A small group of us walk in nature together and write poetry inspired by what we see. My artist friend and author of, Nature Unlocked, Diana Bell, took us to Dry Sandford last week. The previous day, a public work of art commission by Wootton Parish Council and executed by Diana had been installed and unveiled. I suggested we go to see it. Without exception, we loved it. Diana has had a big impact in Oxford but because of the nature of her public engagement art, her name is hardly known. We published this in the Oxford Indie Magazine.
This is not a new phenomenon especially in the Oxford area. There is the more famous case of the Headington Shark, which is known and recognised by hundreds of thousands around the world. It is associated with the man who owned it, Bill Heine. That’s not a problem. It’s great that he was prepared to have it in the roof of his house. But when I ask people who created it, I am greeted by silence. Few have heard of the much underestimated artist who made it – John Buckley.
Here is his story:John Buckley
Bill was an attractive man –a flamboyant character, the type the world regards as celebrities. In the ten years that I wrote the lives of inspirational people connected to Oxford, what I loved about them was that the majority would dislike being labelled as ‘celebrities’. They were doers and were passionate about what they were trying to achieve. That’s the problem and is why artists like Diana and John and founders of organisations, like my friend Gillian Cox, are not celebrated and their work not acknowledged.
In Oxford, in Littlemore, is the world’s first hospice for people with terminal mental illness, Alzheimer’s. It’s called Vale House. The original hospice was in Botley Road and one of its first residents was the author Iris Murdoch. There’s a plaque saying it was opened by Princess Diana but no mention of its founding chairman, Gillian Cox without whom it wouldn’t have happened at the time –probably for a long time. I persuaded the editor of Oxfordshire Limited Edition to let me cast Gillian away on Oxtopia. The magazine was becoming a life-style magazine and Alzheimer’s is not sexy. Because this was to be my final castaway feature- Newsquest were about to dispense with its freelance writers – she reluctantly agreed. She was sticking her neck out because her decision would be unpopular with Newsquest. I’m grateful that she agreed because my feature is the only celebration of this unsung hero, Gillian Cox .
Here’s her story: Gillian Cox Castaway
A group of talented Chinese artists called the Stars put ,not just their reputations, but their lives on the line and no one was celebrating them. I wrote my novel Brushstrokes in Time because NO -ONE else was writing about them & this white English woman decided to do it.
Here’s a feature I wrote about them.