Exhibition to remember Wigan-born artist
Betty Dawber died earlier this year at the age of 93 and while latterly she had been the darling of the Southport art scene, she was a Wiganer through and through.
And her family this week invited local residents to attend a major retrospective at the seaside resort of the gifted painter and ceramicist whose day jobs had involved Wigan’s school meals service.
Elizabeth (always know to her friends as Betty), was born in 1926, the second daughter of Elsie and Thomas Green, in Pemberton.
The terraced family home in Enfield Street doubled up as a cobbler’s shop where her father carried out his trade concentrated on the near-by Pemberton Colliery that housed six mining pits up until 1946.
The early death of her mother, when Betty was only three, led to the development of Betty’s independent spirit.
The practical arts had always been encouraged within the family and she displayed an early prowess for singing that her father fostered with private singing lessons.
Betty married at 21 to Jimmy Dawber, a long-distance lorry driver she had met through their mutual love of ballroom dancing, learned to fill Jimmy’s long absences from home by pursuing her craft skills, taking up basket weaving and knitting to occupy her time.
With the arrival of both children - Martin in 1952 and Carole in 1956 - the enlarged family moved to a new home in Springfield where increased family commitments took over most of
Betty’s spare time which had to be balanced with necessitated part-time employment.
For over 30 years Betty moved through the ranks of the Wigan School Meals Service eventually becoming a school meals supervisor before her eventual retirement.
She always encouraged both her children to embrace the arts, as she had done, and aided them within their eventual careers within the fashion industry.
Betty and Jimmy’s love of dancing was always an important part of their social life, a recreation that she continued after Jimmy’s death in 1989 when Betty left the then family home in
Standish Lower Ground, to be closer to her family in Southport, where she totally embraced the local arts scene.
She became proficient at ceramics and undertook painting classes at Southport Contemporary Arts where she also developed her stencilling techniques.
The current retrospective is built up from the work she produced late in her 80s and 90s.
As Betty’s skill base grew, she became more adventurous in her expression.
Always a social person she networked with new friends during her time at ClayWorks in Southport and never succumbed to the restrictions of age.
She persisted in “getting her hands dirty” right up until May this year when she was eventually required to go into Southport Hospital and subsequently spent her final days at The Willows Nursing Home in Birkdale.
All My Own Work showcases Betty’s varied explorations and experiments working with a diversity of media and certainly lives up to its title.
It is on show at the SCA/Art House at 65 Eastbank Street Southport PR8 1EJ, from today (September 3) to September 7.