Grayson Perry goes north to help make Britain whole again

By Vanessa Thorpe

Bridging divides was the theme as the popular visual artist delivered the first of a new Orwell lecture series in Sheffield

A mysterious and extravagantly coutured figure boarded the Sheffield-bound East Midlands Trains service at St Pancras station on Wednesday morning. Wearing a Victorian-style cape over a lavender satin minidress with a pleated collar, the visual artist Grayson Perry was leaving the capital to meet some more of his increasingly enthusiastic public audience.

Around him in the carriage were a mix of travellers from a handful of British social tribes that Perry so ably identifies, both in his art and in his television documentaries. The only thing they appeared to have in common was that they were not looking at him. It seems the pantomime eye makeup and the outlandish garb can serve as a protective forcefield. Although Perry's dressing-up habit might seem attention-seeking, it also effectively fends off the duller outside world without any hint of aggression. (Typically, Perry was quick to joke about his incongruous appearance for the journey up north, tweeting his 100,000 followers a selfie of his “grande dame” get-up underneath the words: “Wearing this outfit boarding the train to Sheffield I can kid myself it's the Orient Express.”)

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