795 kilometres separate San Sebastiàn from Santiago de Compostela in the north of Spain. While the distance might seem daunting to any walker, it was even more so for Brian Marr.
When he launched onto what is known as the Camino del Norte, it was just five years after being diagnosed with transverse myelitis. The condition is a neurological disorder caused by the inflammation of the spinal cord which leads to severe pain in the lower back and the legs, resulting in most cases in paralysis. Brian was one of the lucky few and through rehabilitation at Overdale and regular exercise at Fort Regent, he recovered the use of his legs.
While still suffering from pain and cramps, he decided to tackle the long walk in April 2016 when he was “fit enough” to do a walk he had always dreamed of. He walked with his wife Mary and raised £5,000 for Headway Jersey, which will be used to buy “ground breaking” physical rehabilitation equipment. “It was challenging, much more than one realises. The rain made it really difficult and so did the various uphill and mountainous sections. If I had researched the walk before going, it might have frightened me but the donations so many people made acted as an incentive. I couldn’t let them down!”
Pictured: Brian Marr in his workshop.
Brian’s Spanish journey didn’t completely end once he returned to Jersey. Over the 40 days of walking, he took hundreds of photographs, landscapes, seascapes and sunrises he saw along the way. From these shots, he created 25 oil paintings which are going on show this month. “It is quite a personal challenge to expose oneself to judgment and hoping others will like the paintings.”
Born in 1943 in Southampton, Brian moved to Jersey in the 1970’s with his wife and their two children, to work as a corporate manager at Barclays in Library Place. What was meant to be a temporary placement continued until Brian retired 13 years ago. “I am very fortunate that my career gave me the opportunity to come to Jersey. It is a lovely, safe environment and it was a wonderful place to bring my children in.”
With lots of free time available once he retired and after touring Europe for six months, which included a particularly inspiring trip to Venice, Brian took up painting. “It is very relaxing and quite rewarding to create something that resembles what you have seen. It easily complements my other hobby, golf, which takes me outside and keeps me fit.”
Pictured: Misty mountains near the Monastery of Sobrado dos Monxes.
Following a painting course at the Jersey Society of Artists, he became a member, then Secretary and finally President three years ago. As his term of office nears its end, Brian says it was “great fun.” There is no doubt that many of the members will come to the Arts Centre to show their support to Brian in what will be his first solo exhibition.
Brian Marr’s first solo exhibition, 'Views of the Camino del Norte, St James Way, North Spain', opens at Jersey Arts Centre will be open until 16 September daily from 10:00 to 17:00. Any proceeds from the sales will go to Headway Jersey.
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