Category Archives: Inspiration

The era-defining legacy of Tish Murtha.


Patricia ‘Tish’ Murtha is another photographer I’ve been wanting to write a post about for quite some time. And, like my previous post about Saul Leiter’s early work in New York, Tish Murtha captured the essence of working class Northern England during the late 70s and 80s under Thatcher.

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Tish Murtha 14/3/1956 – 13/3/2013. © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Unlike Leiter, Murtha’s work focuses predominantly on the socially deprived. One of the reasons I love her work so much is that I can empathise with a lot of the shots. I can see myself in them as a kid growing up in Batley in the 60s and 70s.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Her images also remind me of the early social documentary work of legends like Bill Brandt and Don McCullin. The sort of work we don’t see enough of. That’s because people don’t like to look at it. Because it tells us the truth about the society in which we live.

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Don McCullin

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Bill Brandt

One of the things a great photographer does is make the viewer ask questions. Like, who are they? What are they doing now? In this case, who started the fire? Did they start it? Why are they unconcerned? What are they looking at?

Tish Murtha doesn’t just capture images of the economically deprived in our society, she captures joy and despair. Fear and determination. Hope and uncertainty. Perhaps most importantly – love and kinship.

 

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

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Tish Murtha © Ella Murtha, All rights reserved.

Tish Murtha would have been have been 64 next month. Sadly, she died at the tender age of 56 in 2013 of a sudden brain aneurysm.

The legacy of Tish Murtha is carried on by her daughter Ella who has kindly given me permission to publisher her mother’s work, and to whom I owe a debt of gratitude.

Ella posthumously published collections of her mum’s work in the books Youth Unemployment and Elswick Kids which you can find here.

You can also get exhibition prints here.

I could continue this post with Tish Murtha’s work for as many Google pages there are showing it. But that would leave you with nothing to do. To find out more about her era-defining work – and how she saved the lives of four women through organ donation – why not explore her life and work here.

Happy birthday Tish.

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Happy [insert occaison here] Day


Introducing There Is No Cavalry greeting cards.

Something for every occasion. (Because they’re all blank inside, so you can write what the hell you like.)

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What’s the difference between you and Moon Pig?

Some would say, nothing physically.

Others might say that my greetings cards are that little bit more special because they are uniquely hand painted by moi.

And why are you telling me this?

Because I want to give them to you.

Well, when I say ‘give’, I mean give them to you in exchange for money.

That’s right, it’s your once-in-a-lifetime chance to own one of these rare and original works of art. (Maybe twice-in-a-lifetime if this batch sells well.)

So, what have you got?

I have A5 and A6. Which if you don’t know what size they are, A5 is half the size of A4 and A6 is half the size of A5. A3 is twice the size of A4 and A2 (which is pretty big) is twice the size of A3, but that doesn’t matter, because I don’t have any A3 or A2 cards. That would be ridiculous. (Don’t get me started on A0.)

Yeah, but what are they pictures of? They look a bit funny to me.

That’s because they’re abstract landscapes. At least, that’s what I’m calling them.

I potter about the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales quite a lot and they’re impressions of the shapes, textures, colours and light of the landscape.

Then there are also a couple of Japanese-style watercolours, like this…

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I couldn’t possibly afford a once-in-a-lifetime, unique, hand painted card by David Milligan-Croft, could I?

Probably not.

Hold your horses. Let’s not be too darn hasty there, pardner. How much are these pesky little critters?

Since when did you become a cowboy?

Sorry. How much are they?

That’s better. £3.00 each for the A6 and £4.00 each for the A5.

That’s ludicrous! You’re practically giving away these once-in-a-lifetime, hand painted, unique cards, by soon-to-be-famous artist, David Milligan-Croft for nothing!

I know. I’ve not been well.

Where do I sign?

You don’t. You message me which one/s you want, pay into my paypal.me/dmcroft  account, and I pop them in the post to you. But I’ll need to work out postage first depending on where you live, so don’t put any money in just yet. (Unless you just want to make a huge donation.) I’ve put a postage guide at the bottom of the page, but I don’t imagine it will be more than 1 or 2 pounds.

I couldn’t possibly send this to someone else, it’s too unique!

Stick it in a frame then.

Great idea. What if I want a bigger one? I have a portrait of the ex that I quite like the frame of.

I’ll do you a bespoke one if you like. Just let me know which card you like the style of and the size. Obviously, it won’t be an exact copy, it’ll be…

Unique!

That’s right.

Just scroll down to sample my wares and if you’re interested either message me below or email me at thereisnocavalry@icloud.com for details.

Toodle-pip.

 

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1. Watercolour and inktense, A6.

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2. Watercolour, A6.

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3. Watercolour and inktense, A6.

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4. Watercolour, A6.

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5. Wayercolour & inktense, A6.

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6. Acrylic, A6.

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7. Acrylic, A6.

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8. Inktense, A6.

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9. Watercolour, A6.

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10. Watercolour & inktense, A6.

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11. Watercolour & inktense, A5.

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12. Watercolour & inktense, A5.

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13. Watercolour, A5.

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14. Watercolour, A5.

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15. Watercolour, A5.

This last one is slightly different as it’s an A5 black and white print, so I can do as many as you like. What shall we say for this one? [scratches head] Two quid each. They might be prints, but they’re still unique. 🙂

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16. Black & white print, ink on paper, A5.

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In the not too distant future I’m going to be doing a series of landscape photography postcards of my meanderings around the Peak District and Yorkshire Dales.

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Bonjour 2020!


I thought I’d begin 2020 as I ended 2019 – writing in French!

Why? I have no idea.

Plus, it’s a tad late for New Year salutations.

I’ve wanted to write a post about Saul Leiter for many a moon.

Why? I have no idea.

Wait, I do. Because I love his work, that’s why. And I thought it only right and proper I shared the love.

I am intrigued by his voyeuristic style. Apart from Leiter being a pioneer of early colour photography, he managed to capture slices of the Big Apple’s social and cultural life in 1940s and 50s America. I think the compositions are very cinematic and each character could inspire a short story.

He said his early influences were the Impressionists Degas, Bonnard and Vuillard. But I’d venture to chuck Toulouse-Lautrec into the pot as well.

And he wasn’t just a dab hand at photography. He was pretty good at dabbing with a paint brush too. (Quite a few of his paintings are over-painted photographs.)

I’m not going to blather on giving you his life story, you can do that here. I just want to show you some pretty pictures. So, here you go…

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Adieu 2019.


Well, it’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot more visual arts this year, so I thought I’d do a month-by-month, blow-by-blow, pictorial representation of my year. (Lucky you.)

Actually, the reason behind it is to see if/how the images/moods have changed over the course of the year. And how that might correlate to my mental health.

As some of you know, I volunteer for an arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), which works with people with mental health issues. I am an ardent advocate of the arts as a medium to treat mental health, and wellbeing in general.

Many years ago, I visted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and you could see the gradual decline in his mental health through his work.

Whilst I’m no Van Gogh, I am trying to see if there are any similar patterns to my own work.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

And before I forget; Have a Happy New Year and an absolutely spectacular 2020.

JANUARY

Oh dear… that’s not a good start.

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FEBRUARY

That’s a bit more positive. Birthday trip to Haworth, West Yorkshire, (home of the Brontes’), with my daughters.

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MARCH

Pros: Part of an Arc exhibition. Cons: Became homeless.

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APRIL

Ee, it’s grim up north. Charcoal sketch of an L.S. Lowry.

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MAY

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

Rehomed.

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JUNE

Think I can see a pattern emerging.

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JULY

Rehab.

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AUGUST

I guess a lot of things are obvious in hindsight.

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SEPTEMBER

The road to recovery.

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OCTOBER

Signs of improvement.

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NOVEMBER

Apart from my volunteer work at Arc, I started facilitating a Creative Writing Workshop at The Wellspring homeless charity in Stockport.

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There are always reminders.

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DECEMBER

A change of outlook.

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As you can see, it’s been a tumultuous year.

I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the last day of it. That would not have been possible were it not for the actions of my dear friend, Siobhan Costigan, over in Australia. Her, and my friends, family, NHS, Stepping Hill Hospital, Pathfinder, AA, The Wellspring and Arc have all played their part in saving my life and helping me to recover. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

As of 31/12/2019, I am 140 days abstinent. I feel completely blessed that I have been able to experience 140 days on Earth with my daughters, family and friends that I might not have been able to. I am truly a lucky man.

I wish you all a magnificent 2020; may the forthcoming decade bring you everything that you hope and dream for.

 

Addendum.

If you, or a loved one, are going through a difficult time, there are organisations out there who can help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you have managed to hold on this far. And remember, if things get so bad, go to your nearest A&E dept., they will take care of you just like any other patient.

The Samaritans call 116 123

NHS call 111 or 999

Alcoholics Anonymous call 0800 917 7650

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London Grammar Calling: Or, What my children teach me.


They teach me a lot.

Don’t worry, this post won’t be an itemised list of all the joys of being a parent.

Just a band they’ve introduced me to called London Grammar.

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As usual, I’m a bit late to the party as they’ve been going quite a while. Hannah Reid, the lead singer, has a hauntingly beautiful voice and the music is eerily sparse and melancholic with Dan Rothman on guitar and Dominic ‘Dot’ Major on keyboards & percussion. (It’s called ‘Dream Pop’ apparently.) Who new? Oh, you all did.

They’re a trio who formed in Nottingham in… do I look like Wikipedia? If you’re interested, have a read about them here.

I’ve picked out a couple of songs that I have on repeat at the moment. But, the more I listen to them, the longer that list becomes. (Although, I doubt that an old codger like me is their prime target audience.) I guess, those who know a bit more about my story will understand the poignancy of ‘Strong’.

So thanks, you crazy kids, (I can hear them groan and see their eyes roll), for introducing me to London Grammar, Sia, First Aid Kit, Billie Eilish, 21 Pilots, Melanie Martinez and the rest. You’re pretty cool, despite your parentage.

Enjoy. And have a very happy Christmas if you celebrate that sort of thing. And have a very happy holiday season if you don’t.

 

I’ll just leave a little something for my kids to aspire to…

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Army Men Around the House.


I love these little set ups by Gareth McGorman, called Army Men Around the House.

Yes, I’ve seen figurines used this way before. I’m thinking of farmhands chopping up florets of broccoli, that sort of thing.

But, I just find these quite amusing. Perhaps it’s something to do with the fact that I used to play with toy soldiers as a child. (Much to the consternation of our cat.)

Gareth hails from Toronto, Canada and I first came across him on Instagram. I can’t find a website for him, but I’ll post a couple of links to his work under the shots.

Enjoy.

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Links:

https://www.instagram.com/armymenaroundthehouse/

https://www.facebook.com/armymenaroundthehouse/

Gareth McGorman

 

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Friday 13th


The Sun is still the Sun,

The Moon is still the Moon.

The Sky is still the Sky,

The Rain is still the Rain.

And the Wind will carry on blowing,

Despite us, and our follies.

 

 

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”

Saint Augustine

 

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7 Nights in Rehab


I’ve been torturing myself about whether to write this post or not.

The primary reason for not posting it centres around ‘not airing one’s dirty laundry in public’, and hurting people close to me whom I love. Whilst the main reason for writing it is that every health and art professional I’ve shown my drawings to thinks I should.

For me, what it boiled down to is whether it will have a positive impact on people or a negative one. Particularly, those people who are suffering from that terrible physical and psychological illness – alcoholism.

I went into Smithfield detox centre in July of this year for 8 days, 7 nights. The staff there were amazing. And I came out of the place fully cured of my physical addiction to alcohol. (The problem upon leaving such a facility is coping with one’s mental and emotional addiction. But that, and a quite catastrophic relapse, is for another post.)

The following are a series of drawings I made when I was there to try and capture my emotional state each day whilst going through alcohol withdrawal with the aid of librium and a few injections in the bum! They are not self-portraits as some people think, just a reflection of how I felt.

I must add that not everyone’s experiences are the same as mine. For example, some people don’t have hallucinations.

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Withdrawal #1

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Withdrawal #2

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Hallucinations

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Torpor

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Fury

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Serenity

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The Awakening

Anyway, to any readers who are, (or think they might be), suffering from alcoholism, I would highly recommend a detox, so please speak to your GP or NHS alcohol service to see about accessing one.

Also, please feel free to message me privately if there is anything you would like to ask/tell me and I’ll do my best to help. My email is: thereisnocavalry@icloud.com

As of writing, I am 98 days sober and I feel like a new person. Four months ago I didn’t think a new life was possible. I had resigned myself to my fate. But, through the incredible support of friends, family, Arc, The Wellspring, the NHS and AA, I have a brand new, positive outlook on life. And, I can honestly say that I am happy.

A huge thank you to Pathfinder Stockport; Arc Centre; The Wellspring; Smithfield Detox Centre, Manchester;  Pennine Care Trust and NHS Stockport.

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Whoa, how’d that little rascal get in here?

 

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This is not an update, update.


I said in my last Facebook post about my recent travails at Stepping Hill Hospital that that would be the last medical update, as I am now safely home.

However, I doubt that most of the readers of my blog are friends with me on Facebook, (some are), so they won’t know what the hell I’m on about.

Suffice it to say, I’ve just spent a week in hospital and let’s leave it at that. Because, what took me there isn’t the point of this post. What I did there, is.

Whilst wiling away the hours in my hospital bed I got a bit bored and asked Nurse Emma if I could borrow a pencil and a few sheets of paper.

I did a bit of sketching of patients and nurses who I was fortunate enough to meet in the HDU and ward B6.

So, like I said, it’s not an update per se. More of a ‘backdate’.

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Nurse Emma at her computer.

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Steve, fellow patient.

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Nurse Eta at the medicine dispenser trolley.

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Craig, fellow patient, (with black eye).

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River and countryside.

Bit of a random one, this. No, it’s not the view from my hospital window, it’s from a photo that a friend, Edel Gallagher, posted on Facebook while I was in hospital. I really liked the composition, so thought I’d copy it. Now, if you compared my sketch to the original photograph, you’d think it’s complete bobbins. Luckily, you can’t, so here it is.

Not as spooky as the stuff I normally paint, but from where I was lying, things were pretty spooky enough.

 

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Body of Work


I was going to title this post: Portraits of the Damned.

Then I started to include landscapes and still-lives to it. So, the title wouldn’t really make sense. But it will in a minute! Be afraid, be very afraid.

Some of you may, or may not, know that I volunteer for an Arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), in Reddish, Stockport.

I’ve done a lot of this work there, and some at home. But all the techniques I’ve picked up are from either attending or volunteering on their programmes.

Whether it be block-printing, collage, charcoal, watercolour, acrylics, inks, fabric, embroidery, clay or pastel. Not to mention the numerous techniques, yes brushes, but also charcoal tied to the end of a three feet long piece of bamboo! Bits of old Paymobil and Lego, edges of long out-of-date credit cards.

At Arc, it’s never about the technique and what end result you achieve, it’s about enjoying the process of doing it. Losing yourself, immersing yourself in art for a few hours – now that is medicine!

I appreciate that my work is more the stuff of nightmares rather than living room walls. But I like it!

Collage

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Pencil sketches

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Watercolour

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Self-portraits

Processed with Snapseed.

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Charcoal

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Pen and ink sketches

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Portraits of the Damned!

Mostly acrylic and chalk pastel on canvas or paper.

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And finally, the installation I made for the centenary commemoration of the end of the First World War at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery. R.I.P. Herbert Jackson of Didsbury Road, Heaton Mersey, Stockport. Railway man, musician, fiance – and soldier.

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