Date Posted: 25th April 2019

Writing letters is a dying art. My meagre paper mail consists of invoices and circulars and an endless stream of fashion catalogues from outlets I’ve never heard of. I like the immediacy of e mails and would now find it hard to do without this miraculous facility but a real handwritten letter from a friend is always a thrill.

Percy Kelly’s letters are beyond description and thousands of them have passed before my eyes; each one unique. My favourite is a bright A3 painting of a jar of stripy humbugs with a letter to his stepdaughter Kim written around it. He writes HAVE A HUMBUG! GO ON TAKE 2 before going on to explain to her how she can appear generous although the neck of the jar makes it hard to get any out. It is that letter that inspired me to write the interactive children’s book of that name and decide to share it with you all at the pencil museum in Keswick.  I’m hoping Saturday’s promised jar of humbugs will be more accessible to us all than Kelly’s!

In my opinion the best of Kelly’s letters were those he sent to his step children. They are the most colourful and amusing and don’t dwell on his extraordinary range of health issues both real and imagined as well as details in full of his building work and car maintenance. Letter writing was therapeutic for him particularly if he hadn’t managed to paint or draw all day. He would sit down in the evening with a drawing board on his lap and pour out his soul on paper.

Facsimiles of the best of his letters and envelopes along with some painted on unusual materials (well, anything to hand really!) will be on display alongside some of his etchings at the Derwent Pencil Museum in Keswick from this Saturday 27th April until 8th June. This is a small intimate display with the chance to get up close and study them. (the originals date back to 1960 and are much too delicate to show). The Derwent etching in an edition of 75 will be launched on Saturday and Kelly’s etching plate made in 1963 from which Robert Adam of Graal press in Edinburgh made the prints will also be there for you to see .

I do hope you can come along to the opening from 1.00 – 5.00 this Saturday. I will be there to answer your questions and absorb your comments – I always learn something new at these events.

You will also be able to stroll round the pencil museum as well. Now totally rebuilt after the devastating flood of 2015, it is full of interest and surprises.   Despite huge setbacks Derwent Pencils never stop developing innovative ideas. You can come in and try some of the latest products. There will be demonstrations, paper and materials as well as lovely things to look at and ideas to explore. Perhaps you might be moved to write a letter.

GO ON – come on in and have a HUMBUG>