Paul hasn't allowed cerebral palsy to get in the way of his art
David Clensy meets the Bristol man who doesn’t let his cerebral palsy get in the way of his art
FOR the past 21 years, for four days a week, Paul Hare has spent the day at the Lockleaze Day Centre. Throughout all of that time, Margaret Perrett has been his key worker.
The centre has been like a second home to the 37-year-old from Henleaze ever since he left school, and Margaret and the rest of the staff at the centre have been like a second family.
Paul was born with cerebral palsy – a debilitating condition that prevents the brain from properly communicating with the muscles around Paul’s body.
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But he hasn’t allowed his disability to hold him back. Always keen on crafts and model-making, it was only five years ago that he discovered his passion for landscape painting.
Now his work has become so well recognised he has been given his own exhibition at Bristol Central Library.
“I’ve never been one for sitting watching television or spending the afternoon in the cinema,” Paul tells me, as I interrupt one of his afternoon painting sessions at the centre in Gainsborough Square.
“I’ve always been happier keeping active – doing crafts, making model houses and trains. When I’m not working on my crafts I like to get out and see places. I have a scooter, so I’m relatively mobile.
“When I go out for a day trip, I take my camera, and photograph all the buildings that I think I would like to paint. So when I get back to the day centre, I can sit here and start painting them.
“I just enjoy doing it. My grandfather was a keen painter, so I suppose I must get it from him.”
Paul shows me through some of the paintings he is currently working on – one particularly striking picture of a cottage is the house where his grandmother was born in Ireland, he tells me.
“I have been there a few years ago,” he says. “But when I decided I wanted to paint it, because I didn’t have a photograph of the cottage, I just went on to Google Street View and found the cottage – so I could paint it from that image.”
Margaret says everybody was stunned by the quality of the work that Paul soon started creating.
“They’re lovely,” she says. “I’ve seen what the painting has meant to Paul over the last few years – it’s really brought him out of himself. But they’re such nice paintings, we felt we should try to get him some sort of exhibition organised.”
When centre manager Audrey Muranda saw Paul’s paintings, she was so impressed she found money from the centre’s budget to buy frames for 16 of his best paintings, and for the past week has had them installed in the lobby of the Central Library.
“We got them into Eastville library for a few weeks, then St Paul’s Community Centre, and then Sea Mills library – so they have done a little tour of the city before arriving at the Central Library,” Audrey says. “But it’s only right that Paul should get some recognition for the wonderful work he has produced.”
Lockleaze Day Centre is due to be closed next June, as part of the city council’s cut-backs, with the current network of day care centres being replaced by a series of “hubs” – drop-in centres from where service users can be pointed in the direction of comparable services in the community.
Paul says he is worried about where he will be able to do his paintings when the changes happen.
“I’ve been coming here ever since I left school, for four days each week,” he says. “So I will be sorry to see it being closed, but I hope I’ll be able to find somewhere else where there is a bit of room where I can go to work.”
Margaret says: “It is a shame. This centre was built in 1964 – so it was the first day centre in the city, and when it closes next June, it will also be the last. But we will make sure we find somewhere else where Paul can do his paintings.”
The exhibition of Paul Hale’s paintings is at Bristol Central Library until Thursday. Admission free.