Friday, 27 April 2012

Oliver's Artagraphs

I was moved yesterday by the story of Oliver Byne.  A Sheffield sixth-form student, since he was a boy Oliver's been collecting autographs of leading snooker-players, as they slug it out at the city's Crucible arena during the annual World Championships.  For years, at each event he's waited patiently for players to come and go and these days he's well-known to them; they've been pleased to help add to his collection.

Using his autographs Oliver's created Artagraphs, a series of original abstract art paintings each representing a well-known snooker-player, and incorporating their original autograph within the finished amalgamation.  The images are exciting: colourful, vibrant and energetic.  Many tell stories of particular matches, as their modest creator explained yesterday during TV coverage of this year's Championship.

Oliver's project is for his Silver Duke of Edinburgh's Award, which he achieved in 2011.  For his Gold award, over the next 12 months he’ll be exhibiting his canvases and prints at various venues across the country. On sale will be nearly 1,200 prints commemorating the 2010 World Snooker Championships and its finalists from that year.  A percentage of the sales' profits will be donated to two charities, The Paul Hunter Foundation and Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity.

Oliver must have spent hundreds of hours creating his paintings, never mind collecting the autographs in the first place.  The result's unique.  Check out his work at:


Sunday, 15 April 2012

Great Little Railways of Cornwall

My new book, 'Great Little Railways of Cornwall', has just hit the shelves. Once again the Duchy's leading publisher on Cornish heritage,Truran, has done the honours.

Since ‘Captain Dick’ Trevithick’s black Puffing Devil clanked up Camborne Hill on Christmas Eve 1801, Cornwall’s had a close association with steam transport. During Victorian times railways flourished; a web of routes spread across the Duchy connecting towns, villages and a shoal of tiny halts. Today much has changed, but nostalgic reminders of Cornish steam travel are still with us. Four lines live on, the locomotives and their guardians providing enjoyable outings for everyone.

Scenic rail travel too has survived in Cornwall, despite the cuts of the 1960s. Rural areas were widely affected; Cornish closures included parts of the North Cornwall Railway and the West Cornwall Railway. Now though, across the Duchy five scenic branch lines run by operator First Great Western meander through wonderful countryside, well away from the bustle of main-line services; they offer great trips, often to places you might otherwise overlook.

As usual Truran have been darlings, which helps. They work closely with their authors and once again the experience has been a joy.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Camborne's Trevithick Day

Don't miss this year's Trevithick Day at Camborne; down in Cornwall's dark depths the streets come alive! It's a great day out: a grand procession of traction engines and vintage vehicles, with street entertainment, a market, parades of dancing, together with the odd quiet half. Trevithick Day's a real celebration of the Camborne area's industrial heritage.

Richard Trevithick was born in nearby Illogan, where his father ran a tin mine, in 1771. As a youngster he became fascinated by the engineering side of mining. During his career, Richard pioneered the introduction of high-pressure steam engines to the mining process, and vastly improved the means of pumping unwanted water from the mine-shafts' lower reaches.

Richard’s mind was never still. His ideas ranged from a self-powered road vehicle, and a steam railway engine, to schemes for wreck salvage. He also looked at land reclamation, mechanical refrigeration, agricultural machinery, even tunnelling under the Thames. He never made much money, but he seems to have had a really great time.

Today we remember Trevithick particularly through his Puffing Devil engine. On Christmas Eve 1801 he made a short journey up Camborne Hill with his hissing, clanking machine, carrying a group of friends. The Puffing Devil was one of the world's first passenger-carrying self-propelled vehicles. The episode gave rise to the old Cornish song titled (you've guessed it) 'Going Up Camborne Hill'. Today, during the festivities a replica Devil can be seen in steam while the town has a fine statue of Richard, holding a model of his invention.

This year, Trevithick Day's on Saturday 28 April; the fun begins during mid-morning. Enjoy!