Tell us about your role within the COVID 19 Support group?
I work handling emails and voicemails from residents and in the early days helped us get our phone system working correctly. I work about 2 days each week with the Covid Group. I was lucky enough to retire in March 2020 and so I have a lot of flexibility around when and what I do. I always planned to do some form of voluntary work and I also work with Age UK as a befriender. The volunteering fits nicely around my other hobbies – painting, birdwatching, playing the guitar, family history, walking and running. We are lucky in that having several experienced volunteers allows a lot of flexibility so if I cannot work on particular days someone else can cover for me.
You have recently started painting again after a hiatus of several decades, can you tell us a bit about your painting?
I loved drawing and painting when I was a teenager and at one stage, I wondered whether to do something around it for a job. Instead, I had a career in sales, customer service and project planning roles but I always wanted to return to art at some stage. As soon as I retired, I signed up for a watercolour class at the Kenilworth Centre which really helped me get my technique sorted out. Since then, I have painted roughly one picture each week – it is a great inexpensive hobby for lockdown. My passion is birds and so I paint nature subjects quite a lot.
Tell us about the painting that was displayed in a local exhibit and you sold prints of it to raise money for the COVID 19 group.
I regularly walk through The Common and along Lower Ladyes Hills and The Close and the allotments there are a wonderful oasis. It inspired me to paint a view across the allotments which I posted online on Kenilworth Vibes. I got a tremendous response and quite a few people asking whether prints were for sale. The painting really struck a chord, and I had a lot of conversations with residents, former residents, allotment holders with fond memories. I think people recognise a real ‘Kenilworth view’ rather than the picture-postcard Castle views and it captured a lovely sunny Autumn day of everyday life when we were all feeling a little trapped with Covid. With a lot of help from local artists I managed to get some high-quality prints made and I raised just under £400 for the Covid-19 Kenilworth Support Group selling 25 prints so far. I gave the original painting to the Mayor’s Charity fund. What I like about it is I have had so many lovely stories from Kenilworth current and former residents who are surprised that I paint their streets and houses. It is a great chance to meet people.
What are your hopes for the next 12 months, both personally and for the community?
I have been really surprised at just how much need and support we have on our doorsteps in Kenilworth – loneliness, mental health issues, poverty. I live in a lovely part of town where I know all my neighbours and I would like to feel that the same neighbourliness which Covid-19 has necessitated could continue. I know the group has plans going forward. Personally, the only thing I have not been able to do since retiring is to travel. My wife and I intended to have an extended trip to Australia visiting family last March which had to be cancelled. I really hope we can make the trip in the next year. I want to get better technique as an artist through lots of practise and be more creative in how I approach each painting. I plan to start a long walking project on the South West Coastal path and finally I want to see 200 species of bird in Britain in 2021. Finally, I have never seen a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker so if anyone can point me in the right direction anywhere near Kenilworth, I would be very grateful.