Mary paints the town Fred in Elwell festival at the East Riding Theatre

Thu 26th May 2022
Hannah Levy As Mary Elwell

“Paint the Town Fred is drama at its best” - Wendy Loncaster Elwell’s Biographer

Following a sell out run in April, new play, ‘Paint the town Fred’, written by Gordon Meredith, will return to the East Riding Theatre in Beverley from Thursday 9th to Saturday 11th June 2022, alongside a festival of Elwell themed events including a gallery tour, talk by Wendy Loncaster, artist workshops and Q&A with the cast, director and writer.

After seeing the first run of the play at the East Riding Theatre and Ferens Art Gallery in April, Wendy Loncaster, the leading authority on the Elwells, said:

“I was exceptionally honoured to have played that biographical part in this most successful drama and I pay tribute to Gordon Meredith and the whole production team for Paint the Town Fred. I enjoyed this spectacular performance so much that I saw it twice over, and have to say that I was always convinced, and loved every minute. The play has shone a glowing light upon the Elwells, as real people; bringing our artists, Fred and Mary, very much to the fore. At the same time, Paint the Town Fred is drama at its best: it draws our attention. There is wit, dramatic contrast, surprise and aplomb, from the very start.”

Thanks to funding from the East Riding of Yorkshire Council, writer Gordon Meredith was commissioned to research, write and produce the play by the Museums and Archives team at the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and received funding from the Arts Council England, and the Humber Museums Partnership.

“We have had some fantastic feedback and I have been really very encouraged by the warm words that people have had for the production”, said Gordon. “People have stopped me to say how much they enjoyed the performance and how much they learned too. Some people have even said it is the best thing they have seen at the theatre for years!”

It is particularly pleasing for Gordon to know that people are having fun and learning at the same time as this is a key objective of his ‘Folk Theatre’. “It’s great to be able to work with material about real life events and it was very inspiring to get behind the scenes at the Beverley Art Gallery to see the Elwell paintings.”

In this play, Gordon uncovers the real-life stories behind Fred and Mary Elwell’s creative partnership. They lived full and fascinating lives as they travelled and toured widely, throughout East Yorkshire, London and Europe, and a little known fact is that Mary was a skilled artist in her own right, often exhibiting at the Royal Academy as well as other galleries and exhibitions around Europe.

The project was originally developed through conversations with Helena Cox, the former curator of the Beverley Art Gallery, which has an unrivalled collection of works by the Elwells. Gordon then worked closely with Wendy Loncaster, the leading authority on the Elwells as well as Val Wise who has also written a biography about Fred Elwell.

Gordon explained: 

“The story of the Elwells is a great local story for the East Riding. Many people know about Fred and his work, but not as many are aware of Mary, or that she was also a successful artist; this play will look at their colourful background and relationships, their adventures and their travels. We will see the legacy of their professional relationship as we tell the story of the people behind their paintings.”

Returning to the stage in June will be Hannah Levy as Mary Elwell and Michael Kinsey as Fred Elwell, with Laura Peterson playing the Housekeeper Elizabeth Chapman and Gordon Meredith playing Mary’s first husband Alfred Holmes. The play is directed by Richard Avery.

Tickets for ‘Paint the Town Fred’ and more information about the festival of events can be found here on

Photo attached show Hannah Levy as Mary Elwell at work in her studio. Photographer credit, Tristan Tappin.

Just Beverley