Date Posted: 18th July 2019

The red bridge Allonby
The pink door, Glen Cottage allonby

For the last 40 years there has been a summer art exhibition at Allonby, a small village on the Solway coast just a few miles North of Maryport. It is a free for all - anyone can submit – and many do. There are no rules for entry, no selection committee, no prizes, no judgments. The works are hung in the village hall - floor to ceiling, edge to edge (sometimes on the floor!) in alphabetical order so you get the picture as it were and there are lots of them.  The exhibition opens Thursday 25th July @ 3.00 pm and closes Monday 29th.  

Allonby can’t be described as picturesque. There are no thatched cottages and dreamy vistas of lakes and mountains but it has long been a magnet for artists.  The seascapes and sunsets looking across the Solent to Dumfries and Galloway, the higgledy piggledy houses of interesting shapes and sizes, the iconic Quaker Reading Rooms and the bridges over the beck give it a unique attraction. It has a delightful air of artistic dilapidation beloved by Lowry and Kelly.  Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins stayed at the Ship Inn in the centre of the village, Sheila Fell often visited when she was up from London visiting her parents in Aspatria, her friend and benefactor L S Lowry sometimes joined her there and it was a source of inspiration for Percy Kelly.  (I have an early Kelly watercolour of the red bridge dated 1942 painted when he was on leave from the Royal signals in WW2.)  

Percy and his wife Audrey moved to Glen Cottage the other side of that bridge in 1958 when they gave up the post office in Great Broughton. It was there that Percy saw off his deep depression by feverishly painting and drawing every day and it was while he lived in Allonby that he attended Carlisle College of Art 1961 - 1965 to learn printmaking. He frequently used images of Allonby in his college work. It was the most productive period of his life.

Because this year is the 40 year anniversary of Allonby’s summer exhibition, I have been persuaded to give an illustrated talk A WALK ROUND ALLONBY WITH PERCY KELLY on Sunday 28th July at 6.30pm in the village hall. I will be showing many images of Kelly’s Allonby inspired works including some mystery pieces that aren’t illustrated in the Percy Kelly Trails and of course there will be a few stories.

The village hall is quite small so you need to book a place in advance with the organiser Janet Wilshaw on 01900 881447. Tickets £3 to include tea and cake.  If it is greatly over subscribed Janet will open a reserve list and  we will find another date for a repeat talk and possibly a real walk round Kelly’s Allonby if you register your interest with her.