Watch this video on the exhibition homepage.
Jojo: My name is Jojo Davies, I’m Beryl’s eldest daughter.
This exhibition came about through a collaboration between a really good old friend of my mum’s called Psiche Hughes and some other people were involved and it was through a desire to get together a body of her work to show it en masse and in the town of her birth.
Psiche: I am Psiche Hughes and I’ve been knowing Beryl for the last 50 years, in fact until she died 2 years ago.
When I met Beryl I didn’t realise she was a writer, I only thought she painted, and that’s how I knew her, remember her to start with. Then of course I got to read all her books etcetera.
This exhibition, which consists of only a small number of her paintings, is actually very well arranged because it covers different periods in Beryl’s life, episodes and also the progress of her writing as a novelist.
We met in London, she was fresh down from Liverpool with her two children, Jojo and Aaron and lots of tales and memories and plots for future books from her memories of Liverpool. She had brought some paintings down from Liverpool which actually figure in this area of the exhibition.
She used these paintings as inspiration for a novel which she wrote and published in 67, ‘A Weekend With Claude’, in which appear the three friends [points at a painting of three people], who are characters in ‘A Weekend With Claude’ and Leah, who inspired Shebah, the old lady in ‘A Weekend With Claude’, and also the famous geyser in that bath scene of children in a big bath with an enormously black geyser behind which exploded from time to time.
Jojo: I have lots of memories of watching my mum paint when I was little. There was a time in the 60s when there was big exhibitions collecting money, medical aid for Vietnam at the Hampstead Town Hall. They were on successive years. I remember mum sitting on the living room floor with newspapers and churning out loads and loads of paintings.
She said to me “It’s very important to have a horizon line”, so she’d always do the horizon line. She was going through a stage that everybody that she drew was naked and there was often hens and different animals in the background. She just gave them random days out, they were all so comical and beautifully drawn. She was a really good draughtsman.
There’s one painting that I hadn’t seen before in the flesh and that’s the earliest painting, I think it’s 1961, the bath. I think it’s a fantastically strong painting both in terms of shape and colour. In the centre of the bath there’s my brother and myself and we’re tiny little small small children in this big expanse of bath. I just think it’s a superb painting and very evocative because it’s Liverpool, the past when we were children. Yes, it’s knockout.
Psiche: She didn’t think painting was a great achievement. As you see, she calls it “happy carefree feeling”. That’s her idea of painting. Writing was work, hard work, but painting was just a release. She decided eventually to indulge in her writing because it was successful. Painting wasn’t a serious activity for her. She would have been amused by the thought of exhibiting here.
Jojo: I think she’d be absolutely astounded that this was happening. I think she always had an idea but I don’t think she ever thought it would actually happen. I really don’t think she thought it would happen because she didn’t take herself seriously as a painter at all. Not at all. But that’s why I think they’re so good because there’s such a freedom about them, because she wasn’t restrained, she was just allowed to be herself. I think she’d be absolutely knocked out, yes.