Billy Childish

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Billy Childish (real name Steven John Hamper) or William Charlie Hamper (born December 1, 1959) is a British artist, author, poet, photographer, film maker, singer and guitarist. He is known for his explicit and prolific work: he has detailed his love life and childhood sexual abuse, notably in his early poetry and the novel My Fault. He was sexually abused when he was age 9 by a male family friend: “We were on holiday. I had to share a bed with him. It happened for several nights, then I refused to go near him. I didn’t tell anyone.” {1}

He has published more than 40 collections of poetry, written 3 novels, recorded more than 100 full-length independent LPs of Punk, Rock and Roll, and Medway-Delta Blues and produced more than 2,500 paintings. He is a consistent advocate for amateurism and free emotional expression and was a co-founder of the Stuckism art group in 1999, which he left in 2001.

His groups include The Pop Rivets (1977-1980), sometimes spelled the Pop Rivits (with Bruce Brand, Russell Wilkins and Russell Lax). He later formed Thee Milkshakes (‘80-’84) with Micky Hampshire, Thee Mighty Caesars Del Monas and Thee Headcoats. In 2000 he formed Wild Billy Childish & the Friends of the Buff Medways Fanciers Association (The Buff Medways(‘00-’06)named after a type of poultry bred in his home town. The Buffs, as they were sometimes affectionately known, split in 2006, and Wild Billy Childish & the Musicians of the British Empire were born, recording a song about one of Billy’s hero’s George Mallory titled Bottomless Pit.

Childish has been namechecked by a number of famous musicians including the late Kurt Cobain, The White Stripes (Jack White had Billy’s name written in large letters on his arm for an early Top of The Pops appearance) and Kylie Minogue who named the LP Impossible Princess after his book Poems to Break the Harts of Impossable Princesses (Childish’s own spelling).

A falling-out took place in March 2006 with Jack White. Childish criticised White in the US GQ magazine, “They don’t have a good sound … Jack’s half into the sound and music, but then he wants to be a pop star as well, so you’ve got a big problem.” White responded on the Stripes’ website, accusing Childish of plagiarism and of being “the bitter garage rocker.” Childish wrote an open letter to the NME saying White was jealous because he had "a bigger collection of hats, a better moustache … and a fully developed sense of humour.5

The Aquarium Gallery in London brought out a spoof boxing poster advertising Jack “whingy” White v Billy “bitter” Childish. Lawyers acting for the White Stripes removed the poster from eBay and have written to the gallery, claiming the poster violates their intellectual property rights. The poster was later reissued with the photographic image of White’s head replaced with a cartoon. The gallery insist that this is not to be taken as an admission that they had breached any copyright, simply an attempt to prevent the poster from being withdrawn again; a copy of the old poster was included with sales of the new. The posters eventually sold £110 each, with the Aquarium converting half the profits into gold for White to collect from the gallery.

“I don’t want to be part of the music business, the art establishment or the literary world. They have nothing to do with what making music, making pictures and writing is about. It should be about trying to know yourself, trying to see through your own stupidity, and trying to communicate with people in as real a way as you can.” – Billy Childish

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