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Remembrance : Ghost Squadron

In recent years I’ve acknowledged remembrance day through the free art project, using various poppy motifs as my designs.

This year I wanted to try something different, but I didn’t know where to start. I then received an unexpected commission, to make a multi layered stencil art work of a Supermarine Spitfire, and I set to work. This was a fiddly process trying to ensure that each stencil layer lined up and matched, but after a few attempts, I got there.

During a conversation with the recipient of the art, I began to find out more about this place called Kenley Airfield. The airfield was of vital significance during WWII and it is now the most intact airfield of its time. As I learned more about the place and its history – we began to discuss remembrance. I suggested that we could reprise the spitfire design as a new way for me to acknowledge remembrance.

Remembrance Day approaches, a day I have mixed feelings about. I’m anti war – too old now but I always said if I was conscripted as a younger man, I’d refuse. I do however think it is important to remember the horrors we have inflicted on one another, the wasted lives and shattered families, even though we don’t seem to be very good at learning from history. 

Ghost Squadron

This year’s remembrance free art drop is titled ‘Ghost Squadron’. It’s a limited edition of four spitfire silhouettes in traditional airforce green, set against a grey sky lit with a thousand silver stars. Each piece will be signed and numbered, before being hidden for people to find in the usual way. Clues to the whereabouts of the art works will be posted on my Facebook page.

I Had A Hand In This

Art is community : Community is art

In the Autumn of 2018, Jo Slater, who owns The Sun pub in Carshalton, approached me after I donated an art work to a charity raffle in the pub, and kindly offered some space for us to make art. Art In The Sun duly began in January of this year. A weekly gathering of curious adventurers, an experiment in experimental art.

Each session features an idea, maybe a theme, an offer of new tools, materials, techniques – just enough structure, and no more. People get to work, talking, sharing ideas, experimenting. I’m on hand if needed, but the process is largely about discovery.

Some weeks a hush falls over the group as the concentration levels rise, some weeks there’s loads of chat and laughter. We’ve been fortunate to have ELTEL perform with us a few times, and we’ve tried numerous techniques out since we started. Mark making, printing, stencil cutting, masking and layering, brushless work, tile painting, collaborative and solo works. The group takes it all on – confident in the emerging process. Plenty of our work ends up in the bin, and that’s OK.

A while back I suggested the idea of an exhibition – a chance to show our work to a wider audience. I recall the idea being received a little hesitantly, so we left it to percolate. Time passes, experiments continue, the idea is remembered again, and here we are, it’s exhibition day.

I’m off to The Sun. My role today is that of curator, and general setter upper. I’m proud of this lovely group of people and everything they have achieved so far, and I hope that today, I do their work justice for them. I have much to do, so I’ll wish you well and leave you with a hint of what is yet to come.

‘I Had A Hand In This’. Mixed media co-created collage, on A1 foam board

Aftershock

Letting go is sometimes harder than we think

It was late morning on Friday May 17th 2019 when the phone rang. The land line…who could it be? The person on the other end introduced themselves as Simon from MetroBank. In a split second my mind flew back to August 2018 and the last call I took from MetroBank, which turned out to be from a fraudster. I hesitated, felt nervous, anxious, and said I’d call back. One returned call and four internal transfers later, I’m talking with Simon again, going through security.

The phone call was to inform me that MetroBank have been reviewing their complex cases of fraud, one of which is mine. A review at executive level has resulted in the banks earlier decision being reversed, meaning the money which had been fraudulently taken from my account is being returned.

The call ended and I sat in shock. The same bank who were initially so sure the fraud was my responsibility, has now had a complete change of mind. Nothing has changed from my perspective, so what’s brought this on? I probably should have asked this while Simon was on the phone, but I didn’t. During the call I felt both present, and oddly distanced from it.

I went downstairs and spoke with Carole and Keira. I dissolved into tears as I told them the news. I felt a real mix of emotions – the feelings of stupidity and anger from the time of the fraud returned, along with some relief that the bank has changed its mind, coupled with a rapidly growing sense of confusion. Why now? 9 months after the fraud took place.

Back in August 2018 after the bank refused to help, I engaged the financial ombudsman. Having had no progress from them since an initial acknowledgement in October 2018, I wasn’t hopeful that their involvement, if it ever came, would have much impact. Maybe I won’t need them any more? Questions.

I thought I’d moved past this situation – reconciled myself to the unlikelihood of a resolution. Clearly I had not, and by the middle of the afternoon I was exhausted – I couldn’t stay awake. I hardly ever sleep during the day but resistance was futile, and I went to bed.

A few days later. I’m relieved to be reunited with the money, not pleased, just relieved. While I realise the bank didn’t take the money, their response, both in the immediate aftermath of the fraud and over time, has been completely inadequate. I’ve been holding the stress much closer, tighter than I realised. Counselling has helped, but it’s taken this shift, this reversal by the bank to unlock something in me. I’m glad about that, and importantly, my energy is flowing much more positively already.

Sometimes it’s harder to let go than we think.