Boyd scrambled in apologising for the delay and grabbed a coffee from the counter. He had asked and forgotten to meet me, at the modest Funchel Bakery in Brixton with it’s smiling Portuguese staff and loud chatty customers– this café Boyd’s second home and office.
Apologising again he seated himself across from me in his paint-splattered ‘Community Trust’ T-shirt and peaked beanie, striking up a conversation on the Grosvenor squat where we met.
Boyd had attended the squat to put together a little activity for kids and for attendees, to paint messages on plastic hearts he had painted and cut himself from scraps. Curious about his intentions at the squat, I endeavoured to learn more and was surprised to discover, in this Brixton cafe, that Boyd Hill was a popular graffiti artist under the alias of Solo-One, with a passion for community and art.
A friendly and approachable character, Boyd did all the talking. Within minutes of his arrival, he was gushing over laws and rights. Passionate about protecting and educating people, I had learnt he has been using his graffiti skills for good.
A young adult in poverty, Boyd used graffiti art to keep himself out of trouble and on seeing those around him struggle, opted to help others channel their energy into art also. Working in a YMCA, as a part-time youth worker and at Leicester County Council, Boyd had witnessed plenty of struggle to inspire him to take action,
“Community type of work, that’s the best legacy, what you leave people, the inspiration you leave them”, he stated simply.
Boyd has worked on a number of group projects such as the Signal Project and Positive Arts, however, has gravitated towards solo work which he believes is more trusted and controlled. He has worked in a prison, with children with disabilities, run after school workshops and even worked for over a month in Kenya.
When asked about his dreams and ambitions for the future he shrugged,
“I’m hoping someone comes along and says I really like your project, have some cash, just carry on.”
Moving between homes and squats, Boyd makes little profit for his ventures and most are self-funded, however, he is satisfied with his situation and only hopes he can carry on his work. When projects have been funded, Boyd claims he tries to keep them going himself once the funds run out, such as with the Positive Arts project on Clapham Notre Dame Estate. Funded by the Evening Standard, Boyd managed to run the after school club for a number of weeks once the funding stopped.
A graffiti novice, my dumb questions inspired a passionate response,
“If you want me to break it down, I’ll break it down” he beamed
“There are certain things, no-nos and rules in my head how it sits on the wall, how it sits among other pieces, how the artists used the wall…how do you explain it you just feel it”
“Like down at the space, I’m looking and I’m like fucking hell, this guy’s used two colours and he’s rocked this space, simplicity! I’m looking and thinking all these things like, how’s it look, how’s it hanging, how does it balance against something, what little effect has he done, how’s it coming off with his letters”.
He refers to a space in Brixton, Stockwell Hall of Fame. This old basketball court he manages as a legal graffiti space for locals which is currently acting as a trial from the council which may warrant more legal spaces in the future.
“I quite like aggressive letters, I like dominate pieces. If you’re there and I’m big, then I’m gonna encroach on you, that’s how it is, I like…its almost like being elbowed on the bus- it’s like that with me”.
His face crinkles as he smiles hard and he takes a swig of his coffee,
“There’s always a fight when painting with people it’s like a mini battle”
Boyd is a true artist, not hunting for fame or fortune but patiently plugging on with his modest art for the Brixton community. He’s always looking for more projects, support and collaborations, if you’re interested, drop him an email at ‘Boyd@signalproject.com’.
View his art and projects below:
Click and Find Boyd:
Facebook (Stockwell Hall of Fame)
Boyd has also been picked up by journalists before, check him out on Google.
(Featured Image Credit- Stockwell Hall of Fame Facebook)