Katesgrove artist Robert Fitzmaurice and Peter Driver collaborate in Wordup!

Peter Driver and Robert Fitzmaurice

Peter Driver and Robert Fitzmaurice

Wordup! is a collaboration between Peter Driver and Robert Fitzmaurice for Reading Year of Culture. April’s theme is ‘New Writing‘ and all the works they have produced use words.

The works hang in venues around Reading, and the Whitley Pump met Robert and Peter in Picnic, at 5 Butter Market (pictured).  Robert’s work ‘High Ground’, a series of woodcuts, is on show there. Both artists are studio members of OpenHand OpenSpace (OHOS) at Brock Keep on Oxford Road. Robert is a Katesgrove resident and Peter lives in Mortimer.

The project came about as a result of a request to OHOS for artistic contributions to the Reading Year of Culture. Robert came up with the idea of  collaborating with Peter because many of his works use words and text.

They approached organisations and premises that they wanted to work with and ended up with list of nine positive responses.

Robert Fitzmaurice Peter Driver
 Central Library Eclectic games
Progress Theatre Launchpad
Special Collections Reading Room,
University of Reading
Shed Café and Milk Bar
Picnic Support-U
Overcome - Peter Driver at Launchpad

Overcome – Peter Driver at Launchpad

All the works are in place except for the banners that will be hung in Waterstones that promise to be dramatic. Peter said about the work at Waterstones:

For me that’s probably going to be my the strongest piece of work for this project…two banners that will hang on the balcony of the shop with text which relates to the history of the building and its current use.

Waterstones was the first place I thought of that I wanted to do something with, because of its history as a dissenters chapel and my interest in the whole idea of dissent in all its various forms.

Peter’s wife Liz Driver is making the banners to realise the designs. The banners will be hung on Friday 15 April, ready for the coming weekend.

Among Peter’s previous works is  a banner featuring Martin Luther King Jnr’s statement “…the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” This was first used in Peter’s public artwork, a March for Optimism, in Winchester city centre in 2014 . The purpose of the march, which was repeated in Andover in 2015, was:

Not to complain about anything, not to protest about anything, but to celebrate the existence of optimism in the world despite all the reasons for feeling pessimistic.

Peter describes himself as a lapsed artist who started making art again after his dad died in 2008. He recently completed a fine art MA at Winchester School of Art.

Both artists told me that the words and phrases in their work are selected for ambiguity and multi-valency, leaving them open to audience interpretation.

There are two short films by Robert on the Wordup website :

  • Composition 1 features lots of words that will be familiar to Whitley Pump readers, with a soundtrack of walking.
  • Composition 2 features words by Peter and Robert about night life in Reading with a soundtrack of traffic.
Freed Time - one of the works on show at Picnic

Freed Time – one of Robert Fitmaurice’s works on show at Picnic

Robert lives in Katesgrove and came to Reading in 1984 when he did a masters in fine art at the University of Reading. He is now a full time artist relishing the opportunities that he can now take,  and is very busy preparing for events and exhibitions.

At Picnic there is an exhibition of five of Robert’s woodcuts inspired by Reading’s café culture. He explained his preoccupations when producing these:

  • High Ground – a  reference to the moral high ground, Reading as a go-getting town, a witty play on coffee and the keyhole of opportunity,
  • Freed Time – about me becoming free and how cafés are all about free time (pictured),
  • Weir wired  (two woodcuts) – the weirs of Reading, and “we’re wired”; the coffee effect again and technology in Reading,
  • Trade Up – links to the high ground of ambition and commerce.

At the Special Collections Reading Room in Reading University is a work inspired  by the influential agriculturalist Eve Balfour called ‘Red Soil Remembered.’ In Reading Central Library ‘Re-Readings’ are mixed media works inspired by Reading’s character and history and at the Progress Theatre ‘mildmaypalmer’ is the name of the two halls that have housed the theatre.

You can see more of Robert’s current series of paintings, Blue Boy Conceits on his website. This series is about:

…reflections on childhood, specifically the male child, slightly autobiographical, very much about the dynamics of family and that child as it’s becoming aware of its own power in the world and growing and realising that it can pull levers with parents… points of departure for reflection about that passage from childhood into adulthood.

Influences for the series come from devotional art including renaissance altar pieces and the portrayal of the family unit in all artistic traditions around the world.


The closest Wordup work to the Whitley Pump is at the Progress Theatre, 0.3 miles away.

Participate in Wordup

As part of the Wordup! project there is a stack of postcards in Eclectic Games with an image of the woodcut ‘Our Friends Eclectic.’ People are invited to write in via the website with one sentence about what they love most about Reading. A winner will be selected from the entries who will receive the original print. Robert and Peter would also like people to tweet them words and phrases from which they will produce a positive wordle.


  1. Wordup
  2. Peter Driver
  3. Reflective Discontent: artist’s journal – more of Peter Driver’s work
  4. Robert Fitzmaurice
  5. Robert Fitzmaurice on Facebook – for examples of older works
  6. Reading Year of Culture – April
  7. OpenHand OpenSpace