Beryl Cook’s paintings at centre of row between Radlett gallery and theatre

POPULAR artist Beryl Cook’s large ladies have found themselves in an unusual position – in the middle of a row between a gallery and a theatre.

Beverley McNeill, the owner of McNeill Fine Art Gallery in Watling Street, Radlett, who holds a regular Beryl Cook exhibition on her premises, has hit out at The Radlett Centre for allowing one to be held there.

But theatre manager Greg Dexter has defended his venue and pointed out that when the booking was taken a year ago from a local person, no-one at The Radlett Centre had realised there would be another Beryl Cook exhibition elsewhere in the village.

Ms McNeill said that as one of the independent shops in Radlett High Street, she was struggling to keep her business trading in the current financial climate and was working a six day week.

For the past 16 years she has been running her annual Beryl Cook exhibition which has proved to be very popular. She believes that by accepting a booking from someone else, The Radlett Centre had put itself in direct competition with her as a local tradesperson.

She maintained that Mr Dexter and his assistant had shown, “complete indifference to my plight” and questioned why the theatre, as the local arts and entertainment centre, had not taken into account the impact of their activities on the High Street.

She added: “Should not our local arts centre for local people not take into account the local tradespeople as well and not, at the very least, be mindful of the community impact of their activities?”

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But Mr Dexter stressed: “The way the gallery is run here, we don’t try to compete with anyone.”

He said the theatre gave priority to local artists and exhibitors and when the booking, which was from a local person, was made a year ago, they had no reason to suspect that there would be any problem as no-one had exclusivity in selling the work of Beryl Cook.

He also pointed out that as far as he was aware the two exhibitions would not clash as the McNeill Gallery tended to hold theirs in January and the one at The Radlett Centre would be held in February. He said that The Radlett Centre made very little out of its galleries, not charging people to exhibit and taking very low commission.

Mr Dexter added: “There was no intention to do her any harm. Had we known it, we wouldn’t have put it in but with the tiny number of staff we have here we can’t check with other premises.”