Anne & Tony Isseyegh

Anne & Tony Isseyegh

Interviewed on 24.07.2012

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[TRACK 1]

 

TONY WRIGHT:

Right. This is Tony Wright, it’s the 24th of July 2012 and I’m speaking with Anne and Tony Isseyegh in their home in Heptonstall. So, can you, both of you tell me your full names and where and when you were born?

 

ANNE ISSEYEGH:

Okay, shall I start? Anne Christina Isseyegh and I was born in Rustington, Sussex.

 

TW:

Do you have a maiden name?

 

AI:

Hughes.

 

TW:

Right, okay.

 

TONY ISSEYEGH:

I’m Anthony Isseyegh……and I was born in Egypt in 1951, and we came to live in London when I was eight……in 1959 and from London we moved to Heptonstall in 1984, and this is where I’m presently living.

 

TW:

Right. How did you meet Anne?

 

 

AI:

At college in London.

 

TW:

Ah, which college?

 

AI:

The Central.

 

TW:

Oh right. And what were you doing at college?

 

AI:

Fine Art

 

TW:

Right. Both of you?

 

AI:

Yes.

 

TI:

Yes. Well Anne studied Graphics before……..and that was her second course, but for me it was my first course, so I’m slightly younger than Anne and we met in…..early seventies…..and got married while still being students, so we’ve been together……thirty…..

 

AI:

Thirty-something!

 

[laughing]

 

TW:

It’ll be coming up to forty

 

TI:

Probably, yes….yes, thirty-seven years thank you Tony

 

[laughing]

 

TW:

So…..I’m trying to think…..so you moved from Sussex up to Yorkshire

 

AI:

No, Sussex to London to work when I was nineteen and…..then London for sixteen years and then up here

 

TW:

Oh right…..well you came up in the early eighties then?

 

TI:

Yes; ’84 we moved up to Yorkshire and……previous to that I lived in London all my life……prior to that, obviously born in Egypt…..that’s it, but you know, I think the sense of being…..slightly an outsider remains and I think coming London to Yorkshire, that was our…..my first impression, that really it’s….we’re southerners moving to a very rooted county like Yorkshire is, but because there were a lot of other creative people here I think we were encouraged to feel that there was a sense of……openness and freedom about the way people thought and I think that is both attractive to us as individuals, but also for the area; I think it encouraged creative people to feel…..we were going to be odd enough in an interesting way to fit in with quite strongly individualistic type people; it wasn’t going to be hard to somehow operate in this area.

 

[dog barking]

 

AI:

Shall I move him?

 

TW:

I think…..I think so, I think it’ll get worse really because he just wants to be part of it

 

[moving dog]

 

TW:

Well what you were just saying about……feeling an outsider and also feeling accepted, coming up to Yorkshire, I mean did you have those sort of feelings when you came from Egypt to London, when you were younger?

 

TI:

Yes, yes I think as…..you know, I belong to a family that were typical refugees like there are lots of now, so that sense of being a refugee has always been part of…….my history and in a way I don’t mind that because it…..it’s a bit…..the creative life is slightly separate from…..the ordinary functioning of society, and it’s……quite an interesting place to be, because you’re an observer more than somebody who’s fully integrated in the system of how society might work, and I think from that stand point it gives you a different perspective.

 

TW:

Right…….

 

TI:

As you might have experienced yourself.

 

TW:

I……well I get that sometimes, that’s true. I’m just wondering about Anne. How do you relate to this idea of being an outsider?

 

AI:

Yeah I do too actually, yeah.

 

TW:

In what way?

 

AI:

Well I certainly did…..well I’m a southerner [laughing] and I haven’t dropped my accent, so yeah, it’s obvious. Probably when we were first here there were more of the older people who were more, you know, part of the real community that had been here, although everyone’s been very nice; never had any problems, but……..

 

TI:

There’s always been a sense of curiosity like ‘why……why are you here?’ and I think….I find that amusing because of course people who have had to leave the countries that they were born in, well they have to go somewhere else, but people who are very rooted , and I think that’s what’s so………what’s the word….evident about a rooted county like Yorkshire is that you take it for granted that this is where you belong, this is where you’ve all come from and even if you move two miles up the valley you think you’ve emigrated, because we used to have lots of friends and builders who worked with us and they’d say ‘oh I don’t come from Heptonstall I come from…..Mytholmroyd’ which is a sense of they didn’t belong to Heptonstall, they belonged to Mytholmroyd, so it didn’t take much for them to feel out of their……locale… so us coming from…..I think, again, it’s part of….because it’s part of my history, I think it’s also part of my creative sensibility. I like….being an outsider looking at…..whatever’s going on, so as an observer I’m not observing by identifying with a culture or a society, I am slightly outside of it.

 

TW:

So do you bring that into the art that you create?

 

TI:

I think so.

 

TW:

And how do you think that works then?

 

TI:

Well ultimately it……it’s accepting that we’re probably mainly spiritual people, or a phenomena, and maybe that sense of our spirituality and not quite belonging to the world is something I’m interested in or I’m nurturing very mildly you know, it’s not…..I’m not trying to propagate any religious attitudes, but just that sense of otherness, not just…..this is an observance of what is evidently here; there is a sense of I’m not sure what this is, so there’s a question.

 

TW:

So do you think this creativity, this outsider thing, but do you think that you’re reacting to your environment when you create the works of art that you create?

 

AI:

 

The environment round here?

 

TW:

Well around here, but….but the next question I was gonna say is…..so if……if you are or you aren’t reacting to your environment, then who is the audience that you’re creating these works for, because if you’re creating using the environment as a kind of inspiration is it for the people who live in this environment, or is it for somebody else, somewhere else, who might look at your works and say ‘oh that’s an interesting environmental idea’….the creativity based on that kind of environment is……is something I like….I’m just trying to ask….you know, how part of your creative process, how do you put forward…..it’s a question for both of you really.

 

AI:

Yeah……I think for me, I don’t actually think about the audience; it’s for me.

 

TW:

Right. So what kind of work do you actually do then?

 

AI:

Well recently…..mainly water colour, a fairly strong water colour; there’s one behind you over there which started off with a still life basis but now have figurative elements as well, but that’s really because I’ve been teaching water colour for several years so it’s sort of made me interested in it. Originally I used to work in a very different way and there’s one up on the mantelpiece there, which as you see is much more abstract and I still do some of that

 

TW:

Very Mondrian, and that type of thing.

 

AI:

Yeah……yeah, I mean that’s what I was doing at college.

 

TW:

Right. And do you sell these?

 

AI:

I have done, yeah, more of the water colours.

 

TW:

Right. But you’re also a teacher you say.

 

AI:

Yeah I teach water colour.

 

TW:

Right, okay. And have you done that all your creative life?

 

AI:

No. Before……I don’t know how long……well I’ve been teaching art to adults since maybe, since she was about six, so nineteen years, yeah. And it sort of turned into water colours eventually because teaching adults, you’re sort of led by them and really that’s what they wanted to do.

 

TW:

Right, okay. So you said earlier you did feel like an outsider coming up here and you said partly because there were so many locals here, you know, still. Does that mean that you think there’s less people who were born and raised here?

 

AI:

Yeah, I think it’s probably changed quite a bit.

 

TW:

Do you think, just people’s died off and younger people have moved away?

 

AI:

Yeah.

 

TW:

Right. And why do you think that is then?.....If some people come here because it’s so wonderful, why are the people that were born here moving away? How does that work, I wonder? What do you think about that?

 

AI:

I don’t know if they’ve moved away, but…….

 

TW:

But there’s less of them.

 

AI:

Yeah…..

 

TW:

What, in comparison to

 

AI:

Well maybe not

 

TI:

It obviously is house prices. I think that there was a period where people who were coming in obviously were coming in from areas where the houses were more expensive. We moved up here and…..because houses were cheaper than living in London and I think we’re not alone in that, so that’s probably…..that’s probably pushed up prices and there have been many jokes about…….outsiders coming in and pushing prices up, and people who were born in the area not being able to afford those prices and having to move away, and I think that’s happened everywhere nationally, and it’s probably more to do with how the property market is……nurtured or otherwise in England, because I think we all pay quite a price for having a roof over our heads. We now know, because we have children, and we hope and wish that they can have their own homes one day but we know how hard it is to start that.

 

TW:

Have they moved away?

 

TI:

Yes. One is in the south and the other one lives in Leeds, and I think…..they moved away willingly because they wanted experience, and I think we brought up our children with a sense of ‘you don’t have to remain in the locality that you were brought up in’. We do encourage them to go and experience other environments, and some do……you know, that oldest daughter wanted to do that when she was eighteen really. The younger ones….

 

AI:

Well, although she’d like to live…..she’d like to live here now but she’s got a family

 

TI:

Now that she’s got a daughter, yes, she’d like to sort of come back

 

AI:

It’s getting the work.

 

TW:

So well, that’s two different things I was going to ask about. One is….is to do with work, I mean when you moved up here was it because you wanted to raise a family in a nice place or did you have work here to come to, or it wasn’t just the cheap house prices

 

AI:

No, we were a bit mad, being artists you know, we just did it. Tony set up his own business and I was still doing some work…..freelance work which was mainly going down to London to get it, but eventually that turned into more locally based stuff.

 

TW:

Right. So what kind of freelance work?

 

AI:

At that point I was…..well I sort of fell into doing a lot of illustrating for…….children’s…..academic school books and things

 

TI:

Educational.

 

AI:

Educational that’s the word, yes, but I sort of fell into that by mistake, but that was good [laughing]

 

TW:

So did it just sort of happen sort of thing?

 

AI:

Well I was interviewed…….potentially to design a cookery cover for a book and the guy who was interviewing me went and got the……..oh what was it…..

 

TI:

What were you going to say

 

AI:

Chap in charge of the company

 

TI:

Editor….no, manager

 

AI:

Manager, yeah…..I think I must have had some illustrations in my portfolio, and they needed an illustrator at the time so he came and said ‘ah, could you do these illustrations? Can you do colour?’ Which I never had……..and I said ‘well no I haven’t’……. ‘oh well give it a try and bring some back’ so…..so that was the beginning of quite a lot of work wasn’t it?

TI:

And what’s also quite interesting about this area, that probably had that been in London it would have been less easy for work to casually happen like that

 

AI:

Maybe…….yeah, casually

 

TI:

I was just thinking that I wonder if that’s another…..outsiders coming in to the area with their…..skills have been an attractive new injection of creative energy to the area, because it’s all very well talking about…….what’s the word…..nurturing an environment to remain as authentic as possible, but it’s actually this outside energy that probably added to the mix, brings new energy.

 

AI:

Well I think that happens everywhere, I mean my home town is Worthing on the south coast which is……was very well known as a retirement centre and the joke was that anybody on the Council there would have been from Yorkshire, so you know I think [laughing]…..that’s how it goes…..

 

TW:

So they were the other way round

 

AI:

So maybe other people who are a bit sort of….go-getty move around, I don’t know! [laughing]……they were retired, you know, people retire down there and then they find things to do.

 

TW:

Yes. Like join the Council!

 

[laughing]

 

TW:

So Tony, have you…..the work that you do…..well what kind of work is that?

 

TI:

Well…..I think as a creative person, for me, the whole……the point of it is to continually be…..I’m interested in continually reinventing what I’m doing and the purposes, there was a stage where it’s quite difficult to work out how to make any money out of your creativity, and a bit like Anne I did have to stumble across making bits of furniture that………I thought might appeal to………a more adventurous clientele who might want to buy things to decorate their home; it seemed like a softer option for getting creative things into people’s homes - it actually wasn’t - it’s no easier putting a creative piece of furniture into a house than it is to put a painting or…..but I did enjoy that period and I did sell enough work to make it……a fruitful and….commercial enough success, though I think that’s……that’s part of the period that now is not relevant to me anymore; I’m not that interested in the commercial market place; I see myself much more like a mature ……..creative person who…..as long as I’ve got enough money to live on, it’s…..I don’t need to make lots of money out of my creativity but I do need to reinvent where it’s going, so the last three years I’ve actually been doing a digital media degree and that’s………re-jigged my creativity to suggest different pathways to carrying on, not…..and this is where we differ because Anne doesn’t understand why I would bother to get into all this techno stuff, and yet for me it’s been quite a delightful……….experience because it’s a new toy; I don’t know much about it and I’m not adopting it seriously; I’m adopting it like a playful child-like………adventure, but because it’s technology and it’s not how we were brought up as creative people, then we differ; I think Anne might agree, seeing it as a distraction from just developing one’s……it’s unnatural maybe to her, or……..whereas to me it’s actually exciting

 

AI:

It’s also…..it’s sort of….it’s more blocked in a way because it’s not easy to actually see what you’re doing…….so

 

TI:

From an audience point of view?

 

AI:

Yeah

 

TI:

But even from an artist’s point of view there isn’t much to do because a lot of what I’ve been doing over the last three years have been little playful experiments and, although I’m not embarrassed – I’m not worried about the fact that I’m learning and that somebody might say ‘oh that’s a bit of a pathetic little film, you call that animation?’ that’s not because I’m a sixty-year old artist; I don’t care about the evaluation of my creativity by society or culture and I think this……the fact that we have exhibitions and we try to sell art, and we’re all competing for levels of………acclaim seems like that’s a real distraction. We have got so…..up ourselves thinking we have to be great, or we have to be famous, or we have to be rich for it to be worth it and actually for me, it’s just worth it and I’m quite adamant about the strength of that, but it’s a lonely thing; I can share it with probably a few people, but there’s no point my saying ‘oh I’m going to put a film show out of these little experiments’ because they’re not for public consumption; they’re only for…..for private creative…..if there were other creative people who were on my wavelength I’d happily sit for an hour and say ‘well I’ll show you mine if you show me yours’ – that kind of thing – and I think that’s….that’s good

 

TW:

There is a tour of very short films running from the Shetlands down to Southampton and back again.

 

TI:

Really?

 

TW:

Have you seen any of them?

 

TI:

No

 

TW:

Mark Kermode was talking about it on ‘The Culture Show’ – they’re all very….very short, you know, two or three minutes, that sort of thing, but there seems to be quite a lot of them about all sorts of things really, and I just wondered whether you’d known about that and sort of…..

 

TI:

No, I……I’ve not tuned into that world yet because I’m only freshly into this digital thing and for me it’s still about playing and still about playing from the root of being a fine artist who was……what’s the word…..educated with painting and drawing , in inverted commas educated, because in the seventies there wasn’t a rigid education in these skills - it was really up to you – whatever you called painting and drawing could be painting and drawing in the early seventies, so really……it’s an open environment for what we……whatever develops our creativity and that’s remained the case still I think, and most young people are encouraged to keep on keeping it open, except they want skills, they want more skills and I think Anne’s experienced that probably more than me, that she’s given……people enjoy being given skills by somebody who has……that knowledge to pass on, whereas for me it’s still about experimenting and playing

 

TW:

Do you have works that you can show me a little

 

TI:

I have; I’m on video, so I think what you were saying about…I think I’ve had one visitor which is my daughter [laughing]…….and I sort of think ‘oh well it’s…..it’s a joke’ but it’s still there, and I don’t mind it being…..it’s a public place that people could go to, but…..I’m not embarrassed about it, it’s just…..there isn’t much tangibility to saying ‘oh blimey that’s a great film Tony’ – it’s not about that – it’s not trying to be a great film, it’s trying to be a creative enterprise, and carry on being the creative enterprise, I’m gone, so for me, that’s…

 

AI:

I think we….we’re the same in that way, that it’s about our creative journey and we’re not actually really bothered about other people entering into it

 

TI:

We don’t mind sharing

 

AI:

No no, not at all

 

TI:

I mean you’ve had exhibitions, you’ve put your work in exhibitions

 

AI:

Well I’ve put my work in exhibitions, but I’ve never really gone out of my way to exhibit - we’ve never applied for any grants for anything – we sort of were a little bit too late for all of that, weren’t we?

 

TI:

Maybe

 

AI:

We found other ways of being able to do it for ourselves, so……

 

TW:

I mean I know when the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival initially began twenty-odd years ago I think it was, you were part of that I remember

 

TI:

Yes

 

TW:

Are you still part of it in any way?

 

AI:

Now and then……..yeah we did it…….three or four years ago, probably longer!

 

TI:

Yes I think that sense of taking part with other people in something, but I think when your creativity is……is about changing yourself so much it’s a…..it’s a bit of a private thing, you know…….I probably would like to have conversations with creative people but I don’t want to stand in my studio and explain anything to anybody; it’s sort of…..now and again I think that the people who do open up their studios are very generous and say ‘here I am, come in, walk around’…….there’s always a sense of judgment and….people sort of walking round spaces that you’ve spent three years building work in, in five minutes then walking out again with a sense of……they’ve……what’s the word…..categorised you; I do it myself, you know, I go into a studio and say ‘oh yes, I know, I understand this’ and it’s…..it’s not….there is a sense of trivialising…..we see too much, where there is too much available, we take it all for granted……on the other hand, this is people’s creative lives and they’ve invested so much, they spend money on their studios, they buy materials and they invest a lot of their heart and soul into this practice, so when they open the door it is….it’s a privilege that they’re doing that for an audience, so great, it’s not something I particularly want to do very often myself. I like that invitation, yes, one creative…..come in, or just a person, come in, have a chat, engage in sharing what we do spontaneously, but the whole rigmarole of, to be honest, the whole rigmarole of exhibitions and framing work

 

AI:

We used to run a gallery ; that’s one of things that we did in our naivety when we were in London….we had a gallery for unknown artists, which we lived above, and we did that for a couple of years and I think that was quite a learning curve really wasn’t it?

 

TI:

It gives a practical basis…..it is about, you know, persuading people that it’s worth spending money on scribbles on bits of paper because they’re meaningful and they can enrich your environment when you place them in your home, but they cost money, and to get a public to understand that paying money isn’t a desperately serious thing, it’s quite…..it should be light-hearted and I think we should pay money because it’s enjoyable to spend that money, if you have it; if you don’t have it you don’t buy art and you shouldn’t waste your money on art if you can’t afford it; it is really for people who can afford it. I can’t afford it, but I would never ask….you know, not expect an artist to sell their work, and I think that’s the thing you’re saying….it’s very hard to get people to understand they have to pay.

 

TW:

You talk about art being maybe a…..partially it’s a spiritual journey and it’s about exploration and reinventing, but then you have a kind of disillusionment about trying to become famous shall we say, but if as an artist you want to sell your work because it should be worth it…..it’s……it’s a funny world you’re talking about here isn’t it really, this whole kind of……mixture of like, people who can afford – are they buying it because…..is it an investment for them?

 

TI:

No.

 

AI:

That’s what they hope!

 

TW:

Well you see, you say no, you say yes

 

TI:

I say no very definitely; they should stop that

 

AI:

Well that’s what you would tell them!

 

AI:

I would tell them ‘just stop that - that’s a ridiculous approach to buying art. Because art costs money; it costs a creative person….a large amount of their time has been invested in bringing about this piece of work. If you are spending that money because you think somehow it’s……about securing this amount of money into something, we’ll call it art, and one day I shall be able to get that amount of money back and I shall have more money’….that is a total spoiler to what creativity is about, and what creativity is about

 

AI:

But all of that happened, you know, starting with sort of Tracey Emin and so on, it’s suddenly become something or it did become something that actually you could invest in…..living artists, young living artists, and that sort of happened after our time didn’t it?

 

TI:

Yes, and it’s happened for very definite reasons, for market place reasons, just like……money

 

AI:

When we were at college there was no talk of we’d actually do after we did our degree

 

TI:

Nobody knew, nobody knew they could sell their work

 

AI:

No, we weren’t told anything by our tutors; we weren’t trained in how to sell ourselves, market or anything like that. You did the course because you wanted to explore art, that’s what it was about……and then obviously that….it was at that time when people…..actually could go to college and it didn’t cost them any money and there was a knock-on effect for British industry, because of the creativity of the people that were involved in the art colleges, so I think it worked as an idea but we were just part of that weren’t we?

 

TI:

Well maybe we come from that period of time where we were not worried about making money; it was…..money wasn’t a big incentive for what we did - even the jobs that we did - we basically did jobs that just about gave you a living; you didn’t think ambitiously about money. The ambitions were always internal things, they were spiritual things or…..you know, just wanting your work to get better in some form and not better because it would make you famous, or rich, it just got more interesting, got deeper, or……and that’s probably remained, the main core values, certainly for me, you know, even though I’ve had…..I am commercially astute, I do expect people to pay money for what I do, but I also don’t expect everybody to be able to pay for it, and I…….you know, it’s…….it’s the product

 

TW:

Do you follow the art world still?

 

TI:

No.

 

AI:

You maybe do a little bit more than me

 

TI:

Well do I?

 

AI:

Maybe not! [laughing]

 

TI:

Well I think I’ve become much more internalised over the last three years because of the nature of digital work in a way and computers and

 

AI:

You’re looking at different things now aren’t you? We’re looking at different things to each other now.

 

TI:

Yes.

 

TW:

Have you looked at the Hockney things then?

 

AI:

Oh yes

 

TI:

Yes

 

AI:

Yeah we did go to the……Hockney down in London

 

TW:

And what did you think of that?

 

AI:

And surprisingly enjoyed it; I think both of us did didn’t we?

 

TI:

Yes.

 

AI:

We went separately

 

TI:

Well I work in a hospice two days a week, and what’s exciting with working with people who don’t have an art background or…..is that when they get enthusiasms it’s…..it’s majorly stimulating for us all, and this group of people who are living with life threatening illness wanted to go all the way to London to see this major exhibition of…..of course David Hockney isn’t a ‘local artist’, in inverted commas obviously, but we had a fantastic time because not only was the work of this…..abstracted nature which forces people without an art training to question ‘well what’s he doing and why is this slapping of paint alright? Why is it good?’….or ‘what is actually going on, on these huge canvases?’ and I think that does get communicated by…..to ordinary people by David Hockney’s work because I think his market place is fairly broad and…….expresses that enthusiasm for looking and interpreting what he sees

 

AI:

He’s very good at putting over those…..what to use are very simple ideas but actually they’re probably not very simple ideas, so actually we could be quite thankful to him really.

 

TW:

Well I mean, he’s always chased technology in a way hasn’t he, all of the photograph pieces that he did almost, and that cubist kind of way of looking at things

 

AI:

Yeah

 

TW:

I mean they were like twenty foot high, massive big things

 

TI:

Yes

 

TW:

With hundreds and hundreds of photographs creating an image, and that was just…..the beginning of that kind of technology, so now it’s moved on and he’s doing this sort of thing

 

TI:

Yes, well the iPad, I mean it is interesting that really, because David Hockney is so rich he can actually blow up an iPad image to a massive scale and…….exploit that excitement which is there when you play on the iPad, but what….what it generated in….as I say one of the patients, he said ‘oh my God’ because he had an iPhone and he began to draw on his iPhone and recognised just the…..excitement of that electronic mark, and in way that…..that makes it accessible for people, making a mark on your iPad – ‘wow, that was easy’ – it doesn’t make any mess, it doesn’t require huge materials, it’s an app on your phone and in a way you link with somebody who is a very creative artist……and that’s good for all of us because it’s……it’s encouraging everyone’s perceptions to…….you know, expand to that horizon because art is not about this one little channel and I think what’s interesting with digital technology, with film and animation and games and…….it’s spreading the idea that it’s going to be very difficult to make these separate little channels for creative experience. People are going to be producing works of art that have many many many multi…….influences in the future which can only be good as far as I’m concerned

 

TW:

Though does that make……the old skills redundant in a kind of way do you think? You know, drawing and painting and knowing about watercolours or oils or acrylics, or whatever that might be. Is there still a place for that sort of thing?

 

AI:

Well I’d like to think so, but whether there really are…..is, I don’t know. I mean it’s sort of sad going around colleges these days and realising that all these sort of skills have gone or are going, and that students are all working on computers

 

TI:

And why are they going? I think that’s the…..that’s the subversive……I can’t think what the right word is, but there is……they’re going for the wrong reasons; they’re going because money for space is more valuable if you assess it in terms of students per square foot, and I think if you dedicate a messy space to an art student that’s going to splash paint around for three years it’s far too expensive, when you could get three students in there on two computers or let’s give them three computers, and much cheaper, and

 

TW:

You really think it’s as crass as that?

 

TI:

I do

 

AI:

It might be, because probably it’s different people who are working out money these days, you know, how to spend the money

 

TI:

I’m sure it is, but the optimistic thing is that students aren’t stupid and in the end there’s going to be a

 

AI:

There’s quite a lot of revival of things like…..you know, our daughter’s just been doing a proper photography…..well they both have, they’ve both done proper photography using cameras

 

TW:

Using chemicals

 

AI:

Using chemicals, yes, developing their own photographs, and they’re very keen on this sort of thing actually, so……until perhaps they’ve got a load of rubbish at the end of it and it’s much easier to use a digital camera [laughing]

 

TI:

Well it’s….I don’t think it’s about nostalgia, I think what will tend to happen is probably the memory of those old….the sensation of material, the material world that we were all brought up in will come back

 

AI:

Do you know it’s theatrical isn’t it, I mean to go into art studios where people have their own little spaces which they’re sploshing the paint around in and, there’s the smell of oil paints and what have you, it’s a really theatrical experience. Walking into a room full of computers, there might be amazing stuff actually happening and theatrical stuff happening on the computer, but you don’t experience it in the same way

 

TI:

No, and it’s hidden from you. I did this course as I say and what was really bizarre was that it’s only on the final year show that you realise what people might have been working in; there isn’t a shared experience within a space; it’s….the space is very internalised because it’s computer based, and I like that because I’m new to it but as a young person I’d probably feel….because I’ve had the other world, I’ve had the big material world and I can throw things on the floor if I…..I have my own personal studio space so it’s not, I’m not deprived of that, but I think this younger generation have been deprived of those material experiences. I’m sure they’ll find them because they’ll find them in the streets of……if they need them, but they’re not being encouraged to explore those sensations and is being somehow…..

 

TW:

Do you think they’re being….I don’t know what the word is…..mainstreamed shall we say, so that if you really wanted to do something different you’d become a graffiti artist say, or in like you say in the seventies there was an attitude that you were exploring and learning, whereas now it isn’t about, you know, exploring so much it’s more about being taught skills that would get you a job

 

TI:

Well, I’m going to just say, I think that’s a pessimistic aspect and I think most…….enlightened tutors would say ‘no, we want to engender that creativity in the students’ but the students find it very difficult to find that place because they haven’t come from schools where….so it already hasn’t happened at school; they’ve had tick-boxing at school, they think that that’s the only way it can be assessed, so they want to know how they’re going to assessed before exploring

 

AI:

Yeah, which is really weird for us isn’t it but it actually…is meaningful to them, how they’re being assessed

 

TI:

That’s their conditioning, you know, nobody cared about us, that’s why we were free, it was great

 

AI:

I mean we were ultimately assessed but

 

TI:

Yes, but we didn’t care about the assessment either, you know, I didn’t get my degree; I refused to write my essays; I was a stupid twenty-one year old, so I rejected getting a qualification which I now……didn’t work that hard to get, but I did sort of have to get that piece of paper, so it’s quite amusing how different these…..periods of time have been with the conditioning

 

TW:

On Radio 4 this morning there was a programme on, about a young man called Cosmo Jarvis I think his name was, who is a kind of…a bit of a songwriter but he also makes little films; they’re not just…..you know, just MTV things of him stood there singing his songs, they’re actually creative things, and he’s made quite a lot of these and what he said, when he was at school, was he said ‘we were only taught to do the exam so we didn’t actually….we weren’t educated about anything, we were just….you know, given answers’ so to speak, he said ‘which stopped me being creative so I had to do it my own way’ and it sounds like you seem to think that sort of thing as well – there’s like a whole…..more than one generation, you know, of children through school who have been kind of programmed in a way, rather than allowed to learn really, you know. Do you think that’s true?

 

TI:

That is true, and I think the sadness is that they’re a bit frightened of what their own way is, because it hasn’t been qualified. Nobody has said ‘your way is good’ – nobody said ‘our way was good but we didn’t care and we weren’t forced to care by saying look, well, you know, I was in a sense’……if you performed within these categories you get the rewards and the rewards are this bit of paper or this mark, but if you perform outside of that you learnt a personal richness that stays with you, and I think that’s what I’ve got out of my liberal education at an art school and it didn’t cost me anything so I didn’t pay £18,000 like my daughter has done to have her education, but I certainly don’t regret a single moment of that whereas she probably is a bit….a bit regretful. She’s got this debt that she has to pay back, and she’s wondering if ‘that was the right thing for me’.

 

TW:

Well Anne said that you thought it was very good for business and industry, the liberal education through the seventies because people who came out of that system actually did things in industry, and you’re saying

 

TI:

And they did them differently

 

TW:

And now it’s not really like that, it’s almost like…..your daughter is…..she’s learnt photography which is a great skill to have, and probably a lot of different ways of making money or having, you know, out of that, but she

 

AI:

I don’t know though…..go on, yes

 

TW:

You know, she’s obviously looked into it and said ‘oh maybe there isn’t’ you know….did she not choose it because she loved it?

 

AI:

There are hoardings on the M62 now that say ‘learn the skill of photography and get a job’ or words to that effect – it’s utterly hilarious you know, I mean, what….well I know what that’s about, but those people are not gonna get jobs [laughing]……

 

TI:

Well, the pessimism is to do with young people having a tough time at the minute, you know, there are a million young people out of work; our daughter’s not been out of work, but they’ve got very……low skilled employment for their degrees; they’re not following…..careers….well one’s a mother so she’s stopped her career and she has

 

AI:

Yeah but she did have very well paid jobs

 

TI:

She had a well paid job, but again nothing to do with her archaeology

 

AI:

No, not to do with her degree

 

TI:

Not to do with her degree, so………I can say that I’ve always….my degree has been relevant throughout my life. It’s not given me a job, ever, but it’s

 

AI:

It has now! [laughing]

 

TI:

Well, in the sense that it’s my creativity that’s given me the job; it’s not going to art school and getting a BA

 

AI:

Oh no, no

 

TI:

So…..whereas they’ve gone to university and they’ve got a degree, and they’ve got their 2:1s and, you know, that surely is worth something; well it’s only the beginning of worth something because lots of people have got that, so I’ve got to fight even harder to get more qualifications; the pressure for them is about qualifying, fitting in, somebody giving me a job. I think we were luckier in the seventies because we scrapped about and somehow a living was put together from these various scraps, and that’s how we’ve carried on our lives; neither of us have ever had a full-time job I don’t think; Anne might have had one before she went to college but I don’t think you’ve had one since. You finished your degree in Fine Art…..

 

AI:

No

 

TI:

No, but we managed to survive and bring up a family

 

AI:

Oh, for a little bit…

 

TI:

Well, you know, fundamentally we’re not….we’ve been allowed not to live nine-to-five lives, bring up two children and several cats, have a roof over your head and carry on having a fairly comfortable, simple, middle-class lifestyle, well, that’s probably difficult nowadays; I think people would feel much more pressured to have to earn much more money than we had to earn for our lifestyles

 

TW:

Do you think then, the gap between scraping by and…..being a nine-to-fiver is kind of…..gotten farther apart shall we say?

 

TI:

Definitely. To me it seems like that because I know our youngest daughter works extremely hard in a caring profession. She’s never going to be paid very much, even if she reaches a managerial stage which she’s quite capable of doing, she’s only twenty-five, but she can see it as…..is she going to be able to afford to buy a property, and her boyfriend Mini, he’s still a student – he works part time – rents, in Leeds anyway, seem to be not…..very affordable for both of them sharing that lifestyle…..how long will they have to live in that lifestyle before they can say ‘well you know what, we can have a three week holiday in the sun on our income’…..they’ll be thinking ‘we don’t have enough money’…..they don’t drive cars, they don’t…..you know, it’s a basic existence and yet they……they work

 

TW:

Do you think, you know, I’m the same era as you; I’m sixty and I went to art school in the early seventies and all that, but do you think we were almost privileged because….the people, some of the older people, who are in their nineties now who I have interviewed, back in the twenties and thirties they lived at home until they were quite old and be able to save enough money to put a down payment on a cottage somewhere in this area, but all that sort of changed in the fifties and sixties and seventies

 

TI:

It did

 

TW:

Is it just….life goes like that sometimes, it’s up and down

 

AI:

I think so yeah

 

TI:

Yes, and…….I think I regret that it was easier for our generation than it is for our children because I’m sensitive to their….it would be nice if their life was a bit easier I think, or they had a bit more spare money, and I think, for us, it’s been alright, you know, and we haven’t had to work supersonically hard to have this life; I know my father would have worked supersonically hard to have his lifestyle, but then he had a pension at the end and he was secure in his job but he had to give himself to this company or that job for the thirty-five, forty years that he did do. Your

 

TW:

My father was similar, yes

 

TI:

Yeah, and our fathers did that; that was their sense of responsibility, but that’s what they had to do to bring up their family; we were lucky that we didn’t need to do that and I think a major reason why we didn’t need to do that and I will admit this, is to do with the housing market. We all did up our houses, so we might have been creative people but we all had a little bit of nouse, that we bought our properties instead of renting, and we put in that extra bit of……..effort into making our houses pretty interesting places to sell on and the market place was up for that at that time, but we put that in; I mean my parents never did that in the house. My dad just used to redecorate the house once a year or once every two years, but he’d never knock a wall down and put a bathroom in or….it wasn’t seen as necessary; you just made do with what you could afford, whereas our generation was brought up to think…..it didn’t cost us loads of money to do that either, so….I think that must be to do with how we’ve been allowed to have such a….a liberal lifestyle and yet still have………a comfortable life.

 

TW:

So I mean your children then, they’ve learnt these skills that they’ve got…..do you think they have the same kind of view of life shall we say, that you two have?

 

AI:

I think it’s coming round because I think that….well certainly our oldest daughter looked at us and thought ‘oh they’re artists and they don’t really have that much money. I want more than that’ so that’s what she chased, but actually I think there’s the other side of her as well, so it’s always going to be a bit of a battle really

 

TI:

Yes, because you chase more money but it costs you more to chase more money, so you……you have to work harder probably, you have to dedicate yourself to particularly career standards, you love those careers or those jobs, then you are sacrificing a little bit of your spirituality in that, and that balance between ‘what will make me happier’ – living in a modest house or……or living in an area where housing is cheap....is housing…….I keep coming back to housing because I think it’s been a major security for our family life. If we were living on incomes that we’ve been living on and didn’t own our own house, we’d probably be quite poor I’d say, but the fortunate thing is that we started in our own properties at a time where property appreciated, and that’s made us comfortable and able to carry on being creative….the pressure would always be Anne would like me to be an assurance agent, I know, we’ve had this conversation [laughing]…..and how good would that have been for my soul, my God, imagine

 

TW:

Do you think your children will come back to this area?

 

AI:

Maybe…..yeah maybe

 

TI:

I don’t think we’re going to move out of this area, because one was in the south and now we’ve got a grandchild and we sort of think ‘oh should we buy a little modest flat and live next to our granddaughter and’……

 

AI:

But then we’ve got another one up here so…..so really, you know…..

 

TW:

You’re stuck

 

AI:

Yeah, exactly, yeah

 

TI:

I think the main thing is that creatively, it doesn’t matter where we live; this is the area that we’ve lived in the longest out of all the areas we’ve lived in, so… ..but…..this home…do we…..does our generation need anywhere to be home, because our children have moved away and….do we see it as that’s the cycle of life, you know, that they’ll bring up children to live in Leeds or live in a city somewhere; does that matter to us? I don’t think so because I don’t come from a very rooted…..family, so place is slightly immaterial

 

TW:

I was just thinking about that, I mean you were born in…..your early life was in Egypt, and now with the Arab Spring as they call it

 

TI:

The unusual thing about my upbringing is not…..I’m not an Egyptian brought up in Egypt; we were Greek Cypriots and Italians brought up in Egypt and after Suez, that’s why we were exiles from Egypt - all Europeans were kicked out - so…..I don’t identify with Egypt as being my roots, so I am not an identified in-root type person other than…..obviously I have qualities that, you know, my grandmother was Italian; my grandfather was Greek Cypriot but I didn’t know any of the grandfathers so my main inheritances are European and Southern European but I was born in Egypt, and so I have memories of the smells of streets in Cairo that are obviously quite different to the streets of Hebden Bridge, so…….but they……I think…..I’ve travelled quite a bit and I identify with a lot of other cultures, but slightly outside, slightly removed; I’m not……I can’t identify with any one particular nationality or type of person and say ‘oh that’s where I belong’….I don’t think I properly need to belong anywhere other than in some creative space, you know, for me.

 

TW:

Right.

 

TI:

You?

 

AI:

Oh I think it’s a bit different for me because my family was very rooted in that one area, so yeah, I probably still think that I’m actually from Sussex, you know, that is my home even though I only spent nineteen years there, and I didn’t think it was fantastic! I’d probably like it better now than I did as a young person.

 

TW:

So you wouldn’t want to go back there then because your family have been there for generations?

 

AI:

It’s a very nice part of the world, I mean we’ve built up our friendships and things around her now, so the great thing about the south coast is that it’s warm and sunny which is very nice [laughing] I do miss that and no midges – fantastic!

 

TW:

I’m just wondering, is there anything that I haven’t actually asked about that you might want to talk about…..about Heptonstall or Hebden Bridge or…..creativity, or about being removed, you know, being somewhere on the outside, either as an artist or as a person? Is there anything I haven’t asked about?

 

AI:

Obviously we could go on for a long long time….

 

TI:

It’s a good position to be in, you know, feeling on the outside…..even on my BA course, I was talking to somebody yesterday and saying ‘well you know what, as an older person I felt on the outside of all these young people doing their degrees’ but actually it’s….it’s although it’s slightly lonely and that’s not a word I’m using in a sentimental way, it’s a separateness from culturally belonging and being part of, and that’s alright, it’s not……it’s a useful place to be because it means you can observe and you can contribute from a different place as well. It doesn’t cost you as much by not being fully integrated in the culture

 

TW:

Did it cost you £9000 a year then to do this course?

 

TI:

No, less because it’s just gone up to £8000 now so it was £3000 and a bit

 

TW:

You got in there early!

 

TI:

Yes

 

AI:

Just in time

 

TI:

Well just in time; they only changed it last year wasn’t it?

 

TW:

I think it was yes, I think you’re right there

 

TI:

But it will get, you know, if I was to do a post-graduate it would cost me £8000.

 

TW:

Right…..okay, well I think we’ll leave it there then if that’s okay, and…

 

TI:

Well it’s been nice to remember all these things

 

TW:

Maybe it’s one of the things that will……you will keep up thinking about, that sort of thing, and you know, it might find its way into your creativity.

 

AI:

Right, yeah………

[END OF TRACK 1]

About Us

Wild Rose Heritage and Arts is a community group which takes it's name from the area in which we are located - the valley ("den") of the wild rose ("Heb") -  Hebden Bridge which is in Calderdale, West Yorkshire.

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Pennine Heritage Ltd.
The Birchcliffe Centre
Hebden Bridge
HX7 8DG

Phone: 01422 844450
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