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Saltburn launch for Gertrude Bell campaign

A retired Middlesbrough solicitor picked a Saltburn event to launch a campaign for more public recognition of an “overlooked” international figure who was brought up in Redcar. “Gertrude Bell, daughter of a North-east

industrialist, who wrote much of Iraq’s constitution after the 1914-18 war, deserves a far higher profile than she has been given in the region,” Gordon Hetherington told Saltburn and District Retired Men’s Forum on 21st November. He added: “The only public recognition she seems

to have been given in Redcar is a blue plaque on a wall at Red Barns, now an hotel, where she spent her childhood, in Kirkleatham Street, and the statue of an Arab figure on a camel at the corner of High Street and the promenade.” Mr Hetherington, of Great Ayton, said a lot of

material was held at Newcastle University on Gertrude Bell, daughter of Sir Hugh Bell, head of Bell Brothers, which was later taken over by Teesside steel giant Dorman Long,.

“She was an amazingly-talented woman, who was

called a ‘social hand-grenade’ for her outspoken views in London’s political circles. She was one of the few women students at Oxford University in around 1888. She learned several languages including Arabic and Persian, was an accomplished mountaineer, a diplomat and a talented gardener. “Gertrude, who never married, was revered in Iraq

where she is buried. The museum, which she founded in Baghdad, was ransacked after the conflict a few years ago,

and I believe is now being restored.” Among large country houses where Gertrude Bell

lived, in addition to Red Barns, were Rounton Grange, near Northallerton, and Mount Grace priory chapter-house. Rounton Grange was demolished in the 1950s and only the outline of the gardens remain while Mount Grace was taken over by the National Trust. Retired Men’s Forum member Colin Hardy, of

Saltburn, a retired British Steel manager, said: “Gertrude Bell has been overlooked as far as Middlesbrough is concerned. She only merits a brief mention in William Lillie’s History of Middlesbrough. “He said she accompanied her father Alderman Hugh

Bell at the opening of the Marton Road schools and later went on to become a famous traveller and diplomat. This downplaying is typical of our area.” Mr Hetherington, who has given talks on the life of

Gertrude Bell at several Tees and Leeds area meetings, said he intended to campaign to try to raise her profile. “She appears to have been forgotten though I equate

her to T.E. Lawrence, the Army explorer in Arabia during the 1914-18 war. She deserves to be lauded.” It was reported in late November that there are plans

for a film to be made of Gertrude Bell’s life starring Angelina Jolie. The Washington Times which told the story described Gertrude Bell as ‘The female Lawrence of Arabia’ and commented that Angelina Jolie has a history of playing strong female characters. The project is still in development by British director Ridley Scott’s Scott Free Productions and the screenplay is being written by Jeffrey Caine.

Artists’ Gallery to stand on its own feet?

Saltburn Artists’ Projects, the 13-year-old gallery and workshops in Marske Road, could be standing on its own feet financially in 2012. This was the prospect forecast by co-ordinator Helen

Jane Gaunt during a preview evening when over twenty artists displayed their work for sale in mid-November. She told Talk of the Town: “We are heading towards

being self-sufficient.” Ms Gaunt said funding was becoming increasingly

difficult to obtain for smaller projects. The current funders are Redcar and Cleveland Council and the Arts Council. The Northern Rock Foundation, which had been helping, is no longer involved. About the mosaics project which she and Derek

Mosley are making near the railway line, she said a workshop for the public would be held at the woodlands centre on Friday, 2nd December. Further sessions would be held at the station site on the following Fridays from 10- 1pm.

“We hope people who have not already helped to

paste on a glass piece will do so in December. More than 1,000 men, women and children have taken part so far.” Ms Gaunt said her work on the mosaics had been

delayed because she had cut a knuckle while cleaning a glass at home.

Artists Derek Mosley, and, on right, Helen Jane Gaunt, with Wilma Gardiner-Gill, marketing co-ordinator of Saltburn Community and Arts Association (Saltburn Arts) at the preview event at the Marske Road artists’ gallery. On

November 23rd Wilma marked 10 years in her post, which involves organising the theatre and film programme.

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