Who hasn’t heard of Calendar Girls? The WI calendar produced in Rylstone, Yorkshire, for charity raised millions and became a hit play, musical and film. Word also reached a group of graphic artists in Israel, who conceived the exhibition that is on view at Skipton Town Hall museum and gallery until mid-May.
The proposition was put to a photographer who lived in a kibbutz at the foot of the Golan. He agreed, provided the potential models gave their consent. With sufficient candidates he set to work, not disguising them behind buns or tea cakes but examples of their work materials.
Part of the exhibition is historical: the raising of the watch tower in the 1940s. This was a symbolic as well as necessary act. It is redolent of the infamous towers of concentration camps, from which some of the original kibbutzniks had been released. The watch is not internal, however, but extenal: the Golan Heights represent a disputed frontier of Israel.
A large graphic describes the aim of the exhibition. There are examples of the original Rylstone calendar and its successors as well as posters for the film and images of its stars. Mostly, however, the images are of men at work. They are for the most part middle-aged or older. There is a mechanic, a woodworker, a cowman, a banana farmer among them. All are scantily clad or naked but of course “in the best possible taste” as the Windmill Theatre once had it.
As well as its girls the Windmill was the launching place of many famous comedians. It is unlikely the authors of this project would have known that but the result of their project is amusing as well as touchingly brave. It may include a double entebdre or two – the lug being fed into a saw or shredding machine for example, or the pipework of the water engineer. The farmer may be grateful that his cows seem to be uninterested in his bunch of straw.
The exhibition continues for a few more weeks. Whether it goes elsewhere is uncertain. If not the museum in Skipton Town Hall with prehistory and more recent displays is well worth a visit. Both are free of charge although donations are welcome. Not free but also well worth a visit is nearby Skipton Castle.