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Aof A People: Mish Aminoff Moon – Artist and Photographer

8 Minute Read

Mish Aminoff Moon, 63, is an artist and photographer. She captures images every day with her camera – from her particular perspective, details of London life. She blogs at with her photographs being the main focus. Mish took some amazing shots of our Dance Me To Death performance; no one else had her eye.

What is your age?

I’ll be 64 in August.

Where do you live?

In London, near Kentish Town.  I love the location as it’s near Hampstead Heath and also quite close to the centre of town, so it’s urban but also close to nature. One of my photographic projects has been taking the ever-changing view from my window through different seasons and light conditions. It feels exciting to me to witness a cityscape out of the window.

What do you do?

I’m an artist. Most days I wander around the streets with my camera capturing whatever piques my interest. I paint too but photography is something I do every day. I also produce a regular blog that combines images and text.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

I feel very fortunate to be here and to be relatively fit and healthy. I lost a good friend a few days ago and another of my friends has been seriously ill for a while. I reached a turning point when I turned 60 – when I began to appreciate life in a different way. In my 30s and 40s I was probably more concerned about ageing but now I see life as a gift.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

For a start, I have two grown-up sons! I’m also married (for the second time), and we live together in our own apartment. I have nearly 40 more years of experience and am still learning. I’ve discovered that I’m a good singer – this only happened as I approached 50 when I was looking for a transitional activity to replace the regular salsa dancing in clubs. I joined an Afrocuban choir called The London Lucumi choir and have been singing ever since. We’ve performed alongside amazing artists and recorded several albums. In terms of my physical identity, I have much longer hair, which is streaked with grey.

What about sex?

On the one hand, I felt a bit wary of this question as I don’t want it to be sensationalist like “we broke the bed the other day” (which we did). I value all the senses and for me, sex and sensuality are an important part of intimacy and connection. I treasure the fact that my partner and I are lovers as well as companions. I don’t know if my feelings around this will change but this is how I’ve felt up to now.

And relationships?

I met my husband Stephen when we were both 55 and single. I was in a good place creatively and socially but relationship-wise I had totally resigned myself to being single. There’s actually a funny story connected to this. When we met, I had an exhibition of my photos at Bar Italia and sold some pictures to several people, one of them being Stephen. With some of the deposit money I went and treated myself to some fancy lingerie. I was recounting the story to a woman from the Great British Song Book who used my words verbatim as the chorus to a song which we performed at the Barbican. The chorus goes like this:

“ I’m going to buy myself the most beautiful bra in the world. Nobody’s ever gonna see this bra but I DON’T CARE!!”

So, after the exhibition was over, Stephen and I arranged to meet for an afternoon coffee. This coffee was the start of something that then developed into a relationship I hadn’t anticipated or expected. It felt and still feels incredible to have met my soulmate and something about finding each other at such a late stage means that we are appreciative of each day we have together.

How free do you feel?

I feel quite free as an autonomous individual but I also feel that my duties and responsibilities are going to increase in terms having to care for my mother who is in her 80s. So fantasies about spending months living in Venice might have to remain fantasies for a while.

What are you proud of?

This is a tough one. I’m proud of my sons and my relationship with them. I’m proud of what I consider to be my bravery and fearlessness in certain situations – I’ve worked hard to live in a way that I feel is authentic.

What keeps you inspired?

I’m inspired by reading. Relatively recently I read The Choice by Edith Eger, a holocaust survivor who was presumed dead amongst a pile of corpses but survived. She still goes swing dancing with another nonagenarian! Talk about Carpe Diem. I’m particularly inspired by black women authors and am currently reading a fascinating book by Raven Leilani who is only 30. I love watching world cinema (which I used to teach) and listening to music. But I am also aware of too much “consumption” so try to keep a balance.

When are you happiest?

Lots of situations – I’m happiest hanging out quietly at home with Stephen, but I’m also extremely in the sense of pure life energy when I’m dancing, singing and around rhythm. I recently bought a pandeiro-type of Brazilian tambourine and even a few minutes of playing totally raises my spirits.

And where does your creativity go?

I take photographs or work on my photography every day. I’m also into fashion and some of that creativity goes into my personal style. I think I’m quite a creative cook too, which has made lockdown a rather tasty one. My newest dish is a re-creation of a Sicilian speciality I read about in one of Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels!

What’s your philosophy of living?

The following phrases inform and inspire me day to day:

“Keep on Trying … I just keep on trying” Faith Ringgold, an incredible artist from Harlem who found success relatively late in life, said this in an interview to Alan Yentob prior to her solo exhibition the Serpentine. She was in her late 80s at the time.

“You don’t have to keep up dear. You just have to keep open”- spoken by Anna Madrigal, the transgender character created by Armistead Maupin from the conclusion of Tales of the City series of books.

I mentioned Edith Eger before; she writes that we always have a choice irrespective of how dire the situation is, and we can choose to have a victim’s mentality or that of a survivor. She says “we have a choice: to pay attention to what we’ve lost or to pay attention to what we still have.”

This is also linked to the idea of being an active or passive agent in your life. This brings me to my next nugget of philosophy:

“Some pursue happiness, others create it”. I first came across this in New York – part of a motivational project called Be Mighty where people could tear off little inspirational quotes from flyers in the street (see attached photo). This one really resonated with me. I later found out it is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And dying?

I’ve taken small steps towards acknowledging and confronting dying; the tai chi and qigong practice I’ve been doing increasingly since lockdown (see attached photo of people practising on Hampstead Heath) help me come to terms with acknowledging loss, notions of seasons, transience, change and letting go.

Mish Aminoff

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, but I don’t always remember them. One dream that had a profound effect on me was a kind of premonition involving bonding with a woman in a red flowing dress. This was followed in waking life by encountering the Red Rebel Brigade of the Extinction Rebellion movement in a similar scenario. I photographed them and wrote a blog called Red Flow which develops the theme.

Mish Aminoff

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I don’t really go for outrageous – I tend to strive for balance and harmony. But I do have a lot of adventures and spontaneous wonderful experiences. For instance the other week I had been dancing Forro – a type of Brazilian dance in the bandstand at Regents Park. After the class, a Brazilian dancer started a Maracatu line dance parade with live percussion in front of a crowd and my friend Alicia and I joined in even though we’d never done it before. We ended up performing in the front row, doing movements representing slaves getting rid of chains and it was incredibly powerful. We ended with impromptu wild ululation! And the crowds cheered…

AofA People: Joolz – poet, novelist, artist, illustrator and tattooist

6 Minute Read

Joolz, 66, is a poet, novelist, artist, illustrator and professional tattooist. She came to prominence in the 80s when she was often called a punk poetess and was instrumental – Justin Sullivan, the lead singer was her partner at that time – in the rise of New Model Army. She’s still writing, painting, drawing and expressing her opinions from her base in Bradford

Where do you live?

I live in the same house in Bradford I’ve lived in for 35 years. It’s an end terrace in a hidden cul de sac in a very poor area but by chance has a large garden with trees. It’s extremely untidy and full of stuff and art materials. It’s very comfortable despite being in disrepair.

What do you do? I’m an artist, writer and tattooist, although I’m semi-retired from tattooing because it’s exhausting work. I have my own studio and set my own rules so I don’t have to get up early or any of that nonsense. I spent my whole adult life working at night either on tour with the band or just because I like it and it racks me off when people say ‘not up yet?’ I probably didn’t go to bed until 3.00 am whilst they were snoozing at 9.00pm. I’m sure it’s lovely to see the sunrise and I often do, just before going to bed.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

I will be 66 shortly. My current joke is ‘one six short of the Beast’ which no one finds funny but me. Life is a see-saw – when you’re young you have all the energy and no wisdom, in middle age, it’s 50-50, now it’s all wisdom and naps. It’s frustrating my body which was always fit and strong is still strong but less fit and I live with the constant pain of arthritis in my knees due to motorcycle accidents and the sports I did but hey. Everyone has something wrong with them. I don’t put up with bullshit and I speak as I find, so people try and pigeonhole me as a grumpy old woman but I’m not. I’m half in this world and half in the other world so I see things much more clearly than I did.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

Insight and courage, I was a very damaged and hurt girl, I suffered serious sexual and physical violence, decades of abuse and bullying – now I understand and despite the legacy of CPTSD and depression, I’m actually much more liberated and free than I was. At 25 I didn’t have knowledge that I didn’t need anyone else to be happy. Now I like people well enough but I don’t need them.

What about sex?

I have a partner who’s 30 years younger than myself and extremely good looking. All my bits are in working order. It’s not a problem. I don’t lack for suitors either, but that’s their gig, I’m not bothered.

And relationships?

They have been extremely problematic in the past and I’m shit at them, I just take it day by day. I don’t expect the traditional holding hands in the twilight of our year’s stuff now. I had years of domestic abuse physical and psychological so I’ve seen the worst relationships can bring and I’ve also seen the best. I think people expect too much of their partners sometimes. They want a mother, father, sibling, best mate, nurse, counsellor and lover all in one and that’s a terrible burden to put on someone else. Just look at them as a person like yourself with problems like yourself that you’ve entered into a partnership with so you’ll each have someone to be close to over the years and never ever marry someone you couldn’t spend two weeks in a two-man tent in the Lake District with.

How free do you feel?

Extremely free. No one tells me what to do and I won’t be shouted at by anyone. I do as I like and make what I like.

What are you proud of?

Surviving. Being successful in every career path I’ve taken. Being a hard worker and researcher. Loving people. Loving my cat Scout. Having nice grey hair.  The garden.

What keeps you inspired?

Absolutely everything. Every day is a revelation and brings fresh insight. I’m not even kidding or bullshitting. Just keep your eyes open it’s all out there.

When are you happiest?

In bed reading with Scout lying beside me. Scout is a 9kg male Black Smoke variant Maine Coon cat so it’s like having a dog that purrs. We love each other. I feel safe, warm and comfortable and can dream of other places, places I’ll visit when we can travel again.

And where does your creativity go?

Into everything I do and am.


What’s your philosophy of living?

I don’t think too hard about that. Don’t get wound up about small stuff. Tell the truth and shame the devil. Stand up for what you believe in but question everything. You don’t get owt for nowt so be prepared to pay the price. Love with all your heart, if the loved one turns out to be shit that’s their karma. Women should always have money of their own and men should give up trying to control everything. Children are our most precious resource, don’t spoil or hurt them. Don’t use children as props to your ego or weapons against your partner. Respect your Elders, you don’t have to like them but they gave you life. Be polite.  Swear if you feel like it. Let your hair go grey and be proud of it because it’s two fingers up at Society that says we should be ashamed of being old.

It’s just part of the journey. We all die. I’ll make an end of it myself if I’m too ill to go on with dignity like my father did. At least I hope I’ll be that brave. There’s nothing to fear in dying, just try to do as much as you can prior. Think of it as the end of the summer holidays and that bright shore waiting.And dying?

Are you still dreaming?

Every day.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

My entire existence is an outrage to many so I don’t have to do anything special.

AofA People: Sue Tilley – Artist, Model, Writer, Speaker

1 Minute Read

Sue Tilley, 60, is the most recognisable muse – she was the model for Lucian Freud’s 1995 Benefits Supervisor Sleeping – in modern British art. These days, she lives in St Leonards and has her own career as an illustrator teaming up with designers like Fendi to create bags, T-shirts and more. Sue is talking at the Century Club in London this Wednesday about Taboo club and her friendship with Leigh Bowery. Sadly, it’s sold out.

Sue Tilley
St. Leonards, UK

I am an artist, model, writer and speaker. I also spend a lot of time lying about, reading, watching telly and meeting friends for gossiping.


It’s like being 17 but with more aching bones and less angst. Actually it’s marvellous, I have made my life as easy as it can be and more or less do what I want. I’ve paid off my mortgage, live in a lovely flat that I have just finished doing up and in a wonderful town by the sea.

I have realised that it is no point getting worked up about minor (or major) irritations . Continual moaning just makes you irritable and does not affect the person or situation you are moaning about as they usually can’t hear you. It also bores all those around you rigid. I can’t remember the last time I couldn’t sleep as I was worrying about something.

I think that not going to ‘proper’ work has made a great difference to my life. No attending boring meetings about boring subjects which have usually been discussed many times before.

I don’t care what people think of me anymore…if they don’t like me… so what …there are plenty of people who do. I don’t like everybody so why should everybody like me.


I have more money which really does make life much easier. I’m sure a time will come when I haven’t got much again but it is so lovely not having to think about every penny and I can pay to make my life easier. I have a cleaner which is so fantastic….I am hopeless at house work and I can’t describe the joy I have at not having to do it.

I also like to think that I also have some wisdom which I have acquired over the years


What about it…I can’t really believe I ever did it. I have talked to many women my age and many of them agree with me thinking that it is a very strange thing to do. I had fun doing it when I was younger but can’t bear the thought of it now… I’d much rather share a smile or hold someone’s hand.


I’m not really a relationship person. I’m far too lazy and enjoy my own company and my own funny ways far too much. I’d hate to live with someone unless we had a huge house where we could keep out of each other’s way

I’ve had a very strange relationship with an artist twenty years younger than me for the last 4 years. It’s a friendship that I can’t even really explain and have never really known anything like it before. But I rarely see him, we just message each other several times a day so it’s like he’s with me but he actually physically isn’t which is perfect for me.

I’ve also got a lot of friends and I have a different relationship with all of them and these satisfy all my needs ensuring that I am never bored and always have someone to talk to if I need to.


I feel pretty free, the only thing that stops me from doing certain things is my very dodgy knees that makes walking too far a problem. But I’m very creative and can usually come up with a solution to make sure I can do what I want to do. I am currently embarking on a health improvement programme, and to get my knees fixed is on my list.

I am certainly free to make my own decisions and I really can’t bear people giving me unsolicited advice. If they do I usually do the opposite thing.


At the moment I’m very proud of getting my flat just the way I want it, in about 7 months.

I even got rid of most of my furniture and got some old things that were just what I’ve always wanted but never thought that I could have. It’s lucky that there are many shops and warehouses in St Leonards selling just what I want, at very reasonable prices.

I guess that people would think that I would be more proud of some of the things that I am well known for doing such as modelling for Lucian Freud or doing the illustrations for the Fendi SS18 menswear collection. And although I am really proud of these they are things that I was asked to do and I was working with other people but I did my flat all on my own and it was all my own creativity which went into it. It also helped that I was only pleasing myself and didn’t need to consult with or please anyone else.


I’m inspired by many things, I love meeting my old friends and meeting new people and looking at the things around me. I can find inspiration in most things which means that I am never bored.

My artist friend is also a great inspiration as he challenges me to do things that I haven’t done before and encourages me to make new art.


I am happy most of the time, which is a wonderful feeling. I am particularly happy when I have finished all the jobs that I am meant to have done so that I can do exactly as I want but then I get a bit itchy and wait for the next project to come in.


In many different directions, although I usually wait to be asked to do things rather than starting projects on my own. But I am very lucky as people often ask me to do stuff, for instance this week I have sent a painting to be auctioned in aid of Art4Grenfell, I have written this piece and baked a cake to a recipe that I made up and next week I’m giving a talk in London about Leigh Bowery and Taboo.


To live life as much as you can. I always think that experiences are more valuable that possessions.

Be kind to people. Don’t worry too much. Don’t complain too much. Make the best of whatever you have instead of focusing on what you don’t have. Try to see the funny side of everything. Even a bad experience can be made into a good story. To say ‘yes’ far more often that saying ‘no’.


I used to be petrified of death but as I’ve got older, I’ve seen many of my friends and family get dreadful illnesses and addictions, some have died but some have survived. So now I’m not bothered about dying as long as it’s not too painful. And old age doesn’t look particularly appealing and I’ve got no children to look after me so I don’t want to live too long beset by pain and memory loss. However I don’t think I’m ready to go yet, I recently had surgery and they asked me if I wanted to be revived if I died on the operating table and I didn’t hesitate in saying ‘yes’.

But if I died tomorrow I would be satisfied with what I have achieved in my life and would be glad that I died happy.


If you mean do I dream when I’m asleep…yes, I do. I like the dreams that you have when you wake up and then snooze for a few minutes. I did this yesterday and the dream was so real I could feel myself flying through rooms and chatting to the various people that I met in them. It was most enjoyable.

But if you mean do I dream of doing things…not anymore. I used to dream about things that might happen to me and they never happened but the things that have happened to me are so bizarre I wouldn’t even imagine dreaming about them. For instance, I have been portrayed on the stage in London and on Broadway in the musical Taboo by Boy George. I also became the subject of the most expensive painting ever sold at auction by a living artist when Lucian Freud’s “Benefit Supervisor Sleeping” sold for 17.2 million pounds in 2008 which resulted in a media frenzy. And recently I did all the drawings that were used on the Fendi Spring/summer 2018 menswear collection and ended upon the front row at their Milan fashion show.

But when I was at school I dreamt about being an artist, this finally came true when I reached the ripe old age of 58 when I had a big show in London and have more or less made my living by my artistic skills in the two years since.


A few weeks ago I was asked to give a talk in the Art Tent at Hastings Pride. My payment for the event was a bottle of vodka which was plonked in front of me, along with several cold cans of diet coke as I sat down on stage. I don’t drink very often but I think the spirit of Leigh Bowery entered me on this sunny afternoon and I started glugging it down, I shared far more that I meant to in my talk and then carried on boozing, I invited several friend back to mine and as I left the field to get a taxi home I fell over and rolled down the grassy hill like a child and then came to an abrupt stop and immediately got my phone out like nothing had happened. We got back to mine and continued to drink until about midnight when I was sick and collapsed fully dressed on the floor by my bed.

The Culture Interview: Molly Parkin

6 Minute Read

The Grand Dame of Flamboyance, artist Molly Parkin celebrates her 85th birthday with a Retrospective Exhibition of her paintings at the Stash Gallery, Vout-o-Reenees in Shoreditch, London. Here she’s interviewed by her daughter, Sophie Parkin.

What do you know now that you wish you’d known at 21?

The viciously debilitating long-term  effects of alcohol and tobacco. All my close companions from then are long-since dead. I gave up both at 55, and the heady social life and lovers that went with them.

Which person or people taught you the most about life

My pious Welsh Valley grandparents, my mother’s parents, whom I lived with from the age of 7 to 11, to escape the London Blitz.

My beautiful, gentle Granny Noyle suffered the tragic loss of 11 of her 12 children in infancy. Her religion gave her wisdom, acceptance and infinite kindness. The entire community brought their problems to her home to be solved. She never turned anyone away.

Both my grandfathers, Tadci Noyle, former miner, and Tadci Thomas, former postman (my father’s father) introduced me to Nature…. to the overwhelming grandeur of the Welsh mountains, either side of the narrow Garw Valley, over the coal-pits below. Both introduced me to humour, conversations laced with laughter, but even more than that…the sense of just how extraordinarily rewarding it was simply to be alive, to cherish every single minute. Tadci Noyle was a scholar, his background being Brittany Gypsy. He had taught himself how to read and write in The Working Men’s Institute of the valley. He placed faith in ‘endeavour’ coaxing me into climbing the steep summit, aged 7, to be ‘closer to God,’ just beneath Heaven. He claimed ‘it will be worth it’ when we reached the very top. The breath-taking result with our valley and the next so far beneath, proved that he was correct. He had planted ‘endeavour’ into my very soul. I became addicted to the result.

The Temple Tirruvanamalai, India The Temple Tirruvanamalai, India - Watercolour - Molly Parkin

Tadci Thomas, a pipe smoker, whose chest ‘couldn’t cope with heights’,  strolled with me at a leisurely pace alongside the coal-black water of the swirling river…all the way out of the village up to the very next one at the top of the Garw Valley. He egged me on with jokes to make me laugh. We stopped very often to examine tiny blossoms and oddly shaped stones. More excitingly, to choose either boiled sweets or peppermints from one coat pocket. Or milk chocolate from the other.

Both grandfathers planted a fervent appreciation in me of humour and twinkling blue eyes, as well as clever, handsome and popular men with time on their hands. Both Tadci’s had retired when I came along but their influence and my Granny’s have given me purpose, drive, humour, faith in my own abilities, and generosity of spirit.

What do you think your working class Welsh background gave you that’s different to others that you’ve met?

My own family was a mixture of teachers, preachers and miners. We were all equals in that valley. Snobbery didn’t exist. Consequently, I have never suffered from social shyness or a sense of inferiority.

Did you ever feel inferior working on a national newspaper in Fleet Street for being a) a woman b) working class c) Welsh d) not being Oxbridge- educated?

The Sixties brought with it the ground-breaking talents of three cockney fashion photographers, David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Duffy, with whom I worked  as pals. Also artists, dancers, singers, actors and actresses who spoke in dialects, from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, and the North, replacing place the upper-class English accents.

Seascape. Acrylic on canvas.Seascape. Acrylic on canvas. Molly Parkin

Women’s Lib was hugely influential. Male domination in the workplace is no longer acceptable. Men must learn their place, just as women have had to!

You’ve done so much and been to so many places, where and when were you happiest (excluding the here and now!)?

As a travel writer I visited the South Pole – for the Sunday Telegraph Magazine – having always been drawn to snow and ice, visually. I travelled on a German Cruise Liner, amidst floating icebergs. On arrival in the South Pole, I boarded a plane above the snow-laden ice and through the exquisitely eerie landscape. I loved the slanting eyes, beautiful mouths, complexions, laughter of the people, and their friendliness, and that they lived in igloos! That memory is etched in my mind. And the unearthly conversations, plus the ghostly howling of the sleigh-dogs.

However India became part of me. When I bought a house there after I embraced total sobriety, I spent 2 months there every year for 10 years. The temples enthralled me and the warmth and welcome of every Indian I ever met…and their attitude to the end of their lives as mortals reaching heaven, being the Sublime. It has reformed my attitude to my own end, as being the beginning. I look forward to that. In Southern India, I was invited so many times to join in celebrating the deaths of my neighbours, we laughed and sang, and played music long into the night. No tears in sight, no grief at all, I loved that.

Where do you get your clothes from and how do you have the energy not to just throw on an old jumper and slacks during the day?

I wear my clothes with joy, beautiful fabrics, exquisite colours, including black, mostly made by me. My body responds with high spirits and health.

I very much doubt that ugly old jumpers and slacks could possibly do the trick!!

What makes you want to get out of bed in the morning?

I can’t wait to greet the dawn, often I start the day with painting or writing. Four and Six am are my most inspired times. Later in the day, I fall asleep in front of the TV, whatever programme is on.

Any secrets for still being alive, sentient, and not senile?

I have taken to smiling at strangers in the street, especially tired young mothers with prams, and men and women of all ages..they all smile back, which surprised me at the start.

I am a vegan. That is giving me masses of energy, even though I would never have claimed to need more…. I sense it will give me a longer life, but love is always the answer.

As a painter who do you admire most or what is your favourite picture?

I admire the paintings of FRANCIS BACON, my friend and regular drinking companion at the Colony in Soho. BOTH my favourite paintings bring back fond memories – SELF PORTRAIT 1970 by Francis Bacon, oil on canvas. Hard to choose between this and TRIPTYCH May-June 1973 also by Francis Bacon, oil on canvas.

I travelled to the Cook Islands, in the wake of CEZANNE, having worshiped his Tahitian nudes, as an art student. I have also been inspired by TURNER, VAN GOGH, and the SURREALISTS.

Mutton Self Portrait at 85. Molly ParkinMutton Self Portrait. Molly Parkin

Anywhere or one you still wish to paint?

I live very much in the day now, without making plans. My paintings come to life when they wish to do so. People or places. But recently I have been excited by my light-hearted self-portrait, ‘MUTTON’. I see my foibles in it, which makes me laugh. Humour and Truth. It represents a different direction, always unexpected, always exciting.

Molly Parkin’s 85th Birthday Retrospective Exhibition is on from the 10th Feb until 15th March at The Stash Gallery The Crypt of 30 Prescot St London E1 8BB
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