Just Be Nice! Real Hackney Dave rallies UK artists for essential message
Artist Dave Buonaguidi wants us all to JUST BE NICE as he introduces a special collection of positive artwork created to raise money to support the work of The Big Issue
by: Dave Buonaguidi
9 Nov 2022
Dave Buonaguidi. Photo: Real Hackney Dave
Real Hackney Dave (real name Dave Buonaguidi) is an artist, based in Hackney in London, who specialises in creating unusual hand-printed screen prints on to vintage maps and interesting found images. He uses the techniques of mass communication and propaganda to create evocative pieces that connect in an emotive and humorous way.
He brought together a group of some of the UK’s most exciting artists to raise money for The Big Issue while celebrating kindness. They’ve all united under the message: Just Be Nice. Here’s why he wanted to get involved…
Before I went full time as an artist in 2020, I was working in the cut-throat corporate world of advertising. I did 35 years in the end, and as much as I enjoyed the team dynamic and the creativity, I found it very difficult to come to terms with and adapt to a working life where I had to leave my personal values in a box under the bed at home.
Values have always been important to me in my life, and it’s no surprise that those same values also played a critical part in the creative businesses that I founded in my work life.
St Luke’s was a co-operative that was co-owned by all the staff in order to create a modern business that was a safe haven for creative minds and would reward and share success fairly.
Karmarama was a business built on the naive concept of karma, finding strength in teams and built around doing the right thing for the staff and the clients that employed us. Sadly, it was a constant struggle to maintain those values on a huge company level and I found myself surrounded by too many people who preferred success and not the values that underpinned it. In 2020 I finally swapped the boardroom for the studio.
And I’m loving every fucking minute of it.
It’s been a very interesting time.
I don’t know about you, but I think the last few years have been an absolute shitshow, and right now it’s crazier than ever. Every single person on Earth has been affected in one way or another by the pandemic, and more recently the war in Europe. And now the inevitable global crisis that has come about from all of the above colliding in such a short space of time. It’s been really difficult for everyone, none more so than the hundreds of thousands of vulnerable and disconnected people who live in a permanent state of crisis.
The good news is that this is an opportunity for society to reset.
We have a chance to look at what is happening around the world and change, be more positive with our actions and ultimately be better.
The last few years have had a profound effect on me, because I decided to change and live a more fulfilling and positive life. I began by removing all toxicity from my life. I have now learned to like myself, even love who and what I am. I’m doing what I love, and I have never been happier. I feel I can now go through life being more optimistic and generous, more open and more connected to everything and everybody. I smile more, and I laugh more. I’ve adjusted my radar from “be suspicious, be wary and be distant” to JUST BE NICE. I now spend my time saying hello first, offering rather than taking, chatting, befriending, and ultimately enjoying everything so much more.
It’s just 10 letters. Just three words. But it’s a very powerful and positive mantra and it’s very liberating.
I have always been in awe of the work The Big Issue does. It’s very inspirational and the chance to work together with the team at The Big Issue to celebrate the concept of JUST BE NICE is a great fit and feels totally right at the moment.
To be honest, I can’t think of any other organisation that eats, sleeps and breathes the concept of JUST BE NICE more.
The idea was to bring JUST BE NICE to life with pieces of art. I have made three huge JUST BE NICE works, a piece made of flowers, another with 4,000 sequins and even a seven-foot inflatable. I also contacted all the brilliant artists I know and asked for a massive favour. They created 50 incredible pieces that will be available to buy in East London in November/December.
I hope you enjoy it. More importantly, I hope you love all of the stuff that has been created and donated by various artists. Their work will ultimately be up for sale in a new gallery space in Hackney Wick to raise funds for The Big Issue so they can continue to do more of the amazing work they already do.
The generosity of the team at The Big Issue has been amazing.
“My sense of humour is very silly but also quite dark, so I wanted to create a piece that portrayed both. Here we have a kitsch figurine of a girl sharing her picnic with a deer, which in itself is nice. But look closely and you’ll see she’s feeding him some chicken nuggets, which is probably not the best thing for him to eat. But hey, it’s the thought that counts! I painted the letters with bright colours and arranged them in a higgledy-piggledy manner to create a childlike feel. But with added darkness!”
“A tongue-in-cheek take on the iconic phrase JUST BE NICE, featuring a cheeky vintage photo transferred on to wood and finished with gold glitter lettering. In the current climate of doom and gloom, it’s a lighthearted reminder about not taking things too seriously.”
Jessica Rose Bird
“I love this campaign as it reminds me of our humanity and reminds me of my friend Darlene, from my Los Angeles days. I had a women’s clothing boutique on a stretch of Rose Avenue, a few blocks from the famous boardwalk in Venice, California. If I ever came to the store early enough, I would see a steady stream of people walking from the beach where they slept at night towards the main thoroughfare of this enclave.
“Things started to change quickly. The area, which was known for hippie vans and a bohemian vibe, was quickly giving way to a more tech-centred, slick neighbourhood. In the midst of all of that was my friend Darlene. She was lucky enough to have a well-used RV to live in but was looking for something more stable. She had dogs, friends of all sorts who were also in a similar position, but mostly a heart of gold. She was one of the lucky ones.
“Eventually, the city got her permanent housing and she eventually moved inland. Last time I saw her she had a new community, a church that had welcomed her in, a cosy pad in Hollywood, and stability. She also missed her friends. They were her home as well. May we all be so lucky to have both. And may we all look the unhoused in the eye, say hello, JUST BE NICE, and give them a helping hand.”
“This whole piece changes, depending on your point of view (as does life). The dichroic material used allows certain colour waves through while reflecting others. As you read the diamond dust-encrusted words, JUST BE NICE, you are able to shift your focus between the words and the self-reflection… but if you are still struggling to see things from a different perspective, JUST BE NICE. It’s that simple!”
“The narrative is the teachings from the older generation to the younger generation of how to treat people. I had fun doing it and it is a topic that resonates, as I was once homeless myself.”
“I wanted to create a scrapbook page from the past, with the message JUST BE NICE being conveyed to future generations. The image depicts a retro beach scene, where the people are deliberately small in comparison to the message, evoking a nostalgic feeling from when times were simpler.”
“I juxtaposed a full range of insults that could be aimed at anyone in society with the JUST BE NICE logo to contrast how easy it is to have judgement and negative feelings towards strangers, as opposed to joy and positivity! I used button badges as the main elements in the piece as they are the classic fashion statement of both wanting to belong and rebellion.”
“I enjoyed playing around with anagrams for this piece. To be honest, I thought every artist would be doing an anagram, as the wooden letters are playful and like letters you stick to the fridge. So “Bent juices” was my favourite anagram for JUST BE NICE, I’ve painted a still life with a tequila sunrise vibe (which is also quite nice).”
“I had so much more I needed to say than JUST BE NICE, though I do really understand and appreciate how important JUST BE NICE is. I think currently with the world in the shape it is our biggest challenge is to “just BE” so that’s the crux of the message I was aiming to amplify. I’ve also listed all the things I feel are important to just be… “just be authentic”, “just be love” “just be human, generous, you”. “Just be connected”, “just be a cheerleader, an uprising… a movement”! I roped in Wonder Woman’s extraordinary strength to underline the message.”
“Why JUST BE NICE? Because we need to remember our humanity and practise it. In the railway arch under Forest Hill station that people walk through every day going to and from the station there is a homeless woman who currently camps there. She reads novels, is quiet, keeps her very few belongings neat. She has a neatly handwritten sign explaining how the council cleared her things away and she is starting again, any help would be appreciated. No one stops to speak to her, so I do. I tell her I’m an artist and ask, does she like to draw? Would she like some art things I can collect from my studio? I buy a packet of felt tip markers and paper and I take them to the tunnel lady. She is smiling so wide, saying thank you. I hope the colours will help her escape even for a moment. I hope more people will talk to her and help her. Don’t ignore. This could be any one of us.”
This artwork features in a special collector’s edition of The Big Issue on sale this week. If you can, please buy a copy from your local vendor.
Urgent action is needed to prevent even more people being pushed into homelessness. A secure home is the first step in addressing the cruel cycle of poverty to ensure people can fulfil their potential. Join us to keep people in their homes.