Above this column there is probably something about me being an artist, or artist and musician. If this were a tabloid I might be described as an ex-pop star turned artist. On the Bill Drummond Wikipedia page it lists me being – artist, writer, musician, music industry manager, theatre set designer, carpenter.

All of the above is, if not wrong, way off the mark. What I am is a van driver.

And I have been a van driver since September 1975, almost 40 years, almost a complete working life.

What has been in the back of the van has varied. Sometimes it has been timber for building stage sets, sometimes furniture for cash-in-hand removal jobs, sometimes guitars, amplifiers and drum kits, sometimes boxes of records, sometimes all the worldly possessions of one of my children when they leave home to go to college, sometimes all my worldly possessions as another long-term relationship crumbles.

But if we were side by side waiting for the traffic lights to change, you would just see a man in a white van who is probably about to cut you up.

The thing is, I have loved every moment of this van driving. I even like the loading and the unloading of the van. It is just the bits in between that get complicated and difficult.

Over these 40 years it has nearly always been Ford Transits. And they have nearly always been white. But it’s only since I retired my long-suffering Land Rover in the past few months that have I bought my own white Ford Transit.

Up until then, they had been hired, or borrowed, or owned by the people I was working for. But now it is mine and I am king of the road and I can cut up whoever I want.

Over the past three months I’ve been driving up and down the M1/M6 between London and Birmingham far more times than taking the train. It seems that I would rather take the strain.

Over the past week, I’ve had a couple of conversations with Gavin Wade.

 

He is the boss of Eastside Projects where my exhibition is on in Birmingham. One of the conversations was about my disappointment that there were not always at least 100 people in the gallery marvelling at my art. His response was that the actual gallery was just a hub for my activities across the city.

That the people I was interacting with when I was out and about making beds, delivering cakes, shining shoes etc were the real audience, and there were thousands of them.

He even argued that you reading this column are as valid an engagement with ‘my work’ as actually coming into the gallery.

He said something about all of these engagements together improving the layers of Birmingham. He has a thing about layers. He believes the city’s motto should be changed from Forward to Layered.

I don’t know if Gavin is right but that is his thinking.

Then yesterday he told me about his ambitions for Birmingham to become the art capital of the UK. That it should become known at The City of a Thousand Artworks.

For this to happen it would only require Birmingham City Council to spend 10 per cent of its budget on the arts and not just the current one per cent. I like a man with ambition.

Gavin then told me how my Birmingham Dead Oak Ring sculpture that I was giving as a gift to the city, was too abstract a thing for most people to engage with.

I knew what he meant. I mean, who would ever get to see the dead oak trees anyway? And only the people that had read this column would know anything about it.

After this conversation, I had to drive back to London in my white Ford Transit.

See all of Bill's articles for the Post here

And while I was leaving the Aston Expressway to take the slip road under Spaghetti Junction up onto the M6, I noticed that I was in a convoy of three other white vans.

It was this observation that triggered a bolt of inspiration to hit my head. I guess I wanted to celebrate the sheer ubiquity of the white van in our culture. And especially in Birmingham.

What follows is the idea based on the bolt of inspiration.

From the moment you read this, every white van in Birmingham is part of an ongoing sculpture. The name of this sculpture is – White Vans in Birmingham.

This sculpture will last as long as Birmingham stands and there are white vans in it. The sculpture includes all the white vans in Birmingham. The drivers or owners of the vans don’t need to know about it, but you can tell them if you want.

Any white van that drives into Birmingham becomes part of the sculpture, but as soon as a white van drives out of Birmingham, it is no longer part of the sculpture, that is until it returns.

This sculpture can be about whatever you want it to be about. The more interpretations the better – or none at all. The canvas is as blank or as full as you perceive it. High concept or no concept. The choice is yours.

Unlike my 16 dead oak trees I was writing about a couple of weeks ago, this sculpture can be seen everyday on almost every street in the city.

There are no shares to be bought and sold. It is not a comment about anything or anybody unless you decide it is.

This could be one of the ‘‘Thousand Artworks’’ before they officially exist.

And as Gavin Wade might say, keep it layered.

Post Script: On reading the above, my colleague John Hirst suggested I have 1,000 stickers printed. Which I would then stick on the back doors of white vans across the city. The sticker would read: ‘‘This van is part of the sculpture WHITE VANS IN BIRMINGHAM’’

• Bill Drummond is writing a weekly column for The Birmingham Post as part of his three-month residency at Eastside Projects, Digbeth. To view his previous columns visit www.birminghampost.co.uk/all-about/billdrummond

The Birmingham Post has launched a free app for iPad and iPhone. Download it here.