My grandad, Victor, always had a 35mm or a super 8 camera in his hand and he showed me how beautiful music could be from an early age. Playing songs from thousands of years and miles ago on a Hammond in church halls with a bunch of stuffy strangers can create a sense of euphoric togetherness. I’ll never have a musical experience like sitting on his knee and playing the right hand part of the ‘Old Rugged Cross’ while he did the chords & the pedals. He always said, ‘record everything you do and listen back, it’ll make you better…’ and course, he was right.
But I didn’t pursue an artistic career. I did a vocational science degree despite my GCSEs & A levels results saying language was my thing. I earned a weak 2:2, enough to earn entry to the salary trap. I could earn a grand a month working for a low rent credit firm, buy a Roland Space Echo and learn how to make it sing. That felt like it could be what I wanted, so it’s what I did. I was in a series of bands, playing guitar, recording, producing, taking photos, making album covers and posters and playing shows, then back to work Monday morning where it meant nothing and every question is answered with who cares, anyway. You are not an artist. You are you are a solution engineer, you are a project manager.
Art is magic, though, and it transcends all that. Anyone can make it & everyone should. I was lucky because I got a second chance. I lost my job in 2018 and there was nothing else, so I decided to pursue a lifelong dream and make my living from art. I had some help in this, an important & inspiring person told me that I could do it, I just had to do it. That there is only doing it or not doing it. There is no training programme, no certification, no permission required. There are no closed doors. Doors only feel closed because other people have such fragile egos that they are threatened by the presence of others trying to play in the same park. Some believe that there is a finite amount of love to go around. By dismissing and debasing others who try, they are trying to further their own cause. This is a fascist ideology. Anyone who tries to tell anyone else that they shouldn’t make art is self-serving and should examine their own motivations. Everyone can play, they said. I can make things & so can you.
She told me I could do it, she believed in me, she was right and now so do I. I’ve done photoshoots with incredible people in incredible places. I’ve imagined music videos & learned the skills necessary to bring them to life, seen my name in the credits. They say I have an eye for it, turning my lens on things. I’ve stood on stage in theatres & arts centres all across Europe. Everywhere I go, there are people who take me seriously, assume I have a right to be there, ask me what I think, let me contribute, value the opinion of a stranger from a portacabin school in the middle of nowhere. And there are others who won’t give me the time of day, criticise my presence on their side of imaginary doors, with the wrong clothes and the wrong accent and the wrong qualifications, who are so threatened by my presence (“what if he takes something I could have otherwise had?”) that they belittle & humiliate me, sometimes loudly but more often than not, in silent and imperceptible ways. It can be tiring & depressing but I know they are wrong and so I try to laugh in their faces and make what I make anyway.
So, now, I’m a photographer. I’m a filmmaker. I’m a musician. I’m writing a new album. I record it in December then self-release it in February / March 2020. It will be available on CD & on Bandcamp. I’m making it because I believe that I can & so does she. I won’t tell you the title yet, because it’s too early. The photograph here is from the same photoshoot as the cover, but it isn’t the same image. Just similar, to give you an idea of how it will look. I’ll make it as good as I can, and I hope some of you will enjoy it.
Thanks for reading and please – do make things. I meet so many people who say, ‘I wish I could be brave and make a change, like you did.’ Do your work, and make things too. Do it anyway. You are allowed. You do not need anyones permission, you don’t need to change. If you make art, you’re an artist. The people who do it for a living are just the same as you and anyone says you shouldn’t, you tell them from me that they are wrong.
I’m still just sat there playing the right hand part, in awe of all the beautiful things that I get to see & hear. It’s worth fighting for.
Photograph by Trevor Hamilton.