Lynne Mackenzie
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Launching The Big Yin at The People’s Museum

Image: Glasgow Life

While working at Glasgow Museums I was fortunate to work on the launch of an exhibition of artworks by Bill Connolly at the People’s Palace. 

Five years after Billy Connolly was awarded Freedom of the City of Glasgow, the People’s Palace, in partnership with Washington Green Fine Art, will host an exhibition of artworks created by the man who made the nation laugh out loud.

The exhibition opens to the public on Friday 28 August 2015 and runs until February 21, 2016.

Art of Billy Connolly offers the public an opportunity to see a side to ‘The Big Yin’ that many may not know about – that of an artist.

In 2012, Billy’s artistic expression took a new path, in the form of fine art. For Billy the process of drawing is described as meditative, the inspiration that comes from being alone on a page. His process is that of the surrealist automatism movement, whereby the artist allows the hand to move randomly across the paper, without an intent to create anything specifically.

Talking about his drawings, Billy, who was signed three years ago to Washington Green, one of the UK’s leading fine art publishers, said “I don’t want them to be judged. I didn’t want to put them in a position where people would like or dislike them. They’re little pals of mine. I’ll always draw, I’ll always do it.”

Councillor Sadie Docherty, Lord Provost of Glasgow, said: “Billy Connolly needs no introduction to the people of Glasgow. His boundless talent as a comedian, actor and presenter makes him one of Scotland’s most famous sons. Five years ago Mr Connolly was made a Freeman of the City of Glasgow, so it is fitting that his extraordinary works of art are to be displayed in Glasgow for the city’s people and visitors to enjoy.”

Alongside the drawings, objects from Glasgow Museums’ collection relating to Billy’s early career as a comedian and musician will be on display. This includes the famous Big Banana Boots, one of the star objects at the People’s Palace.

The famous boots were designed and made for Billy Connolly in 1975 by the Glasgow pop artist Edmund Smith. The boots made their first appearance on stage exactly 40 years ago at the Music Hall in Aberdeen. They then appeared in and lent their name to the film ‘Big Banana Feet’, directed by Murray Grigor and David Peat, which documented Billy’s 1975 tour of Ireland.

Chair of Glasgow Life, Councillor Archie Graham, said: “We are delighted to welcome Mr Connolly’s art to Glasgow Museums. Visitors to Art of Billy Connolly will be pleasantly surprised by what they find – the exhibition reveals an aspect of Billy’s talent that they may not be aware of. Displayed alongside the art works will be a selection of memorabilia from Billy’s early career, these items are some of the most popular exhibits at the People’s Palace, making it the perfect venue for this exhibition.”

Over 40 original Billy Connolly artworks will be on show at the exhibition courtesy of art publisher Washington Green.

Ian Weatherby-Blythe, Managing Director of Castle Galleries, said: “Billy’s art can be recognised as creativity in its purest form, it has come from a place inside the artist that is not concerned with an audience or showmanship. It is not driven by a reaction or approval. His characters are faceless and anonymous, and yet, the emotional connection with the audience is quite prevalent. It is perhaps, the simplicity of these characters that allows the viewer to connect with them so deeply.”

Among other objects on show include a purple satin costume with gold Lurex star worn by Billy on stage, a guitar made out of White Horse Whisky box and various memorabilia including programmes for ‘The Billy Connolly Show 74’ at the Pavilion and the 1976 play ‘An Me Wi’ A Bad Leg Tae’ for Borderline Theatre.

There will be some examples of the artists early recordings including ‘Welly Boot Song’ single, released in 1974 and in the charts early the following year, and an album cover for ‘Billy Connolly Live!’ recorded at City Hall Glasgow on 6th August 1972.

Also on display will be the ‘Billy’ stamp from the set recently published by the Royal Mail showing famous British comedians.

A selection of limited edition prints of Billy’s drawings will be available to buy at the People’s Palace and Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum.  There will also be a range of Billy Connolly themed items on sale exclusive to Glasgow Museums.

Selected media coverage:
BBC
The Herald
Daily Record
Evening Times