I became a close friend almost as soon as I met Dave Pearson in 1966. He was a teacher at the Foundation Department of Manchester School of Art (late MMU). It was his second year in the post, and from the beginning he had an enormous influence on me.
Many years later, when his health was failing, he asked me to look after his will. In particular he wanted me to look after the vast collection of artwork in his studios. This turned out to be a huge undertaking; one that continues. His studio in Haslingden had been semi-abandoned during the period of his final illness, and the building – a few blocks up from his home in Haslingden – was riddled with rot. Artworks were piled up throughout the four storey building, along with the debris of his working practice – bottles, medicines, newspapers, canvases.
I bought the building from the Estate, emptied it, and put all the work temporarily into storage. I then employed builders to restore it the building. Much of this is documented in Derek Smith’s excellent film ‘The Road to Byzantium’.
At this point I also set up the Dave Pearson Trust with Dave’s son Chris and his friend Margaret Mytton. Together we managed the estate, and began the long process of cataloguing and organising it. In this I was helped enormously by Ella Cole, who is a trained archivist. By 2018 the vast majority of the work had been catalogued, mainly by Ella – roughly 14,000 pieces of artwork in all.
In 2019, with most of its work done, the Estate was handed back to Chris Pearson in line with Dave’s wishes. I continue to manage the studio and the artwork as The Dave Pearson Studio, We have an online gallery shop – www.dspearsonshop.co.uk – through which smaller works are sold.
Larger works are sold individually, through personal visits to the studio. Open Days are held once or twice a year for visitors. In 2020, because of the pandemic, these have temporarily been suspended, but we hope to restart the process in 2021.
During this time we’ve also shown Dave’s a work at a number of galleries. There have been several small exhibitions at According to McGee in York, and a larger show in Leicester. Two major exhibitions focusing on Dave Pearson’s enormous Byzantium works have been held – in Bermondsey in 2012, and at the Turnpike in Leigh in 2019.
Bob Frith 2020