By Lynne Chapman in Sheffield, UK
Last Saturday, Urban Sketchers Yorkshire had their January sketchcrawl. I thought we'd do a coffee-house crawl: always nice and cosy at this chilly time of year. There is a perfect stretch of road not far from me, with loads of little quirky places.
The day didn't quite turn out as I expected though...
The difficulty was that the nicest cafes are pretty small and Saturday is the busiest day, so my plan was to break into 2 or 3 sub-groups, so we could fit into places. To make sure everyone met up properly at the start though, and nobody got separated, we used a big Wetherspoons as a meeting point. Good job we did, as over 30 people showed up. We filled one whole section -pretty much everyone you can see below is a sketcher:
It was a good place to draw, because the glass walls give easy views all round. I was doing a lot of meeting and greeting as we had at least half a dozen first-timers, which meant not so much time for sketching, but I managed this one painting:
It was a short walk to the road with the quirky cafes. I was a tad apprehensive about how my pan would work, with so many of us, but we were lucky with timing and about half the group fitted into the first place we came to, the Rude Shipyard. It's sort of half bookshop, half cafe:
They too had great window views. They also do AMAZING food, so I spent half my time gorging not sketching. I spent at least half the remaining time either chatting or texting the other splinter groups to make sure everyone was okay, so when I did get my book out, I went for a quick watercolour impression of the street outside:
It was when we left the Rude Shipyard that we threw the original plan out of the window...
While chatting, one of our members told me something rather interesting. It turned out that she knew a man who has taken on the considerable challenge of renovating the old Abbeydale Picture House, a huge, badly decaying cinema from 1922. It was once a very grand place, the largest in Sheffield, with a ballroom and a billiard hall inside as well. I painted it last year, when Yves came to visit from Paris:
It's been closed to the public since 1975, when it went rather down in the world and was used as an office furniture showroom. Things got even worse though, and it was boarded up in 1991.
Anyway, the Abbeydale Picture House was within easy walking distance from the Rude Shipyard. My friend made a quick phone call and we suddenly had permission to go and draw inside for the rest of the afternoon.
It is in a bad state, but the original slendour is still there, clinging on to the fading walls. Bits of it were completely dark and cobwebby, but the cinema auditorium was lit and safe. We spread out all over, with some people up on the balcony, with great views down. It was hard to know where to start, so I just sat in front of the screen and painted the view back across the stalls.
I loved the time-scourged glamour. It would have been quite a place in the roaring 20s!
People were really excited by the privilege of getting a look inside, but unfortunately the space was unheated and so freezing cold. I think everyone would have liked to stay longer, but our fingers were giving up the ghost, so we walked a bit further down the road to the Broadfield pub, where we warmed up while sharing the work. There were still so many of us that we had to sit at two separate tables.
These are just some of the sketchbooks from the day:
I suspect that the brilliant turn-out could have been a result of all those New Year resolutions. It was lovely to see so many new faces and to re-meet some people who'd not been for a good while. Come again next time everyone!
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