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by Andrew Lee-Hart




“She says he made her pose naked for him…”

“But isn’t that what artists do? Paint naked women. Didn’t Picasso and all those others do the same? It is just the Bohemian lifestyle.”

“Not with twelve-year olds. And he made her touch him and told her not to tell anyone…”

“Oh, the man is dead, and cannot defend himself; anyone can say anything about him.”

“It is the third complaint since we made the announcement; all young girls, not even in their teens. Mr Davies is lucky that he is dead, or he would be in prison.”


There was silence.

“We will have to cancel, pretend it didn’t happen and find somebody else. Thank God the Yorkshire Post didn’t get hold of it.”

And Councillor Holt, Chairman of the Arts and Leisure Committee looked round at everyone in the room, in particular at Councillor Smart, who was known to leak embarrassing stories when his gambling debts were even higher than usual. But the councillor kept his head down, seemingly engrossed in his diary.


Councillor Smythe, however was not so cowed, he glared at his fellow councillors, even now unwilling to give his candidate up.

“But Davies is the only great artist our city has produced. Who else can we name the art gallery after?”

He seemed to have a point, and the rest of the Committee looked at each other, trying to conjure up a name out of nowhere. Who would have thought that it would be so difficult to find someone to name a new art gallery after? Finding the funding and somewhere to build it had been straightforward in comparison.


“There is always Aidrian Wainwright,” suggested Councillor Stephens, the oldest and most left-wing member of the committee, “he was born and bred in this city, and he is a good socialist and a man of principle”.

“But he is a writer,” pointed out Councillor Holt, “and this is for an art gallery”.

“I know that, but he illustrates his own work, and he has been married for forty years. I doubt that he has been putting it where he shouldn’t”.

“Oh but he is such a cliché; another professional Yorkshire man. Like Liverpool naming a gallery after Cilla Black,” sneered Councillor Smythe.

“Nobody seems to be able to think of anyone else. Better a cliché, than a paedophile, and Cilla Black was a fine singer, despite being a Tory.”


“What about what’s ‘er name? Hannah something?” Councillor Smart rarely spoke seemingly more interested in horse racing and boxing. The other six councillors looked blank; they were an uncultured lot at the best of times, and “Hannah something” did not ring any bells.

Councillor Smart, continued after a moment, “I went to an exhibition a few years ago, at the Richardson gallery, it is closed now, but the pictures were good, a bit folksy; lots of old Rabbis from Poland, Fiddler on the Roof type of thing, but they were quite moving. A sort of lost world. Better than this modern stuff.”

“What’s her name though?” asked Councillor Smythe, “you cannot name it What’s ‘er Name Gallery.”

“Hannah, I just said…a Yorkshire surname. Ramsbotham, maybe. She married out, I think. I will ring the Rabbi at Shadwell Lane Synagogue, somebody in the congregation will know.”


“Is she dead though? We don’t want any scandal.”

“Oh I imagine so, the pictures were pre-war, she’ll be long gone. And she is a woman and Jewish, so that you should tick a couple of boxes.”

“I didn’t know we had a Jewish box”, muttered Councillor Stephens, but his comment was ignored, and the meeting moved onto less contentious subjects.



The new gallery was packed; the mayor and mayoress were there along with three of the city’s M.P.s, half a dozen councillors, seven journalists (including one from the Guardian) and as many artists as the gallery could hold.  In fact, anyone who fancied an evening out with a bit of publicity and free refreshments was there.


The gallery had been ready for opening for almost twelve months; the building completed, and all the art works had been moved from the old gallery on the Headrow and put in place. All that had been missing was a name for the gallery and at long, long last it had one, The Featherstone Gallery, named after Hannah Featherstone, a rather obscure artist, but one who had found refuge in the city, and was (that is according to her old friend Marcel) extremely proud of it.


Dotted around the foyer were a surprisingly large number sketches and a few oil paintings by the artist. They had been difficult to find at first, but with the Yorkshire Post’s help a fair few had eventually been discovered; the old gallery even had a few in storage which they had hurriedly cleaned up and reframed, and several other provincial art galleries also proved to have some, a couple even on display. Several local people had also handed theirs over, as did the synagogue, all happy to be seen as contributing to the cultural life of the city.


The pictures were for the most part ignored, which was a pity because they were not bad at all; the style was sparse, as if they had been sketched quickly before the subject disappeared into history, but each line was important and skilfully done, almost childlike in their simplicity. There were rabbis and babies, scholars and anxious couples; all looking at the artist as if wondering what would happen next, the picture being the beginning of the story.  And there was even a series of sketches of the city’s old synagogue, which made a couple of the old congregation sigh for a simpler time.


“So who was she?” Asked Leonara, the Post’s Arts reporter.

Councillor Holt smiled, “uhm, we don’t know much about her. She fled Germany before the war, came to Yorkshire and married. She was never very famous, but she was a good artist, and sold her works here and there. I gather her style was a bit too old-fashioned for the critics, but ordinary people liked her work.”

Leonara nodded, trying to think of some sort of sensational angle but quickly gave that up and began to try and decide which of her two boyfriends she would visit after this had finished, before realising that she did not want to see either of them. In fact she was enjoying chatting with Councillor Holt, who despite being older than her father, she found attractive and a little sexy.


“Who is making the speech?” She asked.

“Oh Marcel, from the University. Apparently he knew her way back when; he was like a grandson too her, so he says.  She used him as a model for some of her sketches; the Bar mitzvah ones, and Moshe in the bullrushes.”

She sighed, “oh that creepy man; he tries it on with me every time we are in the same room….and anyone female and between twenty and fifty.”

“I had heard.”

“Oh well he will enjoy being centre of attention; he loves himself even more than he does attractive women. I didn’t realise that he was Jewish.”

“Oh I think he will pretend to be anything and anyone to get on stage….anyway it is probably time to get in position, things seem to be happening.”


Marcel was just getting into his stride when an old lady wandered into the gallery. She was smartly dressed in a floral dress and black jacket, but the effect was spoiled a little by the Aldi shopping bag at her side, from which a rather odd smell emanated. By this time there was nobody on the door, so she had been able to get in without being challenged, although she had brought her passport just in case.


At first, she examined several of the pictures, seemingly intrigued by a couple of them. And then she turned towards Marcel who was talking about the woman who he knew as “Grandma Hannah” and who bought him sweets and sketched him time after time, until he fell asleep on her settee (moderate laughter). He told a couple more humorous anecdotes, so that even those who knew what a lecherous man he was, began to warm to him just a little.


After a moment or two the old woman seemed to make up her mind, and determinedly pushed her way past those who were gathered round the speaker, and holding onto the microphone for support, pulled herself onto the stage, her shopping bag, still held tightly in her hand.

“Who are you?” Asked Marcel, his Yorkshire accent disappearing completely due to shock.

“Why, don’t you know? I am Hannah Featherstone, “Grandma Hannah” apparently. As you are doing an exhibition about me, it seemed rude not to come along. Problem is…” she confided to the audience – suddenly agog -, “they have changed the number twelve bus, or it was early, anyhow I had to wait half an hour, and then I got lost. Not sure what was wrong with the old gallery to be honest, at least it wasn’t hidden away, and it is not as if it wasn’t big enough.”


There was silence from the onlookers and even from Marcel, who for once in his life had nothing to say. The old woman looked at him appraisingly for a long couple of seconds.

“And who the Hell are you?”



Leonara had taken Hannah into the manager’s office, so they could talk in peace. The kettle was boiling and Leonara was trying to find the wherewithal to make a cup of tea.

“Do they have Yorkshire?” Hannah asked.

“I doubt it. Just flavoured teas, Moroccan Mint, Camomile…oh here’s some Early Grey, that will have to do.”

“Oh, don’t bother, if you can’t find anything proper. I remember the old gallery; I used to go there quite a lot when I first moved up here, they even displayed a few of my paintings, and they had a wonderful café, lots of us housewives used to go for the tea and cake, with real currants….but now I rarely go into the city, it is not what it was, faceless with all the old shops gone, it could be anywhere.”

Leonara smiled, “same as me really. I used to go into the city when I was at University, but now I only go for the theatre, with my more cultured boyfriend.”


“That Marcel is a creep” Hannah said, “pretending he knew me and telling everyone I was dead….” She put her odorous Aldi shopping bag under a table, and promptly forgot about it.

“To be fair everyone else thought you were dead too.”

“I like to keep a low profile, always did. My husband is dead, long dead and my son is in a home….he is a bit special you know, very talented, but cannot cope on his own….I could have had him back to live with me, but he is happy enough.  And he still needs help with personal stuff. I visit him once a week, take him out to local parks or get the bus up to Ilkley and up to the Cow and Calf, or over to Kirkstall Abbey. We both like to sketch.”

Leonara nodded. “Why not tell me about your paintings?”


“I always drew, even when I was little when we lived in Munchen…Munich. And then when my parents got me out of Germany I eventually managed to go to Art College up in London, that was 1953, the year of the Coronation….that’s when and where I met Peter. He was the star of the class….all abstract stuff and that, whilst I was seen as old fashioned, but actually I was technically much better and he knew it, but he knew what the teachers wanted, whilst I painted what I wanted to….


But anyway once we finished at college he got a job up here and bought a house in Cookridge, cheap but an okay area. We had a studio, but I was the only one who used it, I think he preferred teaching, although he never admitted it. Whereas I loved drawing, and I managed to sell stuff, made quite a bit over the years, I could probably have gone professional, dedicated all my time to it, but Peter wanted me as a housewife, ... I think he got jealous in the end. He was supposed to be the artist not me.”

“Men can be odd.”

“Yes, he was a funny bugger was our Peter. I loved him, of course I did. But it wasn’t easy.”


“What happened to your parents?”

Hannah looked at her for a moment, her expression for a moment cold “dead. Gassed or shot; mum and dad, Grandparents, Uncles, Aunts, all dead. When they asked me later if I wanted to take British citizenship I jumped at it. Germans? I hate them for what they did. And I still don’t trust them. Peter asked me a couple of times if I wanted to go back, see where I used to live, maybe find relatives; I just looked at him. Why on earth would I go back? Shame we did not annihilate the whole country when we had the chance.”

Leonara looked embarrassed, “well I better not put that in.”

“Put what you like love, I am too old to care what people think. Now where’s the loo?”



Councillor Holt fell in love in the old City Art Gallery. He wasn’t a Councillor then, just a fourteen-year old school boy on an art trip, and the woman he fell in love with was a French model, called Felice, who had died forty years ago in Cannes; obese and mad. But the artist Renoir had caught her in her mid-thirties; when she was at her most beautiful, her body in a state of perfection. Naked she lay on a blanket, waiting for her lover, who was just out of sight, pouring more wine or loosening his shirt.  She was cheerful and unashamed, as if wanting all those who watched her, to share her happiness, and enjoy what she had been blessed with.


“Find something of interest?” sneered Mrs Hind, Holt’s very unpleasant form teacher. The other boys, rather bored, laughed mockingly whilst Holt jumped and then blushed.  He looked away from the painting, feeling slightly guilty as he did so.  The class moved on, but later, when the rest of them were causing problems in the shop, he managed to sneak back; and took another look at Felice; her thighs, towering above him, her left breast lit up by the sunshine.  He almost swooned with joy; lust was part of it, but also love for another time and place, where there was sunshine and countryside, and everything was possible. It may have the nineteen sixties, but Yorkshire still had not caught up with London and was dull and dowdy, particularly if your parents were in trade and lived on the Beeston Estate.


For the next couple of years, whenever he could, Holt would return to the Art Gallery, and worship his love. He realised that the attendants in the gallery would notice and think his behaviour strange or perverted, so he would look at other paintings first; the handful of pre-Raphaelites, a Studio of Rembrandt portrait of Esther, a View of Dordrecht by van Goyen and then he would head upstairs to the small collection of Impressionists; a ballet dancer by Manet, a cityscape by Monet; some of these he grew to love, but it was the large and unbearably erotic Renoir nude that drew him back time after time, and which he saved up until last, and then stared and stared.


Even as his life became fuller; gaining a social life of sorts, and forced to help his father in his shop, he still would find the occasional afternoon to head up to the gallery, catch a new exhibition, or look at the Henry Moore Sculpture outside, before returning to Felice, the only person who he truly loved. As he studied her in more detail, he realised that she was not conventionally beautiful; she was quite large, with a tummy and if you looked careful stretch marks, an older woman who had seen life. But she was real, more real than the girls his own age with their dyed hair and dowdy clothes, they looked glum and angry with the world, whilst his love laughed gaily, as if she was luring him into the picture.


He did not study Art at ‘O’ Level, as much as he enjoyed looking at pictures, he could not draw and was not one to over-analyse, he was better at Maths and the sciences, seeing art more as a hobby. He left school at sixteen and worked full time at his father’s greengrocer’s, rather enjoying the money and responsibility.  Three years later a young woman, with a pink complexion and sturdy thighs under a grey skirt, walked in and he fell in love for the second time in his life. She may have had a West Riding accent and Methodist morals, but she was Felice in all but name and whilst she never lay naked in Roundhay Park, once they were married, he got to stroke her sturdy body and watch the sunlight turn her breasts into gold. Their bedroom became a Paris apartment for a few hours on a Sunday morning.


He took his new wife to see the picture, which reminded him so much of her, but she looked at it disapprovingly.

“Not bad if you like that sort of thing, but me I prefer Constable; a bit of nature not some floozy without any shame.”

“Don’t you think that she looks like you?”

“Well mebbe, perhaps just a little.” And she laughed, and held his hand and squeezed it tight, flattered despite herself.



 “We are going to have to change the name of the gallery; did you see that interview your artist gave? She voted Brexit, and was very rude about our friends in Europe, particularly the Germans.  And her views on the Palestinians… we are twinned with Ramallah and we end up with a Zionist, Jesus.”

“Well it is a bit late now, the building is open and her name is everywhere, and she has her own gallery” Councillor Holt sighed to himself, he secretly sympathised with at least some of Hannah’s views as outlined in Leonara’s interview, but once he had become a councillor he learned to keep his opinions to himself, realising how dangerous speaking your mind could be.


Councillor Smythe looked about in triumph.

“You really made a balls up of this haven’t you?  We should have stuck with Davies; the charges were unproven. And he was no Israeli.”

“Yeah, he could be quite funny about Jews”, added Councillor Stephens in fond reminiscence, “not in a racist way…just you know….of course you can’t say anything nowadays without being accused of being antisemitic, or whatever the word is.”

Councillor Holt eventually moved onto the next item on the agenda, knowing that most of the councillors just wanted to let off steam and air their prejudices, without any danger of journalists embarrassing them. He may not have been the cleverest or most charismatic politician in the city’s history, but he knew how to chair a meeting, a skill which few of his fellow councillors could manage.


After the meeting he caught the bus home, only to find an elderly man waiting to see, his wife having shown him into the back room.

“I am sorry to bother you” he said, “but it is about that artist, Hannah Featherstone.”

Councillor Holt stifled a sigh, dreading what was coming, before forcing out a smile and offering him a cup of tea.

“I remember Hannah, when she was just a young woman. I knew her family even her after she married out, although they rarely attended the synagogue.”

Councillor Holt smiled more fully this time, relieved that it was not going to be a complaint about Hannah’s political views.

“But,” the old man continued, “she is dead, and that woman who is getting all the publicity is a fake. I doubt that she is even Jewish.”


“You said you only knew her as a young woman, people change.”

“I knew her for a long time, and I attended her funeral over in Nottingham. She had breast cancer and spent her final years with her daughter and son-in-law. She died over twenty years ago. And that interview was wrong; she had never lived in Germany, her parents were born here, I think some of her father’s relatives were in Poland and didn’t escape, but…”

“Damn” muttered Councillor Holt, “are you sure?”

“I am sorry to cause you embarrassment, but yes I am sure. She was a good artist and I am glad that the gallery has been named after her, but that woman is not Hannah.”

He sipped his tea, rather enjoying the discomfort he was causing the Councillor.

“It is okay,” he said after a few moments, “I am not planning on telling anyone and I am not sure many people will know, that generation are all dead. But I have her daughter’s address, if she is still there, you might want to write to her…”



“Well he might be right, I wrote to the address he gave and got a response from someone claiming to be her daughter. She says she has not been back here for many years, so hadn’t heard anything about any of it…She thought it funny, and says she will come up and look at the gallery sometime. She doesn’t have any of her mother’s paintings unfortunately, she gave them all to a charity shop when she died. If only she had known….”


Councillor Smythe glared at him, “it is cock up after cock up. You really need to resign.”

There were a few murmurs of consent, but Councillor Holt stared them down; he was under no illusion that he was particularly popular, but only the most bigoted could blame him and anyway they were all too lazy to want to do his job, even Councillor Smythe who could be a devious sod, preferred to attack authority rather than be in charge himself.


“So who is this woman?” asked Councillor Smart, “I rather liked her.”

“That is hardly the point, are we going to change the gallery? We surely cannot name it after a fraud.”

“Don’t be silly” Councillor Holt said, “Hannah Featherstone was a real artist and a good one. Nothing has changed that. It is slightly embarrassing that someone Might impersonated her, but it will all die down. Hannah, or whoever she is will die sooner or later, or end up ga-ga – if she isn’t already -; she must be in her eighties, I doubt that she has long left.”


“Are you sure Hannah Featherstone actually did exist? It all seems very odd” Councillor Smythe queried, “I feel like you just created someone out of nowhere.”

“Well, her paintings certainly exist, and people remember her. But in the end we have a new gallery and a name, and that is all we ever wanted.”

“Even if it is named after a racist.”

Councillor Holt - as so often in his political career – felt like banging his head on the table, hard. But he sighed and went onto the next item on the next agenda.


It was odd though, and the old lady, whoever she was, had provided several paintings, which were displayed in the Featherstone gallery.

“They look a bit different from her earlier ones” suggested Councillor Holt as he had walked round the gallery with Leonara, the previous day.

“Well, you expect artists to change and develop, all the greats did,” Leonara said, as they sipped coffee in the new café attached to the gallery, “cultured boyfriend, who knows about these things says they are very good. He has a degree in art so you would think he would know.”

“They are very abstract; that waste ground, it is very odd, almost a pattern.”

“Hypnotic” Leonara agreed, “I am not sure where it ends and the houses begin. I actually prefer them to the earlier ones; more interesting and stranger.”

Councillor Holt wasn’t so sure; “I like to know what I am looking at,” he told her.


So, what are they going to do with them?”

“Oh the gallery want to keep them, the woman in charge of the display was rather taken with the false Hannah, she thinks the whole thing is funny; a “postmodern joke” apparently.”

“Do you think that the old lady is Hannah Featherstone?”

Councillor Holt, thought for a moment, “actually I don’t care, I certainly hope so….I wouldn’t it past my fellow councillors to have bribed that man to make something up. And anybody can write a letter from Leicester claiming to be her daughter….”


“….anyway there is a fabulous Renoir nude I would like to show you; I was worried that they would put it into storage when they moved galleries, it is a bit old fashioned, but they have put it in a good spot. I spent most of my teenage years gazing at it for days on end.”

“You must have been a strange boy.”

“Aye. I probably was. Still am unfortunately.”

She took his arm and let him show her the picture that had meant so much to him for so long.



Leonara walked into the care home; it was on the outskirts of the city, all rather pleasant and rural. When she got to the reception, she realised she didn’t know who she should ask for, but there was the woman she had come to see, sitting in the lounge, doing some knitting, as if waiting for her.


“Leonara love, this is a surprise, you are my first visitor.”

“Your neighbours told me where you were, and I wanted to see you. How are you?”

“I haven’t been well, all this stuff over the gallery, and then my son has been ill too, but it is quiet here, and they let me alone.”

Leonara noticed her friend had lost weight since she last saw her about a month ago, and she seemed frail. She stroked her hand, which was dry and cold.

“I am sorry.”

“There is nothing to be sorry about love. I should have kept quiet, let them use my name.”

“So, are you Hannah Featherstone?”

“Well I am beginning to doubt it, but yes I am pretty certain that I am. It is just council politics, I embarrassed them with some of my views….and I don’t think they like Councillor Holt very much.”


They sat, and a support worker brought them both some disgusting tea and chocolate digestives.

“I can do something” said Leonara, “do another interview.”

It is okay, “just leave it, I obviously offended the wrong people. And it doesn’t matter, at least it is my name in lights.”

Leonara patted her arm, only if you are sure.”

“Yes, but you are welcome to visit me. You have no excuse not to, now that you know where I am.”

“Of course I will.”


A few weeks later Leonara got a telephone call.

“Leonara love, are you free on Saturday? I have something to say to you.”

“Yes of course, I am sorry I haven’t visited again, I just find myself so busy.”

“It is okay, but I do not need to speak to you. I have something on my mind.”


As last time Hannah was waiting for her in the Residents’ lounge, but beside her was a smiling middle-aged man wearing smart trousers and an AC/DC t-shirt, who was enjoying some cake.

“Leonara, this is my son Charles.”

Charles looked at her, chocolate cream on his face, and he gave her a big grin but did not say anything.

“He doesn’t say much, not at first. But I wanted you to meet him.”

Leoara was not used to spending time with people with learning disabilities, but Charles seemed happy enough eating and smiling.

“Go and see Aunty Jean” his mother said, once he had finished his cake, “she has got something for you.”

He got up and lumbered off, obviously knowing where to go.


“He is lovely.” Leonara said, not sure what else to say.

“Many a time I have wished him dead” his mother said matter-of-factly. “And I don’t know what will happen when I die. I thought that I would outlive him, but he is surprisingly healthy. Most of the special ones die young, but not Charles….”

“I am sorry” Leonara muttered, wondering if her friend wanted her to look after him, “it must be difficult. He seems very happy.”

“And talented” his mother added, “as soon as he could hold a pen he could paint. His dad and me were good, but his paintings are something else.”

Leonara looked at her.

“That’s what I wanted to tell you, the paintings in the gallery, they are all his, nothing I drew was good enough for an exhibition, but Charles had such a talent… Pete and I we did not want him to become a curiosity; he would have hated that. So, we agreed to use my name. All the money went to him…we did not cheat him, not really and he wouldn’t have understood. He forgets them as soon as he paints them.”

“But how did he know what to paint?”

“Photographs mostly, stuff from my albums and books I bought him. He seemed to like all that from the old country. Perhaps they would have understood him better, recognised him for what he is.”


Hannah looked at her as if begging for forgiveness. Leonara hugged her lightly, “it is okay” she told her, “don’t worry.”

“When I die look after him for me please, not to stay with you like, but just take him out once a month or so, I don’t want him stuck inside all the time. He is a lovely lad, I know he can be difficult, but he would appreciate it and so would I. And encourage him with his drawing, I think that is when he is truly happy.”



They got some strange looks as they wandered around the gallery; she was young and attractive with long black hair and tight leather trousers, so that at least a couple of young men had a quick look at her bottom as she walked past. On her arm, her older companion was – despite the heat – wearing a donkey jacket, underneath which was his usual AC/DC t-shirt, which was faded now, so that the picture of Angus Young was barely recognisable.


Charles seemed to bounce with excitement, and every so often he let go of his companion and peered closely at a painting that caught his eye, so much so that Aziz the Gallery Attendant considered saying something, but contented himself with glaring at the oddly matched couple.

“I like this one” Charles told her, almost touching the frame of an Andy Warhol picture of Marilyn, with his surprisingly long fingers.

She nodded, “yes it is good, but not so close, you don’t want us to be thrown out.”

He laughed, his shyness with her had long gone, and his voice could be heard echoing throughout the gallery, full of excitement.


He did not show much interest in his own paintings, not seeming to realise that he had painted them, he even referred to one as “boring”. It was the lighter, brighter paintings he preferred but not even they held his attention for long.

“There is a painting I want to show you” she told him once she sensed he was beginning to get bored, “a friend of mine goes to see it every week.”

“Ooh” Charles said, “do you love him?”

She shook her head, and then after a moment said, “I suppose that I do.”

“Have you kissed him?”

“No, I think his wife might be a bit cross.”

And Charles laughed in delight.


They stood under the Renoir nude and looked at Felice, as she gazed back at them, caught in a moment of self-love.

“I like her boobs” said Charles and then they both laughed and Felice seemed to join in their merriment, just as happy as her visitors. Eventually Leonara and Charles moved away towards the café, leaving Felice in her everlasting youth and beauty, waiting for her next worshippers.


“I hope they have proper tea” said Charles, “and coffee cake.”

“You sound just like your mother, but yes, so do I. I would love a decent cuppa, and some cake, I am starving.”

Charles laughed, and ran ahead of her, whilst the attendant Aziz laughed despite himself, caught in a moment, of pure and unexpected joy.




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