Four wheels and a driving ambition inspire exhibition

My Last Car.  Photo: John-Martin White

My Last Car. Photo: John-Martin White

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As part of the Cultural Olympiad in the run-up to London 2012, Stephanie Southall looks at an exhibition wheeling its way to North Yorkshire.

Artistic inspiration comes in many forms, but for Alan Dix the revelation came behind the steering wheel.

Out on the road one day, he decided the car he was driving would be his last and from that thought a touring art exhibition was born. My Last Car has been driven by Dix’s admiration of mechanical engineering, and at the heart of a series of displays is a dismantled Rover 316.

“By taking a car apart you can show the extraordinary machine we take for granted in our lives,” says Dix.

He says the disassembled shell of the Rover 316, made up of what he refers to as the “skeleton and the organs” reveal “inner mechanical secrets.”

Having started out in Warwick, My Last Car is now heading to Yorkshire and Dix is encouraging others to share their emotional attachment to their own four wheels on a dedicated website. People have been posting photographs and memories ahead of the exhibition, opening in Yorkshire next week.

One contributor posted: “I’ve just sold my old car. It was also my first car – a 2.3l Saab 900S. I bought it cheaply and did it up for a charity drive across Europe. It went like a tank and rode like a boat, and I loved every second I drove it. Your first car should definitely not be a boring little hatchback with a puny engine. Think big.”

Another wrote: “My first car lasted for two weeks and I finished it off by flipping it over into a field full of cows. I think the cows were quite confused. But they didn’t come and help.”

My Last Car will shortly arrive in the North Yorkshire town of Bentham before moving onto Ryedale Folk Museum in July and in Dix’s words, the event is “part homage, part celebration and part wake” of the car and its impact on the environment.

“We wanted to take the exhibition to rural settings where communities acutely understand the impact of motoring upon the environment,” says Dix.

“These people are totally dependent on the car for work, school and simple everyday activities. It’s hopefully an event which looks at the complex issues without forgetting the passion, love and sheer joy the car has brought us in the last 100 years.”

With the support of Imove, the Legacy Trust’s cultural programme for the Olympics in Yorkshire, the project has been brought to Yorkshire on the last leg of a nationwide tour. As part of the project, local residents and guest artists are invited to take part in creating a series of car related art to be displayed around the town.

The final day in Bentham, June 2, the whole town come alive with My last CARnival, a festival running alongside the exhibition, which will see extraordinary buses, bikes and boats will be throughout the town.

My Last Car, May 30 to June 2, Bentham Town Hall and Ryedale Folk Museum, July 14 to August 5.

Everyone has a car story

My Last Car is a collaboration between 509 Arts, Warwick Arts Centre, Pioneer Projects in Bentham North Yorkshire, Ryedale Folk Museum and Imove, the organisation funded by Legacy Trust UK to create a lasting impact under the banner of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games by funding arts projects across Yorkshire.

The project is keen to hear from people across the county who have stories to share about their own vehicles.

For more information about the event or to contribute your car stories go to http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/mylastcar or by telephone on 08434 610456.

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