1. From Me to You
I’m only a paper boy from the North West
But I can scrub up well in my Sunday best.
How could I ever do for you?
Because I’m true and I’m real, and this is how I feel…
It might seem strange to introduce my first post from Liverpool with a verse from a song by a band from Manchester (The Courteeners, if you didn’t know) however I think it sums me up nicely.
And not just because I was once a paper boy.
My work, and in particular my writing, has often been described as ‘confessional’, so this week I will try to tell you how I feel about a certain aspect of my adopted city.
The short version of my biog that I initially submitted for this space was ‘… an avid collector of stories, objects & ideas, I am fascinated by those secret narratives unwinding within our cities, noticed only by those involved and observant onlookers. Working across a variety of media, from pencil drawings to scrapbooks, film & installation, even lasering my eyes to become a superhero for my MA. All this can be found on my blog www.jonathangreenbank.com’ but in hindsight, I probably need to do myself more justice so here is a more elaborate version of a bit of my life story.
I grew up in Lancaster, most famous recently for the unfortunate girl with the stomach problems after drinking liquid nitrogen. Thankfully that never happened to me there. I spent a year in Blackpool doing an art foundation course, before coming to uni in Liverpool, mainly due to my love of one of its football teams.
And I have never left.
After uni I was declined by the Royal College and St. Martin’s, wrongly believing it was because of where I was from. You see, being northern has sometimes formed a chip on the shoulder, and at other times made me feel like a chip in the sugar. Whilst being proud of my roots, it also served as a barrier, especially in the creative circles I have occasionally frequented.
Over the years though, that has changed somewhat. Indeed, as I have become more aware of reasons to be cheerful about being from the north, and exposed to some classic cultural references through music, literature, art and the like: Morrissey, Shelagh Delaney, Stu Sutcliffe, Kes, Newcastle Brown Ale, rundown seaside towns, Willy Russell, local foods, Wallace & Gromit, questionable comedians, Billy Fury, David Hockney… all of these and others have directly or discreetly inspired and influenced not just my work but the way I live my life, as well as presumably many others.
Meanwhile, over this time there has felt a national warming towards ‘us’. Specific events, buildings, festivals, museums, songs, people, restaurants, media organisations, have all helped shift focus, and change attitudes, allowing us to celebrate not just the north / south divide but also exactly that which makes us unique.
Part of that was Liverpool’s year as Capital of Culture, which was announced around the time my mates and I started our own less good version of Shoreditch T**t, which gained recognition from Antony Wilson (RIP) amongst others, and developed into a successful design agency that recently celebrated its tenth birthday.
I, on the other hand, went in a different direction and became a teacher.
Still making art work on the side for a famous band as well as the odd exhibition when I have had the time, I eventually made it on to a MA course, which resulted in a variety of projects involving fortune tellers, found passport photographs, and laser eye surgery, all of which was documented on my blog, which in turn led to a couple of other websites and writing projects. Recently I sent fake love letters to a stranger in Australia, painted a set of unfortunate animals for an alternative Noah’s Ark, and drew all 500 pages of ‘The Art Book’. ‘The Art Book’ was an exhibition at The Rag Factory in London in summer 2012. The image at the top of this post is taken from it and you can find out much more about it here.
The eye surgery was the scariest thing I had ever done (probably since overtaken by getting married, more of which later in the week) and I am still paying it off but also it was one of the best. It has helped me see things more clearly, especially as in the past couple of years I have moved out of the city centre where I had been ever since my arrival, twenty minutes up the coast by a lovely beach and a much more relaxed way of life.
The company that did my eyes are based in town, and the first thing I saw after leaving my initial check-up (when I could actually see, a few hours later the procedure) was the Liver Buildings.
It’s an image that will stay with me forever…
When Chris got in touch about my blog and invited me to take part in this exciting project, I immediately decided that my focus would be on that building, and specifically its topping: the emblem of our city, the Liver Birds.