‘Who are these amazing bunch of people?’, I hear you beg. Well this is the Upton Clan photographed in 1968 for an article in The Sunday Times entitled Happy Families. What has this got to do with Mid Pennine Arts Association and The Gallery Downstairs? Well, John Upton (he of the fluffy white outfit) is a self-taught painter and mural artist.
He had a very distinctive style and a fondness for images of curvy women.
He also painted on canvas.
In the spring of 1989 this appeared in the MPAA programme…
We have photographs of the workshops as well but they are all black and white, which is a shame as I’m sure the finished piece would have John Upton’s trademark bright bold colours. What does come across if you pay attention to the eyes are moments of enjoyment and awkward adolescence. Oh, and some stunning jumpers, memorable hairstyles and potential album cover poses!
Where you involved with this or any other workshop at the Gallery Downstairs in the Burnley Mechanics building? Do you remember seeing this mural in place at Rossendale General Hospital in Rawtenstall?
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch, and tell us your story. Email me at MPA.
Oh, and if you’re interested, here’s an extract from the article in The Sunday Times…
Sunday Times, November 10th, 1968. Article titled Happy Families with interviews by Peter Gillman …
The Uptons John and Caryl Upton have three children: Circe, who is six, Earl X, four, and Chloe, two. “Circe was the name of a witch,” says John. “Earl X came from Marvel comics – there’s a sort of super-hero called X-Man. I got Chloe from Daphnis and Chloe. It’s the first ever love story.”
“Hey Caryl,” said Circe with delight, prancing into the living room of the Upton’s small Brighton council house. “we’ve been eating your icing sugar.” Caryl blanched and rushed out. Earl X, it turned out, had eaten 16 contraceptive pills as well, and Caryl thought she should take him to hospital. “They started calling us by our Christian names themselves,” said John. “I don’t mind what they call me. It’s up to them.”
John Upton, 33, is a painter without formal training; direct, dominant nudes against floral patterns or barely-sketched household backgrounds. (He’s painted a huge mural, full of nudes, all over the walls and ceiling of their bedroom, but they don’t think the council will mind.) People are always arriving at the house saying someone they once met on the Doncaster by-pass gave them their address. “Once we came home and there were no lights on and we thought ‘Great, there’s no one here for once’,” said Caryl. “But there was. Someone had climbed in and was round the back having a bath.”
John met Caryl in a pub in Lewisham 10 years ago – Caryl was 16 – and they started living together soon afterwards. They moved to Brighton seven years ago and they were given a council house because the council said that children of different sexes shouldn’t have to share bedrooms. “My mother thinks I’m mad, I think.” says Caryl. “Her parents think the same. I think they think why don’t we settle down. But they don’t say anything.” John and Caryl would prefer not to send the children to school. “I don’t think it does any good,” says John. “The authority thing is the greatest evil. Apart from things like religion.”
“The children aren’t thin are they?” says Caryl. “People seem to expect them to be all thin.” “They’re incredible really,” says John. “They don’t eat much. They throw most of it away.”