I was born in 1957 in Nottingham at Sherwood Maternity Hospital and baptised by the Bishop. My father was in rep at the theatre there at the time with Fortesques Players. I used to sometimes worry that I ended his acting career. We lived in a basement flat in the Park, it had once been the ballroom of the property. Above us, lived an ex-Indian army doctor with a large dog. A footballer lived on the top floor, a teacher who only ate spaghetti between and we had keys to the communal garden where servants aired their employers babies. Down the street was the Bishops house where my mum took lessons in being a Catholic.
After my brother was born we moved to my father’s parents house in St Helens. I remember the beauty of the stain glass in the doors, the thick green glazed wall tiles and the deadly angle of the staircases. Outside the smell of sulphur mingled with the scent of hops on the cobbled streets. Every other street had a chip shop at one end. In summer, we sat out in the hot cobbled yard defending our fish and chips from the ants.
We moved next to Manchester, where I discovered the horror of school. First St John Bosco’s Primary prison camp. I escaped a few times from there. Next Notre Dame High School, less physically dangerous and more fun. A hybrid of old and new, teaching and building. It had one of the best libraries I’ve known. I discovered Baudelaire and Isodore Ducasse on it’s surprisingly broad shelves. I took classical Civilization, medieval History, Latin and Art and planned to become an Archaeologist.
Ultimately Art won out over Archaeology, though I still sift my garden for treasures. I was accepted onto Manchester Polytechnic Foundation Course, initially planning on a career in Graphic Design and Illustration. The course was magnificent, both wide-ranging and detailed in the selection of skills it exposed me to and it had the largest store of oil paint I had ever seen. I think it was the smell of the oil paint that decided me on a Fine Art future over Graphic Design – that and the stressed-out Graphics students I met at that time.
Leeds Polytechnic Fine Arts Dept. was an entirely different kettle of fish. The paint was harder to get at but there was a strong performance tradition and they had a budget that would get you anything from pigs blood to plaster bandage. Looking back now, Leeds in the 70’s had the atmosphere not dissimilar to a war zone both within and without the walls of the Polytechnic. I learnt a lot of things beside art.
After Leeds I trained as a wrestler, I saw the advert and thought I’d give it a try. It had the potential for both Performance and Art but I have an odd spine and things were getting dangerous so I moved on to Arting with fellow Artists.
In the early 80’s I worked with a group of artists first in Holmfirth, re-examining the principles of dada and the exquisite corpse, then for a short but intense period in a partially renovated country house in Norfolk – but it grew harder to be creative and eat.
In the mid 80’s, now living in Halifax, I became one half of a small greeting card company ‘Dark Card’, designing and occasionally selling my pop up black and white creations. I met some very interesting people but it was hard to find time to simply do art.
So I moved to Hebden Bridge and began painting once more. I joined Northlight Art Space, a cooperative working from studios in an old cotton mill. I exhibited in local galleries and art centres and played water cistern and angle iron as part of a band known as ‘The Cajun Crocodiles’, an amalgam of fellow artists and musicians.
From there I moved with my partner and two children to Wigtown, Dumfries and Galloway shortly before it entered and won the competition to become Scotland’s National Booktown. It’s where I live now. I still do art though I’m aiming to write it these days. I’m in the process of rewriting a tale of sorcery and madness first conceived in the nineties, written down in the noughties then left to simmer until just recently, when the next episode decided it wanted to be born.