Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend – An Exhibition

This weekend, whilst I was mulling a few things (thank you for your comments earlier this week), I decided to do some pottering and mooching about in lovely Liverpool. For some reason I have stayed over in the Wirral in the main and not done as much exploring of my new nearby city and its delights. Well, unless friends have come to visit obviously. So I decided to hit the museums and I wasn’t expecting to find anything particularly bookish on my rounds and yet I did, and from one of my favourite authors… Beryl Bainbridge.


Believe it or not the building above is not Liverpool’s Science Museum, in fact I don’t think we have one, but a very new addition (and quite a controversial one) to the Mersey riverfront and is actually the Museum of Liverpool. Amongst the history of the city through the ages I discovered a little gem of an exhibition for any book lover, Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer Friend.


I have only discovered Beryl Bainbridge’s novels in the last few years, ‘The Bottle Factory Outing’ becoming one of my favourite books for being so bonkers, yet I knew relatively little about her apart from the fact that she died earlier than she should. For example I had no idea that she was from Liverpool… I know shocking isn’t it?


On top of that, whilst I had seen some of her illustrations from ‘Filthy Lucre’ which she wrote very young, I had no idea that she was a painter, something this exhibition proves beyond a shadow of a doubt.


On top of lots of her paintings there is also a wonderful collection of some of the first editions of her books…


…And indeed one of her notebooks from 1968 which has a story of its own. This was a journal that Beryl (I hope she wouldn’t mind first name terms) wrote whilst on a road trip across America with her lover at the time, Harold Retler. This was a trip that Bainbridge was left very disappointed by and yet, several decades later, she used this journal as inspiration for her final novel ‘The Girl in the Polka Dot Dress’. I found this fascinating in itself.


One thing that Bainbridge seemed to find fascinating herself, and indeed she wrote about it in ‘Every Man For Himself’, was the Titanic which itself is a huge part of Liverpool’s history. I think the paintings Beryl had done of her imaginings of the Titanic might have been her most poignant and powerful.


It seemed rather appropriate, if that is the right word, that as you leave the exhibition and museum to head to the centre of town, or the train, after wards you actually go past the very building where the names of the survivors and the dead were read out from the balcony after the tragedy.


As you can tell I was rather bowled over by this surprise find. I haven’t shared all of it with you as the exhibition is on until the 28th of this month and I am hoping some of you might make it there (if you do let me know I might be about for a coffee, ha) to have a look yourself. If you can’t make it then hopefully this is a small insight into it and you can feel you went and had a wander, sort of, round it. There is a book ‘Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend’ by Psiche Hughes which I am kicking myself for not getting myself. Maybe I will have to pop back?


Filed under Beryl Bainbridge

6 responses to “Beryl Bainbridge: Artist, Writer, Friend – An Exhibition

  1. her painting are quite eye catching and chaotic it seems ,also reminds me I must go to liverpool some time soon ,all the best stu

  2. Ruthiella

    What a great, unexpected find! I have yet to read any of her books, but they are on my list. My library, thankfully, has quite a few titles available.

  3. Thanks for this post. I love Bainbridge’s writing but hadn’t seen any of her painting before. Her books are so visual anyway – they always seem like great snapshots of a certain time and place – that it’s not surprising really to think of her as a painter too. Fascinating to see her notebooks too. I’d love to see this myself but living in the South West I’m not going to get up North by the end of the month.

  4. gaskella

    I am very jealous about not being able to get up to this exhibition! I have however read the book (see here), and it was wonderful – you’d enjoy it, I’m sure.

  5. I too didn’t know that Bainbridge was from Liverpool unitl I heard about the exhibition which was great. I’d only read her historical novels – The Birthday Boys, the Titanic novel, Master Georgie – but after seeing her paintings, I picked up Harriet Said – set in the Liverpool suburb of Formby and loved it, disturbing as it was. I’m finding out there’s quite a few writers who hail from Liverpool – Linda Grant is another and again, I need to read her earlier works, some of which are set in the city. Anthony Quinn too – his The Rescue Man is a great novel about Liverpool during the Blitz with a modern story about saving the city’s architectual heritage. And it’s loosely (very) based on an influential Liverpool architect with two iconic buildings still in the city that you can view.

  6. Greetings from Toronto. I just ordered the book based on your comments! Thank you so much for spreading the word on this neglected writer.
    Abe Books has it for $6 = $6 postage if you’re still interested…

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