New Secretary of State visits McWilliam Gallery

THE FE McWilliam Gallery is becoming something of a hotspot for Secretaries of State.

A favourite of the previous holder of the post, Owen Patterson, the gallery welcomed his replacement, the newly appointed Theresa Villiers, MP to the award-winning gallery last week.

The Secretary of State stopped in on her way back from a morning engagement in Newry where she visited the Sean Hollywood Arts Centre, Newry City Hall and Bagenal’s Castle (Newry & Mourne Museum).

Upon arrival the Secretary of State was greeted by Council Chairman, Junior McCrum, Councillor Marie Hamilton, Council Chief Executive, Mr Liam Hannaway and Dr Riann Coulter, Curator of the F E McWilliam Gallery & Studio.

Beginning with a tour of the Blackshaw at 80 exhibition in the main gallery the Secretary of State showed a keen interest in Blackshaw’s works, especially in his painting, ‘Night Rider’ which was first seen in his last major exhibition in the Ulster Museum in 2002.

Afterwards, Dr Coulter brought the Secretary of State to view the garden and studio where she was shown F E McWilliam’s surreal sculpture “Legs Static”. In the studio of particular interest to her was the small maquette of Winston Churchill which McWilliam had entered in to a competition to erect a statue of the famous war time prime minister in Parliament Square.

The Secretary of State was also interested to see the maquettes for what is perhaps McWilliam’s best known series of works, his ‘Women of Belfast’, one of these sculptures being on display in Government House, Hillsborough.

Dr Coulter also showed the Secretary of State McWilliam’s plaster model for his bust of Dame Ninette de Valois, founder of the Royal Ballet.

Ms Villiers commented, upon seeing the numerous self-portraits around the studio drawn by many of the schoolchildren who visit, that she was delighted to see the gallery engaging with so many young people.

Afterwards council Chairman Junior McCrum hosted a small lunch for the Secretary of State in Quail’s at the Gallery during which she commented how impressed she was by the gallery and the diversity and quality of the work exhibited, not to mention the great food!

Blackshaw at 80 finishes on Saturday October 13 after which Banbridge Camera Club will be having an exhibition entitled “In Focus”.

The F E McWilliam Gallery and Studio is open Monday to Saturday, 10am-5pm. Admission free.