ONE of Newcastle’s most stunning buildings is the location for a charity art exhibition featuring work by the widely-travelled Alan Reed.
If you attend the regular Sunday services of the City Church, or if you used to work for Busways, you are probably familiar with the building they call The Castlegate on Melbourne Street.
The City Church people – of whom Alan was one – bought the building from Busways more than a decade ago but its original use was as the power depot for the city’s extensive tram network.
It was built in 1902 and beneath the main hall’s towering roof you can still see the massive machinery used for shifting heavy equipment.
Alan, who was a member of the hundreds-strong Sunday congregations there before switching to a sister church nearer home in Northumberland, recalls how one of the church elders had a dream about a cathedral-like building with a stained-glass window.
Finding this building matched his vision, he called in and asked Busways if it was for sale. The answer was no at the time but the transaction duly took place and the historic building now attracts large and mixed congregations.
Alan, who has a gallery in Ponteland with wife Susan, says: "We have always given to different charities and we were wondering how we could give more. The answer seemed to be to sell more paintings.
"We approached the guys involved in two of the charities, Own It and Open Door, who are involved in the City Church, and asked if we could hire the room for a couple of days."
As a result, about 70 of Alan’s original paintings will be displayed at The Castlegate at the end of the week. Alan is an accomplished landscape painter whose work can be found in homes across the world.
He has painted most of the famous Tyneside landmarks, including Grey’s Monument and the Theatre Royal, but also finds inspiration and customers overseas.
His paintings of Venice are highly sought-after and he has undertaken a prestigious commission of 12 landscapes for the Sultan of Oman. Several recent commissions are from people wanting paintings of their holiday homes.
He will be off to Assisi shortly to undertake one of these enviable assignments.
Also on show at the City Church is a painting of Susan enjoying a glass of wine in a Venetian bar. Alan points out that this is something she wouldn’t have been able to do once. Friday marks the seventh anniversary of an extraordinary operation in which Alan donated one of his kidneys to his wife following a seemingly miraculous tissue match. Susan’s kidneys were failing due to a hereditary disease.
The biggest painting on display this weekend is a massive and spectacular depiction of the Forth Bridge.
It has proved popular in print form north of the border but the original could be yours for about £18,000. Most of the other works are available at prices up to £5,000 (one was bought by someone outside the region on the strength of the small picture on the exhibition invitation).
"Sometimes it can take years to sell a painting," says Alan. "You are waiting for the right person at the right time."
Beneficiaries of the exhibition Faith, Hope and Charity are Own It, which helps disengaged young people into work, Open Door, which provides accommodation for homeless asylum seekers, and Aquila Way, which offers support and accommodation to homeless and vulnerable people in the North East. The exhibition is open tomorrow, 6-9pm, and then on Friday and Saturday, 10am-6pm.