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Why pay for therapy when you can just make zines?

Jane's zines
I’m being facetious with that headline, of course. But not so long ago, I spotted a tweet from someone saying that they only made zines because they couldn’t afford therapy. And that kind of struck a chord with me…

Admittedly, I was lucky enough to receive bereavement counselling for free through St Christopher’s hospice when I was really struggling after Dad died. One of the things I was finding immensely difficult and draining was the gargantuan task of sifting through everything my family ever owned in our old house in West Wickham. Every single object had a memory attached to it. Parting with it forever seemed such a wrench. I was determined to do the right thing by everything – even stuff that had been shoved up in the loft and forgotten about since 1974.

It’s hard to move on from the past when you’re completely surrounded by it. But it was during those counselling sessions that I began to carve a path through. Talking about Dad to someone who’d never met him served to reaffirm what an incredible, unstoppable force he was – and, not for the first time, someone was fascinated to hear how Dad’s passion for photographing street art and graffiti kept him going right to the end. And so the idea for How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While) was born – providing me with an outlet in which to tell Dad’s story and somewhere to showcase a few of the 33,000-plus street art pictures I’d inherited.

Dad and Thierry Noir
Thierry Noir gets the Dad treatment

More and more things my dad saw

The incredible response to that book definitely helped me turn a corner in the grieving process. But the task of clearing the house remained – with literally hundreds of photo albums still filling the shelves and every other nook and cranny. I had absolutely no intention of throwing away photographs, I hasten to add – but they just wouldn’t all fit into our little house in Penge.

(As an aside, one winter’s day in the early ’00s, I went over to Dad’s house and noted that the temperature wasn’t very different indoors from outdoors. So I decided – not unreasonably – to turn on the gas fire. But then I discovered that the gas fire had been removed. In its place in the hole in the wall were three more shelves filled with photo albums. ‘Dad!‘)

Anyway, sifting through more of Dad’s weird and wonderful photographs led to Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning) and the inventively titled More Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning). But then there were all the old family photographs, diaries, scrapbooks and letters from way-back-when to contend with. It made me think more and more about what it was like to grow up as an only child in a happy home with three amazing parents – Mum, Dad and Nan. I wanted to tell my Nan’s story, too. And so along came the next inventive title.

Jane and Nan
Blowing out the candles – while Nan and the novelty salt cellar look on

Ken Dodd and the polystyrene head

Every time I went to the house, though, it was still full of memories. The more Tom and I removed from it, the more long-forgotten objects seemed to pour out of the walls. An ancient tin of fish food! (My last goldfish died in 1978.) A polystyrene head! (Nope – no idea who bought that or why.) A signed photograph of Ken Dodd! (It’s in a frame by my desk. You don’t honestly think I’d throw that away, do you?) And one day at the start of this year, I was reunited with ‘the radio’, having become convinced I’d accidentally thrown it out shortly after Dad died. Which radio? Well, you’ll have to read Send Me A Sign to find out.

Somehow, though, we finally managed to clear it all. And two weeks ago, I walked out of the home where I grew up for the very last time. It’s somebody else’s home now and I hope they’ll be very happy there. It’s a lovely house. But it’s just a house. And I’ve still got a loft full of photographs and a lifetime of memories to treasure.

The profits from all the titles mentioned here go to St Christopher’s hospice – with the exception of those from Nan, which are shared 50/50 between St Christopher’s and Age UK. Compiling them – with Tom’s help, of course – has certainly helped me through the past few years.

Part of me feels I should leave the past in the loft and start looking to pastures new for my next zine. The only thing is… I’ve just taken delivery of a new viewer/scanner so I can finally look through the huge crate of Dad’s photographic slides from the 1960s and 1970s. Watch this space!

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Penge street art – a blog post about a blog post

Raven by Airborne Mark

Having lured you into the Colossive blog, I’m going to send you straight out again – to a guest post I wrote for Differentville, my friend Helen’s travel blog.

This post seems to have encouraged another flurry of interest in How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While), with more book sales meaning more much-needed money for St Christopher’s hospice. Every little helps!

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St Christopher’s hospice: we’re upping our fundraising efforts

Our books and zine for St Christopher's and Age UK
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.

PS Please also take a look at Victoria Sellar’s beautiful photozines – 3:52AM and Anything With A Face. All proceeds from both go to the amazing Maggie’s Centres, who provide free cancer support and care.

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…

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Bid for this Trust.iCon print and help the hospice

The Dark Side Trust i.Con

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…

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Colossive’s Autumn tour!

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:

Saturday 26th October: 5th Annual Photobook Fair, Impressions Gallery, Bradford: We won’t actually be at this, but a few copies of How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life… will be. Huge thanks to the Impressions Gallery for selecting us (and backing other independent publishers), and remember that all profits from the book go to St Christopher’s hospice.

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).

(We’re also hoping to be at the Upper Norwood Library Hub Christmas Fair on Saturday 14th December: we’ve put in our application and have our stubby little fingers crossed.)

 

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Four new pages added to How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life…

After a flurry of surprise sales at London Calling Blog‘s Penge street art tour earlier this month, we had to order another print run of How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least For A While).

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.

Raven by Airborne Mark

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.

Roo

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…

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St Christopher’s: a fundraising update and a feature

Hi all – sorry we haven’t posted an update for a while.

The tireless Steve of London Calling Blog held another street art tour of Penge the other weekend. We toddled along as punters, but it wasn’t long before Steve was telling one and all about Gordon and How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life 

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

gub feature

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.

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Our latest donation to St Christopher’s

We’ve just made our latest donation – £102.04 – to St Christopher’s hospice from sales of How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life… and Things My Dad Saw…

That brings our total so far to £1,376.65. Thanks so much to everyone who’s bought a copy (or made a donation during London Calling Blog‘s street art tour of Penge in January).

If you’ve enjoyed either or both of the books, please spread the word so we can carry on raising funds for an amazing institution and getting Gordon’s work in front of more eyeballs. Bless you all!

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Interview with Croydonist

A couple of months ago I was lucky enough to be interviewed by the splendid women behind Croydonist“an ever-growing collection of the best bits of our borough, according to us.”

Click on the image to delve into the dark heart of Colossive (with a particular focus on Ad Astra Per Croydon).

(And take a second to notice that the star chart has been tweaked into the profile of the NLA Tower!)