Monday, 7 January 2008

A Grand Day Out

The dawning of a new year on Merseyside brings, for a seasoned hack like myself, a veritable plethora of cultural opportunities. For, it is finally here: Liverpool is European Capital of Culture.

I know there have been some people (mainly Mancunians, it has to be said) who have tried to make light of this accolade, even suggesting that, when the wheels are stolen from your car in Liverpool this year, you’ll return to find it resting on four stacks of books, rather than bricks. I’m not one of those who revel in such cheap stereotypes, and I think there is more than the whiff of envy in comments like that.

Given Liverpool’s new status, it was easy for me to make a personal resolution that 2008 should be my own year of cultural development. With Mrs Blunt off the scene, I can finally allow myself to sample some of the artistic pleasures of the world - free of that carping voice in my ear saying “I don’t know what the fuss is all about – it looks like a load of triangles and circles to me” (the best she could make, apparently, of Kandinsky).

With a multitude of arts activities lined up, where better place to start than the Turner Prize exhibition at the Tate Gallery, in the Albert Docks, at the invitation of an old drinking friend of mine? Now that I’m resident in the Wirral, Liverpool is but a short ferry ride away, as any Gerry Marsden fan will tell you, so it seemed an attractive proposition.

Alas, fate – and the fact that, during the day, the morning and evening ‘commuter’ ferry service is curtailed in favour of a tourist route that adds an extra half hour to the trip – conspired against me. Add to that the potent mix of a bitingly cold (‘nithering’ is the word I am looking for) wind, and building works that interfered with the otherwise short walk from ferry terminal to the Tate and, well … my readers will understand why I was seduced by the charms of a warm and cosy bar, for a reviving shot of Bells. Circumstances may even have dictated that I had another. It all meant that I missed the Turner prize exhibition, and the company of my erstwhile drinking chum.

Consolation was is store for me, however. Forsaking the bollock-withering ferry, I made my return via the ‘fast and frequent’ (and decidedly warmer) electric train that runs under (rather than over) the Mersey. Still craving art, I headed for Birkenhead’s Williamson Gallery, best described as a provincial museum and art gallery – little knowing what delights were in store for me.

The Williamson is a treat – its permanent collection is worth a trip in itself, although heavily weighted towards C19th art and with a rather unsettling room of drab, weighty furniture that includes a huge, dark fireplace that would be better broken up and burnt – but Bill Blunt was never a fan of big fireplaces. Notwithstanding that, I discovered an exhibition by students from the Upton Hall Girls School.

Now, I’ve never pretended to know much about art, but only a brave man would accuse me of being uncultured. And I think I can recognise vivid and exciting art when I see it. These 17-18 year olds had produced an exhibition that set my soul on fire, making me hungry for more. I am sure there are those who would describe their work as derivative, but I’m not sure there are many youngsters who can work free of the influence of giants such as Hockney. There’s hope yet when our teenagers can produce work of such outstanding quality, and (for what it’s worth) my guess is it will stand head and shoulders over anything given the Turner prize. Here’s a sample.

Happy New Year!


sylvie d said...

Happy New Year Bill!

Truly impressive work! love number 1, what is the medium?

70steen said...

Having seen the Turner Prize exhibition recently I would certainly favour the Williamson Gallery pieces, they are fabulous. I must try and get over there to see them.
My home town is definitely a 'happening city' this year (well it always has been to me anyway)& I will certainly be feasting on the huge amounts of 'happenings' over there these next 12 months.

I'll look out for you and we can raise my cappuchino and your Bells to the City of Culture :-)

Shinade said...

happy New year Bill!! I am so sorry that I have been away for so long. But, alas, November and December proved to be two very bad months for me personally and also for our family.

However, I too over here on this side of the ocean was just listening to a program the other day discussing the rebirth of the Liverpool region. The pictures of the area were simply charming.

And, I too agree with you about the artwork. The youngsters did an outstanding job. But, I too am also a Kandinsky lover!!

I hope you have a glorious and wonderful New year!!

Theresa H. Hall said...

Happy New Year BIll. I really enjoyed looking at these paintings and artworks. GLad you are out and about. Cheers.

Daddy Papersurfer said...

I am nothing if not tardy. New Year nonsense of course, but how are you?

I hate kids!! but in a nice way.