‘Magical’ artwork to aid Dale Road charity drive

A local artist has created a Van Gogh style painting after being inspired by the launch of the Matlock Star Trail initiative.

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 1:48 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 2:12 pm
Mr Leake has gifted the painting to Dale Road Independents

Nicholas Leake, 75, a member of Matlock Artists Society and avid painter of the town, found the paper star lanterns, launched by traders on Dale Road, so enchanting, he was moved to capture them in an oil painting.

Mr Leake’s painting – Starry Starry Road - evokes the warm glow the lanterns give at dusk and also takes stylistic inspiration from Van Gogh’s 1880 work, Café Terrace at Night in Arles.

Van Gogh’s painting captures a warm and charming street scene where stars illuminate the night sky. In Mr Leake’s painting, Dale Road is seen from the Holt Terrace end of the street, and a series of shops with awnings have stars lighting up their windows. In the distance, the unmistakable turrets of the former Olde Englishe Hotel are silhouetted against the sky and stars illuminate the scene.

Mr Leake said: “Dale Road has many moods depending on the weather, time of day, people and the traffic. I wanted to convey a celebratory, slightly magical atmosphere, and to build on the star theme already established in many of the shops. I hoped that a reference to Van Gogh’s popular painting, with its starry sky, would achieve just that. “

The Matlock Star Trail was launched in January by Dale Road Independents, a group of independent retailers and traders working together to raise money for local good causes and shout out the independent character of their businesses.

The star trail was launched to coincide with Blue Monday, the day characterised as the most depressing of the year, with the aim of bringing light on a dark day and at a difficult time, whilst the high street was locked down.

Mr Leake bought a star and learned more about the fund raising aspect of the sale of star kits. Five pounds from every sale goes to Matlock good causes, with the first organisation being nominated to benefit being The Connection Space CIC, which has supported people with mental health and well-being issues over the lockdown.

Now Mr Leake has gifted the painting to Dale Road Independents so they can use it to raise awareness and money in their fundraising efforts.

Mr Leake’s wife Penny, 73, who is visually impaired, could make out the shapes of the stars in the shops where they were first launched.

She said: “I remember seeing them for the first time and coming home and saying ‘There are stars all along Dale Road!’ It was just such as nice thing, really lovely, and such wonderful community spirit. We bought a star and Nick also started thinking what else he could do, as an artist.

“I thought, what about a Van Gogh tribute, like the picture with the stars and the awnings. He has brought his own take on Van Gogh, it’s very much his painting, but it does capture the atmosphere and glow beautifully. It’s really lovely; cheerful and hopeful.”

Mrs Leake also played a part in helping to name the picture, after recalling the Don Maclean song ‘Vincent’. The song is about Van Gogh’s other painting featuring stars, The Starry Night. Van Gogh’s painted it in 1889, and the painting captures the view from his window at Saint-Paul asylum in Saint Remy, France, after he had a breakdown and mutilated his ear.

Mrs Leake said: “The Don Maclean song is about Van Gogh’s life, it’s quite haunting, and has this refrain about a starry starry night. I just think it is so appropriate that these ideas have come together, the stars and then the star trail benefitting an organisation that helps people with mental health and well being. Van Gogh couldn’t get the help he needed, but the way people are coming together, with the star trail and the fundraising for The Connection Space, is really heartening.”

Mr Leake said: “I love the fact that Dale Road, and Matlock more generally, has lots of independent shops. The fact that the star trail is a fundraising project is very important to me, and the stars themselves, they are like beacons of hope that things can get better.”

Mr Leake’s painting can be viewed at Hide and Thread, at 117 Dale Road, and ideas are being explored about how to raise money using the painting, such as selling cards or art prints and a lottery or an auction for the painting.

Matthew Haynes, 56, from Hide and Thread, said: “Nicholas was the first person to buy a star from us back in January. That he went away and created this beautiful picture is amazing. Apart from the fact that it’s so beautiful to look at, it’s extremely moving that he has created this painting and donated it for the greater good. It shows such kindness and community spirit.”

Fundraising star kits can be purchased from Hide and Thread and £5 from every sale is being collected for local good causes.

Nicholas Leake has been an artist for more than fifty years. He doesn’t look for subjects, they find him. Something unusual about a familiar place, maybe just the light, suddenly gives it significance. He tends to work in oil paint and pastels. Some of his work is available to view on the Matlock Artists’ Society’s website .