Retrospective from a great height: the wonderful mountain art of Julian Cooper

A trio of exhibitions will mark the 70th birthday this year of Britain’s foremost mountain artist, Julian Cooper.

Major shows in London and Kendal will be followed by an exhibition,  “Full Circle”, on home territory at the Heaton Cooper Studio in Grasmere.


It was in the new studio there in 1969 that his father, the painter William Heaton Cooper, had just built, that he put on the first exhibition of work by Julian who had just graduated from Goldsmiths Art College.

Almost 50 years later, his work will be the first to be shown at the re-opening of the Archive Gallery at the Grasmere studio.

The London exhibition, “Upstream”, at Art Space Gallery, who regularly show Cooper’s work, opens on April 28.  It is devoted to new paintings on the theme of going upstream from Cockermouth, Cooper’s home town, following the rivers Cocker and Derwent towards the high fells around the lakes of Loweswater, Crummock and Buttermere, and exploring the channels and sidestreams in what Cooper sees as a “contested landscape”, looking at visual traces of the tensions between the various uses of the land, including between farming and ideas of wilding the landscape.

In Kendal, the Abbot Hall Art Gallery is showing over 30 monumental paintings from Cooper’s extensive output over 45 years and reflecting the artist’s travels. While some are of the Lake District, others were inspired by journeys to South America, the Alps, the Himalayas and the quarries of Tasmania and Carrara. It will run until July 2.

Meanwhile, the Grasmere exhibition will open in June, marking Cooper’s birthday on June 10, and will run throughout the summer. This will include previously unseen work covering a range of time and subjects, including, people and urban scenes as well as mountains.

Great Gable

Great Gable, by Julian Cooper

Cooper’s father,  William Heaton Cooper (1903-1995) was a successful painter of the Lake District, as was his grandfather, Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929), and his mother was the sculptor Ophelia Gordon Bell (1915-1975).

He studied Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College School of Art in the late 1960s. In a career spanning three decades, his work has ranged from narrative paintings based on Malcom Lowry’s novel “Under the Volcano” to a series of paintings about the assassination of the Brazilian union leader and environmentalist Chico Mendes in Amazonia, in 1989.


Museum, by Julian Cooper

His more recent work has been concerned with finding a relevant contemporary language for painting mountains and rock. In 2001 his “Mind has Mountains” exhibition at the Wordsworth Trust and in London showed paintings made after an expedition to the Kanchenjunga region of Nepal, noticeable was an absence of sky and a concentration on selected areas of terrain.  Whilst on-site paintings captured a superficial likeness, these paintings touched a deeper psychological one.

His solo exhibition “Cliffs of Fall” in 2004 at Art Space Gallery  showed work based on a comparative study of the North Face of the Eiger in Switzerland and the Honister Slate Mine in the English Lake District.

A clean sweep with help from the web experts

It was a clean sweep when one of the north’s top cleaning service companies teamed up with the leading web experts.

Smart Cleaning Services have been providing top quality commercial cleaning throughout Cumbria, Lancashire and the North West, including Kirkby Lonsdale, Casterton, Lancaster and the Lake District for more than 13 years.

But business really took off when Kendal-based SYPO developed a website and Facebook page for the company.

The Smart team, led by MD Gary Carr, has become recognised as the experts for window and upholstery cleaning,  gutter clearing, high pressure outside cleaning, sign and steam cleaning.

They also developed a name for prompt attention and professionalism with recent flood restoration work.

“This is an organisation with a wide range of expertise to meet all the possible needs of industrial and commercial customers,” said SYPO’s Alan Jewitt.

“One particular and important development was their use of the environmentally-friendly Pro-Jet washing service which is ideal for patio cleaning, driveway cleaning, decking, roofs, walls, paths, pavements, car parks and much more, without the need for harsh chemical solutions.

“What they needed was a platform to explain all this – and more – to potential clients and that’s where we were able to help.

“They now want us to do some more work on the website to improve further their visibility.”

SYPO is the north’s leading web development and online sales expert, with more than 200 large and small companies relying on their help to gain customers and maximise the internet sales experience.

Smart’s Gary Carr said: “It’s made a big difference for us since SYPO did the website. Alan and the team did a great job.”

Like a duck takes to water

Ducks will take to the water in Ambleside again this year as part of the Festival of the Fells.

The charity duck race, organised by Ambleside Kirkstone Rotary club in the river in Rothay Park, will be one of the highlights of the final day of the festival in September.


On your marks, get set…..

The organisers will once again be raising money for Alzheimers Research, for whom they netted a mammoth £2000 last year. They are hoping that local businesses might sponsor the event this time.

Tickets will be on sale at a stall in the Market Cross on the Friday and Saturday of the Festival, which is being staged for the second time, organised by Ambleside Together.

This year’s event is supported by a new headline sponsor, Heart of the Lakes, the leading holiday cottage company which has been based in the town for more than 40 years, and has more than 150 properties in and around Ambleside on its list of 300 holiday homes.

A number of events have already been added to the calendar including open water swimming sessions, and talks including a lecture by the festival’s patron, top mountaineer

Alan Hinkes.

Veteran fellrunner Wendy Dodds will also be giving a talk about her long-distance running exploits, at the Golden Rule.

The festival will be staged from Sept 21-24. Every business in the town has been invited to take part,  after an independent survey showed that almost £250,000 extra income was generated for the town over the four days last year.

Drama takes to the stage at YHA

There’s drama afoot in the world of youth hostelling…and where better to tell the story than in one of the country’s most spectacularly sited hostels.

A new play, Best Foot Forward, will be staged at Ambleside YHA in May, bringing music and humour to the tale of a fictional hostel, Pearling Manor.

The Manor has been threatened with closure  to make way for a new golf club, and the warden is determined to rally the troops and fight the plans.

Best Foot Forward is a production from the Yorkshire-based Mikron theatre company who spend some of their time touring the canals and waterways of England in a narrowboat, “reaching audiences that other companies cannot”.

So they are used to performing in unusual venues and director Marianne McNamara will be taking this show to church halls and pubs as well as the YHA.

Best Foot Forward is written by Maeve Larkin who spent her younger days happily hostelling, so she’s brought some of her own experience of the YHA into the drama.


“We know that movements have to evolve to survive,” she says. “Our hero warden Connie has a heart as big as her rucksack and takes us on a journey through the YHA’s past in the hope of securing its future.”

As Connie says:

“Through thickets and thin we’ve managed to keep

Our promise of somewhere cheap to sleep

If that’s threatened we must defend it

Looking to the past in order to transcend it”

Ambleside YHA manager Damian Parker said: “This is a very funny and delightful story, and we know that it will be loved by our guests staying here. But the play is open to everyone….just turn up on the night for a very entertaining show.”

Best Foot Forward is at Ambleside YHA on Thursday May 11. There’s no need to book; a pay-what-you-will collection will be taken after the show.

For more information contact YHA Ambleside on 015394 32304

rainbowyha smaller

Ambleside YHA: photo by Steve Ashworth, Lake District Images

Good neighbours needed to help emergency planning in Ambleside

Would you be ready to keep an eye on your neighbours when there’s a flood or other disaster?

In Ambleside they’re looking for volunteers who are prepared to watch out for others in their street or neighbourhood.

The Ambleside Community Emergency Planning and Response Group is building a list of names and phone numbers who can be contacted when something serious happens locally. The aim is for volunteers to cascade information…by phoning the next person on the list … and by stepping outside their own front doors to see where help might be needed.

The group is run by volunteers with help from the Environment Agency…and they hope they’ll never be needed.

“But we know that flooding is likely to be more than a once every hundred years occurrence now,” says co-ordinator Andy Caple. “We also want people to be on standby for other  situations..adverse weather, power outages.

“The people on our list need to look out for just their immediate neighbours, and to ring others on the list. The more volunteers we have, the smaller the area that each will need to cover.”

Andy makes it clear that no one is being asked to take on the roles which will be undertaken by the emergency services and by the mountain rescue teams. “It’s more about passing on information, perhaps alerting older people and others in their street.”

Anyone who can help or wants more information should call Andy on  07747 024691 /

Dreaming of a camp-fire as sponsor backs Swallows and Amazons marathon

The Swallows and Amazons marathon at Coniston this summer is to be sponsored by a team who will keep the kettle boiling for the readers.

Tom Harvey of kitchen appliance firm Clocktower has come on board to make sure that there’s a constant supply of tea and coffee for the team of readers and visitors to the lakeside event.

But fans of the story might be disappointed to learn that there won’t be a billy-can kettle over an open camp fire.

“That’s the way I’d love to do it,” said Tom, who has enjoyed re-reading the classic story since he was a child. “But we wouldn’t be able to keep up with demand. There will be more than 30 readers and a great many visitors, so we will have to use modern electric kettles.”

Tom reads S&A

His Milnthorpe-based company will also provide an endless supply of teabags. Readers might recall that the children camping on the island put tea-leaves into their kettle, a practice frowned on by Mr Harvey. “I suspect the taste would have been a very stewed tea.”

The event, to mark the 50th anniversary of the death of the author, Arthur Ransome, will take place at Coniston on Sunday September 3.

A number of celebrity readers have already signed up to take part including actors from two film versions, the screenplay writer, and a descendant of the poet William Wordsworth. It’s expected that the book’s 31 chapters will take around nine hours to read.

The event is being organised by Dr Chris Routledge who is head of Continuing Education, English Language and Literature, at Liverpool University, in association with the Lake District National Park and the Arthur Ransome Trust. Also supporting the reading are Stephen and Janine Sykes who live at Hill Top, Ransome’s last home in the Lake District.

It will mark the end of a summer-long exhibition at the Ruskin Museum in Coniston about Ransome, Russia and storytelling.

susan and the kettle

Kettle on the camp fire: Suzanna Hamilton as Susan in the 1974 film of  Swallows and Amazons

Dr Routledge, a great fan of Arthur Ransome, previously organised a marathon reading of Moby Dick at the Merseyside Maritime Museum; a much longer novel, that event took three days.

“It seems an appropriate way to celebrate the life and work of Ransome,” he said. “We are delighted that the Lake District National Park  has offered their site at the Coniston Boating Centre on the lake shore. And our partners at the Arthur Ransome Trust are providing marquees to keep our readers and visitors under canvas, in true Swallows and Amazons fashion.”

Dr Routledge’s 13 year old daughter Caitlin will be one of the younger readers, along with Elizabeth Kaye, the 11 year old daughter of Jonathan and Caroline Kaye, owners of Windermere’s Cedar Manor Hotel, who are avid fans of the Ransome stories.

Other readers who have signed up include 14 year old actor Hannah Jayne Thorp, who played the part of Peggy in last year’s film version of Swallows and Amazons. The screenplay writer of that film, Andrea Gibb, will also read a chapter, along with Christopher Wordsworth, great great great great grandson of the famous poet.

The event is part of the LakesCulture calendar

Web guru joins university team of experts

South Lakes web guru Alan Jewitt has joined a select group of business advisors at Lancaster University.

Mr Jewitt, managing director of Kendal-based SYPO, is spending  three days as an entrepreneur in residence at the university’s Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation.

jewitt pic

He joins a team of experts from businesses across the North West discussing current programmes with the academic staff, enhancing the experience of students through activities and career guidance, and helping to foster business ideas and contribute to a variety of classroom activities.

He was interviewed by researchers about his own entrepreneurial experience: motivations, key moments and key people that helped him, ambitions for the future. He also helped develop ideas to produce teaching material to be used in class.

Mr Jewitt founded SYPO – Sell Your Products Online – some 10 years ago, and his company is now a leader in web development and payment and checkout systems for more than 200 businesses of all sizes across the UK.

He said: “This was both an honour and a really exciting opportunity. So many young people are now considering working for themselves, or setting up their own businesses. Those of us with experience of the advantages – and the pitfalls – have an excellent opportunity to advise the next generation.”

The university runs undergraduate study in Entrepreneurship helping students to develop entrepreneurial skills paving the way for a successful career or new business venture.


Runners to get help from top coaches

New series of circuit training for runners are to be launched in both Kendal and Ambleside by two of the country’s top coaches.

Paul Tierney and Sarah McCormack, who run Missing Link Coaching, will lead the six-week blocks of classes for runners of all abilities.

Designed to improve strength and fitness, the sessions will include warm up and mobility drills,  running specific strength and conditioning drills in a circuit style format, and technique drills to improve running form.

paul and sarah

“The main aim of the class is to reduce risk of injuries, improve runners’ strength endurance and consequently their running performance,” said Paul. A Running and movement coach and Sports Massage Therapist, Paul has represented Ireland twice at the World Ultra Trail Championships and was the 2015 Lakeland 100 Mile Race Winner.

He said: “My interest in coaching stemmed from the frustration caused by frequent running-related injuries.  I was certain that by improving running technique and skill it is possible to run pain-free and get the most from your training.  Eventually this led to me wanting to pass on what I learned to others to help them reduce their injury risk and improve performance.”

He added: “I’m passionate about helping others improve their movement because I’ve seen the difference it can make to the success, enjoyment, and general well-being of those I coach.”

Dr Sarah McCormack has won the  European Cross Country Championships team gold medal (2012), Scottish 5000m title (2012, 2013), Scottish 10k title (2012), Irish Inter-Clubs Cross Country  title (2014), and Snowdon International Mountain Race (2014, 2015) as well as secured two top-ten finishes in the World Mountain Running Championships (2013, 2015).  Sarah is a Doctor of Biogeochemistry and a running coach.

She said: “I enjoy being able to combine my background in science with my experience in training and racing to help others get more from their running while also improving health and well-being.”

The classes start on April 3 at Rothay Park, Ambleside, and April 6 at Kendal Green in Kendal, each at 7pm. Participants sign up for the whole course, which costs £50, though to facilitate those on holidays over Easter, the team is running 7 classes for the price of 6 “so even if you are away for a week, you should still be able to attend 6 classes”.

For further details :

Leading actress backs climate change campaign

“Disastrous decisions in the US will impact upon us all”

Actress Emma Thompson has joined a growing list of environmental activists backing the high-impact book of pictures by photographer Ashley Cooper, Images from a Warming Planet.

Ms Thompson, star of many popular films including Love Actually and Saving Mr Banks, who won an Oscar and a BAFTA for Best Actress in Howard’s End, is also an outspoken campaigner on climate change and environmental issues.

After reading the book she wrote to Mr Cooper: “Sometimes pictures are more powerful than any words and at the beginning of a year that presages some disastrous decisions in the US that will impact upon us all, this book has become essential reading.”


The book of more than 500 images, which documents the impact of climate change around the world, was published last year, the result of a 13 year global journey by the top photographer who is based in the Lake District.

Mr Cooper took thousands of photographs in key locations which illustrate the havoc being brought upon the natural world, and amassed the world’s largest collection of pictures documenting climate change on every continent, from the Inuit communities of the Arctic to the coral atoll islands of the Pacific Ocean, showing the damage caused by dependence on fossil fuels:  flooding, glacial erosion, and deforestation.

The book was endorsed by Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron, MP for Westmorland and Lonsdale, who said: “This book is far more than just a collection of impressive photographs – it documents a massively important and concerning phenomenon that will affect us all. These images vividly show the effect which climate change is having on our planet, and serves as a wake-up call for us all to act before it is too late.”

And leading environmentalist Jonathan Porritt wrote in the book’s foreword: “This is a book about change. About the way the climate is already changing, and the way in which it will change even more dramatically in the future. About changes in peoples’ lives as they seek to make sense of weather systems that seem to have slipped those reassuring bounds of normality and predictability. About changes in our understanding of what’s going on around us, in our world views, in our orientation both to our current reality and to the future.”




Cash prize doubles for young poets in Wordsworth competition

Prize money for the best young poet in Cumbria has been doubled this year to mark the fifth anniversary of a popular competition.

The annual Rydal Mount Wordsworth prize for young poets is organised by the descendants of William Wordsworth, and is open to students at all schools in the county.

This year the author of the winning poem will receive a cash prize of £100, plus a personal trophy, and the poem will be framed and displayed alongside the work of the famous poet in the popular tourist attraction near Ambleside.

The theme for this year’s competition is “A walk on the wild side”, was chosen by the poet’s great great great grand-daughter, Susan. She and other descendants of William will judge the poems, and the winner will be announced at an award ceremony at Rydal Mount on April 27.

Peter Elkington, the curator of Rydal Mount, who is organising the contest on behalf of the Wordsworth family, said: “We decided to double the prize money this year in celebration of our fifth event. The competition has attracted some wonderful work from young people over the years, and we are looking forward to seeing what this year’s entries surprise us with.

“It’s also a chance for a young poet to see his or her work immortalised alongside the poems of Wordsworth himself in his former home, and read by thousands of visitors.”


There are book prizes for the poets judged as highly commended in the primary and secondary school categories. Each entrant also receives a certificate signed by the descendants of William Wordsworth.

Last year’s winner was a 14 year old Jacob Currie, (right) a pupil at Furness Academy, who took the title with his poem The Gap in Life after members of the Wordsworth family judged more than 150 entries from Cumbrian schools. His poem has been framed and is displayed at Rydal Mount for visitors to read.

The closing date for entries is Monday March 20, and the Wordsworths report that entries are already coming in.

Entry forms can be found at

or via the Cumbria education department schools’ information portal.