Andy Swann: An Excellent Adventurer

I found out this week that Andy Swann has died, a really sad shock. I hadn’t seen Andy for a while but I think of him often, reminded to do so by a kind note fixed to my wall, which he gave me after a piece of excellent work we did together in 2016.

I can’t quite remember how we came into each others orbit – and I do know he was a kind, generous, encouraging person – very easy to gravitate towards. He and I enjoyed some excellent adventures together, and I want to share some of those with you in tribute to Andy.


My friend Neil Usher organised a pop up event within an event. Workstock was staged in 2014 nestled within an excellent conference called Workplace Trends. Several speakers, myself included, were invited to deliver short talks in a format known as Pecha Kucha. Andy delivered a poignant tale about John – unwilling production manager. John was literally a cardboard cut out figure and Andy’s talk was supported by photos of John and his seemingly pointless work. The talk was at times hilarious and at times sad. You can see Andy’s slides here (slides 179 to 200. They’re even funnier out of context).

A guy named Francisco Vazquez Medem was at the event, and he subsequently invited Andy and me to speak at a series of workplace conferences he was organising in Europe. We both responded positively – it was hard not to be positive around Andy.

Safe European Home

Our mini tour took Andy and I to Lisbon, Barcelona, and Madrid. Andy spoke passionately about ways to make work better, and I blethered about art. We had a total blast.

I’d previously visited Lisbon and toured Andy around the old town, which between day and night becomes two completely different places. As we journeyed to the venue to speak – the heavens opened. We had a long walk from the bus stop to the venue and we arrived absolutely wet through. Andy thought this was hilarious – and our grand sopping wet entrance was a great way to break the ice and show we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. During the after show drinks, Nelson Paciencia, one of our audience members shared his notes from my talk. We were incredibly well looked after by Francisco’s colleagues and the night went on, until it became morning.

Our next stop was Barcelona – I remember both Andy and I struggling a bit with the idea that people would be translating us live as we spoke. I think we went down well, and we had a fabulous time exploring the city, once again being well looked after.

Last stop on the tour was Madrid. We both pulled out all the stops, and we were fortunate to have the essence of our sessions beautifully captured as sets of visual minutes.

The Biggest Prize In Sport

Much later in the evening….or was it morning, I told Andy a story about my late Mum. In the early 80s she bought me a birthday present, an LP by 999 titled ‘The Biggest Prize In Sport’. It’s an excellent piece of work, and it was not a surprise gift as I came home a few days before my birthday to find Mum listening to it. My Mum died in 1984 and this LP was one of the last things she gave to me. Sadly – I lost it many years ago, and I don’t know why but the story of its loss surfaced that day with Andy.

Several months after our European adventure, this dropped through the letterbox.

Andy had spotted the LP was due to be rereleased for Record Store Day so he went out, queued, and bought me a copy. What a kind thing to do. I played it loud this morning.

All About People

In 2016 Andy organised a hugely ambitious event in Bournemouth called All About People. Andy involved me in it right from the start, and asked if I would open proceedings. I’m no ‘keynote’ speaker – and this was a lovely trusting offer from Andy which I happily accepted.

Andy was attentive to everyone’s needs – he curated and led an outstanding gathering. We made space for people to offer their own artistic reflections, and you can see some of there here, including Mark Catchlove‘s famous ‘Love In A Spreadsheet’.

I have other positive experiences of time spent with Andy too – and I hope these few snippets help to show what excellent company he was. A lovely friend, much missed.

Author: Doug Shaw

Artist and Consultant. Embracing uncertainty, sketching myself into existence. Helping people do things differently, through an artistic lens.

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