It’s been nearly a year in the making. After all, it takes a while to sift through 10,000 photographs. But More Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning) is finally here. This is the second collection of Dad’s bizarre and baffling London street photography. And it’s even bigger – and a little bit brighter – than the first.
Like most people, we’ve been trying desperately to look on the bright side of life over recent weeks. And if the global pandemic hadn’t pretty much put us under house arrest, chances are I still wouldn’t have finished going through Dad’s albums. On balance, of course, I’d definitely prefer that to be the case. But it’s also true that – three years after his death – Dad’s been helping us get through the uncertainty, upset and boredom of lockdown.
The photographs he took on his London wanderings have kept us entertained and intrigued as we made the final selection for the book. They’ve also helped us feel connected to the city we love while we haven’t been able to get out there and enjoy it properly for ourselves. There are some sadder shots among them – but on the whole, Dad’s pictures show the capital at its very best. It’s loud. It’s crowded. It’s colourful. And it’s the best place in the world.
Look, I know we could all do without yet more misery at the moment, but please hear me out… Due to you-know-what (I can’t even bear to type its name), our local hospice – St Christopher’s – has had to cancel all the vital fundraising events that were planned for the spring and summer.
It’s 25 years today since my wonderful, irreplaceable mum died – with Dad, Tom and I at her side – at St Christopher’s. And three years ago today, we were having one of the worst days ever at home with Dad, who was suffering severe symptoms stemming from his cancer and a recent hospital-acquired infection. Frankly, it was unbearable.
And then St Christopher’s came to our rescue. Later that week, Dad was admitted to the inpatient unit in Sydenham for symptom control and to give Tom and me a rest. By the weekend, he had perked up considerably and we were able to take him out from the hospice to look at the amazing street art that had started to pop up in Penge.
If you’ve read How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While), you know the rest. Yes, Dad’s love of graffiti and street art gave him (and us) focus and meaning at a time when our world was otherwise falling apart. But it was the invaluable support and care we received from St Christopher’s that really made those final few weeks as smooth and bearable as they possibly could be.
Our family owe St Christopher’s a huge debt, which we’ve been trying to repay in some small way by donating all the profits from How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While) and Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning). As you may know, we’ve now raised more than £2,500, with a little help from our friends. Oh, and I should add that the idea for the graffiti book really came to life during bereavement counselling sessions I received via the hospice.
I’ve also just written a little zine – Send Me A Sign – which is about Mum’s messages from beyond the grave (possibly). It’s only £2, but we’ll be donating all the profits from that to the hospice, too. And we’re already giving half of the profits from Nan to Age UK – but we’ll now give the other half to St Christopher’s.
I realise everyone’s watching their pennies at the moment. And there are lots of other worthy charities across the UK who are feeling the pinch and equally deserving of our support. But, you know, if you’re in the market for a book or zine while you self-isolate/try to ignore the news… Every little helps.
PPS On behalf of Mum, who is doubtless rolling her eyes at me in the afterlife, I would just like to say that – unlike everything else I’ve written for Colossive – my next zine will NOT include any mention of her dying. After all, she did lots of other things, too. And out of everything she did, the bit where she died was definitely my least favourite…
Isn’t it always the way? When I was compiling Nan at the end of last year, I was convinced I’d once seen some photographs of Nan as a little girl. But try as I might – and God knows I tried – I couldn’t find these pictures anywhere.
And then a few days ago – when I was, naturally, searching high and low for something else of great importance – I stumbled across a grey cardboard folder containing around 30 assorted family photographs from way-back-when. (I think Dad assembled this little collection when he was going through his ‘genealogy phase’ in the late 1990s.)
Anyway, here’s the aforementioned picture of Nan when she was about three or four years old, I think…
This would have been taken soon after the rapid change of fortunes that saw her mum, Gertrude, marry Bill – the man Nan came to call ‘Dad’.
And here’s Granddad (fourth from right, with his tin hat at a jaunty angle) and his fellow air raid wardens in Dulwich during World War II…
I was also very pleased to find this picture of Granddad (back row, left) with his parents and siblings in around 1920…
Aunty Jimmy is missing from the line-up for some reason. Perhaps she was making the tea. But that’s Aunty Pussy striking a pose with a kitten in her arms in the foreground. I’m wondering now whether Aunty Pussy’s rather ‘unusual’ name was due to her love of cats. It’s a much nicer theory than some I’ve come up with over the years.
And finally, here’s Nan circa 1980 – continuing the family’s love of wearing off-kilter headgear…
The crown was mine, by the way. But I didn’t mind lending it to genuine royalty…
Three years on, it’s testament to the hard work and tenacity of Steve at London Calling Blog – as well as the huge talent of the many street artists he’s lured to SE20 – that Penge now boasts an incredible open-air gallery to rival any other urban art hotspot in the world. And that’s why yesterday’s Penge street art tour, in memory of Dad – a Sunday stroll around most (but not all) of the walls – lasted a whopping six-and-a-half hours.
Steve and project volunteer John gave up their time to lead the walk – while Airborne Mark made an early start on Maple Road, painting yet another brilliant piece for Penge. Despite it being a typically cold and miserable end-of-January day, there was a huge turnout. Admittedly, some people did have to go home for lunch and/or a lie-down three or four hours into the walk – but there were still around 20 hardy souls who stayed right to the end!
Thanks to everybody’s generosity, the event raised £258.90 from donations and book sales for the hospice. That brings our running total up to £2,486.70 – and there’ll be more money on the way very soon. A massive thank you from the bottom of our hearts to Steve, John, Mark and everyone involved with the project.
And thank you Penge. (Shoreditch is so last decade.)
It’s just over 24 years since Nan died – so why suddenly write a little book about her now?
I read somewhere that most people are ‘forgotten’ within three or four generations. We hand down stories about our parents and grandparents – but beyond that, things tend to get a little hazy. I never met my great-grandmother, Gertrude – we missed one another by just over a year – but thanks mainly to Mum and Nan, I’ve been armed with enough colourful anecdotes and black and white photographs to form a vague picture of the kind of person she was. But that’s all it is: vague.
Nan, however, lives large in my mind. I don’t think a day has passed when I haven’t looked at her photograph, said her name out loud or at least thought of her. I can still hear her voice. And if I close my eyes and focus, I can feel her hand in mine. I miss her terribly.
I don’t want Nan’s memory to fade away to nothing. But Tom and I don’t have any children. We’re the last of the line in both our families. There’s nobody obvious to pass these stories on to. In the main, this doesn’t worry me. I can’t grieve for people who never existed. It’s exhausting enough grieving for the ones who actually did. And yet…
It’s hit me harder over the past two-and-a-half years since Dad died. The family home where I grew up – an end-of-terrace house with Nan’s little flat on the side – is finally empty, and Tom and I have been tackling the gargantuan task of clearing out everything my family ever owned. The clothes, the crockery, the furniture, the toys, the ornaments, the plethora of vintage sporting equipment: most of them are easy enough to part with. But what about all the photographs, the letters and the other little mementos that somehow clung on through time?
Some people would have just chucked them all in a skip. And I know that’s what will happen eventually – but not on my watch! They’ve helped me through the grieving process, to revisit the happy and not-so-happy days of the past and to tell the story of my Nan, and my relationship with her.
Nan was my ‘third parent’. I was so lucky to have her – particularly when my other two parents were pretty special, too. She spent her entire life looking after other people and never wanting anything more than what she already had. I wish I could be more like her.
So in short, I wrote Nan because I wanted to share her story. I didn’t want her to be forgotten. I wanted somewhere to store all these anecdotes and memories. I really hope you enjoy it…
We’re very excited to announce that we’ll be auctioning The Dark Side – a limited-edition silkscreen print by street artist Trust.iCon – to raise funds for St Christopher’s hospice, in memory of Gordon Gibbens (or ‘Dad’, as I prefer to call him). Make your bid here.
When we published How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While), we were overwhelmed by the response from the graffiti and street art community – many of whom had got to know Dad over the years, and had grown accustomed to him popping up behind them with his camera when they were working on a wall.
Trust.iCon had never met Dad. But when he found out about the book from Steve at London Calling Blog, he immediately bought four copies and posted about it on Instagram, generating lots more sales and more much-needed funds for the hospice. And then he went a step further and sent us this amazing print (plus a couple more – so watch this space)…
We’re hugely grateful to Trust.iCon for this truly amazing gesture. And we know Dad would be so pleased and proud, too – although, like us, he’d be hugely tempted to keep the print for himself!
As I mentioned in the book, we made a special trip to Queen’s Park on Christmas Eve 2016 so that Dad could take a picture of a new piece by Trust.iCon that had popped up next to the station. It took us about two-and-a-half hours to get there by train and bus. And we only got the shot after a florist agreed to dismantle his stall, which had been obscuring the work.
That wasn’t our only stop that day, though. We then headed for Latimer Road to see another new work by Trust.iCon that Dad was desperate to photograph…
(Dad was happier about it than his expression in this picture would suggest – honestly!)
Nearly three years on, and – thanks to London Calling Blog’s SprayExhibition20 project – Trust.iCon is now a regular visitor to Penge, where Tom and I live. There’s a Snoopy-based work on a garden wall just round the corner from Colossive Towers, and this Trump-meets-Lucy masterpiece from earlier in the year has become a firm favourite with everyone…
So even if you live miles away – Queen’s Park or Latimer Road, for instance – and it’s a bit of an effort to get to Penge on a freezing cold winter’s day, it’s well worth coming to see…
Friends of Colossive! Sorry we haven’t been very vocal on here of late, but if you keep an eye on our Twitter and Instagram, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what we’ve been up to.
Anyway, as the days are getting shorter, colder and – let’s be honest – considerably more miserable, we’ll be fighting the gloom by firing up the XR3i and taking the Colossive Experience on the road again to the following events:
Sunday 27th October: DIY Space for London Zine Fair(London SE15): We really enjoyed tabling at this fab venue back in the balmy days of summer, and we’re looking forward to heading back. DSFL is a brilliant venue that does fantastic work in giving everyone a voice. There’s always a fascinating collection of exhibitors, and we’re particularly looking forward to seeing how the print collective is shaping up.
Saturday 16th November: St Christopher’s Christmas Market (Kingsdale Foundation School, London SE21): This is obviously one that’s very close to our hearts, given our connection with St Christopher’s. A word to the wise: you can save yourself a quid by buying an entrance ticket in advance (£2).
Sunday 1st December: Made in Croydon (Boxpark, Croydon): Taking place in the shadow of the NLA Tower (‘No 1 Croydon’), this is a bit of a homecoming in our roles as custodians of the history of Croydon Spaceport. We’re really excited about this – as well as the usual Colossive goodies, we’re hoping to be launching a (small) range of new Croydon Spaceport merch!
Sunday 8th December: Catford Comic and Zine Fair (Blythe Hill Tavern, London SE6): Thanks to Henry and Stan Miller for inviting us back to the most convivial comic and zine fair in the calendar, held in one of London’s friendliest and most acclaimed boozers. It’s a little show that punches way above its weight in terms of the talent it crams in, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to come and blow the froth with some exceptionally pleasant and talented people (and us).
If you ever attended one of the now legendary Monthly Eruption events at the Colossive Gallery, you’ll remember some amazing musical talent that didn’t so much push the envelope as tie a 16th-century rocket to its back and launch it against a nearby fortified town.
So, with Colossive having taken the printed page in bold new directions, it seemed like the next logical step for us to knock the world of music off its axis and roll it down the stairs. No industry is safe from our urge for disruption!
Our 2019 catalogue brings you the first wave of releases (with drop dates to be firmed up). Along with some old Eruption faves such as The Exiled Tarquins and Alabaster Chambers, we’re pleased to introduce new acts such as Horwich Loco Works Open Day, Orthopraxy and Disastrous Twilight Sheds. Look below for a few choice highlights.
The catalogue is a snip at £2, which will be refundable against a future purchase of Colossive music*.
LEND YOUR EARS TO THE COLOSSIVE SONIC REVOLUTION!
* Subject to availability. Terms and conditions apply.
We had a splendid time at Northwest Zinefest last week – especially considering some of us had slightly lost the run of ourselves at a friend’s landmark birthday party the previous night…
Anyway, moving swiftly on… Admittedly we’ve only done four zine fairs so far, but this was by far the busiest and the salesiest. It probably helped that it was in a destination venue anyway (the very stirring People’s History Museum), and the biblical rainfall may have driven more people inside. However, it was really nicely organised and <grimace> curated, and we had a thoroughly enjoyable time.
One of the nicest things that happened was a visit from Elena and Nicola of the Wellcome Collection, who bought copies of Emergency and 3:52 AMfor their burgeoning zine collection. Here’s an article about some of the zines in their collection. If you’ve got anything you’d like to suggest or donate to them, I’m sure they’d be very pleased to hear from you: email address on the flyer.
We also had a lovely conversation about Emergency with a man with autism and dyspraxia, who clearly related to it a great deal and said he was going to send a copy to his mum and dad, to show how much he appreciates the degree to which they supported him and fought for him during his childhood.
Huge thanks again to Iestyn and VJ Sellar for letting us publish such powerful and personal work, and thanks to Wellcome for picking it up.