Art brings TV’s Portillo to town

PUBLISHED: 12:28 30 July 2015

Michael Portillo with artists Mark Loman (far left), Marcia Rowles and Ray Balkwill (far right).

Michael Portillo with artists Mark Loman (far left), Marcia Rowles and Ray Balkwill (far right).


Politician turned TV presenter Michael Portillo has made a whistle-stop visit to Exmouth to find out about a historic artist.

Filming in Exmouth for Great British Railway Journeys.Filming in Exmouth for Great British Railway Journeys.

Mr Portillo, who is filming the latest series of his BBC show Great British Railway Journeys, came on Saturday to meet Exmouth artist Ray Balkwill and learn more about Victorian painter Francis Danby, who lived out his final years in the town. They met at Danby’s Blue Plaque in Trefusis Terrace, which Ray helped bring about in 2004.

Ray said: “This proved to be the ideal location to talk about Francis Danby’s life and his associations with the town. We were extremely fortunate with the weather, so the stunning views over Torbay made it the perfect backdrop and showed Exmouth off it all its glories.”

After this discussion, Mr Portillo went down to the Imperial Recreation Ground, where Danby painted some of his best-loved works. There, he and Ray were also joined by painters Mark Lowman, from Exmouth, and Marcia Rowles from Exeter, and Mr Portillo tried his hand at painting a sky himself on a painting Ray had already begun.

Ray said: “Michael had never picked up a brush before, but I think he enjoyed the brief experience. I quipped that we made a good team and it would probably double the price of the painting. I also told him that Danby would be proud of his efforts and that one-day he might even get accepted into the Royal Academy. Whether that gets edited out remains to be seen.“

The new series of Great British Railway Journeys will reach our screens in January.

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