North London art exhibitions

Also see
Medical Aid for Vietnam
Blood donor sessions
Words Out of War
The Arrogance of War


Another of Bobbi Cartlidge’s responsibilities was organising art exhibitions to raise funds for MACV. The first was planned by Mary Louise Coulouris to be held at Camden Town Hall in December 1967, but it didn’t happen.[1] Instead, it took place at the New Exhibition Hall, Camden Studios, for two weeks in February 1968. Eighty-eight artists contributed 117 works. John Berger spoke at the official opening and £1,000 was raised from sales.

Ken Sprague was also helping Bobbi around this time. He had been a young member of the Artists’ International Association in the mid-fifties and later joined the Communist Party’s Artist Group. ‘But,’ Ken relates, ‘apart from Cliffe Rowe and myself, hardly anyone was prepared to hang the paintings.’[2]



Another exhibition took place at the Camden Studios in April 1969. This time there were 250 works of art and sales raised £1,906 for MACV. For the next ten years, in addition to her work arranging the transport of blood, Bobbi organised art exhibitions at Hampstead Town Hall every November, helped by Keith Grant or Peggy Kessel,[3] raising over £18,000. The Mayor of Camden nearly always opened the exhibitions, as well as Adrian Mitchell (1973)[4] and Felix Greene (1974).[5] The best year was 1972, when £4,700 was raised.

It was exciting and rewarding to have so many willing and sympathetic artists, many of whom gave their work entirely or shared a generous portion of the proceeds of their sales with us. Beryl Bainbridge enjoyed her first success as a painter with us, before she became a famous writer. Patrick Proctor, David Hockney, Ron Kitaj, Philip Hughes, Keith Grant, Hilda Bernstein, Harold Elvin, Ken Sprague and Peter de Francia were among the hundred or more participants. Not only did they respond to our appeals time and again, but often helped to hang up the pictures as well. In our hey-day we raised sums exceeding £10,000, though as Vietnam receded from the headlines, it became progressively harder to achieve large turnovers.[6]

In 1977, a small private exhibition was arranged at the Beehive Gallery, Regent’s Park Road, and raised just £315. In February 1978, another exhibition was organised by Bobbi at the La Fruche Art Gallery, Gloucester Avenue, at no cost, and raised £1,284. In March 1980, Yvette van Giap at the MACV office, assisted by Bobbi, organised an exhibition in the Great Hall at ASLEF’s offices in Arkwright Road, raising £1,169.



The last exhibition took place at the Roundhouse, Chalk Farm Road, in October 1982 and raised £500. It was opened by Lord Hugh Jenkins[7] and the Mayor of Camden. Dang Nghiem Bai, the first Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK, also attended.

When Bobbi first offered to help MACV, she was a freelance jewellery designer and maker working from a studio at her home in South Hampstead. Derrick, her husband, was running Taxi-Trucks, which provided the vans this webpage author drove to transport blood in 1968 when he was living in West Hampstead. By then Bobbi and Derrick had three teenage children. That year she helped to set up the Pace Gallery for the British Peace Committee, selling glass, pottery and jewellery, but it had to close a year later. In June 1971, supported by Derrick, Bobbi opened the Electrum Gallery at 21 South Molton Street. By the time the last art exhibitions were being organised she had already been appointed Freeman of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths and the City of London and was well on the way to becoming one of Britain’s leading jewellers.


It would be remiss not to mention the huge support given to the Vietnamese people by many musicians and actors who performed at concerts for MACV, in particular a celebrity concert presented by the English Stage Society at the Royal Court Theatre in November 1966, introduced by Dame Peggy Ashcroft reading an introduction by James Cameron. Stanley Forman of Plato Films and Charles Cooper at the Paris-Pullman Cinema supported MACV by screening films about Vietnam. Print workers formed the Printer’s Movement for Peace (Vietnam) and raised £2,000 to pay for a fully equipped air-conditioned ambulance, packed with drugs and medical equipment, to be sent to Vietnam. It arrived at Haiphong in December 1966. These are just a few of the numerous contributions made by the British people between 1965 and 1990. Eventually, a total of some £2.5 million was raised.

PS February 2023

[1] Mary Louise Coulouris (1939-2011) became an artist herself and produced a large body of work now held in many private and public collections.
[2] Green, John (2002). Ken Sprague: People’s Artist. Stroud: Hawthorn Press in partnership with Artery Publications, p. 44.
[3] Peggy Kessel (1920-1985) was a Hampstead communist who organised concerts for MACV and later in solidarity with Allende’s Chile when she worked at the National Theatre.
[4] Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008) was a deeply anti-war poet, playwright and performer.
[5] Felix Greene (1909-1985) was a film-maker who travelled extensively in China and produced ‘China’ (1965), ‘Inside North Viet Nam’ (1967) and ‘Cuba va!’ (1971).
[6] Chadour-Sampson, Beatriz, and Janice Hosegood (2016). Barbara Cartlidge and Electrum Gallery: A Passion for Jewellery. Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers, p. 48.
[7] Lord Hugh Jenkins (1908-2004) was the Labour MP for Putney, 1964-1979, Minister for the Arts, 1974-1976, and Chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, 1979-1981.

Poster advertising the first art exhibition and sale at Camden’s New Exhibition Hall, 1-17 February 1967.

Bobbi Cartlidge and possibly Arnold Wesker setting up one of the art exhibitions, c.1970. Courtesy of Tony Cartlidge

Alfred Daniels (1924-2015) first left, Conroy Maddox (1912-2005) rear third from left,  Patrick Procktor (1936-2003) rear second from right, Keith Grant (1930-) centre, Beryl Bainbridge (1932-2010) front left and Bobbi Cartlidge (1922-2017) front right, c.1970. Courtesy of Tony Cartlidge

A leaflet designed by Ken Sprague for the art exhibition and sale at Hampstead Old Town Hall, 4-5 November 1969. The Sinclair Trust

The cover designed by Ken Sprague for the Souvenir Programme at the celebrity concert produced by Bill Owen and R. D. Smith at the Mermaid Theatre on 11 October 1970. An Introduction was written by James Cameron and read by Dame Peggy Ashcroft. The artists included Marty Feldman, Dame Sybil Thorndike, guitarist John Williams, old-time music hall favourite Billy Russell, Siobhan McKenna, Ginger Johnson with his African Dancers and drummers, Julie Felix, Mark Dignam, Janet Suzman, Paul Schofield, Brenda Arnau, Michael Hamburger, Annie Ross, John Hendricks and the Kenny Napper Quintette, and compered by Joe Melia and Roman O’Casey. The Sinclair Trust

An example of the skill and artistry Bobbi brought to her work at the time. Courtesy of Tony Cartlidge

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