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A Grand Day Out at Willington Power Station

Just after my family had departed, on the Tuesday after Easter, I had a phone call from a woman, who was unknown to me, who introduced herself as D.... H...... Thinking it was someone trying to part me from my money, I was just about to say 'not today thank-you', or something to that effect, when I heard the phrases 'film company  working for Channel Four'; 'second series of Hidden Britain'; 'presented by Tony Robinson' and I thought, 'this sounds authentic I had better listen'. I gradually came to understand that the Windfall Film Company was in the Derby area and was looking for a few artists who would be willing to be filmed whilst painting pictures of the cooling towers at Willington Power Station. The film team was interested in capturing different interpretations of the subject. D..... told me that any number of painters more than one would be gratefully received and the team would meet us at The Chimneys Pub. The filming session was planned for the following Thursday morning, so there was no time to lose. Several MAS members sent emails to me saying they would have loved to have come but had prior commitments, so in the end it was just David Bailey, Richard Holland and myself who agreed to 'put ourselves on the firing line'.

Two day's later I set off early to avoid traffic on the A38 and managed to find my way to what I thought was the right pub as it had a sign that appeared to say 'The Chimneys'. There seemed a good chance of it being the right one as the cooling towers loomed only a few hundred yards away. Everything was fenced off though and my doubts about my location seemed confirmed when, after looking more carefully at the sign, I realised that it said 'The Chutneys', not 'The Chimneys'! and that it was the name of an Indian restaurant! I was relieved to learn though, after making inquiries, that the two establishments were on the same site. I parked my car and went to peer through the large, ugly, stakes of metal fencing that stretched for hundreds of yards around the site,  wondering where on earth we would find a clear view to paint from. Looking back towards a nearby block of offices, apparently belonging to the section of the power station that was still in operation, I noticed a man waving at me. He introduced himself as A......... and took me in to meet the team who were all keen, well-informed friendly and young. Soon afterwards Dave and Richard arrived and we were relieved to learn that the team had located a nearby field, that would give a good view of the towers, where we could set up and paint.

As usual I had twice as much gear as everyone else and a large board but it was all distributed amongst helpers before we crossed the road to the field. Richard and David had far more manageable loads that they could carry themselves. We learned that the film crew intended to use a drone, with a camera attached, as well as a conventional, portable camera. The idea was to film us from above as we (artists and baggage handlers) made our way over the field with our equipment. We had been issued with a portable radio so we could be given instructions regarding where to stop etc. and we were told not to look up at the drone when it was hovering overhead! We were asked to set up in a group, about a meter and a half apart from each other, so we were gathered together in quite a cosy manner. This might have been useful had the weather been cold but it was a glorious sunny day and the towers looked resplendent against a cloudless cornflower blue sky.

First we were filmed as a group, as we made quick preparatory sketches (Richard's was more than quick as he had to go early) and then we were interviewed and filmed separately as the cameraman (B......) asked us about ourselves and what we found interesting about the towers. We had to try and integrate his questions into our answers, to help the editing process I imagine, as well as avoid looking straight at him, both of which were difficult to do. Another member of the crew sat in front of us to provide what he called an 'eye-line', a point where we could direct our eyes. B....... was very patient and just asked us to repeat ourselves if we got anything wrong. I was asked if I thought the towers were 'Rubenesque' i.e. curved like a female form. I said that I didn't as I had learned from many years of life-drawing that all female shapes were totally different, unlike the towers that were all the same. I said the towers reminded me of bottles, which is probably not what he wanted to hear! B..... liked Richard's comment though that the towers provided a landmark for when he was driving home from a Southerly direction. David was also asked if he liked the towers and he said that he was sure there would be mixed feelings about them, but that he did like them as they were iconic and represented our heritage. He said that we sometimes come to regret destroying things when we realise that they are gone forever.

We gathered during the filming session that many local people loved the towers and didn't want them to be demolished (they had been due for demolition in December 2017) and that there was a move to get them protected. This might have been why D.... approached us rather than an art group from Derby as, living further away, we were more likely to come to the subject without pre-conceived ideas. Or maybe she was impressed by the photos on our website! Although 'Hidden Britain' does not have an overtly political agenda, the team was clearly struck by the local support for the towers and was keen for us to say positive things about them. I had already said that I thought they looked monumental and like separate pieces of a sculpture placed in artistic juxtaposition. (What they looked like from other viewpoints I didn't know.) Richard, David and I did genuinely enjoy painting them and we appreciated their quality.

We were filmed again when we had completed enough of our pictures and we commented on each other's work. Richard was filmed again by the drone as he made his way back across the field while David and I continued working. Soon after the team had left, David happened to look up and he saw, approaching us, at speed from about thirty yards away, a man with a giant paint-roller gadget who was marking out lines on the playing-field. David also noticed that my easel was directly on his 'flight path' so I had to de-camp without delay. After a chat with the linesman, whose own views on the demolition of the towers became clear as he departed muttering 'b..... eyesore'! At this point we decided it was time to go and with great difficulty, we made our way back over the field, with David gallantly dragging a large bag that he had ingeniously packed with a lot of my equipment as well as his. We were given cups of coffee on our return by A......... and after a pleasant chat with him we made our way to our cars. Richard, David and I felt that our efforts had genuinely been valued by the team and altogether we had found the day very enjoyable, artistically satisfying, interesting and totally SURREAL!

Linda Orchard 8th April 2018

 Photos of our three paintings etc. can be seen on this website. They will also be on display at the society's annual exhibition at the Gothic Warehouse on the canal side of Cromford Mill from July 30th to midday August 5th. The second series of the Channel Four programme 'Hidden Britain' is due to be shown on Channel Four in June or July 2018.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Baileys cooling towers

 

Richard Holland cooling towers

 

 

Linda Orchards cooling towers

 

Haidee Jo Summer Demo January 2018

Carol Hills Demo January 2018

Carsington water Matlock artist society gallery July 2017

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

Group visit to Chatsworth 2015

 

     

 

     

 

     
     

Robert Brinley Demo 21st March

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

Matlock artist society 25th Anniversary Open Evening

With the Duke of Devonshire 

Images taken by Ashley Franklin

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

     

 

     
     
     

Margaret Seymour with members of the group

 

  

 Matlock Art Society 25th Anniversary at Smedley Street Church Hall

          

 

 

 

Andrew Macara, with Carol Hill and Val Fletcher demonstrating at Matlock Art Society

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

             

Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012

 

Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012   Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012

 

Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012   Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012

 

Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012   Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012

 
Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012   Christmas lunch at Matlock Golf Club 2012
     

Images from the Summer Exhibition at Arkwright Mill 2012