My world is full of white middle-class women

I WAS back to being the sole male in today’s drawing class. This is something I’ve commented on before. There have been very few men in any of the activities I’ve sampled for this blog.

The photography and drawing classes, like the film studies and social history groups I’ve joined, are dominated by retired women. And gender is not the only imbalance.

All have a massive bias in favour of white, middle-class people. It even extends to geography. Almost everybody I’ve met in these classes and groups lives on the west side of the city.

There is a historic reason behind this east-west divide. And it can be found in many post-industrial towns and cities in Britain.

Swansea’s industrial wealth was built on the metal works that were sited along the river that runs through the city. The wealthy owners, and their managers, built their spacious homes to the west of these factories, where they could benefit from the prevailing sea breezes blowing in from Swansea Bay.

Those same breezes, however, would carry the noxious fumes and smoke from the factories eastward, over the rows of terraced houses where the men and women who worked in the factories lived.

That historic divide is still in effect in Swansea today. Swansea West is regarded as ‘posh’ and middle-class. Eastside, on the other side of the river, as down-to-earth and working-class.

The film studies and social history groups are part of the University of the Third Age (U3A), which provides learning opportunities for people who have left full-time employment (which, in practice, means retired people.)

I know that the U3A committee in Swansea is aware that its membership is skewed, and is working on ways to attract more people from the under-represented parts of the city.

Incidentally, U3A Swansea celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and I have been asked to interview some of its members about how it has helped to make their retirement a richer experience. Two of the interviewees are former chairmen, so it will be interesting to get their thoughts on what can be done about this imbalance.

Meanwhile, back to today’s drawing class. Our hastily-arranged visit to Poland meant I missed the last class; so I didn’t know what we would be tackling today. In an effort to cover all eventualities, I turned up with sketching pencils and pad, charcoal sticks and chalks and sugar paper, soft pastels, and acrylic paints and paper.

What I didn’t turn up with was a photograph of a family member. Which is what Tim The Tutor had asked everyone to bring, to be turned into a portrait.

In the absence of a photo of The Current Mrs Feeney or The Daughter, Tim provided me with a photo of a salty sea dog (the sort of bloke who 100 years ago would have set sail from Swansea’s Eastside to journey around Cape Horn and bring copper ore from Chile back to the voracious furnaces along the banks of the River Tawe).

The task this week was to create a ‘tonal portrait’, simply (!) concentrating on the light and shade in the composition. Next week we will add the colours.

For what it’s worth, here’s my effort. Now, what do you think are the chances of somebody like him joining a retirement class?



5 thoughts on “My world is full of white middle-class women

  1. You have talent, Spencer. This is an excellent drawing! I hope you’re enjoying it enough to keep it going. When this class is over, take a look and see if any local artists are taking students. Your talent would blossom with some close attention. If the rest of the students are women’s there too, count that as one of your blessings! Love seeing the progress you’re making.


  2. I’m not sure about the talent, but I’m certainly enjoying it and fully intend to carry on after the course finishes (I’ve just bought a couple of acrylic paint brushes at a local art store; gosh, it isn’t a cheap hobby, is it?) As far as the dearth of men is concerned, I was told yesterday about something called Mensheds, which may be the sort of community of retired blokes that this blog was intended to attract. Watch this space…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. There is talent there that needs to be nourished. You need to get into the artist’s community of cool websites. For brushes, check out Rosemary & CO. They’re in West Yorkshire, and their brushes are economical and of very good quality. I’ve purchased all my brushes from them online. I also found the best sites here in the US for lower-cost paints, and I’m sure you have some in the UK. Don’t look at it as a hobby – it’s your sanity, and it’s cheap at the price. I’d love to hear about Mensheds – might be something in which my husband would be interested – if it’s not a UK only thing. Then again, if the election over hear ends up with an orange-faced fascist in charge, we may be joining the rest of the family in Ireland, and he can join up.


  4. Colleen, you’re a great motivator. I have a weakness for new ventures (otherwise described by The Current Mrs Feeney as Hare-brained Schemes). Mensheds was set up to tackle the problem of older men becoming socially isolated, especially after they have retired and lost their network of colleagues. It is very patchy at the moment, and does seem to be very focussed on practical (literally hands-on) activities. Woodwork seems to feature largely.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s