Big Issue Vendor

Martin Creed: The double-edge sword of ‘switching off’

Turner Prize-winning artist Martin Creed on why he left his dream getaway to find escape at home, lying face down on the floor…

I feel like I learn a lot from my dog. I often go for a walk with my partner and Jimmy the dog in Dulwich Park, which is this big, beautiful park. When you see a dog run and run in a big open space, you see the joy of life. And that is infectious. I envy him what seems like a real pure joy. When I aim for that I always spoil it by having thoughts.

When you see a dog run and run in a big open space, you see the joy of life

But when it comes to getting away, to me, rather than a geographical place, it is about a place at home. I actually prefer just lying face down on the floor with my eyes closed, or lying down underneath some furniture. That seems the best way to get away from everything. It’s about trying to minimise your movements. It is probably the type of thing people who meditate might talk about.


There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

Luckily I have a little place where I live. That is my own little hovel. It is my place of safety. But I also worry about my inclination to want to stay in where I am king of my castle. Everyone should have a place to feel safe, but that road can lead to stultification. I feel a battle between my fear of being out of control and the fear that by trying to control things, one can kill them. I have to control my need to be in control.

All those thoughts come to mind when thinking about a place to get away and switch off. I feel like I try to do that quite a lot, but it is a double-edged sword. You could end up saying no to life – because life has everything in it, including mobile phones.

I have to control my need to be in control

I spent four years living in Alicudi, a remote Sicilian island with about 100 inhabitants. That was an extreme form of trying to get away. So I tried finding a remote place, but it felt like a dead end. I missed the hustle and bustle of people.

If I had to choose between city and country, I would choose the city every time because of all the people and the crazy mess. I feel like maybe it is actually good not to escape. Lying down face down on the floor at home – that is my way to get away…

Martin Creed’s Words and Music, Edinburgh International Festival, August 4-27