Why bother? Somebody asked me the other day, to my amazement. Some people, it seems, are immune to human suffering.
I was cajoling them to come to the Phoenix Art Auction For Grenfell that I’ve organised at the Stash Gallery at my club Vout-O-Reenee’s in Tower Hill.
Why wouldn’t I? In short, I grew up in North Kensington. All my earliest teen memories stem from here strutting around in my Oxford Bag trousers and wedgy shoes.
From the age of ten this area was my manor to roam and cycle. I got de-liced at Latymer Road Health Centre, as well as having my first verruca cut out; I got my swimming badges at Latymer Road pool (and of course verrucas), and even sung in the local choir whilst I learnt to dance and kiss at Harrow Road Youth Club.
We moved to Cornwall when I was 14. After we left, the whole area went upmarket!
Fast forward a few decades and, when I saw that my neighbourhood was so damaged, why wouldn’t I want to help? The first thing I did was organise a jazz night – saxophonist Ray Gelato and his dynamos immediately said yes, I hadn’t seen him since Oxford Gardens Junior school age 11, he hadn’t changed – and I then began a tombola.
People have been so generous with their time and gifts, from nights at Coworth (the Dorchester’s country pile) to champagne tea for four at the Delauney.
All the artists I approached for this week’s auction apart from two (who will remain nameless) said yes straight away, and have given, or made for the occasion, important pieces, from Sarah Lucas’ Tit and Solange Azagury’s diamond and black gold ring to work by Sir Peter Blake, Gavin Turk, Patrick Hughes, Brian Eno and Nicola Hicks.
The items are all online as well as in the gallery, and you can bid by phone. The money will all be going to help set up a community art therapy project. Try to think of a reason not to bother when it’s this easy to give.
Phoenix Grenfell Art Auction, 21st July, 6pm-late. Vout-O-Reenee’s, 30 Prescot St E1. Find out more about the event and gallery here.