As part of The Doncaster Effect project, we speak to Rita Shore. Rita has been actively involved with Doncaster’s community for many years as a devoted teacher. She is an emerging artist at the age of 73 and is proud to be dedicating her time to making art and supporting others.
I’m a Doncaster lass, born and bred; I grew up with the mods and rockers, always foraging my way through Doncaster’s social life.
In those early days as a teenager, I whet my appetite for art at the Percy Jackson grammar school under the nurturing influence of my art teacher Joe Forrester. He was no ordinary teacher; he was passionate and made the subject come alive.
I managed to pass my O’level and that was just the beginning. I had my sights set on Church View Art College, as I liked the look of the folks who went in and out of there.
However, I instead chose to go and work for a travel company, Wallace Arnold, as I thought this could be my passport to see the world. Dream on. I only lasted months as they kept me imprisoned in a stuffy old office and I hurriedly left.
Due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ as they say and a touch of romance, I found myself pregnant; I took my Art A level at 7 months pregnant. Nappies and baby talk got a little boring so I took myself off to teacher training college for 3 years. College by day and babies by night.
English was my first subject on the college course and Art secondary. I had the most amazing art tutors: Harry Battery and Bob Goldman. They strengthened my love of art.
We went on trips to visit the London galleries and went further afield to Paris and Amsterdam – not bad for a Donny lass!
Harry told wonderful tales of how he worked alongside Henry Moore. I’ll never know how much truth was embroidered into his stories; he took the truth to his early grave.
I spent my adult life juggling a family, earning a living teaching in school academies and home tutoring the drop-outs and pregnant girls. It was tough trying to encourage the misfits to love art, literature and poetry but I gave it my best shot, never forgetting those who had encouraged me. Reciprocity!
I continued to quench my thirst for art by attending evening classes at Church View, including History of Art and Architecture and Film studies. Some of the tutors I would like to thank are Mickey Bunn, Mike Belshaw and John Firth; they are all giants in their field.
Time passed and eventually I felt the need to take life at a slower pace due to my advancing years, so around 2004 I decided to leave the rat race of teaching. I found it was becoming more and more technologically challenging and less of the talk and chalk approach I preferred; I had a bit of the William Morris syndrome.
At this point I enrolled on the BA in Fine Art at the Hub Doncaster. How wrong was I about life at a slower pace?! I was on a daily diet of art; eating, sleeping, drinking it. I loved it, but it blew my brains out. Due to my addictive nature I just gorged on art. So nowadays, at my three-quarters of a century stage, I’m taking life at a much more leisurely pace. I’m not chasing qualifications or money; I just do art to keep me sane and buoyant.
I’m involved in many little hot spots of creativity: The New Fringe, Bentley Urban Farm, The CommuniTea cafe art group, the WEA art appreciation group etc. I’ve been involved in The Real Junk Food Project Cascade and have met some wonderful people along the way. Doncaster has been kind to me. There is always something new, an innovation on the horizon and I’ll keep on searching, believe me.
Thank you, Doncaster.
About the Doncaster Effect
Over 2019, Doncopolitan Founder Warren Draper was commissioned by Doncaster Council to create a photography archive of Doncaster’s residents. The aim of this project, called The Doncaster Effect, was to produce an important record of individuals that are redefining life in the town.
Over the years, we’ve heard Doncaster be called a “prison for the employed”, a “cultural desert” and the “basket case of the north”. National news can often present Doncaster and Northern towns as backwards, poor and racist. Over the years, working closely with residents and local people, we’ve seen a counter narrative to this; stories often not covered by the national news. People striving to create art, opening and running successful businesses, becoming social media influencers and leading activists, are pursuing national, important campaigns. This archive is an important record of 50 local people and their lives in Doncaster right now.
Find out more about The Doncaster Effect here.
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This article featured in our November newsletter, Doncopolitan Monthly. Sign up to our newsletter here!