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Bobby Baker

Bobby Baker


I’m not a leader – I’m an artist!

Oh but I am disabled. In fact I have been told many times by professionals that I’m ‘disordered’ – mentally disordered. Apparently even my ‘personality’ is disordered. My knees are also dodgy due to arthritis so I use a walking stick often, I have a blue badge, and I’ve just had breast cancer – I’m a basket case really.

This notion of cultural leadership has appeared recently. I get hazy about what words like ‘culture’ and ‘leader’ mean. It’s sensible to be vague about culture but leadership is more troublesome. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines it as “the action of leading a group of people or an organization, or the ability to do this.” Technically I could be seen as a leader in this sense as I’m the artistic director of Daily Life Ltd.

Secretly I’ve tended to view leaders as grown up versions of head girls and boys – with the potential to be bossy, ‘busy and important’, dogmatic. It’s a bit simplistic I know but I certainly don’t want to be like that. I don’t really want to be a leader – unless it means ‘leading by example’.

The first artwork I made about ‘madness’ was part of Small Acts for the Millennium in 2000. Some of us artists were invited to do something small we thought significant to mark the great occasion. I was just fed up to the back teeth by then with people’s attitudes to mental illness – and me. My idea involved a large flat bed truck with a car seat bolted on the back. The truck had banners round the edge saying ‘Pull yourself together’ in large red letters with one on the back saying the event was part of Mental Health Action Week sponsored by the Mental Health Foundation. I was strapped into the car seat, wearing a white overall and holding a megaphone, and then was driven round the streets of London all day shouting at passers by to PULL YOURSELVES TOGETHER. I was so intent on getting out there and shouting back at society that it only occurred to me how scary it was when we drove off from my house. For a few blocks I smiled politely at passers by – but then I saw two jolly builders. I aimed the megaphone at them and bellowed “Now pull yourselves together you two, come on, chip chop”. They froze for a moment, open mouthed, and then collapsed in mirth. It was a turning point.

So that’s how I’d like “to lead a group of people”. We’ll get loads of bikes and solar powered motorized wheel chairs (global warming you see), bolt megaphones and flags all over them – and a whole fleet of us can buzz around the place and sort things out – good and proper.