What is your background?
I’m from the Medway towns in Kent. To give you some context, I went from a small town that is rife with unemployment, racism and homophobia, where UKIP and the conservatives have somehow infiltrated the psyche of the working class, to moving to London to study, having just turned 18, figuring out I was queer, suddenly surrounded by middle and upper class people who boasted their privileged, intelligence and wealth and constantly made me feel inferior. One thing that I encountered a lot and is really offensive to me and has to stop, especially at art universities, is the middle class’ glorification of “looking and living poor”. It hurts actually, cos we don’t have the option of switching it on and off and asking parents for money.
What do you do?
I've been a self-employed artist for the last two years. I paint a lot. I use it to process everything I'm going through and to think about the people I'm surrounded by, in that way I need to paint to survive. I have a lot of guilt because I'm the first person in my family to be self-employed and that is a total privilege. I've grafted to be in this position, and I have to constantly remind myself and others that I am worthy of this and that I am working very hard to provide for the people around me. It's hard to manage my depression and being self-employed. I overwork a lot to compensate for my fear of people thinking I'm lazy, but in fact this makes me even more ill and takes me longer to recover from. I'm learning now that you can only make your best work and be your best self when you are well rested.
How are you grafting under the tory state?
I’ve been working twice as hard for what feels like forever. It’s in my blood to work hard because I have to or I won’t survive. I rely on the NHS for my antidepressants. Working class and queer people are more likely to suffer with mental health issues. I don’t trust the tories with the NHS. The people at the bottom don’t stand a chance. It’s a constant cycle of working class people with mental health issues that struggle to get help.
What needs to change and how?
Artists need to be challenging the institutions they work with. Challenge them to truly invest in underrepresented voices and believe it and make sure institutions aren’t exhibiting token outsiders just cos it’s fashionable. Queer and trans people are in danger everyday. Wherever it is safe for me to do so, I am working hard to make sure my queerness is visible. I am working hard to make sure I am visible and occupying space and to show that working class and queer people are worthy of living their dreams too. I don’t want people to feel alone. It’s very important to check up on how people are doing, especially with casual racism, sexism and homophobia alive and normalised in mainstream media. For me, making art is about human connection. I believe you can educate and infiltrate and undo everything that’s been force fed to you. I really believe artists have a responsibility to use their voices.
Edited by Isobel Gorman-Buckley
13th February 2020
Photography by Fraser Hanley-Nicholls