Meet Manchester Open Exhibition artist Ged Austin, aka: The urban poet. Ged is currently exhibiting his piece, ‘The urban poet show’, until Sun 29 Mar 2020.
When did you first take up art? What’s your artistic background?
I first took up Art in 1988 when I was 28 years old. I wrote my first children’s book called “Fred Bloggs and The Blue Whale” which is now on Amazon, along with a collection of 21 other different books. I have written on various subjects, including poetry, short stories, plays and philosophy.
When I was 13 years old I told my English teacher I wanted to be an author one day, he told me to forget it as I was not, in his opinion, a good student. I messed about a lot and nobody knew I had Dyslexia at that time.
I did not have an artistic educational background, never studied art or poetry and never received any certificates of merit in that field. I always liked reading books and I had a very lively creative imagination. I was baby sitting for a friends young child and I made up a story about a blue whale and a boy going off and having adventures under the sea. He loved it and so I published it – since then many have enjoyed it. That was the beginning of my art, you could say.
How did you feel when you found out you had been chosen for the Manchester Open?
When I found out my piece ‘The urban poet show,’ which includes my own spoken word poetry with musical accompaniment, was chosen for the Manchester Open I was delighted. It’s a great honour to me because I see HOME as the heart of the Manchester art community. In a way it was like coming home for me as I was born just around the corner in 1960 at St Mary’s hospital, just off of Oxford Road and next to the Ritz – it has long since been knocked down.
Exhibiting in the Manchester Open is a personal milestone and a dream come true for this Manchester boy – brought up on the Ardwick and Wythenshawe council estates of Manchester, with no academic background – to have my work on show in HOME, that well rocks.
Where do you find your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from the heart and soul of my own imagination and perception of life, how I feel and see things around me. I like to explore below the surface and find the root of something new that has not been looked at in my way or style before. Of course my inspiration has come from many people, too many to mention, as well as nature itself. It’s a classic combination: the love of self-expression is always my first reward, and just doing it for arts sake.
What do you think art brings to your life?
Art brings to my life great wisdom and teachings, also passion, enthusiasm, love, appreciation and gratitude that I am able to do it and try to capture what can never be captured first hand but if I can mirror it to the best of my ability, then I am pleased with my work and efforts. Art I feel connects me to the soul of the subject and as the observer then I become the observed and then I feel I am the thing I am writing about in my poems and stories.
I feel all of life is art in one form or another, art is always in motion, dying and being born out of its own death – the connection is amazing, one of the greatest canvasses in the universe is Mother Earth, just look at the beauty she exhibits.
Which artist(s) do you admire?
I admire so many artists, I am just sorry I can’t name them all but the ones that stand out in my life are Vincent van Gogh, L.S. Lowry, Ford Maddox Brown, Rembrandt, Valette, Charles Dickens, C.S Lewis. Roald Dahl, to name but a few.
Tell us an interesting story about yourself & your work:
I have personally been doing voluntary outreach work on the streets of Manchester working with the homeless community for 12 years, going out into what I call the hard trenches of desperation and poverty, giving out clothing, food and human support. This mainly includes offering a smile, listening and having the time to stop for a chat and ask “how are you doing today?”
About five years ago I decided to put on art exhibitions featuring the paintings, crafts and poetry from people who had challenging issues with homelessness. Working with Manchester charities Mustard Tree, the Booth Center, Life Share, Barnabas, I exhibited service users art work and through sales and donations was able to give the charities a lot of money for the work that they do.
Then I realized the homeless people who don’t use the centers for various reasons weren’t able to get their voices out there, to be heard, so I went into the Manchester doorways and asked them if they would like to write some poetry about how they feel? Who they were? What they like? What they don’t like and how they had come to be homeless. I did little poetry workshops in doorways and squats and paid each person £5 for their original hand written poem. I ended up collecting 75 poems from over 60 different people across the years.
I have since exhibited them at Whitworth Art Gallery for a week in 2018, Nexus Art Cafe and The Albert Hall, which was met with great success with the general public. It broke down a lot of old stereotypes of negative thinking and showed the human being and not some desensitized label put on them. It turned out to be the biggest organic homeless street poetry collection to be exhibited in the country and was featured and praised in the world homeless art festival summit.
To date I have raised over £8,000 for the homeless. So far, over the five years under the name of The Manchester Homeless Art Exhibition, I have curated and put up over 500 hundred paintings from the homeless and over 200 poems from the homeless in their own hand writing and much of it done on pieces of cardboard they sit on. Over a thousand people collectively have witnessed these exhibitions, and I am incredibly proud to have spearheaded the project from it’s beginning, though I must say without the support and trust from many wonderful people and volunteers and the homeless communities these things would not have been possible, so thank you to the all who contributed.
Our Manchester Open Exhibition 2020 runs from Sat 18 Jan until Sun 29 Mar.
This is the first region-wide exhibition of its type to welcome entries from people of any background and level of experience, including established professionals, new and emerging talent, enthusiastic amateurs and first-time artists.
Follow #mcropen2020 on all our platforms for sneak previews, artist Q&As and behind the scenes videos.