SALT OF THE EARTH: BY CAROLINE

London has a staggering amount of art galleries – from the world famous, to smaller, more intimate spaces. All this splendour and choice and yet I can’t find a place to top my favourite gallery. A mere 20 miles from my hometown in West Yorkshire: the stunning and historic Salts Mill is hard to beat.

‘Salts’ as the locals affectionately know it, never fails to lift my spirits. However, grumpy or blue I walk into the gallery, I always leave feeling happy and soothed. I’m not sure if it’s the wealth of Hockney’s work hanging artfully from the walls, the way the natural light floods through the huge mill windows or the classical music playing softly in the background – Whatever it is, it’s a truly magical space.

This striking building was originally the centerpiece of Sir Titus Salt’s utopian vision of Saltaire. He built the adjoining model village to house his workers. Originally built in 1853, it produced cloth well into the 1980’s. When it finally ceased production in 1986, the late John Silver bought it, re-imaging it as a place where culture and commerce could thrive together.

My latest visit here was to share this gem with my husband and baby boy. My other half had never had the pleasure of visiting Saltaire and our boy Billy had never been to an art gallery. What a place to start!

You cannot enjoy art on an empty stomach, so our first stop was the buzzing Salts diner. We enjoyed a leisurely lunch – filling our bellies with delicious (and locally sourced) burgers and indulgent milkshakes. Resisting the temptation to squeeze in the chocolate fudge cake, we set off to explore.

We started in the 1893 gallery. This ground floor area shows pieces spanning the whole of Hockney’s career; from intimate portraits of his parents, to huge pieces of furniture from theatre sets he has designed. It’s airy, spacious nature means it is a good space to let a baby roam free for a little while. We finally left, weighed down by a tonne of postcards and with a rather tired baby.

Our next stop was the new 3rd floor Gallery. It is currently showing Hockney’s  ‘Arrival of Spring’ exhibition. This is a detailed study of the changing seasons on Woldgate (near Bridlington), West Yorkshire. The series is not only fascinating for the way in captures the beauty of the countryside, but also how it captures it. Hockney turned to his iPad to recreate this rustic setting, enthused by the speed at which he could use technology to capture the ever changing light, Hockney commented. ‘You can choose a new colour or brush more rapidly. You don’t have to wait for anything to dry’.

We finished our trip to the mill with a spot of shopping. Salt’s Mill boasts an impressive array of independent retailers. You can buy anything from children’s books to vintage furniture. You can even buy a bike or have it serviced it here.

We all left with tired feet but happy hearts. Salts Mill had worked it’s magic once again, but this time it had a whole family under its spell.