Interview: Pete McKee
Take a moment to cast your mind back to being a nipper during the summer holidays.
Those seemingly endless days spent exploring imaginary worlds with friends, cut short when your mam called you in for tea. Golden memories of sandcastles, penny machines and candy floss at the likes of Skeggy, Cleethorpes and Scarborough – plus copious amounts of daytime television to keep you distracted, until stressed to the hilt parents would frogmarch you back out into the sunny outdoors.
Over those six weeks we made memories which will last a lifetime, and Pete McKee is looking to tap into that deep sense of nostalgia with his upcoming exhibition ‘6 Weeks To Eternity’. He spoke to Exposed about what we can expect and what the holidays meant to him. Words: Joseph Food
Preparation is going well. The paintings are all sorted now, which is a relief. It’s just a case of sorting out the other installations and as this exhibition is a bit of a show, there are a few attractions to sort. I’ve always said that these things are 50% about doing the work and 50% working out how we’re going to put things together.
The six-week holidays were an inspiration to me because it’s pretty much a universal thing that a wide range of people, young to old, can relate to. There’s a huge sense of nostalgia attached to them and all you remember is the sunshine. It’s always sunny in nostalgia-land. You forget the four days in a row it chucked it down and you didn’t go outside because they’re irrelevant.
I wanted a space that allowed me to do things on a big scale, so we looked around Magna, and that massive main room – as daunting as it may be – provided the opportunity to explore and experiment with what we could do.
I don’t like the cathedral-like reverence you sometimes get at some art exhibitions; I want people to enjoy it, unwind and have a good time at my shows.
A lot of my work revolves around shared memories, which is why we asked people to send in pictures and recollections from their summer holidays to be displayed at the exhibition.
I want people to feel involved and bring their families along. I love seeing kids getting into art and enjoying it at an early age. My dad was a steelworker, but when he saw that I had a passion for art he’d take me to Weston Park Museum, Graves Gallery and all the other places I wanted to go.
My sister worked in a shop on the High Street, my brothers were both fitters and my dad was a machine operator. I’d see first-hand the toil and sweat which went into a day’s graft and thought to myself, ‘I don’t fancy that!’ The plan at first was to make it big with my band and play The Top of the Pops, but that didn’t quite work out and it took another 30 years of working various jobs before I could make art my full-time occupation.
My school holidays? They were idyllic, even in the boring moments. I hated school so any time off was an absolute blessing for me. Even if I was spending time sat on the edge of my bed picking my nose, it was a bonus.
Family holidays as young’un started off with the East Coast, in places like Chapel St Leonards, then we’d progress to Skeggy and when things were really posh we’d hit the bright lights of Scarborough to stay in a B&B. Looking back, you thought that you went to the coast every year, but you forget the times money was a bit of tight and you went to Matlock instead – ‘the seaside without a sea’.
There’s plenty for people to get involved with at this exhibition. We’ve got 30 paintings featured, plus a few installation pieces and some interactive bits. There’s a seaside theme to part of it and I’m not going to give it all away, but I’d say people should maybe bring some spare change!
6 Weeks To Eternity – A Celebration of the 6 Weeks Holiday by Pete McKee takes place at Magna Science Adventure Centre Saturday 14 – Sunday 15 May 2016, 10am – 6pm. Free entry. www.6weeks.co.uk.
WIN: A SIGNED EXHIBITION POSTER! Get your hands on an exclusive 6 Weeks To Eternity poster signed by the man himself here