I feel lucky that art has given me a lifeline during this COVID year, although I’ve had to adapt a little in my approach. Usually I spend my nights in the jazz clubs or working with the team at the World in London radio where I sketch musicians. Without these opportunities I turned to creating my own radio programmes during lockdown under the supportive guidance of my A World in London friends.
I started by creating 12 episodes of the All Vinyl A to Z of Africa that were originally broadcast on SOAS Radio. The programme then made its US radio debut on Radio Nope this Autumn. The aim of the programme was to buy and share a vinyl record from each of the 61 African countries or territories.
I missed working with other creative people during lockdown so I also collaborated on The Interloper’s Guide with Kevin Acott and Harvey Wells. We made several episodes, travelling to different locations around the world, sharing music and stories. An episode dedicated to Peckham was selected for the EMERGENT VISION exhibition in October.
During lockdown I’ve missed those random discoveries and adventures. So I began buying unusual joblots of vinyl at auction. Never quite knowing what to expect I spin these records into mini radio programmes, each one based on a theme. Vinyl Joblottin’ has been one of my lifelines, I’ve currently made 23 episodes and I imagine will keep buying and sorting these wonderful gems for years to come.
Many of my radio programmes can be found on Mixcloud.
I started lockdown by drawing a series of slightly disturbing ink sketches. I worked with the author Carole Bulewski on a number of eerie podcasts that you can hear here – Tales of Confinement.
The current restrictions have been incredibly tough on the musicians I normally work with but they have still been able to release new music. I’ve been working on many album covers throughout the year starting with with Chris Rand’s new label Lunaria, first on his new Gathering album and then a duo project with Tom Remon & Jim Mullen. Possibly the biggest release has been EYOT’s new album 557799 on Ropeadope Records, it has garnered positive press from around the world. Also on Ropeadope was the release of a debut album from Archie the Goldfish, a new project from trumpeter Graeme Flowers and guitarist Chris Bestwick. Long time collaborator Juan Maria Solare released Satie: Gymnopédie No. 1 and the wonderful Shirley Smart teamed up with James Arben for a lockdown release of improvisations for cello and saxophone called Entanglement. Look out for a very fresh release by The James Patrick Gavin Trio, Live @ The Welsh Chapel features the stunning work of James Patrick Gavin, Tim Fairhall and Adrian Lever. Finally I penned artwork for Pharoah S Russell and Ruby Barker (Walk in the Park, 2020). Pharoah was the first person to ask me to create album artwork more than ten years ago, and I’ve not looked back with around 70 covers to my name.
Many exhibitions have been cancelled or gone online. This has included this year’s Art of Caring. Before the first big lockdown I participated in the Dear World Project exhibition, working with the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuro-imaging. We have been quieter than normal at CollectConnect with only Dean Reddick’s Sentinel Trees being able to break out into the physical realm. Once again I teamed up with the innovative Barbara Dougan at Grove for the Groving street art exhibition in Bury St Edmunds. What a treat it was to see such creative art on the streets once again, all with the theme of Silver Spoon. Although Being Human 2020 also went online we managed to exhibit over 100 magnetic artwork on the QMUL campus in Mile End, organised by Harvey Wells.
Books and Publishing
I have been busier than ever publishing books with our family publishing firm Sampson Low. These have included our brilliant Potcake Chapbooks series under the guidance of editor and poet Robin Helweg-Larsen. One of my most fruitful and fulfilling collaborations is with SJ Fowler and the Writers Centre Kingston & the European Poetry Festival and this year I worked on some really outstanding publications including Crowfinger (above). In December 2020 we held a special Sampson Low poetry celebration at the Kingston Quaker Centre. As an illustrator (rather than a publisher) I’ve worked with author Carole Bulewski on her new trilogy that kicked off with THE PIPER AND THE FAIRY.