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…
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.)
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…
After Mum died in March 1995, Dad never went back to his job in a sports shop. He was heartbroken, exhausted and not *that* far off retirement age anyway. Instead, he began to spend more and more time out with his camera in London – taking countless photographs of the city he knew and loved. But he didn’t always think to mention where he’d been and what he’d seen. And I didn’t always think to ask…
In compiling this book, I was once again faced with a huge challenge: which pictures to use from the many, many albums and memory cards Dad left behind?
Picture quality was a major consideration. Not all the negatives from the pre-digital shots survived and many of the A5 scans just weren’t good enough to make the final cut – which is why this one of the Royal Family on the balcony at Buckingham Palace ended up in the ‘overs’ pile…
There were also lots of pictures of celebrities: Gordon Ramsay running the London Marathon; Dawn French strolling through Trafalgar Square; and a delightful close-up of Rolf Harris at an art fair, taken back when he was a much-loved family entertainer and adopted national treasure, rather than… well… you know…
Quick! Let’s change the subject – here’s that nice Tony Hadley from Spandau Ballet…
Oh, and here’s another picture that didn’t make the book: writer and broadcaster Robert Elms interviewing a giant hamster…
So I took the opportunity to add a four-page postscript with a couple of new images: Roo‘s lovely wall from the Anything’s Better Than A Blank Wall paint jam, which was dedicated to Dad, earlier in the year; and Airborne Mark‘s beautiful Raven, a tribute wall to Dad, just round the corner from our house. Both of these were organised by the tireless Steve at London Calling Blog.
When I was first compiling the book, I tried to include as many works as possible from Dad’s favourite artists. But I had 33,000 images to choose from – and that’s just the ones he’d put on Flickr! (I’ve since found hundreds more that were just in albums.) Inevitably, there were a few glaring omissions in that first edition. I would list some of the more obvious names here – but I know I’d end up forgetting someone important again.
I will say, however, that Roo was among those omissions. Dad was always pleased to see her, and she’d happily stop work to talk to him. We took him to see her brilliant work in Tower Hamlets Cemetery a couple of months before he died. So I’m very pleased she’s in this new edition.
Hopefully, I’ll be able to squeeze a few more artists into the next print run – and eventually I can rest easy, knowing everyone’s in there. I wonder if the world is ready for a 33,000-page book, though…
We nipped home and grabbed a few copies, and after a few sales and some very kind donations, we had enough for our next contribution to St Christopher’s. Amazingly, that’s taken our total so far past £1,500. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped.
Hot on the heels of that, the good folks at St Christopher’s wrote a lovely feature about Gordon, Jane and our two books that are raising funds for the hospice. You can read it here: http://bit.ly/stcgraffitibook
We’ve said it before, but we’re amazed and proud that Gordon’s story and photos have touched as many people as they have. We couldn’t be more pleased that his legacy is living on and having such a positive impact.
Jane has written an introduction, and we’ll be posting a few more teasers in the run-up to the launch at Sheffield. Keep an eye on our social media. We’ll obviously have it for sale on here as soon as possible, as well. As with How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life, all the profits will be going to St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham.
In other news: sorry if you were waiting for the rumoured two-colour de luxe riso edition of Skating for Godot. It turned out to be a lot more eye-wateringly expensive to produce than I was anticipating. How do people afford to do a whole comic by riso? Thanks to Tracey P for being so characteristically stoical about the whole thing.