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John Bishop



Listen to highlights from interviews with John.

John Bishop is a retired firefighter and artist from Birmingham. He was 57 when he went on the plinth, and wanted to honour the duty and commitment shown by firemen, the other emergency services and the armed forces.

On the plinth, John wore a fireman's outfit, recited some of his poetry and put on a show using his 'alter-egos' Upton and Alf. John also took a fire service bear on to the plinth with him, which he then sold on E-bay for charity. John created 200 pieces of art work which he wanted to give out in exchange for a donation to his charities, the the Fire Service Charity and the British Heart Foundation, and he also wanted to get as many people as possible in Trafalgar Square to wear yellow fireman's helmets. Unfortunately, because his slot on the plinth was at 1am, he didn't have many spectators and so he wasn't able to give out many pieces of art or helmets. John enjoyed being on the plinth but found it very tiring, particularly as he had been suffering bad health in the previous few weeks.

John's father, uncle and grandfather were all firemen, and he himself joined the West Midlands Fire Service in 1974. He loved his job, but despite being fit and not smoking or drinking, he suffered from heart problems and in 1991 he had to retire. John had left school when he was 16, so he decided to start his studies again "I'd always drawn and written poetry and have always had this artistic side, but never told anybody about it really". First he did a BA in Fine Art as well as studied graphic design. "I do everything from films to graphic design to poetry to acrylics". However, John does not describe himself as an artist. He says that "People say, 'What do you do?' and I say, 'I'm a retired fireman.' I never say I'm an artist. My wife always says to me, 'Tell them.' You know, 'Tell people what you do.'... It's just what I do".

John is also a big fan of the 1960s rock group the Moody Blues, and has friends all over the world who are fellow fans. He keeps in touch with many of them via Facebook, and is also in touch with other artists and retired firefighters..

Photograph courtesy of Artichoke

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