Destination Skelmersdale

journeys (2)
Lawrence (left) with some of the artists: Shelley Burdett, Sylvia Anderson, Nourhan Issa, Viv Smith, and Artz Centre host, Mark Ashton

A groundbreaking exhibition is being held in Skelmersdale in June featuring art and poetry on the theme of journeys.

The exhibition was the idea of Lawrence Smye-Rumsby and he explains why he wanted to organise it:  ‘Skelmersdale is a jewel in the crown of West Lancs.  There are incredibly talented and committed people here and I wanted to celebrate that.  Skelmersdale also has a long history of being a haven for new people.  The New Town was built in a wave of optimism – some even called it the New Jerusalem.  It promised new opportunities and jobs and created a new home for people – whether from Liverpool or further afield.’

Lawrence with some of his work

For Lawrence the exhibition brings together several strands of his life:  ‘I came to Skelmersdale in the 1980s to take up a teaching post.  I married and raised a family here and have loved living here ever since.  When I retired a few years ago, I also started working with some of the refugees who had been placed here by the government’s resettlement programme.  More recently as part of my work in local churches, I visited Uganda and was very moved by the people I met and their culture.  All of these things have set me thinking about different journeys we make in our lives, and this began to be reflected in my art work.  It seemed to me that art is a good vehicle to express stories – my own and those of others’. 

The exhibition features work from 6 artists and a poet, all of whom have been on journeys of one sort or another.

Nourhan (right)

Among those exhibiting is Nourhan, a Syrian refugee who came to Skelmersdale a few years ago.  A talented artist with no formal training, she paints in watercolours and found solace in her art while in the transit camps of Lebanon, having escaped the Syrian war.  Nourhan says:

‘My drawing was like oxygen where all the things around me were meaningless until I started painting. I saw beginnings with every painting I did. I saw beauty and life’.

Another artist featured is Roy Lyon.  He worked as town planner in Bolton but designed houses as a hobby – many of which were built around West Lancs.  He also designed artefacts for the new Anglican cathedral in Liverpool and for local churches.  Born and bred in Skelmersdale, he left an amazing body of work when he died in 1991 and his art books and some of the 3D work will be shown in the exhibition.

noelThe posthumous work of another artist, Noel Gray, is being shown in the exhibition.  Noel lived in Skelmersdale around the same time as Roy and was originally from India.  Having left the merchant navy due to ill health, a chance meeting in Liverpool brought him to his brother’s home in Skelmersdale. It was here that he met Margaret, his wife to be; they married in 1949, and went on to have 7 children.  Many of Noel’s descendants still live here – including Mark Ashton, company director of the Artz Centre.

Mark says:  ‘My grandfather was a talented artist and painted with oils.  I remember his art work when I was growing up and I’m so proud to be able to help show his work to a wider audience.

journeys‘We’re inviting everyone to drop in and view the exhibition at the Artz Centre.  It’s art that’s rooted in Skelmersdale and will be of interest to anyone who loves the town.

‘We are hoping this art exhibition will the first of many in Skelmersdale – providing a platform for other local artists to showcase their talents and work – as part of the Artz Centre’s work to make arts accessible to everyone’.

In conclusion, Lawrence says:  ‘The New Town was born in a wave of optimism.  It may not have realised its full potential yet, but past and present and wherever you’re from, Skelmersdale has hope and a great future.

‘Join us to celebrate the journeys that brought us all here…..’


  • The exhibition is being held on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday 23rd between 10am – 4pm, at the Artz Centre, Hartland, Skelmersdale WN8 6QE.
  • Some of the artwork will be for sale, with any money raised going to two charities – Skem International (supporting refugees in the town) and International Needs (helping families create a sustainable future – Uganda)
  • The exhibition has been organised to coincide with Refugee Week 2019.

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