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Shanahan Studio Session with Artist Edward Quigley



Welcome to my first Shanahan studio session interview, and I couldn’t have asked for a better guest than Edward Quigley or Ed. Who is Ed? He is a visual artist and photographer, and works from his studio at Blue House yard in Wood Green, North London. In this interview we discuss topics such as art, the impact of covid-19 on retail, mental health, overcoming corporate burnout and finding your life's passion and purpose.



H: Hello, Ed, welcome to Shanahan Studio Session. Tell me about your background, how did you get into art? What age did you find that you were artistically gifted?


E: There might be some people who have questioned whether I’m artistically gifted, at 43 years of age, but I had an aptitude in school, for drawing and all the rest of it, and I was naturally drawn to creative stuff, music and all the rest of it. And, and that was all good and well. What I didn’t know when I was a child, is that I’ve got ADHD, and that was only diagnosed last year. So the reason why I’m telling you that is because what would happen quite a lot when I was young, so I would try my hand, the guitar or drawing, show some aptitude but then lose interest really quickly. And I kind of gained a reputation as someone who was flaky and what we didn’t know, my family and myself, we didn’t know that I had ADHD. And that was why I wasn’t able to carry on focusing. So the short answer, I suppose to your question is, it was always there. But I never, I never kind of expanded on it. When I left school at 16, I went straight into work. And I grew up in a family where paying the rent and getting food was important. And so there wasn’t much appetite for looking at lines of work that were very reliable, do you know what I mean?


H: Yes, I definitely can relate to that.


E: At 16, you’ve got to go out and get a job. And you know, sitting there and painting or drawing was not part of that. So I went off, and did you know, whatever, I did have started work at 16. And none of it was in the creative sector. And occasionally, I would dabble. But that was it. I think in 2012, I did an evening class in charcoal sketching. That was great fun. And then fast forward to recently, I did a charity auction in May 2019. And I did a few ink and graphite sketches of former Arsenal footballers. And because of friends of friends, I managed to get those footballers to sign the works.


And they sold it was really successful. And that in May 2019, that was the moment when that voice inside me said hold on a moment, you really like doing this, it appears that you’ve got a little bit of aptitude, maybe follow up. And so I didn’t really it wasn’t so much that I made an active decision. It was just, I really enjoyed it. And so I kept at it. And I kept sketching, I made a few gifts for friends. And then I became really ill with my day job. So I’m the chief executive of a social enterprise in Hackney, the stress and anxiety from the job made me very ill, I had to take some time out.


And that was the moment in 2020, early 2020, when I kind of had a really serious chat with myself. And as if there wasn’t enough going on in 2020, anyway, you know what I mean? But I kind of had a chat with myself and realized that I wasn’t happy. Yeah. Really, really, really unhappy, deeply unhappy. And it was making me ill. Yeah. So I finally, I kind of almost said the words to myself, you know, I kind of came to the decision. I don’t want to and I can’t do this job. It affects me too much. And I think because I left school at 16 and didn’t get any grades didn’t do well at school. We know now that it was because of ADHD. When I became a chief executive, the first time around, which was back in 2013. I was really proud of it, obviously.


And then and that that first round caused me stress and then the second CEO role. Again, very proud, but it caused me a lot of stress. And I kind of thought to myself, well, why? Who’s telling you have to be a CEO? Why’d you have to do that? And so it was a real seismic year last year. And the end result is that I was made redundant, but I kind of spoke to my boss and it was a kind of voluntary redundancy. I’ve got my studio here and Blue House yard in August 2019. And in 2020, I made a decision that artwork and creativity, that’s going to be my full time pursuit. And then I’m going to fill around that with little part time bits of work. And I don’t have the same disposable income. I’m completely uncertain about where the money is going to come from. But I’ll find a way.


H: I have so many questions to ask you from that period in your life. How old were you when you pinpointed the root of, your restlessness in school?


E: That’s a good question. I mean, look, it’s hard because