price: £12.00
Allonby Trail

Allonby is a small village five miles north of Maryport on the Solway coast.  It was a busy fishing village for many years; its main catch being herring which were smoked in the Fish houses. It is known for its long sandy beaches, grassy sand dunes and views over to Dumfries and Galloway. It is popular with wind surfers and walkers.

Traditionally workers from the North East have come here for their annual holiday to stay in the numerous caravan sites scattered around the village. It is a friendly place and the sunsets are vivid. The fishing industry has gone but you will see some grand houses on your walk as well as the imposing building which was Public Baths and the Reading Rooms, the legacy of a quaker beneficiary which is now being privately restored.

A walk round the village reveals plenty of Kelly subjects.

Allonby Trail
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Maryport Trail

Kelly was fascinated by harbours and boats. His paintings and drawings are linear, deceptively simple and satisfying. Maryport with its geometric grid pattern and harbour views appealed to his sense of balance and design. It became one of his favourite places to work. He discovered it  as a boy when he cycled up the coast from his home town of Workington. It was a place to which he constantly returned because it offered so much material on which to base his drawings. He saw the town with an artist's keen eye. He had no time for irrelevant detail. He wasn't interested in making a photographic record. He wanted to make a picture.

Maryport has seen many changes in its development from a fishing creek in Roman times through rapid development in the industrial revolution and decline in the depression in the twentieth century.

We can see  and compare these changes on the walk as we see them through the eyes of Percy Kelly, one of the most talented Cumbrian artists of the Twentieth Century.

Maryport Trail
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Workington Trail

Workington is not a tourist destination, nor is it Utopia but it is important as the town where Percy Kelly was born and grew up. This visit helps us understand him and his work. This trail tells the story of Kelly’s childhood. He lived in the centre of town until he was 10 in an area of grey depressing streets. There were 3 adults and 7 children crammed into the little terraced house. The harbour and docks were just a short walk away - a wonderland to a child.

The trail emphasises the contrast.

This is the shortest and easiest of the six trails. You will spend time at the harbour in Workington where Kelly did his first drawings and walk past his home in Corporation Road and first school a little further along. It is easy to imagine him as a small child marching down to the harbour with a pencil and paper – often just a bit of cardboard packaging. You can see him toddling off to school with his twin brother John.

Workington Trail
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Whitehaven and St Bees Trail

Whitehaven always held an interest for Kelly. It had all the elements that attracted him. Although he was charming, sociable and got on well with people he wasn’t interested in them as far as art was concerned. The human stories of smuggling, invasion and kidnap didn’t interest him.  Mines, factories, docks, buildings, cars and railways fascinated him.

This trail takes us round the southern part of the town’s coastal area as far as St Bees. Kelly recorded a lot of the mining history exploring the cliff top at Kells which is a honeycomb of deep shaft mines, pits and passages which stretch miles out under the sea.  This has preserved the cliff top from development making it a pleasant grassy recreational area. It was possibly Kelly’s interest in birds that led him to wander further south to St Bees whose cliffs play host to many rare species of birds and plants. Maybe it was the sheer isolation that drew him to this area.

Whitehaven and St Bees Trail
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Whitehaven Harbour Trail

Whitehaven is the largest town on the Kelly trails. There is a lot to see and do so it is divided it into two trails -  first the harbour and town, an easy walk on the flat apart from one hill at the beginning, the other the mining area on the South cliffs and themore arduous coastal walk to St Bees (6 miles). It is easy to spend several hours walking round the Harbour and even longer exploring the town. If Kelly were to return today he would be surprised at the tourist development and the amount of public art and number of heritage trails in this town. This makes the work he did here even more interesting - even his rough sketches.

By 1730 Whitehaven had the deepest seams, the latest technology and steam engines for drainage and haulage. In 300 years 70 pits were sunk in the Whitehaven area and 500 people - men and boys lost their lives under land and sea.  It provided Kelly with unlimited inspiration feeding his love of ships, harbours, machinery, industry and architecture.

Whitehaven Harbour Trail
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Parton Trail

Parton is a hidden village. It crouches between the shore, the railway and steep cliffs. It can’t be seen from any of the roads into Whitehaven and has been overshadowed by that town over centuries.

Percy Kelly was painting and drawing here from the fifties when he returned from war service and was reluctantly directed back into working for the Royal Mail and given more responsibility. This left him little time for art so he became depressed and eventually resigned taking over a sub post office and general store at Great Broughton leaving his wife Audrey to do most of the work while he escaped to paint. This was a time of huge development in his work and we see here the difference between the early watercolours and the growing confidence and bold, steady lines of sixties work.

It is easy to see why Kelly would find Parton attractive. The curve of the railway, the juxtaposition of the higgledy piggledy houses and the sinister church and Hall silhouetted on the skyline were suited to his style, palate and mood.

Parton Trail
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The Man Who Couldn't Stop Drawing

The extraordinary life of Percy Kelly.

Percy Kelly began to draw as soon as he could hold a pencil. He didn`t draw like a child. He had an innate understanding of perspective, draughtmanship and balance. He drew or painted every day of his life even through his army service in the second world war often in defiance of orders to send his materials home. In his first job in the postal service he would occasionally draw on the mail he was about to deliver until there was a complaint from one recipient. He drew on plastic plates in hospital. He drew on the back of cereal packets and envelopes. He drew and doodled on anything in his orbit. It was a compulsion. A day without drawing plunged him into depression. It was as necessary to his health as eating and drinking.

After his death in 1993, Chris Wadsworth brought his life`s work back to his native Cumberland and has been his champion, building his reputation from nothing. In the last 18 years she has gathered information from many sources, built it up piece by piece like a jigsaw and now is ready to tell the story of the extraordinary life of Percy Kelly which began in a terrace house in Workington, Cumbria, through Cornwall and Brittany to a derelict house in Pembrokeshire and a cottage in the backwoods of Norfolk. On that journey he discussed art with the Prime Minister Winston Churchill during air raids, shook hands with the King, George VI, at the National Gallery and dined with members of the Royal family. He corresponded with some of the highest in the land and ended up lonely and confused in a cottage in Norfolk surrounded by his beloved collection of art.

The Man Who Couldn't Stop Drawing
Price: £20.00
Whitewash and brown paint

The sketchbooks of Percy Kelly 1918 - 1993.

Hard back full colour.

Whitewash and brown paint
Price: £10.00