Thursday 9 August 2012


Last week we went to see the wonderful Rolf Harris exhibition "Can You Tell What It Is Yet" at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool - and no, I didn't actually see Rolf, though I would have loved to.

This is my very quick caricature sketch of Rolf drawn with a ball-point pen.  I wasn't too happy with it, but other people thought it was good so I decided to be content with it.

I like the view of the external exhibition poster from inside the Gallery on the first floor - the white lines are scratches and drips on the window.  I always prefer this view to the intended view, shown below.

I've been wanting to see this exhibition since 19th May when it opened, but recovering from the operation left me too tired until last week, when Dev took me to the Liverpool One Hilton Hotel for a couple of nights so that we could see it before the closing date of 12th August.

It exceeded all my expectations, the sheer quantity and variety of work and items from Rolf's studio, and videos on different aspects of his work.  And of course videos of him painting his enormous "Can You Tell What It Is Yet" paintings.  It really was the best exhibition we have ever seen at the Walker.

Here's Dev with the cardboard version of Rolf - the nearest we got to him.  And no, Dev is not a midget, it's just a large cardboard cut-out.

Even in the last few days of the exhibition the Gallery was crowded, with so much noise and discussion, and strangers chatting to each other about the paintings.  One of the best things was seeing even the tiny children so entranced in watching videos of Rolf painting, looking at the pictures and talking about them.

For those who don't live in Britain or Australia, Rolf came to this country about 60 years ago, and has been a joyful part of British life ever since, through his television programmes, song-writing and records, including Gold Discs for "Two Little Boys" and "Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport", and Silver Disc for "Sun Arise".  And he plays the Didgeridoo and the Wobble Board.

In 2006 Rolf had the honour of painting the Queen to mark her 80th birthday, the whole process being filmed for a marvellous BBC programme.  Everybody loves Rolf (well - everybody I know!).

In another part of the Gallery Nick Burman was playing his didgeridoos - one at a time.  These are native aboriginal musical instruments, long hollow tubes, with no actual mouthpiece just a smaller hole at the blowing end.  These are tree branches - the tube has been hollowed out by termites.

Nick is a Didgeridoo Professional Performer and an expert in aboriginal art and culture, and he posed specially for me so that I could take a photograph.  His website is, a really interesting man to listen to and talk to.

Apparently the way to play the didgeridoo is to blow-suck-blow-suck continuously to produce a deep resonant and rhythmic sound. As I listened I could feel the throbbing of the rhythm rising through my body from the wooden floor.

As we waited for a taxi on the steps of the Walker, I noticed the young boy next to me had bought a didgeridoo from the Gallery Shop.  Well, his mother had bought it, but she said he would definitely learn to play it because he loved music and already played the guitar.  

He told me his name was Kaylen, and he kindly agreed to let me take his photograph - and in fact he managed to play several blow-suck-blow-suck notes very professionally.

 And here's a final picture of Rolf at the entrance to the Gallery, with his own musical invention - the Wobble Board.

The whole experience was wonderful.  Our visits to the Walker are always made special by the Gallery staff who are so pleasant and helpful, with real Liverpool friendliness.

I just wish I could see the whole exhibition again.


  1. Oh wow, I didn't even know this exhibition was even on. I love Rolf. He's a national treasure (even if he is Australian!)

  2. Fabulous exhibition - really glad we went on your recommendation.

  3. belated happy birthday and I am sitting down with a cup of tea enjoying my catch up with you.... there has been lots of wonderful happening and I am so glad your health is improving.... the Rolf exhibition looks like it was great fun and so glad they had didgeridoos for people to try... women aren't actually allowed to play them, and it is a man thing only, so we never get to try them here at home, but I have had friends who have had a sneaky try of them when they have seen them overseas... they make a cool sound don't they...xx

  4. What a man Rolf is. We met him briefly when he was visiting Cheltenham and in my best 'babble' I told him how amazing we thought he was and how he had been a happy part of our childhood and right up to the present time. His reply, "Wow! Really!"


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