When Chris Wadsworth, and husband Michael, upped sticks in the South and moved north to the Lake District she had no inkling she was about to begin a new life as the owner of an art gallery. The small town of Cockermouth was hardly at the cutting edge of contemporary art - as the well-meaning locals were at pains to point out. 'You've got to have views,' they told her. 'That's what people here want!' Chris had other ideas. And they didn't include views. Instead she set out to find artists - famous, infamous, lost and unknown - whose work would eventually make her gallery in little-known Cockermouth not just a local but an international success. But artists are a funny bunch, and art springs from the most unexpected sources. Like Karen, the farmer's wife, whose Turneresque canvasses were painted with whatever came to hand - hessian, skirting boards - but 'mainly in Dulux'. Or the reclusive, transvestite Percy Kelly, whose refusal to exploit his art for personal gain, and troubled relationship with his estranged family, might have seen his work lost for ever if not for some surprising twists of fate.
In Hercules & the Farmer's Wife Chris tells their stories, and recounts the many other unlikely incidents -from the exploding treacle pudding and the mystery of the Purple House, to knitting vicars flogging Mick Jagger carpets - that make up life in a Cumbrian art gallery. By turns funny, and others bittersweet, Chris Wadsworth offers a private view of the wonderful world she discovered when she made art her business. Chris Wadsworth is the gallerist of Castlegate House Gallery in Cockermouth. Her exhibitions have included artists such as L.S. Lowry, Sheila Fell, Bill Peascod, Percy Kelly, Winifred Nicholson and Mary Fedden.