We have had happenings ever since 8 September 2012 and now six months later I am going to recap and then move forward.
On 7 September 2012 at 5.00 pm my excellent builders swept up for the last time and on Saturday 8 September we opened the Watchtower Gallery.
[Well, actually, on 22 August my then 7 years old grandson Stanley asked if he could officially open it as he would be back at school in London on 8 September. He cut a red cellophane ribbon and made a rather formal speech and it was done.]
And even before that, in May, we made a frieze around the main gallery of some 500 paintings of the Queen made by children from all the First Schools in the area as a thank you to the Rotary Club for their gift of Jubilee mugs to each one of them. This is how it looked:
We chose the most appropriate painting for the occasion which was by Charley Simpson of Prior Park First School whose prize was to light the celebratory Beacon on the walls of Berwick on 4 June 2012.
We sent a copy of the painting to the Queen who sent a charming message back via her lady-in waiting. This is what the letter said:
The Queen wishes me to write and thank you for your letter in which you tell her about the special competition you held at the Watchtower Gallery for First School children to paint a picture of Her Majesty, to commemorate The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
Her Majesty has been touched by the wonderful response to an historic year, and The Queen was delighted to see the splendid winning entry by Charley Simpson from Prior Park First School whose prize was to light the beacon on the ramparts of Berwick on 4th June.
Her Majesty sends you her good wishes for 2013, and you may like to give one of the enclosed commemorative cards to Charley.
The Queen greatly appreciates your kind thought for her at this time, and I am to thank you very much again for writing as you did.
Since then we have had exhibitions every five weeks and now have a wonderful group of friends who come to every opening and whose number swells as time passes. [Which it does at a scary rate]
So Saturday 8 September arrived in glorious warm sunshine [and it will come again one day, the sunshine] and we took a party out to The Old School at Duddo which used to be Ian’s studio and were greeted by bagpipes played by John Lackenby who as a little boy once was made to stand in the very corner where he played the pipes for us!
Then back to the Watchtower by the red London Routemaster bus from the Honey Farm for lunch on the mezzanine
At 2.00 people, lots of them, including many of the men who had worked so hard to finish the building work, came through the door and into the Gallery and drank wine and heard William Feaver talk wonderfully about art and then listened to Sammy Reed playing and singing from the stage. Mali, Stephen and Mark were all there, the artists whose work made up the first three shows and which hung in splendid juxtaposition to Ian’s enormous canvases above them, on show at last.
And so it has been ever since, often with the sun shining and always with the artists there and the people who come to the Openings bringing their friends and families. I have 800 email addresses on my Address Book so I can only think that I have met that many new people!
Then in quick succession we had our first Open Exhibition with individual works by 207 different artists.
Followed by amazing shows of work by Brita Granstrom and Yvonne Parr during which, apart from the artists, we met the Butcher, the Baker, the Barmaid and the original guardians of the late lamented Berwick Cockles.
Yvonne gave us a very special day later in the show by consenting to paint a work right there in front of us, a brave and generous thing to do
During Yvonne’s and Brita’s shows children from Spittal Community First School came to look at all the paintings and to do some of their own work; and looked rather like art works themselves:
We were helped through the mid-winter by exquisite flower and fruit paintings by Tessa Bennitt and by Isobel Davy’s calming but thought-provoking work and her beautiful ceramics. And by entertainment by Malcolm and Bruce, two of our favourite troubadors.
All of which brought us up to 2013
To be continued . . .