Date Posted: 2nd November 2022

Seckers' silk mill Hensingham
Whitehaven Harbour from the fan House

The Beacon in Whitehaven opened its doors for the first time 25 years ago in 1997.  To my joy it had a state of the art gallery.  Even better,  Northern Arts, the northern branch of the Arts Council who had provided a lot of the funding, asked me to mount the first exhibition in The Harbour Gallery with the works of Percy Kelly with particular emphasis on the area around Whitehaven.  Percy’s son Brian, who had inherited what we both thought was all his father’s work, came to the opening and was very proud of his father.   Percy’s historic printing press had been erected in the centre and hundreds came through and marvelled at Kelly’s talent and his ability to draw.

Twenty five years later Tony Calvin chairman of the Friends of the Beacon is keen to repeat the exercise and we are working together to produce something very special  early next year. ( January 21st – February 26th 2023). It will be a celebration of Copeland and its industry as seen through the perceptive eyes of Percy,  including some of the drawings and paintings of the Silk Mills at Hensingham that Sir Nicholas (Miki) Sekers commissioned Percy to do as well as some paintings acquired by the Beacon from that first exhibition and others on loan from private collections .

More about that in due course as we are still at the planning stage and uncovering some exciting things.  But we have found that there is no archive of that show which ran for 3 months from March28th to June 27th 1997. A faded poster which has been loaned to us confirms this and is backed by a printed programme of events for that first year.  There must have been an invitation to the opening and a catalogue list of exhibits. There must have been press releases and photographs.  I have a distant memory of a photographer mingling with the crowds.

So I am making an appeal to any of you who were there and hoping some of you kept something as a momento. Maybe you  will share anything you have with us. It will be greatly appreciated.