Ageing: a work in progress

These past two weekends, the 7th and 8th and 14th and 15th of December, three local artists presented a gallery full (the ACA Gallery in the Allenheads Heritage Centre opposite the Armstrong engine building) of art on the subject of ageing. We toddled along through the snow yesterday afternoon, our footsteps crunching crisply in the frosty layer.

Although our browse of the artwork featured within the gallery was punctuated by intermittent snowballs hurled at the windows by stupid juvenile boys, I was delighted to be able to chat with Carole McCourt who introduced the show to us.

It’s amazing how it pays to listen, whether as a diarist or just personably, to another person. I learned quickly from Carole that she and Linda run the fortnightly Life Drawing Classes at Sinderhope Community Centre on Saturdays, which are also supplemented by a full Monday session every month.

Carole, Linda and Glynnis first put a show together a year or so ago called ‘The Best Mother I Ever Had,’ which she says was received so brilliantly that the little group had to mount another one. Hence this ‘Ageing’ show. I don’t know what arrangement the artists have with Allenheads Contemporary Arts, which rents the gallery space from the Allenheads Trust, but I do know ACA mounts a continuing range of shows in the gallery.

I feel somehow that I haven’t found enough space in the diary this year to include sufficient artists, though there are many studios dotted around these valleys. Perhaps artists are an iconoclastic bunch, working individually, but often coming together for shows (as we have discussed for example with the Pots in the Byre exhibition, and also as featured on the walls and display cabinets at The Forge Studios). So I was glad that we made the minor effort to get up to the ‘heeds on a brisk Sunday afternoon.

I think I learned something about ageing myself, in the course of our visit, though I wanted, rather, to shake some sense into those stupid boys’ heads. Uh-oh, tell-tale interior signs of ageing, I guess!

Perhaps there’s just enough space and time left in this entry to include a snippet about Allenheads Contemporary Arts, as gleaned from their website.

High on the hill overlooking Allenheads village, the old schoolhouse has been occupied by Allenheads Contemporary Arts for at least the past two decades.

Established in 1994 by Alan Smith and Helen Radcliffe, ACA’s work over the years has involved many residencies for emerging artists, together with universities and commercial industries. Over the decades, nearly 100 artists have developed projects at ACA, as listed on the Artists page. In addition to the residency programme, studio and gallery space ACA has developed, the old schoolhouse also offers accommodation for cyclists touring by on the C2C route, either self-catering or B&B.

Certainly the ACA offerings help to contribute to a sense that Allenheads is really quite a surprising place! Of course, considering these North Pennines were called ‘my great good place’ by the poet W. H. Auden, that really shouldn’t be that surprising, should it! Doubtless, this patch is a great nursery for many of the manifestations of art.

David Hockney’s 1968 portrait of the ageing poet W. H. Auden might almost be considered a simulacrum of the landscapes of these North Pennines .

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