In the latter part of July 2006 Brighton hosted an international cultural festival, as well as conferences and exhibitions, under the overall title of 'Celebrating Age', aimed at creating a more positive attitude to ageing among people of all ages. It focused on what older people can do rather than what they cannot do, demonstrating the huge contribution that older people make to society and helping them to realise their personal and social aspirations.
An arts prize for the over 50s
Cyril Mount, a North Laine resident and NLCA Street Rep, put forward the idea of organising a national visual arts prize for artists over the age of 50, which had never been done before. In fact many art competitions are only open to artists under the age of 50 (e.g. the Turner Prize) or even 40 (the BP Portrait Award). His idea was adopted by the 'Celebrating Age' organisers at B&H City Council, funding was obtained and the competition was announced at the end of March 2006 under the title '50 over 50', with an end of April 2006 deadline.
The judging panel
Cyril, himself an artist, then served on the judging panel, along with four others including Professor Norbert Lynton, distinguished art historian who taught at the University of Sussex for many years. The panel had the difficult job of deciding which of the many entries would win the first prize and which others would be displayed in the exhibition mounted at the University of Brighton (22 July - 31 August 2006). Posters advertising the competition quoted Sir Roy Shaw: "Turner and Michelangelo produced some of their finest work in old age, showing that in art, as in football, the second half can be even better than the first!"
More about Cyril
Cyril Mount in fact typifies what 'Celebrating Age' is all about! He was born in 1920, enrolled at Liverpool Junior School of Art in 1934, but ran away to join the Royal Horse Artillery when he was 16. He then served in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe during the Second World War but took a set of watercolours with him, which enabled him to paint whenever he could. Just under 40 of these paintings are now in the Imperial War Museum in London. In 1990 the Museum commissioned him to return to Egypt to paint a picture of the battle at Ruweisat Ridge for the 50th anniversary of El Alamein and this painting is displayed in a glass case together with a message from 'Monty' to the 8th Army and with Rommel's record of preparations for the battle.
The Battle of Ruweisat Ridge
After the war Cyril studied at Liverpool School of Art (1946-50) and then took up art as a profession. He taught in higher education for about 30 years and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Art in 1963. Although now retired from teaching he still paints avidly, working at the Phoenix Studios, Brighton, with artists more than half his age. His last one-man show was held at Worthing Art Gallery in 1998. He calls himself an 'aggravationist' and says he seems to stir things up without always intending to! He has often used the medium of painting to make political statements or to make people think about controversial issues. His painting of De Gaulle (1970) hung in the Boudin Museum at Honfleur for four years before being banned because of Cyril's particular 'interpretation' of his subject!
Dr Gordon Millar, art historian, wrote in 1998: "It is clear that Mount's recent work has lost none of its fire and anarchy. This is a late flowering of skill and sensibility - a combination of the energy of youth and the insight of experience. He joins the ranks of those painters who have surprised their younger colleagues by getting a second wind of creative energy...."
[Previously published in the 'North Laine Runner', No 180, May/June 2006]