Amelia’s Magazine | London Stories: The winners and my favourites from the Serco Prize for Illustration 2014

Gill Bradley, Monkey Band

Gill Bradley, Monkey band at large in Notting Hill 1927.

It’s official: I am a twit. Despite being invited by The AOI to sit on the judging panel for this year’s Serco Prize for Illustration I managed to entirely miss the actual exhibition at the London Transport Museum. Doh. This I put down to my current inability to attend evening events such as the preview night (I keep telling myself that these difficult toddler years won’t last long…) combined with the fact that I completely misread the end date of the show. Double Doh. So, despite my best intentions to see the artworks in reality before I blogged about my favourites, in the end this is a very late post, based on the same images we were asked to chose from as judges. It was a tough choice, with such a high standard to choose from and so many entertaining tales to learn along the way, but here are the winning choices, and below them some of my favourite London Stories:

Designer and animator Gill Bradley was declared the unanimous winner with her depiction of a not so well known story of an escaped monkey jazz band (see above) – chosen for it’s vibrant and unusual subject matter, with the added bonus that the event took place on London Transport.

Nicholas Stevenson_Frost Fair

I particularly loved Frost Fair by runner up Nicholas Stevenson, featuring curious characters at one of the famous Frost Fairs held on the Thames when it froze over.

Eric Chow_ Lady Bridge

Third prize went to Eric Chow for The Lady Bridge, a technically brilliant and evocative interpretation of the rebuilding of Waterloo Bridge by women during the Second World War.

Erica Sturla, The Menagerie in the Tower

Erica Sturla’s The Menagerie in the Tower shows the famous Royal menagerie in the Tower rendered in chaotic contemporary style. You can buy a variety of items featuring this design here.

london stories, Long Wolf and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show - Melvyn Evans

Melvyn EvansLong Wolf and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show was a popular artwork, depicting an infamous occasion during the reign of Queen Victoria, when a Sioux Chief brought his show to the American Exhibition for Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. There were 300 performances and 2.5 million tickets sold but sadly Long Wolf contracted pneumonia and died in London, forgotten until 1991.

Oranges and Lemons - Eliza Southwood

Eliza Southwood’s Oranges and Lemons riffs on the well known song (which was a popular theme for many illustrators) and features a glorious graphical representation of the actual churches from the tune.


Everyone loved the tapestry inspired River Pageant 2012 by Sue Prince.

London-stories-Richard Williams Wide Boy

There were many more idiosyncratic notions of London to chose from, such as Richard Williams’ illustration Wide Boy, with many of London’s most iconic attractions stowed away inside a capacious coat.

Elisa Cunningham Pelican Lunch - London Stories

Pelican Lunch features a pelican attacking a pigeon (apparently based on a rather upsetting incident found on youtube), by Elisa Cunningham.

London-Stories-White Bear - Paul Garland

I was most taken with the striking image of a White Bear by Paul Garland, based on the story of the polar bear kept at the Tower of London by Henry III, with a chain long enough that it could swim in the Thames and catch fish. In a nice decorative touch London transport signs make up the links of the chain.

Nathan Reed The Guardians of the Tower

Nathan Reed’s playful image of The Guardians of the Tower was one of many images that focused on these famous birds.

Gog and Magog - Helen Lord

According to the tradition, the giants Gog and Magog are guardians of the City of London, depicted here asleep under the bustling city by Helen Lord.

Starlings on the clock, Sonia Poli

Finally, Starlings on the Clock by Sonia Poli is an intricate papercut collage based on the moment in 1995 when a flock of starlings landed on the minute hand of Big Ben and put the time back by 5 minutes.

There were many more images that I loved, so do check out the London Transport Museum website, where you can still buy your favourite in poster form.

Categories ,Elisa Cunningham, ,Eliza Southwood, ,Eric Chow, ,Erica Sturla, ,Frost Fair, ,Gill Bradley, ,Gog and Magog, ,Helen Lord, ,London Transport Museum, ,Long Wolf and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, ,Melvyn Evans, ,Monkey band at large in Notting Hill 1927, ,Nathan Reed, ,Nicholas Stevenson, ,Oranges and Lemons, ,Paul Garland, ,Pelican Lunch, ,Richard Williams, ,River Pageant 2012, ,Serco Prize for Illustration, ,Sonia Poli, ,Starlings on the Clock, ,Sue Prince, ,the AOI, ,The Guardians of the Tower, ,The Lady Bridge, ,The Menagerie in the Tower, ,White Bear, ,Wide Boy

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | Meet Nicholas Stevenson: the friendly songwriter and illustrator from the North Pole…

Gemma Milly_Nicholas Stevenson
Gemma Milly_Nicholas Stevenson
Illustration by Gemma Milly

Nicholas sent me his CD and tape, troche accompanied by a lovely letter about living and musing about in Bristol. One of my favourite pastimes – we may have been staring into the same middle distance…! Like a quill pen into my heart, stuff I am a sucker for a personal letter. Especially on such nice paper. After reading his scribe, treatment I listened to Nicholas’s album: Phantom Sweetheart, available now on Hilldrop Records.

phantom sweetheart cover by nicholas stevenson
Album Cover, Phantom Sweetheart, Illustration by Nicholas Stevenson

It’s a splendid listen. Thoughtful and wistful. It’s like a less brash Spectrals. It has a Californian, surf sound, mixed with a smattering of New York – and the mighty UK. This mixture of locations is perhaps a reflection of Nicholas’s various home locations from birth. Since my initial listen, I now enjoy playing the album when I’m in my own little zone, cleaning. Because you could be anywhere. And if you don’t overly want to be where you are right now, there’s your ride. This interesting, sentimental man will take you away. Or indeed in my present case, scrub that flat ‘til in shines like the summer sun reflecting in my – prematurely purchased, cat eyed – sunnies. I miss you sun. I’d like to meet him to discuss travel, home, love and art. Oh yes, he’s an illustrator too. As Nicholas was so eloquent in his letter, I thought an interview would be perfect. So here it follows:

Nicholas Stevenson with phantom

Could you introduce yourself for us Nicholas…?
Hi there, my name is Nicholas Stevenson and I’m a songwriter and illustrator.

Where are you from originally and where do you reside now?
I currently reside in Cambridgeshire, but I was born in Scotland, lived on an island in the Seychelles for a while, and then moved back to England. I’m also half American so I sometimes have a confusing accent; it’s all a bit confusing actually. I usually give people fake biographies about growing up in the North Pole or being found in the wilderness to avoid explaining the complicated truth…

The Aeroplane Darling cover by Nicholas Stevenson
EP Cover, The Aeroplane Darling, Illustration by Nicholas Stevenson

How long have you been playing music? Could you describe it?
It would be hard to say when I started making music, but I found a tape of myself shouting a song I made about giraffes aged four the other day. The music in the shape it is now probably started about three years ago when I moved away to go to Art College. I had a band in high school that made fuzzy alt rock like the Smashing Pumpkins, but when we went our separate ways I started recording songs on my own in my room. It’s a sort of alt folk sound, with lots of layers, and a big emphasis on melodies.

How long have you been illustrating? Could you describe your style?
I’ve been drawing a lot longer than I’ve been making music, but I don’t think I could ever have considered myself an illustrator up until the last couple of years. I try to make work that’s fun, mysterious and occasionally a bit unsettling where possible.

chase in a sketchbook by Nicholas Stevenson
Chase In A Sketchbook, Illustration by Nicholas Stevenson

Do you use your illustration and music to compliment/influence each other?
Most definitely. I think both of these activities really boil down to an urge for me to be story telling. Both my music and illustration usually revolves around some sort of implied narrative and it’s pretty common for a drawing to influence a lyric or vice versa.

What inspires your creativity, both re: music and illustration?
Cosmography, polar exploration, time travel, childhood, memory, feral children, miniature painting, amateurs and outsiders; a lot of things that I read about or places I visit. I try not to rule anything out as potential fodder for making stories and art about.

bayonets album sleeve
Bayonets Album Sleeve, Illustration by Nicholas Stevenson

Have you ever had a ‘phantom’ sweetheart?
Well not a sweetheart per-se, but in the Seychelles I had two childhood ghost friends called Coco and Silent. Coco lived in a palm tree, and Silent lived on an abandoned ship. They were both only a foot tall, and wore white sheets with eyeholes, although I think Silent wore a baseball cap. The name ‘Phantom Sweetheart’ came about partly because all of my records have had terms of endearment in the name (Dearest Monstrous, The Aeroplane Darling) and I wanted this album to be really ghostly and spectral. Phantom Sweetheart just seemed to be the perfect title.

And what do you think about love and ‘being in love’ ? 
I think it’s a really nice special thing, I’m probably a bit of a softy and a romantic. It might seem like I’ve written a few songs from an anti-love position, but as Harvey Danger once said: “Happiness writes white”.

Have you been in love?
Oh yes mam.

hilldrop business card blank small
Hilldrop Business Cards, Illustration by Nicholas Stevenson

Who else is in your band?
Dan Lewis plays the drums, Tom Harrington plays the bass guitar and glockenspiel whilst Oliver Wilde plays lead guitar.

When/how did you get together?
I met Dan and Tom in Hereford where I was studying at Art College. My manager Joe introduced us and we started arranging my songs and got performing almost straight away as a three piece. Oliver joined the band just last autumn. He not only signed me to his label Hilldrop Records, but he also produced and recorded the album with me in his house in Bristol. We worked really closely together on Phantom Sweetheart and Oliver had a big impact on the way those songs turned out. Of course by the end he knew how to play them all back to front and it seemed like a no-brainer that he should come out on tour with us.

And who is your record label, and how did you get signed?
Hilldrop Records are my label. I think they requested I send them some of my demos in the mail over a year ago. They liked what they heard and I played some gigs for them and we hit it off pretty fast, I started making posters for their shows too. We were all coming from a similar direction and they were interested in promoting art and building it in to the performances. We’d got to know each other reasonably well by the time we decided to sign a contract and make the album.

hilldrop cult 1300_1300
Illustration by Nicholas Stevenson

What was it like going on tour? Did you get inspired?
It was a blast, definitely not glamorous, but great fun. Our car broke down on the way to a sold out show in Bakewell and we had to jettison half the gear and get a taxi. We arrived just in the nick of time with no drums or drummer, and played entirely unplugged to a wonderfully attentive packed room. We spent the night in a big old house; there were teddy bears in the beds. Bakewell is such an old fashioned and charming town (home to the bakewell tart) everyone was so kind and interesting there, it sort of inspired us to play more small places on tour. It doesn’t seem fair that the big cities get all the tour dates, where people can sometimes be so jaded towards the barrage of live music anyway.


Where do you see yourself in ten years?
Hopefully doing the same things I’m doing now, but more masterfully. I’m fully aware I have a long way to go and lots of room to grow before I’m satisfied… I just hope I’m fortunate enough to find time for it all.

What about now, what is coming up for you?
At the moment I’m working on a sort of audio zine project called ‘Dead Arm’. It’s going to be a series of cassette tapes, each with a different set of new songs and sounds. Its quite fun telling myself to sit down and make a continuous twenty-minute tape, rather than getting too hung up on individual songs; it makes me less precious and hopefully more inventive. I’m quite excited to see where it goes… 
You can buy Phantom Sweetheart, on Hilldrop Records, here.

Categories ,adventure, ,Anti-Love, ,Art College, ,Bakewell, ,Bakewell Tart, ,Bayonets, ,bristol, ,california, ,Cambridgeshire, ,city, ,Cosmology, ,Dan Lewis, ,Gemma Milly, ,Ghost, ,guitars, ,Harvey Danger, ,Helen Martin, ,Hereford, ,High School, ,Hilldrop Records, ,illustration, ,implied narrative, ,Love, ,miniature painting, ,new york, ,Nicholas Stevenson, ,Phantom Sweetheart, ,Romantic, ,scotland, ,Seychelles, ,singer, ,songwriter, ,Spectrals, ,story, ,surf, ,Tom Harrington

Similar Posts:

Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Still Corners

Still Corners by Nicholas Stevenson
Still Corners by Nicholas Stevenson.

I discovered Still Corners when they supported Our Broken Garden late last year. The band are as elusive as they are beautiful, viagra 40mg but I managed to track down songwriter and keyboardist Greg Hughes to answer a few finely tuned questions. Delve into the enigmatic Still Corners world…

Who are you?
We’re ghosts, web but if you close your eyes and listen carefully to the music you’ll find out who we are.
still corners by sandra contreras
Still Corners by Sandra Contreras.

You’ve managed to create an impressive amount of hype already… have you intentionally pursued press or has this just come about of it’s own accord? ?
We mostly keep our heads down working as hard as possible. However the press has been fantastic and we all feel very lucky and happy that people are enjoying the music and shows. It’s a wonderful feeling.

?Would you like to stay independent or you would you like to sign to a major label?
We’ve always been a DIY band and we don’t use producers – I record it all and we do all our own artwork. These are things that major labels usually like to have a say about and that probably wouldn’t work very well with our ethos.

Still Corners by Karina Yarv
Still Corners by Karina Yarv.

You have said “Everything is handmade”  – what does this mean in practice?
That means that all our output is created by our little circle of friends. I have a little studio where I do the recordings, link then we rope in friends and like minded artists to take photos and help with the artwork. It’s just that we have a very definite idea of everything, a vibe of how things should be. So it’s just easier to do it ourselves, to take what’s in our heads and make it a reality.

Still Corners by Alison Day
Still Corners by Alison Day.

Your stage shows are characterised by a wash of deep colours that hides your faces… how did you decide upon this feel, and how important is the look and ambience of your performance? ?
We’re not actually trying to hide or anything, we just don’t think that what we’re doing on stage is all that critical to observe. We like to use projections because we think they are beautiful to watch and they bring more out of the music. Projections are best seen in the dark so we usually turn the lights down to create an atmosphere, maybe something you don’t always get in your typical smaller venue.

What is it that so appeals to you in the creation of such a woozy atmosphere?
?Whether recording or playing live we want to go off into another world, something we see in our heads and feel in our hearts. We want to make our audience feel something.

YouTube Preview Image

Wish is just beautiful. How was the video made??
Thank you. Lucy Dyson made that video for us – she came up with the idea and filmed it all on 16 mm film which lends a sort of dreamy washed out feeling to the visual quality of it.  We shot it all over 2 days on a nice summer stretch of green in London. 

What inspires the lyrics to your songs??
The English countryside, a sunset, a romance, films of yesteryear, a photograph, a painting, a story, lying in the grass watching the stars, the little moments of life.

Still Corners by Nicholas Stevenson
Still Corners by Nicholas Stevenson.

What has been your gigging highlight of the year and why?
?We recently played in a castle in Berlin and in the most incredible opera house in Toulon in France. The people, places, and response was amazing – both definitely stand out moments for us.

Are there any other up and coming bands that you recommend that we check out?
A band we think are just magical are Twin Sister, and they are lovely people as well. 

?What are your plans for 2011? Can we expect to see you at any festivals?
We hope to have a single out with Sub Pop early this year and we’re working on a full record for release mid-next year so fingers crossed we’ll find a nice home for it!

You can read a more in depth interview over on The Quietus.

Categories ,Alison Day, ,berlin, ,france, ,Karina Yarv, ,Lucy Dyson, ,Nicholas Stevenson, ,Sandra Contreras, ,Still Corners, ,Sub Pop, ,The Quietus, ,Toulon Opera, ,Twin Sister, ,Wish

Similar Posts: