"Tek Hod: the Faces and Fields of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling"


Sunday, Dec. 16th - 7.30pm at Currock House, CarlisleWrestling Club Slideshow of the 2012 Wrestling Season All welcome
Wednesday, December 19th - at Currock House Senior Points Night and final training session for 2012.

"What struck me was the grace and sportsmanship shown by the wrestlers. Such respect and appreciation of an opponent inspired me to make these images." This graceful compliment to Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling indicates the beginning of many miles and places, and much film for David Ellison. His solo photographic exhibition "Tek Hod: the Faces and Fields of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling" is now open at the Tullie House Museum, Carlisle, and will continue until 10th March, 2013.

In the centre of the exhibition room are glass cases with cups and belts and memorabilia from the museum collection which hint at the enduring wrestling tradition of the area. On Sunday evening at Currock House, Carlisle Wrestling Club will give a slide show of the vibrant wrestling action throughout the 2012 season. Into this world of ancient and continuing wrestling heritage came a quiet young man with a different perspective.

David Ellison's images are not concerned with the hanks and hipes and leg-up buttocks. Instead he looks more closely at the wrestlers and their costumes in stark portraiture without the distraction of crowd and movement.

At Grasmere he set up a booth in a tent beside the ring and as the action and noise went on outside he focused in on the expression of the wrestler beside him, the musculature of the arms and the embroidery of the wrestling strip. Similarly at the Academy Shield at Kendal, as the competition intensified, he quietly took his images of individual wrestlers in a separate small room.

The result is an outside and intense view of ourselves. Thomas Hardy once remarked that, in a photograph, you can always tell if a tradition is genuine because all the participants look miserable. Certainly all the wrestlers in David Ellison's portraits are serious and look directly at the camera with a calm assurance.

Although many of the photographs are of wrestlers wearing plain wrestling strips, most show the embroidery and images so important to the wearer. There are two main themes: exotic wild-life and farming; leopards snarling and tractors. One vest is an autobiography crafted in thread with a gun-dog, football, a sheep and a cow to record the wearer's interests.

The other, striking element of "Tek Hod" is the image of the ambience of our wrestling. Sometimes wrestlers are involved, but the main focus is wider: a car lost down a narrow lane trying to follow the tiny signs to "The Show", "Dancing in the Rain" at a soggy Silloth Carnival and "Dog Fall" an image at Kikheaton Show lost in darkest Northumberland, with dead tree, wrestlers and a judge with a big umbrella. The individual portraits are unblinkingly serious; but the wider images are quirky and affectionately humorous.

I like the story that David Ellison tells of going to Wasdale Head Show in 2011. There was so much continuous rain that by wrestling-time at 4pm the event had washed away to nothing and did not take place. Nothing daunted, he set up his camera and recorded the wrestling ring: a single loud-speaker, ropes, and abandoned vintage car and mist. Truly, he has brought to us an alternative view of our wrestling so that we can "see oorselves as ithers see us". I strongly recommend a visit to Tullie House to view this remarkable exhibition.

Written by © RogerRobson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott(2012)

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