After arriving in Sheffield in 1976 as an art student, Martin began his long trek of avoiding a proper job by becoming a founder member of The Leadmill and producing their posters from 1980-92. Since then he has maintained his quest by supplying posters for most of the bands, venues and promoters in town. Martin has also produced a plethora of posters for gigs across Europe and the USA. Further avoidance strategies over the years have seen him manage bands, clubs, pubs, venues, promote gigs,exhibitions & installations, provide décor for raves and run crews and stages at festivals. In 2014, Martin started the Honey Bee Blues Club, which currently runs 6-8 gigs a month in and around the city. Basically, he’s done everything possible to avoid hard work. The posters in our fabulous shop represent some of the results of a dissolute life. You can read the full story below………
“What a long strange trip its been” Martin F Bedford
Born in Gravesend, Martin swept chimneys as a young boy and gained a bitter loathing of fossil fuels. He came to Sheffield having got lost in North London and ended up doing some art at Sheffield Psalter Lane Art College. Since that distant time, Martin has worked extremely hard to avoid having a proper job. Instead he’s hung out with a lot of artists, musicians and drunks but mainly drunks!
As an absurdly affable, lovable raconteur, who is also well handy with a camera, he’s blagged himself on to various tours. He has got great promo shots of The Damned, The Adverts, Roy Harper, Ronnie Lane, Nils Lofgren and many others. He hoards these for his own pleasure. A highlight of Martins’ early quest to avoid 9-5 working involved him becoming a founder member of The Leadmill venue in Sheffield, this prevented him from climbing in the peak district, which makes him distinct in the city.
In the early days of The Leadmill, this legendary venue was run as a naked hippy, punk, anarchist, slacker-arts-commune and Martin loved it. He established himself as ‘house artist’ and set up a silk screen printer. He really liked producing the shouty posters about benefits for political causes. As a supreme, but humble, egotist Martin has made a book ’Up Against the Wall’ showcasing over a decade of his Leadmill posters. Here’s some famous people’s comments about this publication:
Richard Hawley “When Martin did the posters for The Leadmill, I would look out for them on the walls of our city. I was as interested in them, as much as the bands they were promoting. Sometimes more so… I have loved the man and his work for many years”
Steven Singleton (ABC) “Martins beautiful and individual artworks were always equal to the bands being promoted and often better.”
Pete McKee (artist) “It was Martins Leadmill posters that inspired me to be an artist. I was also very fortunate to have him as a tutor on my art foundation course, though I seem to remember that we spent more time in the pub, so I blame him for me not getting into art college”
However, man cannot live on lentil burgers alone and his privates were getting a bit cold and ink stained from all the nudity. In 1992 Martin left The Leadmill, donning clothes once more, to test his work avoidance strategies in the big wide world. He filled a number of years (mis)managing bands (Elfin, Do$ch, Chicken Legs Weaver and Crowley’s Dead), running clubs, pubs and venues, promoting gigs, exhibitions and installations and running crews and stages at festivals. But, always, always making posters.
All of this, however, is just the interval activity to making posters – making beautiful, spirited art . Unsurprisingly every promoter and band in town has wanted them, as well as people and venues further abroad including Patti Smith, the Warfield Theatre (San Francisco), Roy Harper, Wilko Johnson. It’s a long list of luscious people and places. Over the years he has exhibited his posters and paintings, in both solo and joint exhibitions, in Sheffield, London, New York, Vancouver, Paris and Odessa. He’s got quite a bit to show off about really and that is how he came to be blessed by the Dalai Lama and produce a second book of his work – ‘Stick ’em up’ which covers work from 1992 to 2011 (these are unconnected events and the Dalai Lama provides no endorsement of Martins work).
Martin has done so much brilliant mental stuff in his life it’s hard to know what not to mention. But some of the best bits involve Russia (as an Artists Union Guest of Honour/Exhibitor Martin claims to have lived on purely illicit vodka and tomatoes for 3 weeks circa 1990), spiritual Native American guides (Great White Bears features heavily in these reminiscences), circus performers (he’s surprisingly close lipped on this – but his main logo for the time is ‘shit happens’), festival and tour set designs (Glastonbury and Sven Vaths being highlights) and procreating two wonderful sons Sam and Josh.
In 2014 Martin came up with a genius plan to royally please himself by both propping up a bar and see his favourite musicians week-in-week-out by inventing the ‘Honey Bee Blues Club’. Along with a solid group of like minded reprobates Martin organises 6-8 gigs a months, hosted at a variety of venues across the city. While the focus is Blues inspired music there is a range of Psychedelia, Alternative, Rock, Americana, Rockabilly and Jazz thrown in for good measure – with local, national and international artists being hosted. To enjoy you’ve just gotta love good music.
Martin is currently ‘managed’ by both his beautiful wife Nicola Harris and his agent (deviant mob-botherer) Jo Nicholson. ‘Management’ ensures Martin doesn’t just give his art away because people are nice. In our fabulous Shop you can see the many of the products of a dissolute life and by purchasing you can ensure that this rare species of artist continues to eat some food, pay essential bills and get some exercise by walking to the post office for mail outs between pints. For a reasonable fee Martin can be persuaded to produce bespoke pieces of art (not pictures of your pets or your nanan), so if you would like to make an especial contribution to his gas bill please get in touch – Contact and Commissions.
Author/Co-Drinker Jo Nicholson
All images © Martin F Bedford