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OFF THE RAILS
Sat 20 March, 2021 @ Sat 20 March
Saturday 24th January – Saturday 20th March 2021
OFF THE RAILS Online Exhibition
Celebrating 50 Years of Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Havenstreet
Sun 24th Jan – Sat 20th Mar 2021
In our latest exhibition, OFF THE RAILS, we have partnered with Isle of Wight Steam Railway to celebrate their 50th anniversary moving from Newport to Havenstreet, by showing artefacts, signs and memorabilia from their collection, related objects and artworks from the IW Heritage Service Collection, AJ Wells & Sons, as well as a series of artist’s and school’s response work. We had hoped to install this exhibition in our West Gallery and open to the public in early January, but due to the new lockdown restrictions, we have digitised the works and brought the exhibition to life online!
The first of the Island lines opened in 1862 between Cowes and Newport, but it was not until 1900 that Ventnor received its second railway and the Island rail complex was complete. However, by the mid 20th century, after two World Wars and a lengthy depression, it was not surprising that rural branch lines came under the spotlight and their economic status was in question. The 1950’s saw lines to Bembridge, Freshwater and Ventnor, all closed.
The Island’s steam hauled railways were becoming a sad reflection of their former glory but still retaining a fascination for historians and enthusiasts as the Island’s isolation had seen the retention of antiquated locomotives and carriages, most of which had arrived as hand-me-downs from the mainland. It was then, on Sunday 24th January 1971, at 8.30pm, the last steam train rumbled across the Medina Drawbridge, Newport, high above the river and its quays, ending a chapter in the Island’s transport history and thus, the Isle of Wight Steam Railway was born.
Artists & Schools Response
Since the beginning of steam travel, artists have responded to its industrial status, its movement, speed and sound, the passing through space and time. From poetry by Wordsworth’s 1833 ‘Steamboats, Viaducts, and Railways’ and Emily Dickinson’s 1891 ‘I like to see it lap the Miles’ to J.M.W. Turner’s ‘Rain, Steam, and Speed – The Great Western Railway’, painted in 1844 and all the way through to O. Winston Link’s 1956 photograph ‘Hotshot Eastbound’ – feelings of trepidation moving into the Second Industrial Revolution, to its romanticised vision of a bygone era have been interpreted throughout history.
As part of this exhibition, we invited artists to submit work to respond to ideas around preservation, displacement and memory, and some wider themes on travel, engineering and movement, giving this exhibition a rich, contemporary feel, whilst retaining the narrative of the Island’s Steam Railway history. Works include painting, drawing, mixed media, digital, print, text and sculpture. Artists are: Archie Yates, Caroline Underwood, Cat James, Christopher Hicks, David Rodford, Gillian Hawkins, Mark Chettle, Michael Bruzon, Sandy Kendall, Sarah Vardy, Steve Miles, Victoria Fellows and Marion R Hunnisett.
As a further response, artist educator Ian Whitmore worked with two Island schools, Oakfield CE Primary School, Ryde and Gurnard Primary School exploring the heritage of the Isle of Wight Steam Railway and have created work in response to the collection, resulting in two large-scale mosaic collages and a stop-frame animation film.
As part of the artist submissions, one artist has been selected from the exhibition to hold a future solo exhibition in Quay Arts’ Clayden Gallery, gaining one-to-one support from the Arts Team in developing their exhibition. In addition, IW Steam Railway are also offering a years free Membership to the IW Steam Railway. Click here to find out who is the Winning Artist!
Films & Talks
As part of our online exhibition we are very fortunate to show some rare footage of the final move from Newport to Havenstreet on Sunday 24th January 1971. It shows an incredibly important day, as families gathered to watch the last steam train rumble across the Medina Drawbridge, Newport, ending a chapter in the Island’s transport history, but was the start of one of the island’s most loved heritage sites – Isle of Wight Steam Railway at Havenstreet.
Exploring the works on loan and the artists and school’s responses, Quay Arts’ Visual Arts Manager Georgia Newman and Havenstreet’s Museum Curator John Paton recorded a discussion, highlighting some of the works in the exhibition and its wider themes.