Try painting in the winter

Casualty actor and Leyland lad Ian Bleasdale
Casualty actor and Leyland lad Ian Bleasdale

Casualty actor and Leyland lad Ian Bleasdale tonight launches an exhibition of his landscape paintings at Cedar Farm, Mawdesley. He speaks to Rachel Hurst about his love of brush strokes...

“Give me a script in front of 3,000 people and I’m fine but doing an exhibition is petrifying because you’ve got to talk about yourself ,

“I’m not very good at that.”

Proud Lancastrian Ian Bleasdale is returning to the county tonight to showcase 24 of his landscape paintings at Cedar Farm, Back Lane, Mawdesley.

But he’s not feeling too confident.

“I’m petrified about the launch, seriously, because, in a way, it’s like opening yourself up,” he says.

“Critics are fine in theatre and television because that’s part of the job but with the exhibition, if someone said ‘that’s rubbish’ I’d really feel terrible.

“I’d have to just go away and hide in a darkened room,” he laughs.

The Casualty star is perhaps most widely known for his role as Josh in the BBC1 series as well as roles in The Beiderbecke Affair, Inspector Morse, All Creatures Great and Small and Coronation Street.

But despite his 20-year stint in the longest-running emergency medical drama television series in the world, Ian has never stopped painting.

“I’ve done it since I was in my 20s. It is just something that I’ve always done and having an exhibition is something I’ve always wanted to do and now I’ve got the chance to do it,” adds Ian.

“I did a foundation course at art college and at the time, in the 70s, art college really wasn’t for me.

“I’m a Leyland lad, Preston North End boy, do you know what I mean?

“I wondered what they were all talking about – I thought they were all a bit up themselves to be honest!”

Ian’s paintings of the local landscapes, including Lancashire, the Ribble Valley and those further afield in Yorkshire and the South of France, can take him from 10 hours to a couple of days to complete.

And there’s a reason why Ian tends to stick to hills and dales.

“I’m not really great at figures, if you want the honest answer,” he laughs, “so I stick to landscapes.

“They’re all painted in situ whenever I can, but you know what it’s like in winter in Lancashire and Yorkshire – forget it!

He added: “Without sounding poncey, getting out there is a bit of an escape and the Ribble Valley is stunningly beautiful.”

“It’s not so much about relaxation,because it can get very frustrating as I’m not as good as I want to be, but the more I do, I suppose, the better I might possibly get.

“It’s taking a while.”

Though Ian now lives in Haworth near Bradford in Yorkshire, he stays very true to his Lancastrian heritage, and visits his sister, who lives in Croston, a lot.

But Ian misses the Leyland that he grew up in.

“I still go to Leyland, but it’s just been decimated – without sounding like an old git.

“It’s just been homogenised .

“Leyland was a cracking place but they’ve just flattened it.

“There’s a Tesco there now and that’s it.”

However, he still has a great fondness for Preston.

Ian says: “My parents and grandfather were from Preston so I have a real affinity with the area.

“There are some beautiful buildings there.

“I used to spend hours in the Harris Art Gallery, that’s a cracking building, beautiful, and the old covered market that they tried to knock down.

“Why do that?

“It’s heritage.”

He continues: “The folk are great, cracking, just so resilient and friendly.

“I’m a Lancashire boy and Lancashire folk are different; they’re quietly proud and they quietly get on with it. They don’t sound off about things.

And the former Booth’s worker is slowly trying to infiltrate his own part of Lancashire across the Pennines.

“I’m doing good work in Yorkshire spreading the word of Lancashire.

“I always have Lancashire tea because I love Booths – I used to work there when I was at school and I’m still loyal. When I bring it out and people say, ‘ooh that’s a nice cuppa’ I reply with, ‘yes, it’s LANCASHIRE tea.’

“And being a Preston North End boy doesn’t help over there because it’s all Leeds United and rugby league but, come on you Lily-whites, I’m still here.”

“It’s a beautiful county, and luckily, still somewhat undiscovered so we can still get some peace and quiet. Haworth is pretty damn beautiful but I do really feel at home still in Lancashire. “It’s the best county in the world.”

Ian’s exhibition of landscapes can be viewed throughout July and August.