Date Posted: 22nd December 2022

Percy Kelly Robin. Unique print
A Christmas greeting from Percy

This is not a robin – it’s a unique Percy Kelly Robin, one of his special hand-made Christmas cards! And its here across the century to wish you a happy Christmas break and an even happier new year.  As usual, I’m not sending out cards but giving a donation to Air Ambulance who look after us when we really need it (and let’s hope we never need it). So accept it as a virtual card from me.

What a year this has been. Lots of surprises: some good, some bad and some absolutely awful. (War in Ukraine, 3 PM’s in less than 12 months!)  It has been a good year for the arts though. Our lovely Theatre by the Lake has re-awakened and we’ve seen some great productions there – each one totally different. We’ve been up Everest (ingenious set design); we’ve been on bikes with Beryl the champion cyclist that we’d never heard of; we laughed our socks off at the audience participation in One man two governors and gave thanks we weren’t on the front row and we were saddened by the poignant Brief Encounter and the darkness of The Beauty Queen of Leenane. The programme for 2023 is equally diverse and enticing.

Our wonderful independent Cinema, The Alhambra, is now fully open again with 2 screens. It brings the world to us here. The best of everything. The latest films, relayed opera and plays and Art exhibitions plus. I was sceptical about this ‘looking at art on a screen’ but it’s more than that.  The intimate showing of paintings by Edward Hopper from the Met in New York  gave us the context -  the background detail without the jostle and queuing.  This was followed by Cezanne and I look forward in the spring, to the finest exhibition of *all Vermeer’s 36 known works have been gathered together for the first time in Amsterdam (*apart from just 1 which was allegedly stolen by the IRA and has never been recovered.)

We mourn the end of our literary Festival which brought big names to Keswick. Covid wielded the final blow but the 2 people who started Ways with Words - one of the first literary festivals - way back in Dartington Devon (same time as Hay on Wye) have been hit by serious illness.  Kay Dunbar, who was awarded an MBE for her services to literature, is battling with a cruel terminal illness of the MND variety cared for by her husband and business partner Stephen. So March in Keswick will never be quite the same without them. I owe them a lot. They made me into a writer and through them I have met some amazing people and made life changing connections. Thank you Kay and Stephen.

That’s enough misery. Lets look to the future. January 21st 2023 will see the opening of a Kelly exhibition at the Beacon Whitehaven which will continue until February 26th. It is a celebration of work he did in Copeland in the sixties.  In April this year Copeland will return to being part of Cumberland beloved by Percy. He refused to write Cumbria on his envelopes He hated the name and  didn’t live long enough to offer an opinion on the Copeland label. I am co-curating it with Tony Calvin, the chair of the Friends of The Beacon who suggested it. We are borrowing most of the works – the Beacon own several – and there are some astonishing stories developing around the show. Are you aware that the very first art exhibition 26 years ago in the state of the art gallery in the newly built Beacon was Works by Percy Kelly curated by a woman called Chris Wadsworth. I will tell you more about that and other stories during the show.

I will give more details after Christmas but you need to know now that for the duration of the exhibition (21st January – 26th February)  Tony Calvin will be leading walking tours round Whitehaven every Sunday 11.30 – 1.30 guided by Kelly’s works.  Every Saturday 1 – 3, I will be in the gallery bringing the exhibition to life, giving the background and telling stories (and there are some dramatic ones). Every Tuesday 1 – 3pm Tony will be doing the same. These are free but you have to pay the usual admission to the gallery (unless you have an annual ticket). Numbers are limited of course and are filling fast even now as the word spreads - such is the power of Percy.  If demand is high, I will add another day each week to my commitment. Find out more on or on 01946 592302

Rembrandt’s wife Saskia will still be ready to meet you there over the festive season until 2nd January. Don’t miss her. She has a presence which is compelling - hypnotic even. If you stay with her long enough she will whisper across the centuries to you.

So have a lovely break. Try to keep warm, feed and water the birds and keep away from public transport if you can. It could end in tears or, as in my case, on a 1st class toilet seat followed by a taxi from Preston to Penrith.

Happy Days