Philip Meadows - Boro Artist
By Rob Nichols
Friday 18 May 2018 15:20:00
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There is a wonderful art exhibition currently showing at Heritage Gallery, Cargo Fleet. Any Boro fan will love the Ayresome Park paintings of Philip Meadows. They drip with red and white atmosphere. You can almost taste the pies, smell the bovril and savour the excitement of the floodlit night matches. But also look at his Teesside gadgies bent into the wind riding home from their late shift. Or sense the feeling of release and freedom of scenes from the North York Moors.

This is an all but disappeared or fast disappearing world but Philip is giving it one last run out across the white line and into 21st century. It is absolutely marvellous.

I asked the artist to give us a flavour of what he and his exhibition The Boro, Town and Country is all about.

Philip MeadowsI grew up in Eston and went to school at Staplyton in Grangetown. My dad had an allotment at the top of Eston which I still rent. Looking down towards the river from the allotment then the horizon was full of industry, when I look now it is mostly gone or going. The coke ovens are coming down shortly followed by the last blast furnace on Teesside. I grew up in the sixties seeing the Gadgies that I now paint. Blokes like my dad setting off for work a Dorman’s on his bike in his old army greatcoat and gas mask bag to carry his bait.

My first memories of the Boro were going to the match with my elder brother when I was about

8, Dad had died a couple of years earlier. We would stand on the terraces and for me it was magical. The colour was so vivid people only had black and white TV we were not used to seeing footy in colour and your first night match blew your mind.

In 1973 I was in a school choir that wrote and recorded a song with the then Boro team. It was great to mix with the players of the time Graeme Souness, Stewart Boam and John Hickton. Jackie Charlton was the manager and the team had won promotion. Players seemed less remote in those days. Years later I worked in the bar of the Staplyton in Eston and players used to come in for a drink, some lived on Skippers Lane.

After school I worked for ICI as an Instrument Artificer but I always had a love for art. I won a sabbatical from ICI which allowed me to study at Cleveland Art College and then I went on to do a degree at Sunderland University.

I was always interested in the social and industrial history of this area and eventually it came to dominate my art. I liked the work of South Bank artists Len Tabner and David Mulholland who in the 70’s were painting the things they knew and saw every day not the trendy abstract art that everyone else was painting. Artists recording for posterity is not new. John Constable’s paintings are his images of rural life in his childhood not the reality of the industrial revolution when he was painting.

In an industrial area like Middlesbrough the football team becomes almost its identity and the old grounds like Ayresome Park grew within the community, houses butted onto the stands. You could walk out of your front door and into the ground. How the team did affected the morale of the town, speculation about next Saturday was rife as it is now. The first question my barber asks is how do you think they’ll do on Saturday? And I have to keep his mind on the job otherwise one side ends up shorter than the other.

Philip MeadowsMy paintings don’t focus on the players but on the fans, the dads and lads and the Saturday afternoon. I often draw on personal reflection, or something someone tells me will create a spark. One painting called “You Distract Him an we’ll Sneak In” came about by a story the turnstile man told. Little kids used to crawl underneath the turnstile so they put wooden bars on to stop this. The big lads used to run and jump the turnstile, one lad jumped so high he knocked himself out and was out for 5 minutes. When he came round he was let in as he had gone to so much trouble. Nowadays it would be an ambulance and 24 hrs in A&E. I had forgotten about getting a squeeze until a chap

who collects my work reminded me and for many people squeezing in for free behind an old gadgie was the start to a typical Saturday home game.

Things move on, the club had to move, the old ground would not be fit for purpose nowadays. When I think back to the Holgate end toilets and the pie van parked next to them I can almost smell it now. Whilst I visit the Riverside my paintings are still stuck in the past but we have been in the new stadium for twenty years so maybe it’s not new anymore and I might have to focus on fans in the Riverside.

“The Boro, Town & Country” by Philip Meadows is showing at

Heritage Gallery, Cargo Fleet, Middlesbrough Road (the old Langbaurgh Council/British Steel

Offices)

8.30am to 5pm Mon – Friday FREE

and the gallery has a Bistro!

Finishes to 26th May.

Philip Meadows Original Art



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