Strength in numbers for Sheffield artist McKee's show that champions the working class

Pete McKee at work. Picture: India Hobson
Pete McKee at work. Picture: India Hobson
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Pete McKee's upcoming exhibition marks an important personal milestone for the Sheffield painter.

This Class Works - an 'exploration and celebration of the working class' with a political edge - is his first major show since undergoing a lifesaving liver transplant, needed to treat cirrhosis triggered by a rare genetic condition.

Youth Unemployment in Elswick, by Tish Murtha

Youth Unemployment in Elswick, by Tish Murtha

But Pete is also finding room for other voices by inviting fellow artists, filmmakers and photographers to contribute work that offers their own interpretation of the exhibition's themes.

Most of the pieces are being kept under wraps until the show opens in July at warehouse space 92 Burton Road in Neepsend.

However, Pete has now given a flavour of what is in store. There will be live sculpting by Anthony Bennett - who teamed up with McKee for the Grandfather Fox statue at Fox Valley in Stocksbridge - and poetry by JB Barrington inspired by the show's paintings .

Meanwhile, muralist Jo Peel has created a visual history of Sheffield's pubs, and city-born Heaven 17 keyboard player Martyn Ware has recorded soundscapes reflecting the atmosphere of industrial sites.

Jo Peel

Jo Peel

Actor Maxine Peake has submitted written accounts of what it means to be working class, and Sheffield photographer Natasha Bright has provided a series of pictures exploring the state of traditional working men's clubs.

There will also be documentary images looking at unemployed youth, taken by the late photographer Tish Murtha, a selection of long-lost government propaganda and 'secret hidden messages in everyday items' by Sarah Jane Palmer.

Furthermore, Pete has invited a group of designers and illustrators - Cafeteria, Dust, Field, Nick Bax, Jon Cannon, Kid Acne, Patrick Murphy, Nick Deakin and Peter & Paul - to complete a special brief.

“I've always enjoyed working with other artists to achieve the realisation of some of my ideas and for this exhibition I've taken that one step further by asking some incredible artists to produce their own work for this show," he said.

Sarah Jane Palmer with one of her designs.

Sarah Jane Palmer with one of her designs.

Pete came up with the concept for This Class Works as he was recuperating from his transplant last year. "I wanted other artists to be a part of the show and make sure there was plenty of incredible work to see."

McKee, 52, grew up on a council estate as the youngest of four children. His father was a steelworker, his mother worked for a bakery, and he had jobs in a factory and as a postman before turning to art full-time.

He previously said he wanted the show to 'redress the unbalance that exists in the media and society'. "It’s important for me to show the spirit of the working class; the pride, hope, fight, passion and resourcefulness that has been their foundation."

Thousands of people went to see his 2016 collection Six Weeks to Eternity, a nostalgic look back at school summer holidays, at the Magna centre in Rotherham.

This Class Works will be open for 16 days from July 14 to 29, and visitors need to buy a ticket and book a two-hour time slot. Opening hours will be 4pm to 9pm, Monday to Friday, and 10am to 8pm at weekends. Tickets, costing £5 each including an exhibition programme, go on sale on Friday at 10am. Under 12s go free and there is limited availability for school trips.

Visit www.petemckee.com, call 0114 263 1000 or visit McKee's gallery A Month Of Sundays, on Sharrow Vale Road, in person to book.