A new bar opened in Ilkeston this week which is inspired by the smash hit BBC drama Peaky Blinders, and for one local artist it has meant a trip down memory lane.
The function room at the Three Horseshoes on Derby Road has been remodelled as Peaky Ryders by its owner Scott Ryder, inspired by the iconic 1920s style of the show.
To mark the occasion, Tim Bennett, 55, has created a special series of paintings for the bar depicting Birmingham gangsters the Shelby family against backdrops from Ilkeston’s bygone days.
He said: “I painted the first one a couple of weeks before I heard about the bar, then that gave me the inspiration to produce more.
“Something about these characters seems to fit Ilkeston. This was a very hard place with the mines and the ironworks, and people like the Peaky Blinders would have existed here. I think that’s why people can relate to the programme so much.
“A miner would come up from his shift, have ten pints and a punch-up then go home - or they’d buy each other another five pints.
“There are similar characters here today - the same people but in different times. There’s a connection there. I’m just trying to give it a story.”
It is a poignant reflection for Tim, a lifelong Ilkeston resident who has seen the town change in so many ways.
He said: “I’ve always been proud of Ilkeston, especially what a good place it was for work and industry, even if that’s all gone now. Our grandparents built Britain, and there’s a sort of envy that we’ve not got that.
“There’s something very nostalgic about the paintings too. I like following the Ilson Bygones group on Facebook and all the old photos. There’s a yearning to get back to what we’ve lost, but it’s as much the same as it’s not.”
The paintings feature historic landmarks in the town such as Bennerley Viaduct, which Tim says have ‘a ghost memory’ of more industrious days, as well familiar street scenes retouched with authentic period architectural details.
Some are recreated straight from old photographs, and others have provided a creative springboard for Tim to take a leap of imagination.
He said: “It’s been quite painstaking work over about five weeks. When you’re including characters which so many people know it’s quite easy to lose their likeness very quickly. I’m very critical of my own work. There are a few I’ve not showed anybody and just painted over.”
One thing that has stayed the same, despite all the changes, is Tim’s commitment to developing his art.
He said: “I started work down the mines, then at Stanton, but I’ve always been painting and drawing to fill my time. I get a lot out of it, and as I get older I like doing it even more.
You’ve just got to keep pushing yourself to get better.
“I ended up getting a university degree, training as an illustrator, and then opened the Four Corners art gallery in Ilkeston. People loved to come and see the work but nobody bought anything, so we turned it into a tattoo shop for a while. I preferred painting - pictures don’t bleed.”
Peaky Riders will not be the first unusual location where he has presented his work, after a recent exhibition in a Nottingham branch of Tesco.
Tim said: “Art has to find new routes to market. A lot of the independent galleries are going the same way as everything else with so many sales online. In a bar or a shop you get a different audience.
“I think more and more working class people are buying art too. They see we live in a throwaway culture where nothing is built to last and nothing is treasured - but they’d rather buy their first piece at a reasonable price.”
To see more of his work and buy prints, visit facebook.com/timbennettfineart.