I’d been asked to produce some cover art for a label I work with called Skanky Panky Records. The Ravers e.p. would feature a rave cyborg, and since their other releases featured a super colourful female protagonist, that would also be part of the brief. I came up with a piece called ‘Future Synth’, a play on the concept of synthesis in music, and her synthetic humanoid look.
It was January, and Posca UK were launching an artist of the year competition. Each month a prompt would be given for artists to use to produce a piece of work, where the best pieces were shortlisted by Posca, with a public vote to decide the winner.
The first prompt was ‘future’, and I was half way through the piece you can see to the left, so it kind of felt like fate and I entered the the competition.
After being shortlisted i took 26% of the votes, the January title, and am now through to the finals later in the year! Have to say a massive thank you to everyone who took the time to vote, there were some great entries! It was completely unexpected though and really gave me a boost heading into the new year, but it didn’t end there…
I received a call from Brink Contemporary Arts about the possibility of painting this piece on a 49 metre square wall in the heart of Leamington as part of the local mural festival. I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to scale up my work, so this was a no brainer, it would be my biggest piece. I’ve been playing a lot recently with cyborg characters and 3D used as tattoos, engines, extensions of hair or clothing, so planned to kind of freestyle some letters as part of her cybernetic body. I stretched her face to fill the wall a little bit and the positioning led to some happy accidents. I love the way the antennae sticks out of her head, and the beauty spot that was a massive 2″ thick metal bar i had to grind off the wall!
The Mural made the front page of the local newspaper and I felt pretty happy with how this story had already played out! I felt I’d nailed the painting and pushed way beyond anything I’d attempted to date. At this point I was tagged in a public vote for the best mural in the world for March 2021 by Street Art Cities.
I thought nothing of it at the time, pics get shared about a lot on the net and it was nice people were taking an interest, but with artists like Stom500, Dragon76 and Pichiavo in the line-up, I knew it wouldn’t be a walk in the park! I felt really humbled to be on a list with some of these people, my first wall at this scale no less. Then I found out I’d made a 25 strong shortlist…
Next came the call for the top 10… There was no way I’d have made it that far I told myself, and as the numbers were slowly posted out I became more sure of that fact, the quality of the work involved was truly world class, but I came 3rd! There’s a decent amount of people engaged in their site, so it felt like a fair enough sample of people to make it interesting. I’m not shy about my ambition to travel the world painting huge walls, so this felt like a great stepping stone towards that goal. Big love and a huge thank you to everyone who’s shared this Journey with me. I’ve poured everything into my work this last few years and it’s nice to get some recognition, but the real work is just beginning.
I was always into artwork, but for a long time I worked in the events industry, specifically sound engineering, producing music, and ran a few labels along the way. One of those imprints was Beta Test Records.
Back in 2013 I was working closely with the now reformed UK Glitch Hop [UKGH] crew presenting regular radio podcasts and running awards for the wider Glitch Hop community. I got involved through running a Midlands based electronic label called Beta Birmingham.
Beta Birmingham had always been seen as a local thing, a platform for what were essentially my mates to promote their productions. It was also great for me as it forced me into working to self imposed deadlines, as I’d always struggled to finish my work. I produced all the branding and artwork for the releases, so it kept me up to date with my Photoshop skills. With 5 solid releases under it’s belt and with the new found links that had been forged through UKGH, I decided I wanted to fulfill a bucket list wish and get a vinyl printed.
The record would feature 8 tracks of UK based hip hop inspired electronica, with scratch samples from each of the tracks so you could juggle the tunes live. A battle wax road tested by 4 X DMC Champion Mr Switch, presented in a 300 copy limited edition 180g black vinyl with high gloss full colour artwork that I would produce alongside one of the tracks.
“Covering a spectrum of impeccably detailed Hip Hop inspired electronics, Chemical Coercion will satisfy the most hardened veteran future b-boys and 21st century turntable technicians.”
Beta Test Records – Chemical Coercion Blurb
One evening I received an email from the British Library Sound and Moving Image Catalogue requesting 2 physical copies of the release for submission to the catalogue. I thought nothing much of it. I tried a few times to contact the library to confirm they had received the vinyl over the years, as I’d heard nothing after the email, but it wasn’t until 7 years later that my interest was peaked again.
I decided one day to call them directly, were I was reminded of the online catalogue link. I’d checked this page a good few times, but this time it was actually there!
I think there’s something innate about wanting to leave a mark after your gone, so it’s pretty incredible to know my work is now part of the national archive. I haven’t even considered making music for over 5 years since getting the paint bug back, so this felt like a really nice way to underscore what was a huge part of my life for many years. Big love to everyone who supported the release, it’s still available on vinyl via the Beta Test Bandcamp below:
I’ve been reluctant to associate myself with this project for some time, not least because I was arrested before new year and needed to be cautious about the way I intended to proceed until I had jumped through all the necessary legal hoops. This is without doubt the most daring of my protest campaigns, but also the one I feel most strongly about.
Let me set the scene…
It’s Christmas 2018. The queen sits in front of a golden piano, on a golden chair, preaching to her subjects about poverty in the UK. Condemned by the UN for cuts to public services and benefits that disproportionately affect the least well-off, the conservative government is in breach of its human rights obligations.
The tory austerity narrative has been utterly refuted. Worse still, declared ‘social murder’ by a peer reviewed study from Lancaster University. UCL research links health and social care spending cuts since 2010 to 120,000 excess deaths in England alone. 14 million people, over a fifth of the country are in poverty, with a record 60% of those in poverty in work, the highest figure yet recorded. The governments own research indicates that a shocking 4.1 million of those in poverty are also children.
As the brutal impact of DWP policy on the lives of people close to me and thousands more becomes clear, witnessing first hand the turmoil created by a regime of devastating sanctions and chaos over the switch to universal credit. Seeing the pain and unnecessary suffering brought to bear by this government upon the most vulnerable in our society, it’s safe to say there’s something sinister going on in this country.
At a time when disability benefit claimant suicide rates have doubled to 43%, nearly half! When the disabled and terminally ill are being declared “fit for work” in the face of overwhelming medical evidence, there is no question that this is an ideologically driven program of social cleansing. 70% of appeal cases are subsequently overturned, wasting thousands in unnecessary legal fees, as claimants are sanctioned starving or freezing to death in their own homes, DWP officials are claiming 44 million in performance related bonuses.
When homelessness is a crime, when poverty reigns on the streets of one of the richest countries on the planet. When homelessness has risen by a shocking 165%, and people are freezing to death on the steps of parliament, it’s time for immediate action, not platitudes about “strong and stable leadership” or any of the countless sound bites regurgitated in parliament or the media to avoid answering for their criminal legacy. Public opinion must make it clear that we will not accept this!
When our elected representatives outright lie to both the public and parliament with impunity. After repeated scandals, U turns and systemic failures, conflicts of interest, and the first government in British history to be found in contempt of parliament, they laugh and jeer when questioned about the impact of leaving the life opportunities of a generation in tatters. No mandate to govern, no real majority within their own party, let alone parliament, desperately clinging to power through bribery, deceit & electoral fraud. Compassionate conservatism laid bare.
It is against this backdrop that on the 21st December 2018 I took it upon myself to paint FIT FOR WORK in 40 metre wide letters across the front windows of the Department for Work and Pensions. They’ve tried to cover up these protests in the past, as if that would in some way hide the reality of their savage policies. A metaphor for how they’ve ignored the real human toll of their actions. So it needed to be said much louder!
“DWP, more like The Department for Wealth and Privilege, because if you don’t own property, and or fall on hard times, you might as well be invisible, better yet, dead.”
I was ultimately caught mid operation and only managed to get part of the slogan up, and there’s a video link of the police chase at the bottom of the page if you fancy a laugh, but this statement still begs the question, what is this institution “fit for”?
I was given a caution for criminal damage, conditional on the attendance of a victim awareness course and a fine of £60. The suggestion that the victim in this situation is in any way the DWP is scandalous! The crass insensitivity demonstrated here is frightening. Yes, I could have been punished more harshly, and I accept that. I thank the police for dealing with me in a respectful way, despite cuts to their own funding that have left them threadbare and completely under resourced, which was why I was taken to Oldbury, because they were understaffed everywhere else.
However, this country has a rich history of protesting that has lead to many of the freedoms we enjoy today, and it is our collective responsibility to stand up against these gross and systemic violations of peoples fundamental rights. It was infuriating to hear the police defend the DWP with statements like “you can’t fight the system”, “what’s the point?”. I explained how many of the most disgusting crimes in Human history were legal, from slavery to the holocaust, and that our government was complicit in mass murder, but I wasn’t about to change any minds. They exist to protect the very system I was fighting against.
I’ve not long completed the victim awareness course, that was meant to help me “gain an understanding of the effects of my behavior and learn to make informed decisions that will reduce my risk of re-offending”, but all it did was present me with an opportunity to discuss what real victim-hood was in a room full of people who ultimately congratulated me for my work, and suggested I should run for local MP. I think it’s clear from what has already been said here, that this was by no means an ill-informed decision. I would readily give up my liberty if I felt that it could in some small way make a difference. So, will I re-offend? Until this villainous scum are either removed from office, or brought to justice, I’d pretty much promise it!
For the future I’ll be working with The Hemp Trading Company to bring the Fit For Work concept to a series of T-shirts where 100% of the profit from these designs will go to charity, but I need your help. I’m selling Fit For Work sticker packs in store now as a means to both fund future protests, and so that you too can get involved! As we move toward what I see as an inevitable general election, we must make sure that issues like this are at the forefront of public conscience when considering who to vote for. We can not endure another 3 years of crippling austerity under the tories.