Students bring to life the story of renowned North East artist, Victor Noble Rainbird

Students at Queen Alexandra Sixth Form College have used canvas and camera to bring to life the story of a renowned North East artist currently undergoing a renaissance of interest.

They produced images of actors Jamie Brown and Heather Carroll, who posed in the period costumes they will wear in a new play about Victor Noble Rainbird.

Rainbird was the only northern artist to be accepted by the Royal Academy in London in 1911 and his talent led to notable recognition and awards wins.

Sadly, his career was cruelly damaged by his experiences as a soldier on the Western Front in World War One, which led him into poverty, alcoholism and death aged just 48 in 1936.

In Rainbird – The Tragedy of an Artist, written by Peter Mortimer and being presented at The Exchange in North Shields this month, Jamie plays Rainbird and Heather his wife, Liz.

The actors posed for BTEC and Fine Art Foundation Degree level learners, who did a photo-shoot and then a drawing-based workshop to atmospheric music at Queen Alexandra’s Creative Studios.

From their initial sketches, they will make more detailed art works which will be exhibited at The Exchange Café Bar, on Howard Street, from 6.30pm on Tuesday, April 17 until Wednesday, May 2. The play runs from Monday, April 23 to Saturday, April 28.

Sandra Earl, an art and design lecturer at Queen Alexandra, which is part of the new Tyne Coast College, supported the workshop through lighting, props and music.

Cullercoats-based playwright Peter, Karen Knox, artistic director at The Exchange, and Jan Brown, a student at Queen Alexandra who is also involved in The Exchange, attended the workshop.

Peter described the workshop as “memorable”, adding: “There was something really special about it and I was incredibly moved to see all those young artists at their easels painting Jamie and Heather.

“The music added to a sense of creative spirituality in the room and it was something I won’t easily forget. It was very moving to the see actors posed.

“This workshop has really enhanced the whole Rainbird venture. How good that the staff got behind it to support it. On we go, and I can’t wait to see the students’ creations at the exhibition.”

Jan said: “It was a great team effort including all the students and staff, and there was a wonderful feeling of creativity in the room.

“Everyone brought something special to the workshop, and Sandra’s beautiful lighting, props and music set the scene perfectly.

“There are no words to describe how amazing Heather and Jamie were, their patience, the joint poses, and their ability to bring an emotion to each pose and keep it there. What professionals.”

And Sandra added: “The students have used a range of media and processes including photography, drawing and mixed media to create their artworks.

“They worked very well, and I’m very much looking forward to exhibiting their work at the The Exchange.”

Karen Knox said: “I was a BTEC Foundation Diploma student and taught by Sandra, so it was especially nice to be able to see these students at work and involved in this project.

“Last year The Exchange and Queen Alexandra worked on another exhibition and Rainbird is a welcome continuation of our relationship.

“It was a really lovely experience to see the students at work and to witness the diversity of the sketches they made.”  

Creative Studios is a learning zone for art, media, photography, drama and theatre, fashion and graphic design. Creative Studios, based at Queen Alexandra Sixth Form College, is taking applications for various art courses, starting in September 2018.

The opening of the exhibition will be followed a talk, titled The Rainbird Story, by Dave Young, an expert on the artist. Large scale images of Rainbird’s paintings will also be on display.

Jamie, Heather and The Exchange have also been invited to select their favourite image from the students’ exhibition, a print of which will be produced for them.

A portrait by artist Josh Maine of Jamie playing Rainbird, which will be used on stage to highlight the part of the play set in the present day, will also be on display.

Poet, playwright, journalist, publisher Peter is artistic director of Cloud Nine Theatre Company and founder of IRON Press, an independent press which has championed new quality writing since 1973.

Cloud Nine Theatre Company, which supports northern writers and is celebrating its 20th anniversary, collaborates closely with The Exchange.

Tickets for Rainbird – The Tragedy of a Painter cost £10 and £8 concessions. They can be booked at The Exchange’s box office on 0191 258 4111 or by visiting