by Bill Drummond
I don’t think I have been more scared since pulling out the automatic rifle at The Brits in 1992 and squeezing the trigger.
And all I had to do was step on the raft made from my bed as it floated on the calm waters of the Grand Union Canal.
This was for my ceremonial entrance into Birmingham. Initially I wanted people to imagine I had sailed all the way up the Grand Union from London on my bed with my ‘host’ of daffodils.
But when I realised that no one was going to buy that, I decided to just call it a ceremonial entrance.
Earlier in the morning, I had deconstructed my bed in my flat in London, loaded it into the back of the Transit along with four empty oil drums, stopped off at a Halford’s to buy some straps, driven up the M1 and M6, picked up the 440 bunches of daffodils from the flower market, parked under Spaghetti Junction and got to work.
With the help of a couple of colleagues, we soon had the frame of the bed back together, the oil drums strapped on underneath and the 440 bunches of daffs in newly bought black plastic buckets.
I used a freshly cut branch to be my pole, put on my leather coat and launched the raft this being the scary bit. The actual journey that I did was not more than 400 yards.
Even then it was a struggle to keep it going in the right direction and not just going around in circles. But none of the buckets of daffodils slipped off, I kept upright and did get to the destination that we had planned to.
When I looked at the photographs that my friend Tracey Moberly had taken of the whole affair, it all seemed to make sense. Don’t ask me to explain or justify.
For me the grandeur of the pillars holding up Spaghetti Junction outdid the Arc de Triomphe, the perfect place to make one’s entrance into Birmingham, ceremonial or otherwise.
The plan was that I would walk from Spaghetti Junction into the centre of Birmingham to give away the remaining 40 bunches of daffodils to complete strangers. This did not happen as I was running late and had to be back in London to get tea on the table for my teenage children.
The next morning I was back and outside the Town Hall giving away my 40 bunches. What the people who refused or accepted my offer thought I have no idea.
This is something I have done once a year for the last 13 years and plan to carry on doing so for as long as I can. If I were to try and explain the motivation for doing this I would totally get my knickers in a twist and sound way too pretentious so I won’t bother.
Best make up your own reasons why I do it.
That evening was the official opening of my 25 Paintings exhibition at Eastside Projects.
This all seemed simple enough. One of my sons turned up with a mate, we went for a balti in Ladypool Road and then I got to work again – that’s if you can call it work.
Between 11pm and 1am Saturday morning I marched along Stratford Road banging my big bass drum. Boy racers pulled up and wanted to know what was going on.
Families pulled back curtains and opened windows to get a better look. No explanation was either given or needed. This was The Man Who Bangs His Drum also making his entrance into Birmingham.
The next morning at 7am I was up on top of the Rotunda with my traffic cone heralding the new dawn. This was me in one of my other alter egos as The Man Who Blows His Horn.
The rest of the day was spent in the gallery chatting to whoever came in while getting on with my knitting.
This week I am back working as a shoe shine boy in the university for a couple of days and on Friday and Saturday I will be in Eastside Projects knitting squares for my Million Stitch Blanket. Drop by if you can. Bring a pair of knitting needles if you want to give me a hand. I’ve got the wool.
• Bill Drummond’s The 25 Paintings is at Eastside Projects, Digbeth, until June 14. www.eastsideprojects.org . He will be writing about his projects each week in The Birmingham Post.