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Canary Wharf: How the Boisdale Music Awards showcase talent at the venue

Evening saw recognition for the Alabama 3, Mud Morganfield, Polly Gibbons, PP Arnold and more…

The Alabama 3 play the Boisdale Music Awards 2023

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What connects a single that spent seven weeks at No. 1 in the US, the voice of Muddy Waters, the theme song to The Sopranos, The First Cut Is The Deepest, celebrity gangster Dave Courtney  and Jools Holland? 

It’s Boisdale Of Canary Wharf, as the restaurant, bar and live venue celebrated its annual music awards on September 20, 2023 – showcasing the breadth and depth of the kind of artists who regularly perform there on the stage above Cabot Square.

Hosted by Jools and celebrated jazz saxophonist Yolanda Brown, the annual event brought together a host of talents – some starting out, some well established and others who’ve enjoyed whole lifetimes in the business. 

That meant an evening where two-time Grammy winner, Gregory Porter, performed Hoochie Coochie Man with Nick Reynolds of the Alabama 3 in front of Mud Morganfield – Muddy Waters’ son, Snow belted out his 1992 global platinum hit Informer and Dave Courtney’s daughter, Courtney Courtney, won the rising star award.

PP Arnold was a vibrant presence on stage

Other highlights included Mud taking the stage himself (again with Reynolds), Kid Creole And The Coconuts’ energetic rendition of Annie I’m Not Your Daddy and a potent set from the Alabama 3, making good on their promise to deliver upbeat, acid house country all night long.

In short, the atmosphere was electric, warm and wild – as unpredictable as Boisdale always is at its best under the singular leadership of owner Ranald Macdonald.

This year’s winners were as follows:

Reggae Artist

UB40 

Best Album

Suzi Quatro and KT Tunstall 

for Face To Face

Global Icon

Snow  

Outstanding Contribution 

To Music

Gregory Porter 

Scottish Artist 

The Cuban Brothers

Canadian rapper Snow performed Informer after winning the Global Icon award

Lifetime Legend

Kid Creole And The Coconuts 

Blues Artists

Alabama 3 

+ Mud Morganfield

Soul Artist

Shalamar 

Instrumentalist

Bluey

Rising Star

Courtney Courtney

Band

The Brand New Heavies 

Jazz Artist

Polly Gibbons 

Female Artist 

PP Arnold

Male Artist

Howard Hewett

UPCOMING GIGS AT BOISDALE OF CANARY WHARF
 
PP Arnold
OCT 25- 9.30pm
From £19, show only. From £69, with dinner
A living legend in the soul world and this year’s best female artist, audiences can expect hits such as The First Cut Is The Deepest, Angel Of The Morning and It Won’t Be Christmas Without You. Critically acclaimed, she’s worked with everyone from Stevie Wonder and Ike And Tina Turner to Nick Drake to the Small Faces.


Citrus Sun ft. Imaani
NOV 15 - 9.30pm 
From £19, show only. From £69, with dinner
Formed by musician Bluey in the late 1990s, this group are set to present music from their latest album with inspiration from guitarist Jim Mullen. Expect jazzy numbers such as Mais Uma Vez and Calling Mr Wolf from the rhythm section and star of Incognito, fresh from winning the Instrumentalist award at Boisdale.


Jools Holland's Boogie Woogie Spectacular
APR 24, 2024 - 9.15pm 

From £149, with dinner (there is no show-only option)


This might be a way off, but Jools Holland’s Boogie Woogie And Blues Spectacular always sells out with the band leader allowed to indulge in his great passion for tickling the ivories. The evening will also feature the talents of Neville Dickie, the hair of Axel Zwingenberger (google him) and the slick playing of Ladyva. 

With unexpected collaborations, dancing on the tables and a spirited address from rapper Big Narstie, it was an event to remember.

Here’s what a few of the winners had to say:

Gregory Porter

Outstanding Contribution To Music

“It’s wonderful to win this award. The community of musicians and artists here are some of the best, so I’m really honoured. 

“Having Muddy Waters’ son in the audience and performing one of the songs that made his name was incredible – it’s the history and the lineage of the music and I’m appreciative of Boisdale for that.”

Dave Courtney’s daughter Courtney Courtney warms up during the sound check

Courtney Courtney

Rising Star

“My mind’s a little bit blown, to be honest. I’ve always sung.

“My brothers and my cousins all make music but I’ve only recently started to write my own stuff.

“I’m testing the waters. People seem to be enjoying what I’m making and so I’m going to keep creating. 

“I write with my best friend – he’s been through every major life event with me and that’s amazing. 

“At the moment, heartbreak is my inspiration – it’s one of the only emotions I’ve processed and healed from and it’s easier to write when you’re on the other side of something.”

Mud Morganfield 

Blues Artist

“It’s fantastic to be recognised in this country.

“I’ve pretty much spent my whole life in music and I’d give anyone starting out the same advice – you don’t need a drink or drugs to play better, don’t believe the hype.

“You just need what God gave you.

“The blues is everything to me, it’s life. You can run but you can’t hide. It might not catch you today, but it’ll catch you tomorrow.

“I had this music running through my head since I got to this world. A lot of my music is my father’s – a lot of people didn’t get a chance to see Muddy Waters and I just hope I can give them a glimpse of what that might have been like.

“I don’t think anyone gets the style quite like I do and I’m proud of that.” 

Gregory Porter performed Hoochie Coochie Man with the aid of Jools Holland and the Alabama 3’s Nick Reynolds

Rob Spragg aka Larry Love

Blues Artist

“When the Alabama 3 started, it was very much with this kind of awards ceremony in mind. We’d go to the Brit Awards and pretend we were from Alabama, not Brixton.

“Now we’ve risen to the heights of Boisdale in Cabot Square. I was totally spooked out by seeing Mud perform – we sampled Muddy Waters on Woke Up This Morning, which became the theme song for The Sopranos on TV.

“The blues allows for a certain raggedy-ness that the world needs alongside earthy rock and roll.

“Hopefully, this award puts us on the ladder of success after years of dirty gigs and tours – maybe we’ll wind up in some penthouse in New Jersey or something.

“For us, creating music is about the community you put yourself in and what you absorb.

“We’re very blessed by the stories that Brixton generates and all those things that come out at 4am in the pubs – then we put it all together in the studio.”

Muddy Waters’ son, Mud Morganfield in full flow

Polly Gibbons

Jazz Artist

“I’ve never won an award before so I’m very pleased. It’s lovely to have been considered and even better to have won.

“I’ve just released my ninth album, although in some ways it feels like my first, because this is the only one to feature all my own songs and arrangements.

“It’s called As It Is and the song I performed was Man Of Moderation, which is about my dad and features my family on backing vocals.

“He was diagnosed with Parkinsons but was quite a dynamic person – he played electric bass, got me into the blues and founded a festival called Green Belt.

“The disease has brought him to his knees – he was 6ft 2” and is now about 5ft 8” and it’s my observations as a daughter of a life very well lived.”

Howard Hewett

Male Artist

“I’ve been singing since I was 10 years old – inspired by my mum.

“She was a gospel promoter in Ohio and that’s how I cut my teeth.

“As an artist and lead singer of Shalamar, the thing I want to communicate to my audience is integrity.

“There’s a whole lot of crap out there right now, so it’s about quality not fads.

“Connecting with people when you’re performing is a really great feeling. That’s what we need.”

  • The Boisdale Music Awards takes place annually, usually in September.

Find out more about the venue here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How WyzePay aims to save its users cash on regular purchases

Level39-based startup uses pre-pay to guarantee retailers income and consumers discounts

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What if I told you I could take £400 and instantly give you an extra £100 to spend at a specific venue in Canary Wharf?

Well, I can’t, but WyzePay can.

The startup, now based at tech community Level39 in One Canada Square, relies on the premise that businesses will be prepared to offer better prices to customers who pre-pay for their services.

Suppose, for example, I get a coffee from the same place every day on my way into the office (yes, I’m not hybrid working on Fridays or anything like that).

It’s habit – a ritual that I enjoy – and it costs me £3.20 per day.

For the sake of argument, let’s say I work 47 full weeks each year, so the bill would be £752. 

Provided I’m happy to use WyzePay – and cough up the cash up front in chunks of £400 – that cost will only be £601.60.

I wonder what I’ll buy with the £150.40 that I’ll save? 

“The current way of paying for things – credit and debit cards – has been around since the middle of last century,” said Ian Rae, CEO  at WyzePay.

“From a consumer perspective, we thought there could be a better way of doing things.”

Born in Mile End, the grandson of a docker, things have somewhat come full circle for Ian.

During an extensive career in technology for financial services firms, he’d moved steadily eastwards ending up in Hainault before heading back in, to Wapping High Street.

Ironically, his aunt told him that his grandad hated the building he wound up moving into as it was formerly a sugar warehouse and the commodity was too heavy to nick.

In a sense – albeit completely legal – WyzePay is also about getting something for nothing. Ian and co-founder Joe Channer decided to relocate the firm to the heart of Docklands, following a spell proving the concept in Queen’s Park.

They are now engaged on applying its offering across the Canary Wharf estate to demonstrate its benefits both to consumers and businesses.

“When developing the idea, we looked at Starbucks, which in 2018 put its loyalty scheme on an app and raised about $1.5bn in a matter of months,” said Ian.

“There was obviously something in the idea that people would be willing to prepay for things they were going to do anyway and that would benefit the retailer.”

For the consumer, the attraction is simple.

Pay up front and get a discount on what you’re buying. 


WyzePay offers users the ability to buy credit in the form of coins dedicated to a specific retailer. These are then held in a digital wallet and can be spent with the venue via the app. This example shows the difference in savings by pre-paying for £30 and £500 at Boisdale Of Canary Wharf in Cabot Square

“You’re going to get a better return than from that money just sitting in a current account, so it’s a no-brainer,” said Ian.

“The merchant gets the cash up front – which is extremely valuable for a business – and the discount rewards the customer who keeps coming and loves the service.

“It’s buy now, take more later – a bit more responsible than take now and pay later.”

WyzePay is currently undergoing a growth spurt. Ian and the team are in the process of striking deals with various restaurants, bars and businesses in Canary Wharf, with some already live and available to use.

At present, coins can be purchased for The Grandstand Bar, Boisdale Of Canary Wharf, 640East and Brick Lane Bagel with each offering up to 20% – meaning an outlay of £400 gets you £500 of credit at the venue.

Seoul Bird and Obica have also signed up, offering maximum discounts of 11% and 15% respectively. The minimum discount for all venues is 10%.

WyzePay’s tech is blockchain based, allowing it flexibility of form in the future although, at present, credit bought for one business can only be used at that venue.

“We’re in active discussion with several other businesses – it’s important to get the right fit,” said Ian.

“In this phase we’re aiming for 10-20 retailers by the end of October with about 1,000-2,000 consumers using the platform.

640East is offering up to 20% off via WyzePay

“That allows us to unlock some more funding and then to push on with the project.

“Canary Wharf is a great place to do this because it’s that community approach which fits with what we want to do further down the line.

“We have an idea to explore a community coin, where instead of spending the credit with a specific retailer, it would be possible to use it with any of the retailers that are signed up.

“We’d also like to set up an exchange where credit could be moved from one business to another.

“Then it becomes an alternative way of paying for things and a way to disrupt some of the lazier players in the market.

“If you look at gift cards, for example, you have an industry that’s really quite inefficient.

“It’s well known that even though it’s digital, a percentage of the money that’s been paid just sits there and isn’t spent.

“That’s no good if I’m the giver or the person receiving the gift – we think there is a better way of doing things. 

“As a business, our revenue comes from a percentage on the purchase of coins through WyzePay, which is charged to the merchant.

“However, every time you use a credit card there are charges they are paying and we cost less than that.”

Boisdale Of Canary Wharf is offering up to 20% off on the platform

Right now, WyzePay is all about awareness – signing up businesses for its platform and attracting users to give it a go.

That includes the likes of sponsoring the Action For Kids Beach Volleyball in Canada Square Park, which runs until September 28, 2023, and reaching out to companies on the estate to explain the offer.

“We’re focused on hospitality  because it’s easy for people to get their heads around,” said Ian.

“But really WyzePay can be applied wherever there’s a supply chain.

“The options are endless – but it’s better to start somewhere to demonstrate what it does.

“We’re also very clear that we won’t be for everyone – the lazy, rich and indolent, for example. It’s for people who want to get a good deal.

“Our dream is that WyzePay will one day be used as a verb.

“Imagine you’re in a restaurant and someone says: ‘I’ll WyzePay that’.”

That, of course, would put it in the big leagues alongside hoover, google and, increasingly, Uber (which hasn’t quite dropped the capital letter yet).

Just remember, it got big on the Wharf first.

Find out more about WyzePay here

Seoul Bird is offering up to 11% off via WyzePay

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How the Boisdale Music Awards act as a showcase for the venue

Event celebrates the breadth and quality of talent that graces the Cabot Square restaurant’s stage

Boisdale Music Awards hosts Jools Holland and Yolanda Brown

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Boisdale Of Canary Wharf recently hosted its annual music awards, with a roster of 14 honours for individuals and groups presented.

While the event recognised the talents of the winners and brought together a diverse crowd in celebration – where else can you see Black Sabbath’s guitarist casually chatting with actor and crooner Hugh Laurie? – it perhaps best served to draw attention to the breadth and quality of the artists Boisdale regularly draws to its stages in Canary Wharf and Belgravia

Effervescent owner Ranald Macdonald plus hosts Jools Holland (patron of music for Boisdale) and boisterous jazz saxophonist YolanDa Brown, presided over the proceedings including awards for the following:

Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath at the awards

Tony Iommi

Lifetime Achievement Award

As co-founder and the only constant member of ground-breaking heavy metal band Black Sabbath, Tony’s contribution to music alongside Ozzy Osborne, Bill Ward and Geezer Butler is well documented.

 Their work includes genre-defining releases such as their eponymous first album and its follow-up, chart-topper Paranoid, named for the song that remains their only UK top 20 single.

Having lost the tips of two of his fingers in an industrial accident at the age of 17, he was inspired to keep playing after listening to a recording of guitarist Django Reinhardt.

After being told the gypsy jazz great was only using two digits having been injured in a fire that left two of his fingers paralysed, Tony redoubled his efforts, going on to make musical history himself. 

He said: “Getting this award feels lovely. I’ve got five lifetime achievement awards now, but it’s  great – I think any recognition is fantastic, I love it.

“Music is a different way of life now to when we started. I’d always say, get a lawyer and then get going, to those beginning a career now. 

“My real advice though would be to love what you’re doing, enjoy it and then whatever else comes is a bonus. You have to enjoy what you do.

Paranoid the song was on the second album – we’d had the first one, which was in the charts for a long time and then we did Paranoid, which went to No.1.

“It was a throwaway single but it got to No. 4 – we didn’t have enough songs for the album and the producer said we needed another one, just a short track.

“I came up with this idea, then we played it and recorded it in a few minutes and that was that.

“The whole thing about this business is about believing in what you do. I have always believed in what we do and that’s why we’ve been around a long time. It’s because we don’t change from what we love.”

Cleveland Watkiss performs at Boisdale Of Canary Wharf

Cleveland Watkiss 

Jazz Artist Award

Hackney-born singer and composer Cleveland was named best jazz artist for 2022. Having studied at the London School Of Singing and subsequently at Guildhall School Of Music And Drama, his career took off in the 1980s as a member of the Jazz Warriors with the likes of Courtney Pine and Dennis Rollins.

He has since gone on to work with a diverse and varied collection of artists including The Who, Bjork, Bob Dylan, Art Blakey, Wynton Marsalis and Robbie Williams, to name just a few.

Cleveland said: “It’s always good to feel that your art and your work is appreciated. These awards are really encouraging, they give you a lift – especially in these tough times.

“It’s my wish and desire to keep performing and this award is just more encouragement to keep doing what I do.

“You know that saying – give people their flowers while they’re alive? Well not everyone gets those flowers, so I want to dedicate this to some of the people who inspired me coming up.

“There were a few people who passed away during the pandemic including my aunt, whose funeral I wasn’t able to attend because of Covid. She was like a second mother to me.

“She was one of these people who regardless of the situation would have a positive outlook on life. She was always encouraging us when we were growing up.

“I lost my father when I was nine and I stayed with her as a kid.

“She was always inspirational and, even though she suffered with illness, she’d lift you up.

“There’s other people too like Ray Carless, a fantastic tenor saxophonist in the community in Hackney where I grew up.

“He recently passed away but he was such an icon in terms of the work he did in east London and beyond.

“He was a hugely celebrated musician who played in some of the most iconic jazz bands in the UK. We’d be here all day if I sat here and named them – top artists like Adele and Elvin Jones.

“Ray was a big inspiration to me when I saw what he was doing. I watched him at Ronnie Scott’s when I was in my late teens and I thought: ‘Wow, if he could do that, playing with one of the greatest musicians in the world – Elvin Jones, who played with John Coltrane – then maybe I could too’. 

“I want to dedicate this to people like that – people who never really got their flowers when they were alive.”

Gina Larner belts out new single Heavy Heart

Gina Larner

Best Up And Coming Artist

Brighton born singer songwriter Gina is set to release her first and, as yet, untitled album later this year. 

She said: “It feels really good to win. I sang Heavy Heart, the first single from my new album, which should be out in a few weeks.

“I sing and write Americana and country pop.

“People often see the pink hair and assume punk, but I’ve just loved Americana and country since I was a kid – I really like Stevie Nicks, KT Tunstall and Kacey Musgraves and I listen to a bit of Dolly Parton too.

“I’ve been writing for a long time – don’t get me wrong, my songs were shit originally, 14-year-old me did not write bangers – now, hopefully, 24-year-old me is writing better songs.

“I like to think what I write is very honest – that’s what I aim for.

“I’ll be back at Boisdale supporting KT Tunstall when she plays here on November 11.”

KT Tunstall is set to perform at Boisdale on November 11

3 DIARY DATES FOR BOISDALE OF CANARY WHARF

Oct 25-29, 9pm, from £24

Audiences can expect jazz-funk and r’n’b from The Blackbyrds, who are set to play five nights at Boisdale Of Canary Wharf in October. Assembled in the mid-1970s in Washington DC by legendary trumpeter Donald Byrd, their output has been sampled by everyone from De La Soul to Massive Attack.

Nov 3, 9.30pm, from £49

The UK Queen Of Soul is set to bring her velvety vocals back to Canary Wharf. Known for hit singles including My One Temptation, Breathe Life Into Me and Where Is the Love, audiences can expect a track or two from her critically acclaimed album Gospel, released in 2020.

Nov 11, 9.30pm, from £75

Known for Suddenly I See and Big Black Horse And The Cherry Tree, the Scottish singer-songwriter returns to Cabot Square with support from award-winner Gina Larner.

Read more: Quiet Rebels invade the stage at The Albany

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: Summer Lights work by Liz West is perfectly placed at Cabot Square

Hymn To The Big Wheel fuses Spice Girls and Massive Attack just across from Boisdale

Artist Liz West at Greenwich Peninsula - image Charles Emerson
Artist Liz West at Greenwich Peninsula – image Charles Emerson

You’d struggle to find a more appropriately placed artwork in London than Liz West’s Hymn To The Big Wheel. Installed in Canary Wharf as part of its Summer Lights festival, featuring 11 works placed across the estate until August 21, the walk-in structure at Wren Landing is composed of vertical, deeply coloured panels for visitors to interact with.

While the work is visual in nature, it’s sound that links it by coincidence to Cabot Square, just south of its location – where restaurant and live music venue Boisdale Of Canary Wharf has played host to both pop sensation Mel C and, more regularly, reggae powerhouse Horace Andy. 

“If you Google me you’ll find out I’m the Guinness World Record holder for the biggest collection of Spice Girls memorabilia in existence,” said Liz.

“I hired out my collection to museums when I graduated and that’s how I managed to become an artist full-time, so every piece of my work owes something to that. 

“There’s also the idea of every piece being a self portrait, that the colours are borrowed from my obsession with music videos in the 1990s, that garish, Britpop palette.

“I’d always liked strong female artists and, in 1996, I was 11 – the target age. I remember watching Top Of The Pops one day – they came on and I was like: ‘These are for me’. I heard the first few lines of Wannabe and I thought, this is exactly representing me – they were all individuals, loud, girls-next-door and not necessarily wealthy.

“To a girl from Barnsley who wanted to strive for more, when seeing that I felt that if I worked hard enough and was passionate enough, I could achieve what I wanted to.”

Visitors can enter Hymn To The Big Wheel - image Matt Grayson
Visitors can enter Hymn To The Big Wheel – image Matt Grayson

Before cueing up a Spotify playlist packed with Spice Girls hits for your visit to Summer Lights, Liz’s contribution actually takes inspiration from another 1990s source.

“I love music and dancing, and I grew up with music around me,” she said. “I always try to find a bit of a double meaning to give more substance to my titles, so this one is a reference to Massive Attack’s Hymn Of The Big Wheel from Blue Lines, and if you listen to the lyrics in that song, it talks about the Earth spinning on its axis and how we all go by, day by day.

“I thought that was a wonderful sentiment, because this is a piece of work aiming to be a sundial, and that’s caused by the Earth revolving, and the ‘Big Wheel’ being the planetary system, with our planet going round its star – ‘hymn’ shows this work is also an homage to the Sun. 

“I would love people to walk into the work with the sound of Massive Attack playing – they might start dancing and become performers within it as they move around it.”

And that’s especially appropriate for its location as fellow trip-hop nerds will know the lead voice on that track is Horace Andy, whose quavering, high-pitched tones, as mentioned, have regularly blasted out from Boisdale’s stage, prompting audience members to get to their feet, just a few hundred metres away.

As for the work itself, Hymn To The Big Wheel has been a long time coming – an opportunity for Liz to revisit an idea originally conceived for a completely different place.

“It’s two concentric octagons – a piece I’ve had in the back of my head for a long, long time,” she said.

“When I was first invited to submit a proposal for Spinningfields, Allied London’s property in Manchester in 2015, I had this drawing for an octagon pavilion which had coloured clear walls, just transparent block colours, not stripy in the way that it is now. That drawing was proposed and developed into something that was affordable at the time. It was my first piece of outdoor, public art, and, working with fabricators for the first time in my life, it was a big milestone for me in terms of my practice.

“The piece ended up going from being an octagon, to a tunnel to a prism structure, and that was due mainly to structural issues, like snow-loading and wind-loading in a Manchester winter.

“When I was asked to propose a piece for Summer Lights I didn’t know what I was going to do so  went through all my drawings and stumbled across one I’d made six years ago.

“I asked myself how I could bring that up to date and I was listening to that Massive Attack track at the time and it all kind of slotted into place in a really nice way.

Inside Liz West's Hymn To The Big Wheel - image Matt Grayson
Inside Liz West’s Hymn To The Big Wheel – image Matt Grayson

“Then it was about placing one colour overlapping another to get visible colour mixing happening in front of people’s eyes. 

“All my work is about the theory of how light behaves – in this case a sundial – and how colour behaves.

“I get lots of samples of the exact material, and I layer them over each other in a very methodical way – starting with the reds and putting every single colour over them, then the oranges and so on.

“At the back of my head is the thought that there are a number of panels in the installation, so I need that number of colour mixes. Then it becomes a matter of detraction – taking away colours that I don’t feel are working together. There’s an element of instinct within that as well.

“This world is full of grey granite, silver metal and reflective glass – that’s how most buildings are being made. I guess I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, that’s important to say, and randomly – choosing to live in grey, northern cities and towns – Barnsley, where I grew up, Manchester, where I live now and Glasgow, where I studied – my antidote to living in these wet, grey, northern cities is to self-remedy by creating these really vivid works. 

“The feeling I want people to have when they encounter my work is meditative, for it to be about them. I don’t want to describe to people how they should feel. Everyone speaks the language of colour, no matter what your race, sex, age or background – it’s universal.”

Find out more about Liz’s art here.

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