Artist and musician Billy Childish was asked to curate the content for one of the 10 beach huts which form Wish You Were Here at Southend Pier, an ongoing part of the Estuary festival. The idea was to create a small cultural venue for ideas, exhibitions and art.
Can you describe the work you have in your beach hut and why you chose it?
It is a selection of prints – mostly woodcuts and a few hand coloured etchings – along with a small number of books I’ve made over the years. It seemed a small exhibit of printed material would fit well in a small intimate space like a beach hut.
Do rivers and estuaries figure much in either your art or your music?
Yes, I’ve painted estuary scenes and, being born and living on The Medway, it’s always been a part of my life. My grandfather was an able seaman during the Great War and both my grandparents worked in the dockyard as I did at 16.
Is a sense of place important in your art?
In some ways yes, although I think it all takes on a dream-world quality where the place could be anywhere at any time.
Who are your artistic heroes and why?
Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, because they were dedicated to art not finance.
What do you think the role of an artist is in world these days?
I don’t take a great deal of interest in art or artists. It’s long been an assertion of mine that the role of the artist is overly identified with and disproportionately elevated, all for the wrong reasons. I think the true role of an artist is much subtler and quieter than all the shouting and banging that goes on. I know galleries shouldn’t be trying to compete with discos and shopping centres, and artists shouldn’t try to be pop stars.
You recently played your first gigs for a few years. Why the long wait and did you enjoy them?
It was nice to play again. I don’t really like the modern scene – all the old places and reasons I did shows are pretty much buried now.
You have a prolific recording career and a heck of a lot of albums under your belt. What inspires you to keep making music?
I sometimes get the itch to make a good rock ‘n’ roll song like I heard as a four-year-old, or a 16-year-old (during 77 punk rock).
Where and when can we see you next?
I’m in some art shows in New York and Dallas next spring. All a bit far away from here. I don’t necessarily go to the shows as I’m not that interested in that part of it. I like painting. I’m often drawing on the train or walking down the High Street.