Liverpool Philharmonic flautist who decided to run a high street gallery

A professional flautist who worked with the Liverpool Philharmonic and the Barcelona Philharmonic Orchestra has described the motivation for turning her back on a career in music to run a high street gallery.

Kathryn Cartwright said she and husband Andrew – a specialist in marketing and business development – had liked their local art gallery so much they made the decision to buy it.

They had already decided to make a dramatic change in their lives with plans to move across the North Sea to The Netherlands, and wanted to translate their passion for art into a day job.

Instead they ended up running two Wingates Gallery branches – in the city of Leicester and the county town of Market Harborough, about 15 miles to the south.

Kathryn said: “We both love art and worked in creative industries and thought long and hard about the move but decided we had to go for it, to make that leap.

“We had bought a building in Valkenburg in The Netherlands which we wanted to turn into an art gallery.

“We had applied to the local council for change of use as it was previously a cobblers.

“Our house was up for sale and we had passports for the dogs.

“We even had a leaving party with family and friends.

“Then, one night, we were out for dinner with some pals when we got round to talking about our impending adventure.

“They owned Wingates Gallery in Market Harborough and said “Why go to all that trouble and upheaval? Why not buy our gallery off us?” So that’s what we did.

“We had bought a number of art works from there and loved the place, so it felt good. It was as if it was meant to be.”

The couple bought the gallery in 2017 and say they try to sell “high quality, affordable” artwork at accessible prices and are happy for visitors to pop in and browse with no pressure to buy.

By late 2019, they decided to open a second gallery in Loseby Lane, Leicester, but six months later, the pandemic arrived and the country went into lockdown, with Leicester hit harder than most by the restrictions.

Andrew said: “When the lockdown was introduced, we had to close both galleries and then had to think creatively to survive.

“We took the gallery to our customers by having thousands of brochures printed and delivered.

“We staged drive-by viewings where people drove into our car park and stayed in their vehicles while we showed them works of art at the gallery front door.

“We also gave tours of the gallery on FaceTime and Zoom. It helped us survive and brought us closer to our customers.

“There is no doubt that we have learned a lot of lessons from the pandemic – it has made us stronger and better as a business.”

While Wingates Gallery in Market Harborough remained open when restrictions allowed, conditions in Leicester were tougher over the course of 2020.

Rather than risk continually opening and closing the gallery, it operated online only, opening by appointment in the spring of 2021.

A full reopening followed in October.

Andrew said: “The buzz and enthusiasm we have witnessed in Leicester has been overwhelming.

“After being open for a short time and closed for so long, it has been like opening a new business.

“We’re excited to be seeing people in Leicester face-to-face once more and to be able to really show the artwork as it should be seen.”

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