When well-known Cupar picture framer and renowned stand-up poet Pete Cura Jr died unexpectedly in March with his parents by his side, it led to an outpouring of warm tributes from far and wide.
At a time when Covid-19 restrictions limited attendance at his funeral service, large crowds gathered to pay their respects outside his gallery in Burnside, Cupar, as his funeral cortege paused on its way to a private cremation and Celebration of Life in Dundee.
Pete, a loving brother, uncle and much loved and respected friend to many, passed away peacefully on March 10, aged just 61, in the company of his parents Pete and Louise at Ninewells Hospital, Dundee, after battling a rare type of blood cancer.
Now, a special exhibition of Pete’s work is taking place over three weekends at his former gallery with the opening day coinciding with C in the Park – a community celebration taking place in Cupar’s Haugh Park.
Amongst the events taking place in the Haugh Park on Saturday September 18 will be a tribute performance by Pete’s old band Milton Balgoni and the Balgoni Boyz, featuring “guests”.
Pete’s sister Louise Laing, who recently retired from teaching, said it had been “quite overwhelming” to see the response from the public when Pete died – especially as his passing had happened so quickly.
However, the cards, letters and flowers had been a “real comfort” for their mum and dad, and they were now looking forward to people having the opportunity to celebrate “Pete the man” – his life and work.
“When Steven Stewart was helping to organise this weekend’s C in the Park, he had asked if Pete’s old band Milton Balgoni and the Balgoni Boyz would like to be part of the festival, just to commemorate Pete’s life and all the rest of it – just to be there.
“They asked other musician friends if they would come and play with them – not take Pete’s place but do whatever they can to help out.
“We were always going to do an exhibition of Pete’s artwork, and we thought we absolutely need to go for it at the same time.
“If his friends are all going to be in the park, there’s an opportunity for them to come along to the gallery to see his work, because I don’t think a lot of them realised he was an artist – not just a musician. He was also a poet and did slam poetry. He had many creative talents!”
Ahead of his time
Louise explained that Pete, the oldest of seven Cura siblings, was one of the few Bell Baxter High School pupils at that time who secured a place at Edinburgh College of Art, where he studied fine art.
Describing him as being “ahead of his time”, she said it was clear he was always going to be a performer or an artist.
He started off with music and art, but latterly he also got into slam poetry and the spoken word.
He became Scottish Slam poetry champion in 2004 and organised the spoken word tent at the Wickerman Festival in Dumfries and Galloway for over 10 years.
It had been quite emotional – and daunting – for Louise and her brother John when clearing out his gallery to prepare for the exhibition.
They discovered quite a few artworks and sketches they never knew existed.
However, they had also been able to laugh at the “organised chaos” whereby Pete had known where everything was, even if no one else did.
“This exhibition is the whole family’s way of highlighting the many talents Pete had and to pay tribute to our amazing brother/son,” says Louise.
“He was just such a lovely brother and he was always there for you. There’s such a Pete-sized hole in all our lives now.
“For all six of us, having Pete as a brother with all his many talents made him not just a hard act, but an impossible act to follow.
“But we’re putting things on display for his friends to come in and see and to chat to them, because we really haven’t seen a lot of his friends since he passed away, so it’ll just be a nice opportunity for everyone to get together and just remember him really.
“We’re also putting out things that were special to him like his guitar, some of his poetry and there will be a couple of the costumes he used to wear when he was his alter ego ‘Milton’.
“There will be a few things there that will hopefully give a flavour of Pete the person in his many guises!”
T-shirts will also be on sale at the festival to raise money for Pete’s memorial fund, with proceeds going to the haematology ward at Ninewells Hospital where, over the years, staff had been “like another family” to Pete.
*The Pete Cura exhibition can be viewed at The Gallery, East Burnside, Cupar, from 10am to 4pm for three weekends, starting Saturday September 18/Sunday September 19 then at the same times on September 25/26 and October 2/3. The Pete Cura tribute by Milton Balgoni and the Balgoni Boyz is scheduled at the Haugh Park for 5pm on Saturday September 18.
C in the Park runs at the Haugh Park from 11am to 11pm on Saturday September 18 alongide other events taking place in Cupar from Friday September 17 to Sunday September 19.