Monday, 26 October 2015


In September 1990 I began the daily commute to school in central Bristol from Horfield, down Gloucester Rd, across the centre and up Redcliffe hill. For 5 years I traveled this route twice a day and was always accompanied by my Sony Walkman and a rucksack that contained more copied rave tapes than textbooks. 

My school years coincided with the rise of the U.K. underground rave scene and once I had discovered it, was immediately hooked. Those mysterious bleeps, psychedelic flyers and parties shrouded in secrecy captured my curiosity and soon I was 'staying over at a mates house' most weekends and experiencing the scene first hand at Sutra at the UWE, Ruffneck Ting at the Depot and Bristol Exposure at Easton Community Centre. I managed to cobble together a battered belt drive turntable with my mums stack system and a broken Made2Fade mixer and taught myself to mix. I began taking every opportunity I could to make my way home via Replay Records in the Bearpit, spending whatever money I could beg, borrow and steal on hot off the press hardcore and jungle vinyl.

The route I used to take to get from school to Replay cut straight through Temple Park and right past Temple Church. And if my memory serves me correctly, I don’t think I have actually been back there since.

On Thursday this week Chicago based artist Theaster Gates’ project ‘Sanctum’ will begin within the bombed out remains of the 14th century site and continue for 24 days until Saturday 21st November. A remarkable structure will rise from within Temple Church and will host a continuous programme of sound over 552 hours and create an intimate gathering place in which to hear the city like never before.

I have accepted an invitation to host a 60 minute slot at Sanctum and will be using the opportunity to retrace some of my personal history through music. It is a real honour to be able to do this in a place that has meaning from an earlier period in my life and is perhaps more than just a coincidence.

Ill be taking it back to my old school days playing an all vinyl live DJ mix of tunes that informed my youth and document the rave years ’87-’97. These are all well loved, 25 year old records - Embrace the snap, crackle and pops.

Email: for more info.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Thank You Felix

Rewind to the summer term 2006 and i'm sat in a warm City of Bristol College classroom at College Green, selecting my options for the final modules of a PGCE post 16 teaching qualification. I could never have known where that the split second decision I made on little more than a quick process of elimination would lead me. I opted to study ‘Embedding ICT into Learning’, which I hoped might bring me some fresh ideas of ways I could use new digital technology with the socially marginalised young people I was working with at the time. I took those ideas and a whole lot more…
I first met you on a Friday morning as a small group of us somewhat reluctantly shuffled into the corner of the College’s Learning Resource Centre (or library as they are perhaps more commonly known) as you introduced yourself as our ‘learning guide’ for this module. In an instant I knew that you was a man with whom I could relate; someone who clearly saw yourself more as a learning-mentor than a traditional ‘teacher’, a great speaker and even better listener. You spoke of your experiences of using ICT as an effective resource for distance learning – where groups of people can connect for educational purposes online and outside of a classroom setting – and gave us fantastic stories about linking up with people on North Sea oil rigs and holding seminars with them using communication tools such as Skype. 
Our task was simple; to go ahead with our usual teaching/mentoring/learning facilitation and report back to the group via a blog that you had created for us. You dished out the log in and password codes to each student and advised us that there was no need to return to the LRC for a physical meeting, our attendance and coursework would be assessed online via the blog – at least one post a week before midnight each Friday for the next 12 weeks.
I was astounded. Here we were studying at degree level, learning to be teachers and lecturers and my new course leader told me there is no need to return to a classroom and that it is perfectly acceptable to create and submit my work via what many people would consider (in 2006 at least) to be little more than a social networking tool. The College at that time was vehemently against the student use of any forms of social networking within the LRC and our task was to use exactly this – and immediately I could see the value of using new forms of media to enrich and encourage an alternative way of teaching and assessing.
I wasted no time in adopting your new approach to embedding ICT into my sessions and almost immediately got a small group of young people (who the education sector would describe as NEET) to create their own blogs and begin to use them as a way of documenting the work they had created a chronological diary fashion. These blogs were shared with you and the rest of my PGCE group, we commented on each others posts and the young people were enthralled by the positive feedback they were receiving to each of their posts. You were always outstanding at encouraging these learners through the words you left for them and although they never met you in person, my learners were greatly encouraged by your remote presence. 
We met a number of times over the course of that term, but my most memorable meeting with you at that time was in the top room of the Bristol Guild – a gallery space where you and a friend (whose name sadly escapes me) were exhibiting their photographic work. This was when my initial respect for you turned to a great admiration – my rebel lecturer was also a gifted photographer! What was supposed to be a student/lecturer 1:1 meeting about embedding ICT into lessons meandered through conversation about art, photography, darkrooms, lenses, techniques, locations, people, countries and just about everything but the college work I had been doing. But it was fine. Through the blogs, you knew I had vastly exceeded the given task - and you surprised me with one more assessment that you asked me to complete. You told me that you were so inspired by the work I had been doing to engage with disaffected young people that you would like me to take your place delivering a seminar on evolving methodologies – to none other than the senior management teams at the City of Bristol College! 
I took the challenge, shared the work of my current students and fairly successfully tackled a tricky question and answer session with some rather baffled looking college VIPs. You later informed me that I had made such an impact on the people who were in that seminar, that the College were to review its strategy for controlling social media in the LRC – and also that my presentation that day would be more than an adequate replacement for the 4000 word reflective paper that I should have written to complete that module. 
What was so important to me was not that I was able to avoid writing yet another lengthy essay (although this was greatly appreciated) but that you saw that it would be more beneficial for me to review and present my work in person and affect change within the College in a way that no end of module evaluation could. You showed me how breaking convention in a considered manner could achieve positive results that reach far further than they may otherwise. 
I completed my PGCE and remained in contact with you through our respective blogs, emails and when our paths crossed in the refectory and corridors at the College. Much of the writing on your blog was highly academic and it often bypassed my understanding, but not all of it. There was, and there still are, countless pages of inspired, thoughtful, and creative writing on your blog and I relished reading your daily updates. This sentiment was reciprocated when you regularly left enthusiastic and encouraging comments on my posts and soon become an avid follower of my artwork and photography. You came to all the exhibitions, bought my prints and lent me bits of photographic equipment that I couldn’t afford to buy myself. You once spent hours carefully repairing a 50mm Canon lens that had jammed after a knock, saving me about £100 in repair costs.
A few years passed and my time at City of Bristol College came to a sharp end. The full story is long and complex, but needless to say it was a turbulent time and I made the decision to leave my job as a lecturer and work as a freelance artist for a period. I used this time to reflect on my personal life and made a body of work I entitled ‘Where is Iron John?’, taking a strong influence from the book by Robert Bly ‘Iron John: A Book About Men’. I'm not sure that I have ever felt what real depression feels like but during this time I was certainly close.
To say that you were well-read would be a gross understatement and, of course, you knew this book well. You were massively supportive of my move into self-employment but to my surprise, reluctant to discuss Bly’s work with me until my all soul searching and painting was done. You later told me that you didn’t want anything to affect or influence the journey I was taking as you understood the importance of what I had to do at that time. 
I completed the work and exhibited the collection in London in October 2012. The show ran for a week and was a great success for me personally, although from a financial point of view it was a disaster. I sold just 1 print – to youself, having travelled in person from Weston Super Mare to Shoreditch just to come and see the show and support me. We spent a couple of hours talking about the work, my journey, the process, the pain – and when the time was right, you got straight back on the train and returned home. This was the last time I saw you…
I returned home with a broken bank balance to a letter from the Arts Council informing me I had been unsuccessful in my application to them to set up a therapeutic arts project for young people in hospital care. My wife told me the fantastic news that we were to be expecting our second child and I immediately knew my painting time was over and I had to return to teaching – freelance artists rarely have the security of a guaranteed monthly wage to support a growing family with. So I applied for a couple of lecturer posts and soon found myself back in the art room of a new College that employed me on the strength of my alternative approach to teaching. The reference that you wrote in support for me leaves me speechless, I could never imagine that anyone could write for me such an accolade.
I thrived in my new role, overwhelmed by the continuous drive to be outstanding, and yet enjoying the daily challenges. My growing family moved house, had our second son and made new friends in a new town. My contact with you became less frequent whilst my new life was still settling, but your influence appeared in my work almost daily. Over the past year I have used blogs to document my new class’s creative projects and built up a dairy of their collective and individual progress and encourage the students to take over the administration of these sites once they begin to show an interest. Some months ago I forwarded a link to you to share some of the work my new students had been doing but unusually for you, I didn’t hear anything back.
I tired to contact you again yesterday and noticed your blog had not been updated since last Christmas. A strange concern passed through me as I Googled your name along with City of Bristol College to check if you were still teaching there but instead I was taken to a page entitled ‘Felix Grant – Sad news’. 
My heart sunk.
Sitting in front of my work computer, my eyes glazed over and my stomach turned as I clicked the link. My worst fears were confirmed; You passed away in January 2014 after a short but fatal illness.
The journey of the modern male is a difficult one - that much I know is certain. When others were not able to see the potential in me, Felix gave me a gift. I gratefully received that gift and continue to use it in my professional life as a lecturer, as an artist and as a husband and a father. I recognise that I am not ready to let go of this gift just yet, but the time will come when I am qualified to pass it onto a younger ‘me’, just as Felix was able to.
Thank you Felix, Your friend – Luke

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

My Jealous Parent

In the lesser-known Brothers Grimm fairy tale ‘Iron Hans’, a young Prince is told to steal a golden key from beneath his mother’s pillow in order to set Iron Hans, an imprisoned Neanderthal man free. The Prince refuses on many occasions until one day, his courage builds and his curiosity can hold him back no longer. He quietly creeps into the Queen’s bedroom and takes the golden key from the very place that his mother dreams of him becoming a nobleman. This part of the Iron Hans story symbolises betrayal; the betrayal of the mother at a stage in a young mans life where he sees no other choice but to show her in no uncertain terms that she is no longer needed as his sole guardian in life and that from now on, he is in charge of his own destiny. Using his own knife, he has cut the proverbial apron strings.

200 years on from the first publication of ‘Iron Hans’, I read with intrigue the hidden metaphors and meanings embedded within the story rediscovered by American poet Robert Bly in his book ‘Iron John’. The trials and tribulations faced by a man on his pathway through life appear to be the same irrelevant of what time we live in – the coming of age folk tale that is Iron Hans looks to be as relevant today as it ever has been.

At this point in the story the Prince is a young teenager, roughly the same age as I was when I discovered graffiti, spray cans and Subway Art. From the first time I held a can and made that scrawly, drippy line on a garage wall in the lane behind my childhood house, I knew I was hooked. Bus rides to Brislington warehouse hall of fame, Dean Lane skate park and Barton Hill youth club fuelled my new found passion and soon I began to pick up the skills of the trade; sketching outlines, sourcing spray paint, mixing colours, and making my letters bounce of the wall – the initiation of becoming a graffiti artist had begun.
The graffiti scene is a notoriously difficult world to infiltrate but once accepted, a part of you will stay indefinitely. It becomes impossible to step onto a train without imagining it covered in bright interwoven colours that spell out your name. You can’t walk past tags on the High Street without decoding who it was that left their mark, just for you. Those Sparvar fumes will forever linger.

For a subculture that on the surface appears to concern itself primarily with freedom of expression and anti-authoritarianism, the graffiti subculture harbours an implausible amount of politics. Internal hierarchies, tuff wars, snobbery, angst and jealousy blight the scene and force its members to subscribe to a strict set of rules akin to the 10 commandments. For years I believed our way was the only way, that art history began in 1960’s New York (or perhaps even earlier in Philadelphia), that stencils were cheating and ‘Keeping it Real’ was paramount.

18 years after I made my first marks with a spray can the excitement of painting graffiti has faded. I question the rationale of writing the same set of letters, with the same spray paint, on the same walls, time and time and time again. The urge to create however remains as strong as it ever was. The problem is that simply changing my palette and trying out a slightly different style is no longer enough to keep me painting graffiti in the traditional sense.
Three years ago I became a father to my own son and with parenthood comes less free time. This is a fact. My graffiti painting days had become numbered and I found myself returning to my other, less time absorbing passion, photography. Once wife and child were sound asleep I would steal an hour or two from the night and venture out with camera, tripod and timer to capture traces of the city’s low-level light. But all too soon I missed the process of painting and so began to use these photographs as a new source of inspiration for works that I could produce at home; a new sort of work based on canvas. These paintings gained attention from a new audience, perhaps more attention than my street based graffiti had and in time I found innovative ways to sell these pieces to people who, much to my surprise and delight, were happy to part with a couple of hundred pounds for an original artwork that they could hang on their wall…
… and then it struck me. I had broken one of graffiti’s most important self-imposed commandments; ‘Thou Shalt Not Sell Out!’

Graffiti is like an over protective, jealous parent. It rears its young, teaches them hard love, dresses them up in its uniform and ensures its children have lots of friends to play with. But the minute a child decides that it is his time to move out, the parent will suddenly turn on him and will stop at nothing to strike the traitor down! It will call you names - ‘Black Sheep’, ‘Art Fag’, ‘Sell Out’, and will laugh out loud when your post-graffiti work is out on display.

Iron Hans, the Neanderthal man in the Brothers Grimm fairy tale told the young Prince that he must steal the golden key from under his mother’s pillow so that he can use it to set the wild man free. But this is my story and the time has come to release my own wild man and accompany him into a new place, a big place I am unfamiliar with; an enchanted forest of my own. The time is right for me to betray my own jealous parent.

‘Where is Iron John?’ is my first solo show in London and opens on 11th October 2012 in the Apricot Gallery, 16-18 Heneage Street, Brick Lane, E1 5LJ

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Music - Emotion - Youth

An early observation of the effects of music on a young man

In 2004 I began working for a youth inclusion programme called Education Unlimited at the City of Bristol college. This was a time when there were many short engagement projects being hosted for young people who were considered to be out of education, employment and training (often referred to as NEET) and a large proportion of my job was spent recruiting NEET young people from across the city and accompany them to these sessions, acting in a mentors role. One afternoon on returning from an outdoor survival day in the Mendips, I was sat in a minibus next to a 16 year old young man called Jim who was taking the chance to relax from the physically challenging day. Jim was a friendly and likable lad from a dysfunctional family on a hard estate in north Bristol; his mother was alcohol dependant and living with an abusive partner, his sister had recently moved out to a flat of her own and Jim did not have contact with his father. He had a physical disability resulting from cerebral palsy, but he was a resilient character that appeared outwardly confident and determined not to let such issues hold him back. His attitude was very much ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ and he gave his all to the opportunities that came his way.

As we were nearing our drop-off point, over the radio came a song of which Jim was fond and he lent forward and asked the driver to turn the volume up. The song was called ‘How Come?’ by a rap-band called D12 (the lead vocalist of whom is better known as Eminem) and almost immediately Jims eyes closed and I watched as he quietly rapped along to the lyrics of the song.

“How come we don't even talk no more
And you don't even call no more
We don't barely keep in touch at all
And I don't even feel the same love when we hug no more
And I heard it through the grape vine we even beefin now
After all the years we been down
ain't no way no how, this bullshit can be true
We family and ain't a damn thing changed, unless it's you.”
(How Come? – D12, 2004)

An event such as this could have easily passed me by and blended into the mayhem of the rest of the day, but after seven years this powerful memory of a young man reciting such evocative words is still very clear to me. When Jim spoke those lyrics he did so with a passion that lashed out viciously and I could see that through his clenched hand, tight lips and closed eyes, he meant every single word.

I recall this event as I am beginning to think about how I might use music to work with a specific client group evaluating health and social benefits. I am inspired to work with young men of a similar age to Jim and explore the connections that are made between music that is familiar to them and various emotional states.

*Names have been changed to retain anonymity

Friday, 11 November 2011

Creative Flow - Proposal

'The Creative Flow project will enable young adult inpatients on the Cystic Fibrosis (CF) ward of the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) to take part in therapeutic creative arts. By using the medium of creative arts the project will enable participants to undertake fun diversionary activities whilst in the care of the BRI and also provide an opportunity for the individuals to express their thoughts, feelings and communicate with others...'

For more information about the Creative Flow arts in health programme proposal please click here.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Sounds of Life

Sounds of Life

In his book The Tao of Music, John M. Ortiz writes about how we use music to affect our mood and looks closely at how our mental health is affected by the music we choose to listen to. In one case study he talks about a client called Donna who became depressed; uncharacteristically tired, overeating and loosing self esteem. Ortiz encouraged he to make an ‘entrainment’ mix-tape, one of which reflected the low mood she was feeling. After some initial resistance she agreed and began compiling a series of sad and generally miserable tracks from her record collection. Once that side of the tape was recorded, she then added some more upbeat tracks that reflected the feelings she wanted to recapture on side 2. (Yes, this was an experiment that took place in the 1990’s when TDK 90 min cassette tapes were used daily to re-record and share music between one another – the original way to ‘illegally file-share’!)

Ortiz was interested to find that almost all of the songs Donna chose to put onto her mix-tape had some significant meaning to her and formed a sort of ‘life-soundtrack’. In later sessions together they discussed the meaning of each song and the relevance of the order in which they were compiled. Donna also revealed that she had used the tape on many occasions at home and in the car to affect her mood in a positive way; she felt that she had in some way gained control over her feelings and devised her own way of working through her depression by using music.


Last week I was introduced to the Ortiz text and asked to produce a music ‘life-line’ of my own, which I have just completed. Of all the things I have been asked to do during my 2 years so far studying on the Creative Arts Therapies course, this has to be one of my favourite – I couldn’t wait to get digging in my music collection! I am to share it with my new CATS group tomorrow, so I thought I would post it here for future reference. If you choose to listen to it, I hope you enjoy it - and I look forward to hearing your life story soon too.



Thursday, 6 October 2011


In our very last group session together the CATS 09-11 group revisited the exact same activity that we did 4 months earlier which i blogged about here. I wont go into too much detail as i have written a fair bit about this activity before but i did feel it worth posting the images from the second time round, if for no other reason than to compare them against each other.

Our group as it was on the final day and so many missing faces. Perhaps not attending the very end part of a group is easier than saying goodbye, but i find real value in seeing it through to the end. It was great working with you all, i hope our paths will cross again soon...