Date Posted: 7th November 2018

Made in Workington.
Gasometer and chickens, Workington. 1958

It was good to meet so many of you again at the opening of A Legacy on Saturday. Tullie House once again rose to the occasion with an exquisite birthday cake which had been made in Workington - just like Percy Kelly 100 years ago. He would have been impressed.  I often wonder what his carpenter father and his proud mother with the cornflower blue eyes would have made of their very special son who dined with Royalty, discussed art with the Prime Minister and  whose work is now admired and collected throughout the world.

Visitors to the gallery were not disappointed by this small intimate show which is quite different from the large all - embracing retrospective which closed earlier this year. This is personal. It is made of works given to Tullie House from 4 private sources; the David family; (Joan David whom he called his saviour, her son Rob and his wife Sue): Percy’s second wife Christine who died in 2009 and solicitor David Heckles an Ipswich collector of his work. It is astonishing to see how well they all sit together in the original part of the old Tullie House building despite the different media and subjects which span over 60 years, .

Christine Kelly gave most of her collection to her children many years ago - they were sold at Castlegate alongside the Lowry exhibition in 2003. What was left was a heap of what appeared to be works in progress. When Tullie House curator, Melanie Gardner and I looked through what we had it seemed to be rather a random collection but it prompted me to go away and find things in my own collection that chimed in and offered more enlightenment, adding extra value to the whole. We pulled out a pencil drawing of a dredger in Workington docks and when I put my screen print MOSS BAY DREDGER beside it, the pink sky lit both up. .A pencil drawing of a Workington gasometer made me take down the large charcoal GASOMETER AND CHICKENS from my wall at home to hang alongside and Christine’s small scrap of a watercolour of bluebells sent me to Bluebells - my finished watercolour in a gorgeous frame. Christine had many unfinished screenprints of foxgloves so I added his preliminary crayon drawing. A tracing of some Maryport harbour views from the high Promenade and from the North Quay led to my large board with the sketches he made from it.

This unlikely coming together of lots of disparate things helps us understand how Kelly’s work developed. The scribbled notes he made on prints and sketches as an aide memoir are now shared with us all. Kelly still inhabits that room. The preliminary rough painting of his signature boat and sun made me smile as he had written red sun on the blank white circle in the sky while my screenprint hanging beside it has a blue circle and is titled blue moon. How these things evolve!  In this way I became the fourth donor to Legacy, to Tullie House (and to history) as well. These things need to stay together. They will live on and be looked after and cherished long after my time.

Next Friday is the 125 anniversary of Tullie House and we should all be grateful for the heritage preserved in there and the stories told. It is constantly evolving and informing. It plays a vital role in the community and the county. A £10 ticket will buy you a full year’s entry to the gallery and museum. It is well worth it. There will be talks and events during the Legacy exhibition. I will let you know.

*I will be in the gallery next Saturday 10th November 1.00 - 4.00 and hope to catch up with people who missed the opening celebration and the others who will undoubtedly be coming back for another look.