Weekend in Wakefield

The first thing we see on leaving Wakefield Westgate Station is a reminder of the tube station we left behind in London two and a half hours earlier. We managed to smile about this, even after a trying two hours on the train with two four year olds who decided to sing Wheels on the Bus, medley version, for most of the journey. Our reason for choosing Wakefield as a destination was the opening of the new Barbara Hepworth Gallery.

After a dinner in which Eve and Leah were possibly their worst behaved ever we all went to bed and as usual when we have a family room Mr Rush Hour and I fall asleep before they do! Next morning the sun was shining and with the girls in a good mood after their ultimate hotel breakfast treat, Rice Krispies in individual packets, we set off for the gallery, having been told by the receptionist that it was just across the road.

It wasn’t. It turned out to be quite a long walk with no signposts through an industrial park, uninspiring apart from these beautiful abandoned arches. Finally, carrying Eve and Leah piggy back style after they refused to walk a step further, we came to the River Calder and balanced over a weir, clad in grey concrete we found the Wakefield Hepworth. We were impressed.


First stop the fabulous learning studio were we spent a blissful hour making art in homage to Hepworth.

Next the collection. I especially enjoyed the gallery devoted to Hepworth’s studio environment, containing works mainly donated by her family. There is a prototype of Winged Figure, the sculpture on the side of the John Lewis store on Oxford Street, meaning I could appreciate the scale and detail of one of my favourite London landmarks.

The gallery does a great job of being family friendly, in addition to the studio space, there is a room dedicated to story telling and an outside playground. Large lockers, so much better than a cloakroom, is another family friendly feature. And yet for me there is something a little sterile about it all. The Hepworth Wakefield is the only gallery I know of devoted to a woman artist in the UK and Hepworth’s own story is fascinating. So much of her work was inspired by her experience of motherhood but this is largely missing from the way the works are curated. I hope that future exhibitions will address this because it’s the only flaw. Wakefield has high hopes for the Hepworth Gallery in its city regeneration plans and it deserves to be successful.

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