Date Posted: 31st October 2021

In my 25 years at Castlegate House, I twice before put on a fund raising exhibition called ANON in which artists, actors and celebrities were given a piece of card, asked to paint or draw on it and sign it on the back. This was then placed in a cd case and mounted patchwork style on the wall and people were invited to come and purchase at a fixed price without knowing whose work it was – a bargain price in most cases – and all the proceeds went to Theatre by the Lake in Keswick. People still talk about it; what they got and the fun they had choosing.

ANON 1 in 1998 was at Castlegate House to raise money to get the theatre built. The old blue box had been towed out of the car park and the site cleared. There were works by  Royal Academicians - Mary Fedden and  John Bellany, gallery artists and famous actors as well as jimmy the gallery cat.  At £30 a pop it raised £15000. The queue spread down Castlegate into the market place and a lot of fun was had by all. The buyers didn’t discover whose work they had bought until they came to collect at the end. I was nervous about the woman who had paid £30 for the work of a cat but she was thrilled. Jimmy had signed it somewhat reluctantly until bribed by smoked salmon, and I had put his photo on the back. His buyer sat the artist on her knee and stroked him then happily went on her way to the picture framers.

 ANON 2 marked the theatre’s 10th birthday in 2009 and was mounted in the Circle Gallery at the theatre. The queue outside was even longer, the price was £40 and it was very exciting- a really big fun occasion.  Ian McKellen  sent a drawing of Gandalf, Prunella Scales (AKA Sybil in Faulty Towers and her husband Timothy West as well as all my gallery artists and many RAs and Scottish painters contributed.

now that the theatre is struggling to reopen after a difficult time and we are all in dire need of some fun I have been asked to do it again. This time it is £50 a pop and it opens  at 10pm on 20th November at the theatre. The work is pouring in. I have now opened well over 200 masterpieces and they are still coming in as we get closer to the deadline. The essence of it all is secrecy. We give you a list of exhibitors names but we don’t say which are which. Not even a clue. You will have to base your opinion purely on what you see.

So it is up to you the buyer to use your judgment and buy something you like so you won’t be disappointed. So far there is work by some recognizable names: Maggi Hambling; Alan Aykbourne; Ruby Turner; John Hegley; John Emanuel; Marie Scott; Marj Bond RGI; RSA; Peter Quinn; Patricia Sadler and Karen Wallbank. (Some have sent 2.) I have donated 6 small Percy Kelly’s from my own collection which are scattered among the rest. We have so far had work from Kenneth Draper RA and his wife Jean Macalpine in Menorca and from Charles Mitchell who was Dean of Cumbria Art College who  has sent 3 from Italy where he now lives. There are watercolours, oils, etchings, calligraphy, still lives, portraits, tapestries, collages and even 2 exquisite paper sculptures which we will have to display “outside the box!”  There is something for everybody. * I have attached a random selection of 16  just to give you a taste of the quality and diversity and  I can assure you that they really are random. I can give you no clues

There are still more to come. I love going in to open the envelopes which are full of surprises. On the  20th November you will be asked to wait outside the theatre and at 10am we will let 12 people at a time and give them 3 minutes before the next group are let loose. This means there will be a degree of social distancing. You will pay on the day and collect at the end of the exhibition 12th December (or we will post them out to you in time for Christmas).

I am really looking forward to seeing old friends and new.