My Secret Life: Billy Childish, artist, 50


My parents were ... an aspirational Conservative son of an able seaman, who became a graphic designer and was arrested for drug smuggling, and the daughter of a dockyard worker who worked on the haberdashery counter at Lefevres department store in Gillingham, Kent.

The house/flat I grew up in ... was built on the site of an old shack which had been home to an ex-German POW, his drunken English wife and their two children. The wife eventually drank herself to death. It is cursed land and misery comes to any who live there.

When I was a child I wanted to be ... a red squirrel, a T Rex, or Vincent Van Gogh.

If I could change one thing about myself ... it would be my inability to pretend I like things I most defiantly do not.

You wouldn't know it but I'm very good at ... cooking and yoga.

You may not know it but I'm no good at ... spelling, maths, telling lies, sucking up to people or Hoovering.

At night I dream of ... devils, gods, friends, enemies, mermaids and redemption.

What I see when I look in the mirror ... is someone I know well but barely recognise.

My favourite item of clothing ... is a hat. A fur felt trilby, or a cap comforter knitted by mother, or a Great War Tam o'Shanter, or a 12-inch Basque beret, or a deerstalker. If you want to get ahead, get a hat!

I wish I'd never worn ... I'm a Sagittarian. Obviously I've never worn anything that I've been remotely ashamed of.

It's not fashionable but I like ... large moustaches, damp tweed and hobnail boots.

I drive/ride ... a rusty 1967 Volvo estate with a leaky windscreen and busted locks. My pushbike is a 1936 twin-tube BSA with 28-inch frame. I have to lean against buses at traffic lights as my feet can't touch the ground.

My house is ... a bit wonky as it got jogged by bombs when the Luftwaffe tried to take out Chatham station. It is smack-bang in the middle of the red-light district.

My favourite work of art ... 'The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb' by Hans Holbein [in the Kunstmuseum, Basel] and any collage by Kurt Schwitters.

My favourite building ... is a Nissen hut, or a windmill, or a couple of railway carriages in a big field. Or maybe all three in a wood with a 'Trespasses will...' sign and some wood-elves.

A book that changed me ... Aged four, 'The House at Pooh Corner'; aged 10, 'Lust for Life' (a biography of Van Gogh); aged 15, the 'Tao Te Ching'; aged 20, 'Ask the Dust' by John Fante; aged 35, 'Institute Benjamenta' by Robert Walser; aged 40, 'The Brothers Karamazov' by Dostoevsky.

Movie heaven ... 'The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp'.

The last album I bought ... Prokofiev, 'Alexander Nevsky'.

My secret crush ... Aunt Sally from 'Worzel Gummidge'.

The person who really makes me laugh ... Oliver Hardy.

My greatest regret ... My father leaving home when I was seven and subsequently being sexually abused by a family friend.

The last time I cried ... was when our new baby daughter smiled at me last week.

My five-year plan ... is spiritual evolution and amusement.

My life in seven words ... Unbounded imagination, masturbation, dumb insolence, pain, laughter.

A life in brief

Born Steven Hamper on 1 December, 1959 in Chatham, Kent, Billy Childish is an artist, poet, film-maker, singer and guitarist. Expelled from St Martins School of Art, he became known for his confessional and often explicit work – which included details of his love life and childhood sexual abuse – and was a co-founder of the Stuckist movement. A former partner of Tracey Emin, he now lives in Kent with his wife Julie Winn and their baby daughter Scout. A major solo show, 'Billy Childish, Unknowable but Certain', opens at London's ICA on 17 February and runs until 18 April

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the world's leading suppliers and manuf...

Recruitment Genius: Multiple Apprentices Required

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Apprentices are required to join a privat...

Sauce Recruitment: HR Manager

£40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is an exciting opportunity for a HR...

Ashdown Group: Interim HR Manager - 3 Month FTC - Henley-on-Thames

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established organisation oper...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness