This website has been funded by Mid Pennine Arts (MPA), a sub-regional arts association in East Lancashire with a gallery and offices at Yorke Street, BURNLEY, Lancashire BB11 1HD. MPA is supported by local government through Lancashire County Council and the councils of Burnley, Hyndburn, Pendle, Rossendale and Todmorden and by central government through the Arts Council England, North West. This year (2006) it is celebrating the 40th anniversary of its foundation.
In early 2004, Robert Bank, who has been associated with MPA since the late 1960s, proposed an exhibition of work by Jeff Nuttall, to Nick Hunt, Director of MPA. Nick responded with enthusiasm and a date was set for July/August 2005. The exhibition was to be called “The Life and Works of Jeff Nuttall”. This website is largely based on that exhibition.
It was entirely appropriate that the exhibition should be in Burnley at MPA Gallery as Nuttall’s antecedents came from the area; his father’s family was well-established in Whitworth in the Rossendale Valley, and his mother’s family had lived for generations in the area of Clitheroe in Ribble Valley. He was born in Clitheroe, and in later life he had homes both in Todmorden and Nelson. Indeed, in the early 1980s he often busked in the central shopping area of Burnley on Saturday mornings.
Planning the exhibition started in January 2005; MPA had recently appointed a new, young and enthusiastic Visual Arts Officer, Claire Joyce. Claire commissioned Dr. Gillian Whiteley, a widely-published art/cultural historian, to research and write exhibition notes and an essay for a proposed catalogue. The exhibition notes are widely used on the website.
Works came from various sources: Jill Richards, executor of Nuttall’s estate, and his partner for the last 17 years of his life, made works available from the estate; other works came from Public Galleries and Collections in Wales; the rest from private collectors who prefer not to be named.
The exhibition was opened on the 2nd July 2006 with talks on Nuttall the man by Ray Gosling, and Nuttall the artist by Professor Timothy Emlyn Jones, Dean of the Burren College of Art in Ireland. There was little press attention; Burnley is too far for the metrocentrics of the national press unless there are “race riots” or “BNP candidates elected”. (“…the further north editors stray from the Strand, the deeper they will need to ponder the risk.” Peter Preston, The Observer, 6 August 2006)
The “hang” of the exhibition was designed by Claire Joyce and Gillian Whiteley, and executed by Claire, Emma Midgely and others of the MPA’s team. Graphics for the exhibition were designed by Alan Ward of Axis Design, Manchester, photographs of the exhibition itself taken by Nigel Hillier, and photographs of the works by Jerry Hardman-Jones. Other photographs were taken at the opening by Chris Hall of Abergavenny. All these materials have influenced the design of the website.
The proposed catalogue did not come about; although Claire Joyce had received strong encouragement from 2 funding sources to apply, in the end both sources were unable to help. MPA is planning to re-establish the exhibition as a touring exhibition from 2008; several public galleries nationally have expressed interest. A catalogue with Gillian Whiteley’s essay will be published at that time.
John Fox of Welfare State International saw the exhibition, and it transferred to WSI’s home at the Lanternhouse, Ulverston, Cumbria, where it showed during October and November 2005.
The idea for the website was suggested by Tim Jones in a letter to Robert Bank in November 2005. Robert Bank has designed the website and it has been constructed by Lee Rushton.
Many other people have supplied material and encouragement for the website: David Moore, an independent curator and former curator of Brecknock Art Gallery and Museum deserves special mention; Michael Horovitz, who organised Jeff’s Wake, and the accompanying book and CD; Tony Ward of Arc Publications who co-edited and published “Jeff Nuttall: A Celebration” with CD; Pip Benveniste who made the film of Jeff Nuttall (and others) reading poetry, Stephen Rigg of Black Dog Productions, Claire McNamee, Neil Cooper, Islwyn Watkins, Iain Sinclair, Dave Trace, Guy Brett and others who wish to remain anonymous.