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Exhibitions & Galleries

Phyllis Oberman

 By Phyllis Oberman, Art Aficionado

I have recently discovered Museum Crush – a website and weekly email digest of the most intriguing museum objects and collections.

This fascinating source of information contains wonderful articles, news updates and full colour pictures of art works of all sorts to be found in Britain.

Well worth signing up for, you can find it at

Eighty Not Out

David Hockney, born in Bradford, celebrates his 80th birthday on 9th July. The city of Bradford is paying a massive tribute to Hockney by opening a gallery dedicated to his work. Cartwright Hall, refurbished for its new purpose, has one of the largest public collections of Hockney's early and later work.

As a youngster Hockney was a regular visitor to Cartwright Hall. “It was the only place in Bradford I could see real paintings”, he said. The new gallery opens on 7th July, 2017.

Le Plongeur (Paper Pool,18) 1978 by David Hockney

  Le Plongeur (Paper Pool,18) 1978
  © David Hockney/Tyler Graphics

The new David Hockney Gallery will not only show Hockney's artworks but family photographs from his own albums not shown before, a film of Hockney talking and working at his Bridlington/East Yorkshire studio, rarely exhibited early sketchbooks.

Bradford city was an inspiration for Hockney as a young budding artist and the new gallery will feature a map of the city marking the locations where he made artworks alongside a selection of paintings, sketches and photographs of these spots.

David Hockney

                    David Hockney

On 9th July there will be celebrations and events in Bradford at the gallery and in its Lister Park location, free for visitors to take part in.

Further details of activities are available from

Street Scene by David Hockney

             Street Scene – 1953-54
         David Hockney Collection
     Bradford Museums & Galleries

The recent David Hockney blockbuster retrospective exhibition at Tate Britain was the most visited ever at the London gallery. Nearly half a million visitors attended during the show.

This major exhibition travels to Paris and later to New York.

For more information about the David Hockney Gallery visit

Watercolour Talent

It is almost 100 years since the watercolours of John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) have been shown in Britain. Now Dulwich Picture Gallery in South London has gathered together from over 30 different lenders a collection of these brilliant pictures by the man considered the leading portraitist of his day.

Sargent: The Watercolours
is an important show in 2017 the year that Dulwich gallery marks its bicentenary.

The Lady with the Umbrella by John Singer Sargent

             John Singer Sargent
       The Lady with the Umbrella
       1911, Museu de Montserrat

Sargent, who was American, was born in Florence, Italy. His parents (his father was an eye surgeon and his mother was a talented amateur artist) spent most of their married life travelling around Europe. So Sargent grew up in a cosmopolitan environment and studied art in Paris.

From the early days he was considered very talented and quickly made his name and fortune as a society portrait painter in London, Paris and Rome.

The Church of Santa Maria della Salute, Venice

   The Church of Santa Maria della
 Salute, Venice, 1904-9 © Calouste
   Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon

Having temporarily grown tired of portrait painting in his mid-forties he spent more time painting watercolours often en plein air in many European locations especially Venice, and including Rome, Istanbul (Constantinople), places in Spain, the Middle East and also in remote countryside spots where he could paint undisturbed.

He exhibited his work in Paris, London and in America where he spent several years in later life.

Italian Sailing Vessels at Anchor

    Italian Sailing Vessels at Anchor
1904-7, Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Sargent: The Watercolours continues until 8th October, 2017. Concessionary tickets are available and Art Fund card members have free entry.

Click on  for details of Sargent-related events at the gallery and further information about the exhibition.

Favourite Gallery or Museum

If you have a favourite local art gallery or museum that you would like to share with Sixtyplusurfers readers, please send the details to Phyllis Oberman care of Sixtyplusurfers to:

Please mark your email favourite art gallery and museum for Phyllis Oberman's column.

  Rally of the Giants 
  Automobile Rally
 at Blenheim Palace

Vintage police car at Rally of Giants at Blenheim Palace

Calling all classic car fans! Blenheim Palace is hosting the Pre-50 American Auto Club 'Rally of Giants' on Sunday 9th July. This superlative gathering offers a rare opportunity for collectors and admirers to see the finest and most valuable examples of rare cars found anywhere in Europe.

There will be more than 400 classic American vehicles attending, including some of the best examples of motoring history and the most valuable. Dating from the early 1920's through to the 1970's the Rally of Giants is a must visit for those with a passion for American motorcars.

For those with only a passing interest in motoring avocation expect your interest to be piqued with this remarkable collection of American motorcars, trucks, military vehicles and bikes. Attracting collectors from the UK and continental Europe to Blenheim Palace the rally provides the perfect backdrop for admiring, purchasing and selling classics.

Visitors can enjoy a full day out in Blenheim Palace, Park and Gardens with delicious food and refreshments available in the new Orangery Restaurant which overlooks the private Italian Gardens.

Enjoy a day out at Blenheim Palace

Blenheim Park & Gardens tickets are required to see the rally. Prices are Adult £15.30, Child £7.10 (5-16 years).

For more information visit the website at

Retirement & Hobbies

Step Back in time at Ironbridge in July

Enjoy a nostalgic 1930s musical evening at Blists Hill Victorian Town

Step back in time, don your vintage best, and go along to a nostalgic 1930s musical evening, being held at Blists Hill Victorian Town on Friday, 28th July. The event is part of a series of themed evenings with dinner and entertainment to celebrate the Ironbridge Gorge Museums’ 50th Anniversary.

Taking place in the Forest Glen Refreshment Pavilion between 6.30pm and 10pm, the lively evening includes a two-course meal of creamed chicken with spinach and new potatoes followed by a sherry trifle and tea or coffee; a vegetarian option will be available.

The first half of the live entertainment runs from 7pm until 7.45pm when there will be a break for dinner with the second half starting from around 9pm. The Museum’s resident duo will regale the crowd with a host of popular songs from the 1930s such as Bing Crosby’s Brother Can You Spare a Dime, Fred Astaire’s The Way You Look Tonight and Judy Garland’s Over the Rainbow.

Everyone is invited to dress in period costume for the evening, so ladies should dust off their waisted, tea length dresses and gents spruce up in broad, double breasted jackets, or go gangster style in wide pinstriped suits and spats.

Since its construction by the Pointon family in 1889, the Forest Glen Refreshment Pavilion has occupied a very special position in the local community, formerly at the base of Shropshire’s famous Wrekin hill and since moved, brick-by-brick to Blists Hill Victorian Town.

Tickets at £25 per adult must be pre-booked by calling Nikki Birch on 01785 252247 or email

Annual Passport Tickets are not valid for this event. Drinks will be available to purchase on the night.

Blists Hill will also be holding plenty of other fabulous themed events over the summer school holidays between 26th July and 3rd September. Join in a variety of fun furnace, fire and steam inspired activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums.

See the Victorian Foundry at Blists Hill Victorian Town

See various steam machines in action on different days of the week; get up close and personal to discover how they work and learn more about the importance of steam in Victorian times. The Town’s replica of Trevithick’s Coalbrookdale 1802 locomotive and the newly restored Winding Engine will be amongst the machines in steam on different days of the week.

A highlight every Wednesday morning will be the chance to see the furnace ablaze in the Town’s Iron Foundry and to watch a spectacular iron casting demonstration.

Take a ride on the merry-go-round at Blists Hill Victorian Town

Younger visitors can follow a fun self-led family trail around Blists Hill to discover more about the role played by furnaces, fire and steam in the Industrial Revolution as well as take part in lessons in the Victorian School House.

They can also enjoy seeing the magnificent heavy horses, pigs and chickens and have a go on the Victorian Fairground. Whatever their age everyone is invited to join in the lunchtime and afternoon sing-a-longs in the New Inn.

Information for visitors

Blists Hill Victorian Town is open from 10am until 4.30pm. A great value Annual Passport Ticket allowing unlimited entry into all ten Ironbridge Gorge Museums costs £25 per adult, £20 for seniors, £15 for children (16 years or under), £68 for a family of two adults and all their children and £50 for a family with one adult; under 5s free (terms and conditions apply).

Passports can also be bought online in advance saving 10% and individual entry tickets are available at each museum. Activities will vary from day-to-day and some additional costs will apply. The Gorge is easily reached via the M54 motorway exiting at Telford junction 4 or 6.

For further information, call the Ironbridge Tourist Information Centre on 01952 433 424

Or visit

  RHS Hampton Court
  Flower Show in July


Save the date in your diary for the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on 4th - 9th July

Visit the Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on 4th - 9th July. Supported by Viking Cruises, the show includes a new category ‘Gardens for a Changing World’, empowering gardeners to meet the challenges we face in our ever-changing, uncertain world.

Gardens for a Changing World Extreme rainfall is one of the consequences scientists claim is a result of climate change, and 21 year-old Will Williams, who made his debut at the show last year, returns with ‘Holding Back the Flood’, highlighting a natural solution to flood prevention, inspired by the village of Pickering, North Yorkshire, a town prone to flood devastation. Increased rainfall has also inspired first-time designer Rhiannon Williams, who is promoting the increased need for sustainable rainwater management within residential areas.

London-based Tom Massey, another up-and-coming designer, is creating ‘The Perennial Sanctuary Garden’, championing the healing power of plants, which in current turbulent times is becoming increasingly important. More than 2,500 individual plants of different colours will make up the garden, exploring the effect colour can have on our mood.

More than 2,500 individual plants of different colours will make up the garden, exploring the effect colour can have on our mood

‘Brownfield – Metamorphosis’, by town planner and designer Martyn Wilson, explores the power of plants to regenerate naturally and become established among industrial ruins. Andreas Christodoulou and Jonathan Davies are dismissing the manicured lawns of modern garden design and encouraging urbanites to transform city garden spaces into natural ‘forest glades’.

Show Gardens Show sponsor, Viking Cruises have joined forces with acclaimed designer Paul Hervey-Brooks with a garden inspired by the overseas destinations they travel to. Multi-RHS Gold medal winning, Andrew Fisher-Tomlin and Dan Bowyer will shine a light on the work of Blind Veterans UK with a community garden for members, staff and volunteers that will be rebuilt at one of the charity’s centres after the show.

Zoflora returns this year with a large woodland play garden for children and adults with disabilities such as autism. Accessible and inclusive, the garden aims to reconnect children with nature through play. The garden resembles a woodland glade. Playful planting and the use of materials will stimulate the senses of sight, smell, touch, taste and sound, while allowing the children to experience reasonable risk as they play. The garden will be relocated to the Caudwell Children’s Centre in Shropshire.

More plants and flowers are sold per square metre at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show than anywhere else in the UK

More plants and flowers are sold per square metre at the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show than anywhere else in the UK. This year, the Floral Marquee will house 98 specialist nurseries and National Plant Collection holders from across the UK. Six new nurseries will be at the show this year including Ottershaw Cacti (Surrey), selling their rare and unusual collection of cacti and succulents, Palms Exotics (Hampshire), for those wanting to turn their garden into a holiday oasis, and Strictly Daylilies (Cambridgeshire), the ideal plant for first-time gardeners as they need little or no care.

Wildlife is a key theme at this year’s show to raise awareness of the UK’s declining wildlife population and encouraging visitors to ‘Green Grey Britain’ with a rich diversity of plants that are vital for the future of the UK’s bees, butterflies and other pollinators.

Wildlife is a key theme at this year’s show to raise awareness of the UK’s declining wildlife population

The tropical Butterfly Dome returns this year filled with thousands of exotic butterflies, surrounded by a wildflower meadow, accompanied by nectar-rich plants for our native butterflies, and caterpillar food plants such as nettles, grasses and heather. The Floral Design Studio will be full of wildlife-inspired floral displays, and schools from the South East of England are taking ‘a walk on the wild side’ with their entries to the annual Scarecrow Competition. Across the weekend, activities will be centred on wildlife conservation including face painters, a children’s cookery school, entertainers and much more.

Celebrities Experts and familiar faces including celebrity chef Jean Christophe Novelli and television presenters Chris Packham and Michaela Strachan will be sharing their horticultural and culinary passions throughout the week in the talk theatres.

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the best place for budding and expert gardeners who want advice, ideas, inspiration and an abundance of plants and gardening merchandise to beautify their outdoor spaces

Nick Mattingley, Director of RHS Shows says, “At more than twice the size of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show and just a stone’s throw from London, RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show is the best place for budding and expert gardeners who want advice, ideas, inspiration and an abundance of plants and gardening merchandise to beautify their outdoor spaces.”

The RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show will run from 4th – 9th July with an exclusive Preview Evening held on Monday 3rd July. For further information or to buy tickets, please visit the RHS website at  


 Stories from the City
 The Bank of England
         in Literature

The Bank of England Museum

This September, the Bank of England will issue a new polymer £10 note featuring a portrait of beloved author Jane Austen. To celebrate the arrival of the new note, the Bank of England Museum will unveil a new exhibition that explores the Bank’s literary connections over the last three centuries and the many occasions when the Bank has found its way into fiction, inspired a character, influenced a plot or encountered an author.

Stories From the City: The Bank of England in Literature, runs from 19th July 2017 until summer 2018 at the Bank of England Museum in Threadneedle Street at the heart of the City of London.

The exhibition presents exhibits related to the lives and works of Charles Dickens, T.S. Eliot, Dr Johnson, Robert Browning and George Eliot to name a few. It reflects on moments when the Bank and the finances of London have been woven into classic works of fiction and explores the political and economic times in which stories were written. Exhibits are drawn from the vast collections amassed by the Bank since its foundation in 1694.

One thousand pound note signed by George Eliot in 1874

   One thousand pound note signed by
      George Eliot when she visited the
Bank of England as a sightseer in 1874

Among the key exhibits will be original hand-drawn artwork for the £10 note which featured Charles Dickens (in circulation from 1992-2003) and a special One Thousand Pound Note, signed by George Eliot when she visited the Bank in 1874 (on display for the first month of the exhibition). While there, Eliot saw a machine for testing coins, which is now on permanent display in the Museum and which she later mentions in Impressions of Theophrastus Such, her final published work.

She wrote,
In the Bank of England, I see a wondrously delicate machine for testing sovereigns, a shrewd implacable little steel Rhadamanthus that, once the coins are delivered up to it, lifts and balances each in turn for the fraction of an instant, finds it wanting or sufficient, and dismisses it to right or left with rigorous justice.

1895 photograph showing George Archer-Shee, the real-life Winslow Boy

    1895 photograph showing George
Archer-Shee, the real-life Winslow Boy

The exhibition includes material relating to the true story behind Terrence Rattigan’s play, The Winslow Boy, that of the young son of Bank of England official Martin Archer-Shee, who was falsely accused of theft and expelled from Osborne Naval College.

The exhibition will also examine the design and security features of the new Jane Austen note, which will be issued for the first time in September 2017. Among the design details:

· The note bears the quote, I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!’ from Pride and Prejudice (Miss Bingley, Chapter 11).

· It features a portrait of Jane Austen, commissioned by James Edward Austen Leigh (Jane Austen’s nephew) in 1870, adapted from an original sketch drawn by her sister, Cassandra Austen.

· An illustration of Miss Elizabeth Bennet undertaking "The examination of all the letters which Jane had written to her", from a drawing by Isabel Bishop (1902-1988).

· An image of Godmersham Park, home of Edward Austen Knight, Jane Austen's brother. Jane visited the house often and it is believed to have been the inspiration for a number of her novels.

· The central design in the background is inspired by the 12-sided writing table and writing quills used by Jane Austen at Chawton Cottage.

Money and the workings of the City are woven into so many classic stories; the characters of Jane Austen, for example, often reveal their true nature when the subject turns to money. In Pride and Prejudice, the universal shock when Mr Wickham absconds, leaving gambling debts of a thousand pounds, is utterly understandable when you consider that that amount from 1813 would be worth around £65,000 today.

The fear of invasion at the height of the French Revolutionary Wars led to an economic crisis, during which the Bank issued new banknotes and coins, and these were mentioned in Austen’s works; but war had its upsides for some, notably Persuasion’s Captain Wentworth, whose success in battle transformed him from an ineligible prospect to a man of means.

A particularly notable literary connection involves Kenneth Grahame, who worked at the Bank for thirty years. Grahame joined the Bank of England in 1878 at the age of nineteen, after scoring high marks in his entrance exam. He began in the Secretary’s Department, spending eleven years in the Private Drawing Office and rising through the Clerks’ ranks to become Assistant Secretary in 1894 and, four years later, Secretary. At thirty-nine he was one of the youngest to take up the post, which he held for ten years. Grahame wrote The Wind in the Willows during his years at the Bank but had left by the time it was published.

One of the more unusual incidents in Grahame’s Bank career took place on 24 November 1903, when a man entered the Bank and asked to speak to the Governor. Grahame was made available instead and was invited by the man to take a rolled up document from him and to choose which end to take. Eventually, Grahame took the document but apparently chose the wrong end, as the man suddenly produced a gun, turned it on Grahame and fired three times. Each shot missed. Having escaped injury, Grahame managed to lock the man in the waiting room and returned with Bank messengers, who overpowered the man by blasting him with a fire hose.

Several writers worked elsewhere in the City, some with more enthusiasm than others. P.G. Wodehouse grasped the earliest opportunity to end his two-year stint working as a clerk at the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank (a clear inspiration for his book Psmith in the City); essayist, poet and playwright, Charles Lamb, writing to his friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge from his desk at the East India Company, referred to the red ink he used as ‘clerk’s blood’. T.S. Eliot’s job at Lloyd’s Bank gave him the stability that enabled him to create some of his finest works, notably epic poem The Wasteland, in which he describes the streets surrounding his workplace in the heart of the City.

The £10 note which featured Charles Dickens (in circulation from 1992-2003)

 The £10 note which featured Charles
Dickens (in circulation from 1992-2003)

Charles Dickens describes a visit to the Bank of England in The Pickwick Papers, but is critical of the Bank in his weekly magazine, Household Words. He writes about banknote forgery and the skills of counterfeiters, making a point about the harsh punishments - for some years, the death penalty - meted out to those convicted for forgery.

The references keep on coming: Phileas Fogg’s journey in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days takes place under suspicion of having robbed the Bank of England; John Brophy’s 1959 novel The Day They Robbed the Bank of England, features characters breaking into the Bank’s vaults, a plot likely to have been inspired by an apparently true story, when a Victorian sewerman ended up in the vaults after finding his way through an unmarked gate in the sewers.

Jenni Adam, curator of the Bank of England Museum says, “The Bank is an influential presence in fiction and we are lucky that our collections are so often able to shed light on real events that inspired stories or to give an insight into the times in which they were created. The city was the workplace of many notable writers, some of whom were happier than others to earn a living there!”

Wooden bullion box used for transporting gold bars

       Wooden bullion box used for
               transporting gold bars

The Bank of England Museum tells the story of the Bank, from its foundation in 1694 to its role today as the United Kingdom's central bank. Within a full-size reconstruction of Sir John Soane’s 18th-century Stock Office, a large boat construction is full of interactive displays explaining how the Bank works, banknote design and security and how the Bank tries to keep the financial system on an even keel.

Visitor Information

Stories from the City: The Bank of England in Literature takes place from 19th July 2017 - Summer 2018. There is no charge for admission to the Museum or for any event.

Entrance: Bartholomew Lane (off Threadneedle Street), London EC2R 8AH (a two-minute walk from Bank Underground Station).

Opening hours: Monday-Friday: 10am-5pm (last entry 4:30pm). Closed Public and Bank Holidays and weekends, except for special events taking place on those days.

For more information please visit the website at


 Furnace, Fire & Steam
Ceramic Workshops at
Coalport China Museum

Coalport China Museum

Gain inspiration from the bottle kilns at Coalport China Museum, near Ironbridge then use your creativity to sculpt a model from air-drying clay at the furnace, fire and steam themed family workshops. Part of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums’ 50th anniversary celebrations, the drop-in sessions will take place every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday during the summer school holidays from 26th July to 3rd September.

Every day throughout the holidays young artists can also decorate ceramic money boxes or fridge magnets and paint delicate china flowers. The hands-on workshops will be held from 11am until 3.30pm; ceramic painting activities carry a charge from £1 per item and clay for modelling is an additional £2 per item, plus admission. You can take all items home with you on the day.

Open 10am to 4pm Coalport is one of the Ironbridge Gorge Museums. A great value Annual Passport Ticket allowing unlimited entry into all ten museums costs £25 per adult, £20 for seniors, £15 for children under 16, £68 for a family of two adults and all their children and £50 for a family with one adult; under 5s free (terms and conditions apply). Activities and workshops vary day-to-day and some carry an extra charge.

For more details about Coalport and Ironbridge visit