Peterlee’s ‘ageing’ design inspires new generation of artists

The Apollo Pavilion on the Sunny Blunts estate in Peterlee, which has just undergone a �400,000 revamp.
The Apollo Pavilion on the Sunny Blunts estate in Peterlee, which has just undergone a �400,000 revamp.
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AN AGEING new town’s design has inspired a fresh exhibition and the next generation of artists.

The display by Toby Paterson was sparked by the work of Victor Pasmore, who was one of a team who played a key role in Peterlee’s development, and looks at its distinctive architecture and environment.

An Experiment in Total Environment aims to shed a new light on the Constructionist movement and is part of a wider, two-year project reflecting the town’s past.

It has also drafted in young artists from the town, who have put together their own interpretations of Pasmore’s work and the Apollo Pavilion concrete sculpture, and have been drawn directly on a wall alongside the show at the DLI Museum and Durham Art Gallery, as part of the Big Draw celebration.

The show will open on Saturday and is organised by Durham County Council, the Apollo Pavilion Community Association and Northern Architecture.

Early in his career, Toby produced a series of works inspired by the pavilion, on the Sunny Blunts estate in the south west area of the town.

At the time, the artwork was in a serious state of disrepair, but following its refurbishment in 2009, Paterson got more involved.

He said: “For more than a decade now, I’ve been fascinated by the innovative yet flawed legacy of the uniquely daring piece of post-war design that is Peterlee.

“In many ways, this particular New Town is a concentrated vignette of the British post-war built environment.

“Shifts in politics, industry and society that have impacted on the lives of Peterlee’s population is visually manifest in the fabric of the town, making it an intriguing place for anyone interested in how the places we live end up looking the way they do.

“However, the involvement of Pasmore in the design of the entire south west are of the town in the 1950s and 60s makes it uniquely fascinating.”

The exhibition, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, features new works by Toby alongside reliefs, paintings and prints produced by Pasmore at the same time as he was involved with the development of Peterlee.

Visitors will also be able to view an original piece created by a group of young artists during a workshop with Toby.

Drawn directly on to the gallery walls, the artwork was produced as part of the national Big Draw project and forms part of an associated exhibition of student work in the museum’s gallery two.

Gallery three, meanwhile, will host a video installation by North East artist John Topping.

An Experiment in Total Environment runs until March 3.

More details are available from the venue on 384 2214, email via visit

Twitter: @EchoEastDurham