Wild Billy Childish



John Wilson meets a prolific and unique British artist.

For someone who professes that 'art can achieve nothing' and who claims to detest hard work, Billy Childish has been an artist of extraordinary industry and influence. In 30 years of activity he has written 40 collections of poetry, recorded more than 120 albums and painted 5,000 pictures. He has founded art movements, created self styled non-art movements and been credited by Tracey Emin as her greatest influence. Peter Doig calls him 'one of the most outstanding, and often misunderstood, figures on the British art scene'.

But despite all the output, acclaim and influence, Billy Childish remains a total outsider. His punk rock band recently did a session for Marc Riley's programme on BBC 6Music. 'I can't believe this is only the second session that you've done in 30 years', said Marc, 'why is that?'

'Because nobody will bloody touch me' said the charmingly polite Childish with a bemused smile.

Now the ICA in London has given its three galleries over to Billy's work, the first time a mainstream gallery has ever opened its doors to him.

John Wilson speaks to artists, musicians and poets about his work and in a long interview at Billy's Kent home, he discovers why Billy thinks his work upsets and enthralls people in roughly equal measure and why this artistic, eccentric, mustachioed, tea-drinking poet regards himself as totally un-English.

John Wilson meets Billy Childish, the most prolific outsider in British art.