Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Ian Makes an Exhibition of Himself

Ian at Kara Lodge (photo courtesy of Jemima Dury)

The summer of 2013 sees the first major exhibition of the paintings and artworks of Ian Dury.

The exhibition ‘Ian Dury: More Than Fair - paintings, drawingsand artworks 1961-1972’ is being staged at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU from 22 July to 1 September (Closed Mondays). Free Admission.

The show has been put together by Ian’s daughter Jemima Dury, ‘former confederate’ Kosmo Vinyl, and one time Stiff Records art director Julian Balme. More than 30 pieces will be on display, most of them coming from the Dury family archive, with some pieces loaned by Ian’s friends, and collectors.

The Royal College is an apposite venue for such a celebration; Ian gradated there on 8 July 1966 with a diploma as an Associate of the Royal College of Art. He went on to teach art at various schools and colleges before forming his band Kilburn and the High Roads in 1971.

Lee Marvin

Ian: “When I was a painter I got good enough to know my limitations. To exactly place myself, and ambition is one of the driving forces of anyone’s creative output and the thought that you’re gonna be the best. You want to rank with your heroes like Renoir. There’s a room at Kenwood with a Rembrandt and a Vermeer and a Frans Hals. Once you’ve done twelve years, which I had, you get to point where you know that however hard you try, fifteen hours a day, you reach a point where you realise you ain’t necessarily gonna be good enough to please yourself. Good enough to spend that time agonising over it. Lucien Freud is always grafting, it’s pure frustration. If you’re prepared to put up with that life, you’ve got to believe in yourself to a very huge extent and I’d sooner fall asleep with a book.”

Princess Rockeberty

Ian: “A lot of us got into The Royal College Of Art.  They called us the Walthamstow Cockneys. A load of us got in - 14 into the painting school, let alone the dress design department.  There was a mass exodus every year into The Royal College for a further three years of jollification. Peter Blake was teaching there, we're good mates.  The kind of work a few of us were into related to being able to enjoy things that were popular rather than going down the bleeding library all the time.”

Hey, Hey Mobile

Ian: “I met Betty, my late first wife, at the Royal College of Art. She was at Newport College of Art. Her dad went to the Royal College of Art in the thirties. Getting into the RCA was the only thing I've aspired to in my life. I spent two years trying to get in. It’s the only achievement I've ever felt, a bit like going to the university of your choice. I’m really pleased I went there, I’m proud of it. I wouldn't have been able to learn about how to live as a person doing what they want to do if I hadn't gone there, allowing your determination and output to control the way things go - my nine and my five.”

At the time of writing, a Kickstarter campaign has been launched to raise the £10,000 needed to ensure that the show goes ahead. Supporters have been asked to donate here:

See you there!

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Thursday, 10 May 2012

The Great Tortoise Hunt (1962) - previously unseen footage of Ian Dury

Ian Dury with syrup

During his time as a student at Walthamstow College of Art (1959-63), Ian also taught in local schools. It was at Culverhouse Secondary Modern School in South Ockendon that he met fellow teacher Gordon Law. Fuelled by a diet of jazz and poetry, Ian and Gordon would fantasise about making improvised radio shows and films. The Goons were an influence, as was Richard Lester’s The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film (1959), featuring Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers.

Excerpt from The Running Jumping & Standing Still Film

In 1962 Gordon Law acquired a second-hand Bolex 8mm cine camera and suggested that Ian and his friends make a movie. Filming took place on Sundays in the garden of Ian’s home in Upminster, and in fields close to Barry White’s house in Wood End, Brentwood. The troupe consisted of Ian and his girlfriend Pat Few, Barry and Barbara White, Gordon and Ann Law, and Mike Price. At various points in the film Ian’s mimicry of silent movies legends such as Charlie Chaplin and Oliver Hardy is effortless.


Gordon Law: ‘The films we tried to make were incredibly chaotic because each person who took part had an entirely different view of what the films were about. Ian was dressed either as a gun-slinging sheriff or a New York taxi driver with a special leather flat cap. Ian was a crack shot, one-handed with an air rifle in those days. He could hit an Old Holborn tin in the garden from the attic window of Waldegrave Gardens at maybe 100 feet plus.’ 

Barry White: 'We went to Waldegrave Gardens and I remember Ian’s caravan in the garden. It was his studio cum living quarters. Reading between the lines, I think his mum realised she had produced someone who was rather special and she was extremely supportive. It didn’t surprise me when Ian became a star - the signs were there when we made the home movies.’

Ian Dury with titfer and salmon

With special thanks to Barry White, who provided me with the 1962 film on video, from which I was able to transfer it to a digital format for editing and upload. The six minute clip shown here has been edited down from the eleven minute original. Some jolly piano music has been added to enhance the viewing experience.

Postscript: Ian’s mother Peggy actually had two tortoises – Homer and Chloe. I’m not sure which of them has the cameo role in The Great Tortoise Hunt, but it is safe to assume that no animals were harmed during filming.

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Saturday, 1 October 2011

Ian’s Old Muckers #4: Humphrey Ocean

“I never grew out of painting. It’s a rather Jesuit idea that people are formed in some way by the age of seven. They go to school and look over their shoulder and see somebody doing it and the teacher says, ‘That’s good.’ And you look at your thing and it’s all thumbs. I do remember when I was about eight or nine I did a black charcoal drawing of a tree with snow on it. One or two people liked it and that was enough for me. I left school at 16 and went to art school. I told my father I was going to be an interior designer. I’d never have dared say to my father I wanted to be a painter, but I was painting away.”

“Having done two years at Tunbridge Wells and then a year at Brighton, I applied to Canterbury College of Art, which was where I met Ian. He arrived the same week as I did, September 1970. He came limping in, in this fantastic cardigan, and made me see that what I wanted to do, which was paint things that I liked, was the most modern activity that I could possibly be involved with. When Ian walked into the room seven questions sprang to mind. His body became part of the room and the dynamics would change. I can remember sensing that immediately - what in other circumstances would have become love at first sight. I thought ‘he looks interesting.’ Ian used to love Victorian watercolour painters - John Frederick Lewis - people like that. He adored the highly detailed pictures, but that was a kind of perversity.”

“You couldn’t help but notice his disability. I had a friend at Tunbridge Wells who had a bad stutter. We used to draw together. That was our rebellion. I don’t go round with a cast of disabled friends, but it occurred to me later that where I would run for a bus, Ian couldn’t, so I would think, ‘well, we’ll wait for the next one.’ It was a frame of mind that I liked. It slowed one down. Ian tried to help and guide us. He would find something to talk about. But he only did it [teach at Canterbury] for two years. He resigned.”

“The reason I’m an artist is because I quite like being on my own. It’s quite a slow business, the art game. I was attracted by somebody who was forced to go at his or her own speed. They actually couldn’t physically outrun themselves. Of course, if Ian had wanted to be a runner, it would have been a disability. He said in one interview that when he became famous he felt emasculated. He couldn’t go out and be loud. For the first time in his life he felt disabled. But actually, you realise that it didn’t hamper him. He moulded the world into his own likeness.”

As told to Will Birch, May 2001. Photographs: Humphrey Ocean as a Kilburn by Ed Baxter. Humphrey and Will by Terry Lott.

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Thursday, 1 September 2011

Ian’s Old Muckers #3: Terry Day

“I started at Walthamstow during Ian’s third year, I think, 1962. In October 63 we started at Royal College of Art. I was into abstract but my work was reality based, car dumps, crashes, landscapes. There was a disused motorbike they had thrown out by the entrance. I lugged it in, cleaned it up and painted it. All the brown-coats lugged it back out and I lugged it back in. Ian was into the dolly birds, Laurel and Hardy, 6B black pencil drawings. I have one in the attic.”

“When we got to the Royal College we were a bit of a double act. We would operate. What we shared was the infinite thing, drumming. ‘Come and see these drums.’ That always was our bond, there was no competition, a double stroke roll was what he wanted to hear. Ian loved the social thing, but for me it was music. Anonymity didn’t exist for Ian. I didn’t want minders round me, but Ian needed one.”

“Ian only became a magnet when he set up the group [Kilburn and the High Roads], not before. He was a partial magnet or a provisional magnet at Canterbury when he was teaching. As soon as he started the second phase, he became a full magnet. Put it like this… Ian wouldn’t have had a lot of social visitors prior to the second phase of Kilburn and the High Roads. He would have friends but not a lot of people around him. Thereafter his social magnetism increased, from Wingrave onwards. With the Kilburns, as soon as Dave Robinson entered the game Ian became a magnet. He enjoyed being famous. He may have had a period where he had to get used to it, but he enjoyed it. He wanted it. But when you get to the top of the mountain it takes it out of you. From stepping out onto the street with anonymity – the musicians might know who you are – but the difference is, as soon as you’ve got a face, people are watching you.”

As told to Will Birch, March 2004. Photographs: Terry with Humphrey Ocean looking on by Terry Lott, Ian and Terry courtesy of Terry Day.

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Monday, 1 August 2011

Ian’s Old Muckers #2: Chaz Jankel

“From my perspective, being quite candid about the latter days of Ian Dury and the Kilburns, it had run its course. Ian was tired. It had gone as far as it could go. We were one of the top pub acts but it needed to go to another level. I felt that the band could only take Ian so far artistically. Ian used to write a lot with the keyboard players. I was a keyboard player as well as a guitar player and I was actually looking for a lyricist, but I got a whole lot more - I got Ian Dury - an amazing character. It was natural for me to want to write with Ian. We talked about the idea of backing off playing live and writing an album. He was in his flat near the Oval and I used to go there with my Wurlitzer piano and a guitar and write songs.”

“The very first lyrics were Tell The Children and Sex And Drugs. Wake Up was in the second wave, it got us started on ‘New Boots’. Ian’s flat was amazing. He had a fairly frisky relationship with Denise, [they were] both very spirited, and they didn’t always see eye to eye. There was a very delicate dance of wills taking place. Denise was very gregarious.”

“A lot of Ian’s girlfriends had a boyish look to them, slim and petite. A girl named Zegnia accompanied him around Italy. We used to smile and say hello but I never had an in-depth conversations with any of them. They kept themselves to themselves. She didn’t party with the rest of us. They were an item and would go off to a room somewhere. Ian always needed someone to help him. A girl called Belinda appeared later on, who used to drive Ian nuts, once again quite petite, whimsical, pretty but unpredictable.”

“Ian knew he was immediately recognisable, he couldn’t run away. He didn’t like the vulnerability of fame; at Notting Hill Carnival, Smart Mart and Blake picked him up, one under each elbow and rescued him. He would want a minder with him when he went out. I think there was a disagreement with Fred with regard to the use of ‘restraint’, although Ian would often incite Fred and Fred would end up having to defend Ian. Ian felt strengthened by Fred’s involvement.”

“Ian’s perfect idea of an evening would be a bottle of Moet, champagne cocktails and have Ed Speight sitting next to him, in his little room in Hampstead rolling spliffs and telling jokes. Ed was a bright man with a sarcastic sense of humour. That’s when a lot of his lyrics would come about, quips and couplets on his sketch pad. The ultimate relaxation for Ian, strangely, sadly enough, was when he was diagnosed with cancer. The chemo was knocking the wind out of his sails but it gave him a certain humility, it took the anger out of him and at times it was quite welcome.”

“He’s left an amazing legacy. The Blockheads wouldn’t be together, the spirit hasn’t died. Physically we won’t get any more songs from Ian Dury. Most people of our generation know who he was and are inspired by that bravado. It’s synonymous with the late 70s. He characterised that age for me.”

As told to Will Birch, July 2004. Photograph: Chaz by Terry Lott. Drawing of Chaz by Ian Dury.

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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Ian’s Old Muckers #1: Fred ‘Spider’ Rowe

“When we went to America, I told him, ‘These Americans Ian, they adore you, they love the stories you tell.’ Everywhere we went, the place was jammed. I told him, ‘In Europe and England, you’ve always been able to pull a bird and get knobbing, but in America you ain’t. What’s the reason for that?’ The American birds never went for him. He only pulled two the whole time we were there, and one of them was a bit of a Magnus [Pyke]. I said, ‘That’s a geezer ain’t it?’ He liked them like that. ‘Fuck off,’ he said."

"Me and Davey had a few arguments. Davey used to tell me he was going to give Ian a whack. I told him, ‘You’ll have to give me a whack first and you won’t find that easy.’ In Germany, we were in the hotel and the bloke behind the desk had an Irish [jig] on. Ian pointed it out to me because I’m bald and I won’t wear one. Ian asked him, ‘How much hair you got under there?’ The bloke took umbrage and got the right hump. I said, ‘Allow me to apologise for my friend, he’s drunk.’ But Ian knocked all the stuff off the counter. The geezer leapt forward and grabbed Ian by his scarf. I wasn’t quite quick enough, so I grabbed hold of his hand and wrenched it away from Ian. I thought he was a mug and I didn’t want to hurt him. I was saying, ‘Please don’t make me do it,’ but Ian’s going, ‘Fred, knock him out!’ As I turned to talk to Ian, the geezer’s punched me on the side of the head, so I had to deal with him. He called the police. They spoke to me in English, but when we got to the police station they could only speak German! Peter Jenner had to pay money to get me out of the nick."

"Ian told me that when he was young he should have been kicking a ball about and scrumping apples, but he was put in this institution. It must have been quite bewildering for this affliction to hit him at such an early age. I never noticed it. All I saw was the man, but he used to think that everybody noticed his disability. He had a down on himself. He invented it. I told him, ‘They see you as an artist and a rocker, not a raspberry [ripple]. It’s your talent, not your fucking bodily structure.' He asked me, ‘Do you believe that?’ I wasn’t in the habit of giving him bollocks. He used to thank me. You could up him for a few days, then he’d be on his own. If he never had some old tabby with him to cheer him up he’d go into depression again."

"But he changed my life. I’d never met anyone like Ian before. I had a huge mistrust of people due to my mixing with the criminal fraternity, but Ian made an impact on me. He would say things that were complimentary, then stand back and let you digest what he’d said. When I met him, I thought he was an ordinary bloke writing songs, but he was far more than ordinary. I know for certain that if we hadn’t have met, I would have pursued a life of crime and been back in jail. But I became engrossed in Ian’s world and people like Dave Robinson were suddenly treating me with respect. Ian was the catalyst. He treated me as an equal. I’d never had that before.”

As told to Will Birch, May 2008. Photographs: Fred by Terry Lott, Fred and Ian by Chris Gabrin.

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Wednesday, 1 June 2011

My Old Man – The Tale of Bill Dury, Part 2

Bill Dury as a young man. Photo courtesy of Margaret Webb

Following their marriage in December 1938, Bill and Peggy moved into 1b Belsize Road, the flat that Peggy had been sharing with her sister Molly and occasional visitor Elisabeth. Bill was employed as a bus driver and would often arrive home from work to find his wife and her two sisters involved in some deep intellectual discussion from which he felt excluded. In 1939, with the threat of war with Germany on everyone’s mind, Bill persuaded Peggy that they should consider moving from the middle of London. Bill found some rentable housing in Harrow Weald, to where he and Peggy moved in the summer of that year. Molly came along too.

43 Weald Rise, Harrow Weald, the birthplace of Ian Dury

Ian was born at Weald Rise on 12 May 1942, but within 18 months Peggy had decided to take him to live with her mother in Cornwall, to avoid the bombing in and around London. Bill stayed at Weald Rise and continued to work for London Transport. In 1945, however, he saw an advertisement for a job as trainee chauffeur with Rolls Royce. Before long he was chauffeuring businessmen around England and even across Europe. When Ian contracted polio in 1949 and became a boarder at Chailey Heritage Craft School for disabled children in East Sussex, Bill would often visit his son and turn up in the Rolls Royce.

Bill visiting Ian in Chailey, 1951. Photo courtesy of Margaret Webb

In 1954, Ian passed his eleven plus exams and entered the Royal Grammar School in High Wycombe. Bill, who was now estranged from Peggy and driving for the Western European Union, would often visit Ian at school.

Bill Dury, at the time he was driving for the Western European Union, circa 1963. The BOAC coach terminal at Victoria is in the background. Photo courtesy of Jemima Dury

For the remainder of his life Bill lived alone in small flat in Ebury Street, Victoria, but he and Peggy never divorced. Bill died from acute bronchitis and emphysema on 25 February 1968, aged 62.

A copy of Bill's death certificate

In 1998, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Ian described going to Caxton Hall to identify his father’s body. ‘So there’s my old man lying on this purple velvet slate with this strange smile. I knew he didn’t look quite right. I didn’t realise until I cleared his room out that he hadn’t got his teeth in.’ Ian asked Bill’s neighbour if he would mind disposing of his father’s teeth. ‘Everything else was all right,’ said Ian. ‘But I couldn’t touch his fucking teeth.’

Oi Oi!

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