Just meandering off the subject of houses and a trip to Yorkshire. Some good stuff first: two hours on a train from Cheltenham, brilliant. Apparently it takes longer than that to travel short distances up here, where they still have diesel trains, so getting south quicker always seems to have been the priority. Move the House of Lords to Sheffield not York, they have enough old tourists in York and Sheffield needs the money. It’s a great place, young and possibly vibrant.
First stop off the train, the art gallery. A short walk from the station, and over the main library. It’s up a few floors but worth the trip. There is a lift. Peeling paint on the stairwell and a general feeling of neglect, with no recent investment, plus a notice that the cafe is no longer does not help. In a fine city like this, this place should be busy with people looking around. It’s free, which may not help. They are proud of it being free, in a typical Yorkshire way. Put a cafe back in, get it down a few floors, get some events there: artists demos, talks, kids drawing places areas make it free for kids but a nominal price for adults. Open it on a Sunday. You can pay 2.80 for artisan hand brewed coffee around here so a couple of quid for a gallery might work. But most of all, get some government money up there first. The arts gets people into places and this place needs people and a big clean up.
When I got into the place there was a big exhibition of the work of Lorna May Wadsworth. I was told she was from Sheffield, but see that she now operates from east London. How depressing for the locals who now proudly display her work. There’s a massive portrait of Margaret Thatcher in this exhibition, the gallery have fitted a plastic screen in front of this painting. Wisely, the memories of Thatcher around here are painful. They wisely also, did not use it on publicity posters. I hope it may explain why the place was almost deserted, or is that normal for Sheffield?
For me, Wadsworth’s work is more like very accomplished illustration. She gets the likeness but not the soul. The one that really did work well for me was one of David Blunkett, a famous son of Sheffield, who never let his blindness get in the way of a reputable career in politics. Shame he will never see it. It’s her best work in there. I’m sure the rest earn her a brilliant living in the East London diaspora, she is massively talented but not my cup of Yorkshire tea.
There are lots of other paintings in the gallery. Take a look at this gem from Gwen John, and this stunning portrait by Frank Auerbach
Let’s end this on a positive. The exhibition is well worth a visit. Sheffield is well worth a visit. I declare an interest as my son and family live here. He has a coffee shop up in Walkley, drop in there sometime, he makes the best coffee around. But don’t ask for a discount by saying you’ve read this, he doesn’t even give me a discount. This is Yorkshire after all.