Pete McKee: Celebrating the summers that felt like an eternity with new exhibition

Sheffield artist Pete McKee at his gallery ahead of his biggest show to date at Magna Rotherham on 14-15 May. Picture Scott Merrylees
Sheffield artist Pete McKee at his gallery ahead of his biggest show to date at Magna Rotherham on 14-15 May. Picture Scott Merrylees
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The hazy summers that seemed to last for months not weeks; the thrill of dropping pennies into arcade slots; and hanging out with your mates until the sun set and mothers around the neighbourhood called out their children’s names to come in for tea.

The magic of the six weeks’ holidays is being recaptured for a new exhibition by Sheffield artist Pete McKee - and he is calling on us all to share our memories in a nostalgia-fuelled fun fest at Rotherham’s Magna centre this May.

Pete McKee with the poster for his new exhibtition Six Weeks to Eternity. Picture Scott Merrylees

Pete McKee with the poster for his new exhibtition Six Weeks to Eternity. Picture Scott Merrylees

Over recent weeks, people have been uploading their holiday snaps and memories to a special website created for the exhibition, but now, in an effort to reach out to even more, Mr McKee’s team will be holding a ‘Multi-coloured Snap Shop’ - a play on the cult 1970s show hosted by Noel Edmonds - at Sheffield’s Moor Market on Saturday April 9, where people can bring along their photographs for inclusion in the exhibition.

Mr McKee, whose A Month of Sundays gallery opened in Sheffield’s Sharrow Vale Road in 2010, told The Yorkshire Post: “The six weeks holidays were such a significant part of your life as a child. It felt like an entire summer devoted to mucking around with your mates - and then you had the family holiday too. Whether you were off to Cleethorpes, Mablethorpe or Scarborough; in a caravan or a bed and breakfast; with pocket money to spend you felt like a millionaire. The whole nostalgia of summer brings back so many memories.

“There’s not a great deal to be happy about these days so as a subject matter for an exhibition, I thought, why not talk about something that brings a smile to everyone’s faces?”

When he first started gathering memories for the show - much of the elements of which are closely guarded secrets - Mr McKee found that a lot of the stories were very similar.,

One of the memories submitted for Pete McKee's Six Weeks to Eternity exhibition, by Alan Austin, 59, of Sheffield. He is pictured in Chapel St Leonards in 1973 when he was 15.

One of the memories submitted for Pete McKee's Six Weeks to Eternity exhibition, by Alan Austin, 59, of Sheffield. He is pictured in Chapel St Leonards in 1973 when he was 15.

“I’d made a list of what I used to do with my mates,” he said. “And what I realised is that a lot of them were shared memories that other people were remembering too - like the terrible TV shows in the morning before you were allowed out of the house, and how it was always sunny and those six weeks felt like an eternity.

“I remember going to Chapel St Leonards in a caravan, and later to Scarborough where we stayed in a B&B, going downstairs in the morning and having segments of grapefruit in little metal dishes. You felt like a king.

“But it’s also about when you were out on the streets back home with your mates, almost being kicked out for the day and going feral, scrounging something to eat at your mate’s house and never even thinking about things like sun cream.

“It’s been so wonderful to see an outpouring of love that people have for their holidays. The exhibition will be a love-in for those times, the television, the games, and what we did in those six weeks. Without giving too much away, there will be plenty to trigger your memories and emotions. It will be a big hooter of a show.”

Helen Porter, 38, from Killamarsh in Sheffield is pictured on holiday at Skegness in the late 70s or early 80s when she was seven or eight years old.
It has been submitted for Pete McKee's Six Weeks to Eternity exhibition.

Helen Porter, 38, from Killamarsh in Sheffield is pictured on holiday at Skegness in the late 70s or early 80s when she was seven or eight years old. It has been submitted for Pete McKee's Six Weeks to Eternity exhibition.

Pete McKee’s 6 Weeks to Eternity will be at Magna on May 14 and 15. To add your memories, visit www.6weeks.co.uk or visit the Moor Market on April 9.

‘Always first on the beach’

Memories have been piling in of childhood summers for the exhibition. Here are some of them:

Alan Austin, 59, of Sheffield, remembers a trip to Chapel St Leonards in 1973, when he was 15, listening to David Bowie’s Life on Mars on his Binatone cassette recorder, and staying in his aunt’s caravan.

Kay Smith, 42, from Sheffield, submitted this picture of her at age eight, pictured in the late 70s or early 80s at Barmston, for Pete McKee's Six Weeks to Eternity exhibition.

Kay Smith, 42, from Sheffield, submitted this picture of her at age eight, pictured in the late 70s or early 80s at Barmston, for Pete McKee's Six Weeks to Eternity exhibition.

He said: “I was enjoying my fish and chips sat outside the photo shop at Chapel St Leonards Robin Hood Camp, when a nice female photographer decided to pop out of the shop and take this snap of me wearing my favourite tank top, Wrangler jeans, red socks and black polished brogues.

“Summer seemed to last forever and I had the time of my life meeting friends, staying in my aunties’ 4 Berth caravan and going out in the middle of the night to the communal wash house.

“Roy Badley was the camp site owner and used to awake us with his tanoy announcements:

‘Robin Hood Camp! Maid Marrion Club! We will be playing bingo at the club this afternoon, followed by a talent competition!’ There were no X Factor in them days.”

Helen Porter, 38, of Killamarsh, sent a photo of a family trip to Skegness when she was just seven or eight.

“The best times of our lives were spent in Skegness in the late 70s/early 80s,” she said.

“Nannan and grandad had the caravan which drew all the aunties, uncles and cousins to cram in it together in the six week holidays.

“We were a family of five, and my dad had two weeks off in the summer called ‘shut down weeks’ which meant all of the firm were off at the same time. This meant not only did you go with all of the family but all of his mates were there too!

“We were always the first on the beach and the last off. Rain or shine we sat there with windbreak barriers scooped around everyone and we sheltered under the concrete half-moon prom if it rained. “By evening, we sat in the public toilet sinks for a wash, then we ate fish and chips and played bingo with nannan all night long for half wins. Slot machines came after that in the lookout pub. Everyone was happy. The best memories of my life. Long may they last!”

Kay Smith, 42, was eight years old when the photo she shared was taken in Bramston, where her godparents had a static caravan.

Ms Smith, who is from Thurnscoe but now lives in Sheffield, said: “I can still remember the excitement of knowing we were nearly there when we reached the Little Chef.

“Back then you had to trudge over to the shower blocks and toilets and get your water from the communal tap. None of this bothered us at the time.

“We often used to walk along the beach to Bridlington (avoiding the nudist beach), which is where my photo was taken. I remember loving the bumpy slide on the seafront, running up the steps tripping over the hessian sack you had to sit on to slide back down.

“Nothing beats the memories of those caravan holidays. Everyone going to the club on the site every evening, which is where my love of Neil Sedaka songs comes from.

“Talent shows, lovely legs competitions and welly throwing contests were all normal British pastimes. I even once fell in the duck pond! Summers never seem the same now I’m all grown up (in years anyway).”