Obituary: Arthur Berry

Arthur Berry, artist and writer: born Smallthorne, Staffordshire 7 February 1925; twice married; died 4 July 1994.

ARTHUR BERRY - painter, playwright, broadcaster and story-teller - was an irreplaceable piece of living culture. He was a man of the Potteries, rooted there, nurtured by their insularity, delighting in their oddities; a self-made man in a unique style. As he would say: 'Who else would want to be made like me?' He worked at it, creating a presence, cultivating the deep, sonorous voice that became his hallmark, and amplifying his physical distinctiveness from which, with his big frame and his withered arm, he could not escape. His right arm had been injured in childhood, saving him (as he said) from the pit, and making him an artist and writer: ' 'Cos I could do nowt else]'

Pubs were his favourite venue, and in his broadcast story 'The Lost Pubs of Burslem' he gives them full measure. Other common places that he loved were the chip- shop and the football terrace, all neutral territory. 'The Chip' was another masterful paean to a humble necessity, a story that he broadcast, winning the Pye Radio Award for Radio Stoke. He was not a football fan, but he had a keen knowledge of the game and an addiction to the occasion and the excitement around him, especially at the lower end of the League; who else but Port Vale, bottom of the Third Division North? He could entertain ardent football supporters, drawing their attention from the skills of Stanley Matthews (his idol) to his account of Mrs Potter who began to grow feathers while hanging out the washing and ended up perched on the clothes-line.

These were the things he fashioned into the six plays he wrote from 1976 to 1986 and were performed at the Victoria Theatre, Stoke. His writings were about the reality of the implausible; he was a devotee of the fantastic; he revelled in the outlandish phrase and would turn it into drama, squeeze it into poetry. He summed it up: 'I approach things by the chimney-end.'

Berry was first trained as an artist at Burslem School of Art, where his lack of facility proved an asset, making him more determined to succeed. He eventually gained entrance to the Royal College of Art, during wartime in Ambleside, then in his last year in London. The bohemianism of Fitzrovia was sad and outdated, but Berry observed and salvaged the trappings and stored them in his memory.

He was always dissatisfied with his academic training, enthusing about moden painters - Picasso, Rouault, Soutine - and discovering to his dismay that his attempts at emulation were hopeless pastiches. He found affinities with Giacometti, Permeke and Adler, but, avoiding his earlier mistakes, was content to go his own way.

But he had to go back north to make a living, which he did by teaching drawing (academic) and painting, first at Manchester and then at Burslem School of Art, later incorporated in the Polytechnic of North Staffordshire, where he was Head of Painting at his retirement. He never stopped painting and drawing the quaint figures and places that he loved and intrigued him. 'There's a landscape in every backyard wall; in every brick, in every face,' he said.

Although vastly different, there is a similarity to that other lonely painter, LS Lowry, whom he greatly admired. Lowry's recognition came late in his life, Arthur Berry's has yet to come. But come it surely will.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

COO / Chief Operating Officer

£80 - 100k + Bonus: Guru Careers: A COO / Chief Operating Officer is needed to...

HR Manager - Kent - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager / Training Manager (L&D /...

HR Manager - Edgware, London - £45,000

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - Edgware, Lon...

HR Manager - London - £40,000 + bonus

£32000 - £40000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager (Generalist) -Old...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits