Art

'Artist, iconoclast, anarchist, punk, hippie, rebel and romantic': A personal tribute to Jamie Reid

Jamie Reid, the artist best known for his iconic Sex Pistols record covers, has died at the age of 76. Big Issue chair Nigel Kershaw pays tribute

Jamie Reid

Jamie Reid. Image: Camera Press

Jamie Reid, the revolutionary artist best known for the iconic artwork on Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols album, died earlier this month at the age of 76.

Reid had a long history with The Big Issue, most recently speaking about Banksy, Corbyn and the spirit of rebellion in 2018 and donating artwork for The Big Issue Art Auction to support vendors through the winter of 2020.

Jamie Reid
While best known for his Sex Pistols work, Jamie Reid’s art and activism went much further. Image: Supplied

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Nigel Kershaw, chair of Big Issue Group, had a friendship with Reid spanning more than 50 years. Here’s his personal tribute to Reid:

Jamie and I were friends since I met him in 1971 when we both worked at Suburban Press, a collective he co-founded that designed and printed a magazine of the same name. We also printed for the libertarian, left, women’s and community movements. It was Suburban’s Press’s ground-breaking work that was the embryo for Jamie’s iconoclastic and challenging graphics for the Sex Pistols.

Jamie Reid Suburban Press
Where it all began: the radical cover on the Suburban Press. Image: Supplied

But Jamie will not – and should not – just be remembered for the Sex Pistols, but for all his other art and activism. He was a prolific painter, producing spectacular works on ancient slate and stained glass. One of his last major works this summer that he was so proud of was the Wildflower Wonder, a land art installation at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall.

Jamie Reid St Heligan in Cornwall
One of Reid’s final works: a land art installation at the Lost Gardens of Heligan in Cornwall. Image: Supplied

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Throughout his life, Jamie gave himself and his art, support and activism to people and causes. He was a great supporter of The Big Issue and not just the magazine: he knew and cared about his local vendors. His work to campaign to re-open and save the Florrie Community Centre in Dingle, Liverpool, where he lived, was consuming and selfless – he cared so much about the community and people around him. The Florrie is now open and creating a huge impact for local people.

I had so many lovely personal moments with Jamie they are too many to recount. He was just always there, plotting something, and calling me to tell me about it. A die-hard Fulham supporter, which he acknowledged needed a sense of humour, I remember him proudly wearing an FA Cup Losers 1975 t-shirt. We talked when Fulham and my Arsenal played beautiful football and railed against the commercialism that is destroying the game.

I will so miss our friendship of 50 years – starting with our first Christmas dinner in 1971, a ready meal Birds Eye TV Sunday lunch on a tray – his dry humour, anarchic brilliance, relentless activism, gentleness, and support for the outsider. And every solstice, a card designed by him arrived in the mail for myself and my wife, Una, who adored him: beautiful, colourful artworks that celebrated his Druidic practice and heritage.

From all at Big Issue, we send all love to his daughter Rowan, grand-daughter Rose – both of whom were his pride and joy – all his friends and supporters, and the people he reached throughout his remarkable life.

God Save Jamie Reid!

Nigel Kershaw is chair of Big Issue Group

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