Billy Childish

Billy Childish

Infobox musical artist
Name = Billy Childish

Img_capt = Pinhole photograph of Billy Childish from 2003
Img_size =
Landscape =
Background = solo_singer
Birth_name = Steven John Hamper
Alias = William Charlie Hamper, Bill Hamper, Bill Hamper-Childish, Guy Hamper, Jack Ketch, Gus Claudius, Danger Bill Henderson
Born = Birth date and age|1959|12|1|df=yes
Died =
Origin = Chatham, Kent, England
Instrument = Vocals, guitar
Genre = Garage punk
Indie rock
Punk blues
Occupation = Singer, guitarist, producer, artist, author, poet, photographer, filmmaker
Years_active = 1977 – present
Label = Hangman
Damaged Goods
Sub Pop
Sympathy For The Record Industry
Big Beat
Get Hip
Associated_acts = The Medway Poets
Thee Mighty Caesars
Thee Headcoats
Armitage Shanks
Holly Golightly
Influences = Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Knut Hamsun, John Fante, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Bukowski, Walt Whitman, Robert Walsa, Hans Falada] . [] ,Vincent Van Gogh []
Influenced = Tracey Emin , Kurt Cobain, The White Stripes, Kylie Minogue, Raegan Butcher
URL = []
Notable_instruments = guitar

Billy Childish (real name Steven John Hamper) or William Charlie Hamper (born December 1, 1959) is an English artist, author, poet, photographer, film maker, singer and guitarist. He is known for his explicit and prolific work: he has detailed his love life and childhood sexual abuse, notably in his early poetry and the novels "My Fault" and "Sex Crimes of the Futcher".

He has published more than 40 collections of poetry, written four novels, recorded more than 100 full-length independent LPs of punk, rock'n'roll, and Medway-delta blues and produced more than 2,500 paintings. He is a consistent advocate for amateurism and free emotional expression and was a co-founder of the Stuckism art group in 1999. Since leaving the Stuckist group in 2001 a new evaluation of Childish's standing in the art world has been underway, culminating with the publication of a critical study of Childish's working practice by the artist and writer Neal Brown, with an introduction by Peter Doig, which describes Childish as "one of the most outstanding, and often misunderstood, figures on the British art scene." [ "Billy Childish a Short Study" by Neal Brown published by The Aquarium, ISBN 1871894233]


Billy Childish was born and lives in Chatham, Kent, England. He was sexually abused when he was aged nine by a male family friend: "We were on holiday. I had to share a bed with him. It happened for several nights, then I refused to go near him. I didn't tell anyone." [,,22876-2475809.html] He left secondary school at 16, an undiagnosed dyslexic. Refused an interview at the local art college, he entered Chatham Dockyard, Kent, as an apprentice stonemason. During the next six months (the artist’s only prolonged period of employment), he produced some 600 drawings in "the tea huts of hell". On the basis of this work he was accepted into St Martin’s School of Art, where he was friends with the artist Peter Doig, to study painting. However, his acceptance was short-lived and before completing the course he was expelled in 1982. He then lived on the dole for 15 years. In 2006 Childish turned down the offer to appear on Channel 4's Celebrity Big Brother UK.


Childish paints in a personal style, which parallels his passion for the elemental in both writing and music. Since 2002 Childish has been represented by The Aquarium L-13 Gallary in London, (along with Jamie Reid and James Cauty (with who he has sometimes collaborated). He has also shown with Kent gallery Castlearts, Canterbury.

The Medway Poets

In 1979, Childish was a founder member of The Medway Poets, a poetry performance group, who read at the Kent Literature Festival and the 1981 Cambridge International Poetry Festival. There were, however, personality clashes in the group, particularly between Childish and Charles Thomson, who said: "There was friction between us, especially when he started heckling my poetry reading and I threatened to ban him from a forthcoming TV documentary." [ [ Interview with Charles Thomson on] ] However, a TV South documentary on the group in 1982 brought them to a wider regional audience.According to Childish: "Me & Charles were at war from 1979 until 1999. He even threatened having bouncers on the doors of Medway Poets' readings to keep me out." [ [ "Billy Childish on Stuckism",] Accessed April 9, 2006]

Tracey Emin

During the 1980s, Childish was a major influence on the artist Tracey Emin, whom he met in 1982, after his expulsion from the Painting department at St Martin's School of Art. Tracey was a fashion student at Medway College of Design. Emin and Childish were a couple until 1986-7, Emin selling his poetry books for his small press Hangman books. In 1995 she was interviewed in the "Minky Manky" show catalogue by Carl Freedman, who asked her, "Which person do you think has had the greatest influence on your life?" She replied::Uhmm... It's not a person really. It was more a time, going to Maidstone College of Art, hanging around with Billy Childish, living by the River Medway.

Her famous "tent" "Everyone I Have Ever Slept With 1963–1995" (1995) was first exhibited in the show, and Childish's name was displayed prominently in it. The tent was destroyed in a fire at the Momart warehouse, in Leyton, east London, in 2004.

Childish has said "My relationship with Tracey Emin finished in 1987 – 21 years ago, to be exact. Whilst I like and respect Tracey, and wish her well, the relationship is not significant in respect of my current life, and therefore I choose not to discuss it." [ [ THE AQUARIUM L-13 Artist profile ] ]

The Stuckists

In 1999 Childish and Thomson co-founded the Stuckist art movement. Thomson coined the group name from Childish's "Poem for a Pissed Off Wife" ("Big Hart and Balls" 1994), where he had recorded Emin's remark to him::Your paintings are stuck, you are stuck! — Stuck! Stuck! Stuck!"The group was strongly pro-figurative painting and anti-conceptual art. Childish wrote a number of manifestos with Thomson, the first of which contained the statement::Artists who don't paint aren't artists.The Stuckists soon achieved considerable press coverage, fuelled by Emin's nomination for the Turner Prize. They then announced the inauguration of a cultural period of Remodernism to bring back spiritual values into art, culture and society. The formation of The Stuckists directly led to Emin severing her 14-year friendship with Childish in 1999.

Childish has said "The Stuckist art group was formed in 1999 at the instigation of Charles Thomson, the title of the group being taken from a poem of mine written and published in 1994. I disagreed with the way Charles presented the group, particularly in the media. For these reasons I left the Stuckists in 2001. I never attended any Stuckist demonstrations and my work was not shown in the large Stuckist exhibition held in the Walker Art Gallery in 2004." [ [ THE AQUARIUM L-13 Artist profile ] ]

Conceptual art

As a young man, Childish was highly influenced by Dada, and the work of Kurt Schwitters in particular. Childish has a Kurt Schwitters poem tatooed on his left buttock and made a short film on Schwitters' life, titled The Man with Wheels, (1980, directed by Eugean Doyan). [ Billy Childish a Short Study" by Neal Brown published by The Aquarium ISBN 1871894233] In his poetry, Childish mentions that he once had a bank account under the name of Kurt Schwitters.As to what is now termed conceptual art, Childish has said "I respect the right of detractors and champions alike as we live in a democracy." [ [ THE AQUARIUM L-13 Artist profile ] ]

The Chatham Super 8 Cinema

In 2002, along with Wolf Howard, Simon Williams and Julie Hamper, Childish formed The Chatham Super 8 Cinema. The group makes super 8 films on a 2nd hand camera Wolf Howard brought at a local flea market. In 2004 Childish released a 30 min doc titled Brass Monkey, about a march undertaken in period Great War uniform commemorating the 90th anniversary of the British retreat from Mon's in 1914.


His groups include TV21 AKA the Pop Rivets (1977-1980), sometimes spelled the Pop Rivits, with Bruce Brand, Romas Foord, Russell Wilkins and Russell Lax. He later formed Thee Milkshakes (1980-1984) with Micky Hampshire, Thee Mighty Caesars (1985-1989), The Del Monas then Thee Headcoats (1989-1999). In 2000 he formed Wild Billy Childish & The Friends of the Buff Medways Fanciers Association (2000-2006), named after a type of poultry bred in his home town. The Buffs, as they were sometimes affectionately known, split in 2006, and Wild Billy Childish & the Musicians of the British Empire were born, recording a song about one of Billy's heroes George Mallory titled "Bottomless Pit." In early 2007, Billy formed The Vermin Poets with former Fire Dept singer and guitarist Neil Palmer and A-Lines guitarist and singer Julie Hamper. Thee Headcoats began their monthly residency at the Wild Western Room in the St John's Tavern, north London in the early 1990s, and continued after moving to the Dirty Water Club in 1996. Billy's current group, the Musicians of the British Empire, play at the venue more or less once a month to this day.

Childish has been namechecked by a number of famous musicians including Kurt Cobain, The White Stripes (Jack White had Billy's name written in large letters on his arm for an early "Top of the Pops" appearance) and Kylie Minogue who named the LP "Impossible Princess" after his book "Poems to Break the Harts of Impossible Princesses" (sic). [cite news | first = Frances | last = Whiting | authorlink = Frances Whiting | title = Princess Kylie on the Move | work = The Sunday Mail (Brisbane) | publisher = Queensland Newspapers | location = Australia | date = 26 April1998 ]


*Greatest Hits (1979) The Pop Rivets
*Empty Sounds from Anarchy Ranch (1979) The Pop Rivets
*Talking 'Bout... Milkshakes (1981) The Milkshakes
*14 Rhythm and Beat Greats (1982) The Milkshakes
*After School Sessions (1983) The Milkshakes
*The Milkshakes IV-The Men with Golden Guitars (1983) The Milkshakes
*Sing and Play 20 Rock & Roll Hits of the 50's & 60's (1984) The Milkshakes
*The Milkshakes in Germany (1984) The Milkshakes
*Nothing Can Stop These Men (1984) The Milkshakes
*Showcase (1984) The Milkshakes
*They Came They Saw They Conquered (1984) Thee Milkshakes
*Thee Knights of Trashe (1984) Thee Milkshakes
*Thee Mighty Caesars (1985) Thee Mighty Caesars
*Dangerous Charms (1985) The Del Monas
*Beware the Ideas of the March (1985) Thee Mighty Caesars
*The Delmonas 5 (1986) The Del Monas
*Thee Caesars of Trash (1986) Thee Mighty Caesars
*Acropolis Now (1986) Thee Mighty Caesars
*107 Tapes (1986) "(Early demos/Live)" The Milkshakes
*Live in Rome (1986) Thee Mighty Caesars
*Wiseblood (1987) The Mighty Caesars
*The Milkshakes Revenge -The Legendary Missing 9th Album (1987) The Milkshakes
*Fun in the U.K (1987) "(Compilation)" The Pop Rivets
*I've Got Everything Indeed (1987) Wild Billy Childish
*Don't Give Any Dinner to Henry Chinaski (1987) Thee Mighty Caesars
*Which Dead Donkey Daddy? (1987) Billy Childish & Sexton Ming
*Punk Rock Showcase (1987) Thee Mighty Caesars
*Laughing Gravy (1987) Wild Billy Childish & Big Russ Wilkins
*Plump Prizes & Little Gems (1987) Billy Childish & Sexton Ming
*The 1982 Cassettes (1988) Wild Billy Childish
*Live in Chatham (1988) Thee Milkshakes
*YPRES 1917 Overture (Verdun Ossuary) (1988) Billy Childish & Sexton Ming
*...i remember (1988) Wild Billy Childish
*Poems of Laughter and Violence (1988) Billy Childish
*Brimful of Hate (1988) Jack Ketch & the Crowmen
*Play: Capt'n Calypso's Hoodoo Party (1988) Wild Billy Childish & the Blackhands
*Do the Uncle Willy (1988) The Del Monas
*English Punk Rock Explosion (1988) "(Compilation)" Thee Mighty Caesars
*The Delmonas (1989) The Delmonas
*John Lennon's Corpse Revisited (1989) Thee Mighty Caesars
*Headcoats Down! (1989) Thee Headcoats
*Long Legged Baby (1989) Wild Billy Childish & the Natural Born Lovers
*Surely They Were the Sons of God (1989) "(Compilation)" Thee Mighty Caesars
*19th Nervous Shakedown (1990) "(Compilation)" The Milkshakes
*The Kids Are Square-This is Hip! (1990) Thee Headcoats
*The Earls of Suavedom (1990) Thee Headcoats
*Beach Bums Must Die (1990) Thee Headcoats
*Live in Germany '79 (1990) The Pop Rivets
*Heavens to Murgatroyd, Even! It’s Thee Headcoats! (Already) (1990) Thee Headcoats
*50 Albums Great (1991) Wild Billy Childish
*Girlsville (1991) Thee Headcoatees
*W.O.A.H! Bo in Thee Garage (1991) Thee Headcoats
*Headcoatitude (1991) Thee Headcoats
*I Am the Billy Childish (1991) "(Compilation)" Various
*The Sudden Fart of Laughter (1992) Billy Childish
*Der Henkermann-Kitchen Recordings (1992) Billy Childish
*The Original Chatham Jack (1992) Billy Childish & the Blackhands
*Have Love Will Travel (1992) Thee Headcoatees
*Caesars Remains (1992) "(Compilation)" Thee Mighty Caesars
*The Wurst is Yet to Come (1993) Thee Headcoats
*The Good Times Are Killing Me (1993) Thee Headcoats
*Cavern by the Sea (1993) Thee Headcoats
*Torments Nest (1993) Billy Childish
*Live in the Netherlands (1993) Wild Billy Childish & the Blackhands
*Native American Sampler — A History 1983-1993 (1993) "(Compilation)" Various
*At the Bridge (1993) Billy Childish featuring The Singing Loins
*Hunger at the Moon (1993) Billy Childish
*Caesars Pleasure (1994) "(Compilation)" Thee Mighty Caesars
*Live at the Wild Western Room (1994) Thee Headcoats
*Connundrum (1994) Thee Headcoats
*Ballad of Insolent Pup (1994) Thee Headcoatees
*The Sound of the Baskervilles (1995) Thee Headcoats featuring Thee Headcoatees
*In Tweed We Trust (1996) Thee Headcoats
*Deerstalking Men (1996) Thee Headcoats Sect
*Knights of the Baskervilles (1996) Thee Headcoats
*Made With a Passion — Kitchen Demo's (1996) Billy Childish
*Bostik Haze (1997) Thee Headcoatees
*Chathams Burning - Live 77 & 78 Demo's (1997) The Pop Rivets
*Punk Girls (1997) Thee Headcoatees
*The Jimmy Reid Experience (1997) (Thee Headcoats)
*Devil in the Flesh (1998) Billy Childish/Dan Melchior
*The Messerschmits Pilots Severed Hand (1998) Thee Headcoats
*Sherlock Holmes Meets the Punkenstien Monster (1998) "(Japanese Compilation)" Thee Headcoats
*Brother is Dead…but fly is gone! (1998) Thee Headcoats
*17% Hendrix Was Not the Only Musician (1998) Billy Childish & His Famous Headcoats
*Taylor Meets Thee Headcoatees (1998) Thee Headcoatees
*Crimes Against Music-Blues Recordings 1986-1999 (1999) "(Compilation)" Wild Billy Childish
*The Cheeky Cheese (1999) Billy Childish & Sexton Ming
*English Gentlemen of Rock‘N’Roll/the Best Vol.2 (1999) "(Japanese Compilation)" Thee Headcoats
*Here Comes the Cessation (1999) Thee Headcoatees
*The Sisters of Suave (1999) "(compilation)" Thee Headcoatees
*In Blood (1999) Billy Childish & Holly Golightly
*Ready Sect Go! (2000) Thee Headcoats Sect
*I Am the Object of Your Desire (2000) Thee Headcoats
*Elementary Headcoats - Thee Singles 1990-1999 (2000) "(compilation)" Thee Headcoats
*Live at the Dirty Water Club (2001) Thee Headcoats
*This is This (2001) The Buff Medways
*Steady the Buffs (2002) Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways
*25 Years of Being Childish (2002) "(compilation)" Various
*Here Come the Fleece Geese (2002) Billy Childish & Sexton Ming
*1914 (2003) Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways
*Medway Wheelers (2005) Wild Billy Childish & The Buff Medways
*Heavens Journey (2005) Wild Billy Childish & The Chatham Singers
*My First Billy Childish Album (2006) Various (compilation)
*Punk Rock at the British Legion Hall (2007) Wild Billy Childish & The Musicians of the British Empire
*Christmas 1979 (2007) Wild Billy Childish & the Musicians of the British Empire
*The XFM Sessions (2007) The Buff Medways
*Thatcher's Children (2008) Wild Billy Childish & the MBE's

Various artist compilations

* "Time's Up Live" (2001)
* The Smoking Dog Presents An Evening Of Medway Blues (2005) (contributes three a cappella tracks "The Bitter Cup", "Black Girl" and "Out On The Western Plains")
* Children of Nuggets (2005) (2 songs included by Mickey and the Milkshakes "It's You" and "Please Don't Tell My Baby")


Fanzines / early written works

*Chathams Burning (1977) 
*Bostik Haze (1978) 
*Fab 69 (1978)
*The Kray Twins Summer Special (1978)
*The Arts and General Interest (1978)
*Hack Hack (1978)
*Goat Gruff (1979)
*Book of Nursary Rhimes (1979)
*Kinda Garten (1980)  
*The Cuckoo's Cukoo (1980)
*Mertz in Chatham (1980)
*Shed Country (1980)  
*The Cheesy Bug Gazet - with Sexton Ming (1980)  
*Bo-Pug - The Six Tails - with Sexton Ming (1980)  
*Mussel Horse in Holland - with Sexton Ming (1980)
*Dog Jaw Woman(1981)  


*Back on Red Lite rd (1981)
*2 Minits walk from 10am (1981)
*The First Creacher is Jellosey (1981)
*Black Things Hidden in Dust (1982)
*You Me Blud N Knuckle (1982)
*Big Cunt (1982)
*Prity Thing (1982)
*7 by Childish (1982)
*Will the Circle be Unbroken (1983)
*10 No Good Poems of Slavery, Buggery, Boredom and Disrespect (1983)
*Noting Can Stop This Man (1983)
*The Unknown Stuff (1983)
*Poems from the Barrier Block (1984)
*Tear Life to Pieces (1985)
*Poems Without Rhyme, Without Reason, Without Spelling, Without Words, Without Nothing (1985)
*Monks Without God (1986)
*Companions in a Death Boat (1987)
*To the Quick (1988)
*The Girl in the Tree (1988)
*Maverick Verse (1988)
*Admissions to Strangers (1989)
*En Carne Viva (1989) Spanish/English
*Death of a Wood (1989)
*The Deathly Flight of Angels (1990)
*Like a God i Love all Things (1991)
*The Hart Rises (1992)
*Trembling of Life (1993)
*Poems of Laughter and Violence -Selected Poems 1981-1986 (1993)
*Hunger at the Moon (1993)
*Days with a Hart Like a Dog (1994)
*Poems to Break the Harts of Impossible Princesses (1994)
*Big Hart and Balls (1995)
*This Puerile Thing (1996)
*In 5 Minits You’ll Know Me -Selected Poems 1985-1995 (1996)
*A Terrible Hunger for Love (1997) Unpublished poems 1982-84
*“I’d Rather You Lied” Selected Poems 1980-1998 (1999)
*Chatham Town Welcomes Desperate Men (2000)
*Evidence Against Myself (2003)
*The Boss of All English Riters (2003)
*Calling Things by Their Proper Names (2003)
*Knite of the Sad Face (2004) Chap Book
*The 1st Green Horse God has Ever Made (2004)
*The Man with Gallows Eyes - Selected Poetry 1980-2005 (2005)
*This is My Shit and it Smells Good to Me (2008)
*Old 4 Legs (2008)
*Where the Tiger Prowls Stripped and Unseen (2008)


* "Conversations with Dr X" (1987)
* "Cannon-fodder", by Louis-Ferdinand Céline. Trans. K. De Coninck and Billy Childish (1988)
* "The Silence of Words" (1989)


*"My Fault" (1996)
*"Notebooks of a Naked Youth" (1997)
*"Sex Crimes of the Futcher" (2004)
*"the idiocy of idears" (2007)


*Child's Death Letter (1990)
*Gun in My Fathers Hand: Selected Lyrics 1977-2006 (2006)


*Paintings of a Backwater Visonary (2005)
*Thoughts of a Hangman - Woodcuts (2006)
*Field Trip Krakow/Auschwitz (2008) - under Guy Hamper (2008)
*Field Trip High Atlas/Marrakech (2008) - under Guy Hamper (2008)


*Billy Childish a Short Study. By Neal Brown (2008)


* Photo Booth (2003)
* Dark Chamber- Pinhole Photography from the IGPP - contributor- (2007)
* Dark Chamber 2 - Pinhole Photography from the IGPP- contributor- (2008)

elected Films

*The Man With Wheels (1980)
*Quite Lives (1983)
*Cheated (1993)
*The Flying Mustache (2002)
*Brass Monkey (2004)

ee also

* Thee Headcoats
* Stuckism
* The Medway Poets
* Medway groups
* Wolf Howard
* Tracey Emin
* Shooting at the Moon
* Punk literature
* Collective, a BBC website Childish contributes to.

Notes and References

External links

* []
* [ Billy Childish official site]
* [ Aquarium Gallery (represents Billy Childish)]
* [ Vinson Gallery (Billy's USA gallery)]
* [ MySpace Billy Childish Society]
* [ Photo Exhibition: Billy Childish and Tracey Emin in Chatham] by Eugene Doyen
* [ Thee Billy Childish Discography (his complete discography)]
* [ Heyoka Magazine Interview]
* [] Billy's current record label ]

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