artist and writer
Artist, writer, broadcaster, theologian,
television documentary-maker, journalist, cartoonist …
after a working life of nearly 50 years, I still don’t know how best to describe my occupation. It is certainly not ‘retired’.
I divide my time between the two places I call home, Aberystwyth, Wales and Unst, Shetland.
For 20 years I worked for BBC Radio. I presented ‘Sunday’ on Radio 4 and was a regular member of the ‘World at One’ and ‘World Tonight’ reporting teams. I was also for a time Religious Affairs Correspondent. Then, working with my daughter Caroline Gilson, I was a television producer/director.
We made programmes for all the main UK channels - including the ITV series 'Redcoats' and the award-winning 'Elvis and the Presleytarians' for BBC 1. We also made a children’s animation series with The Unst Animation Studio for Channel FIVE. At the same time I have been a writer, having had 26 books published to date. In parallel with these two careers I have worked as a cartoonist and caricaturist for a wide range of national newspapers and I have illustrated several books, including Richard Coles’ two bestsellers about ‘Improbable Saints’.
Currently, I am focusing on my work as an artist and writer. I have an MA in Fine Art from The University for the Creative Arts in Canterbury. In 1998 I was awarded a PhD in theology for my research into the rare and intriguing phenomena of stigmata.
Miscellaneous facts about my life include once having held the world record for the longest after dinner speech; having had a successful kidney transplant 29 years ago; and currently struggling to learn welsh!
In 2008, at the age of 60, I made a career change and began working as an artist. After many years specialising in reporting and writing on religious affairs, I wanted to find new ways of exploring spiritual ideas that were not rooted in words. Words, and their disputed meanings, are what spark religious arguments. Might the new visual arts, I wondered, help unravel some of the essential mysteries? I came across a quote from the artist Maggi Hambling that encouraged me, ‘great art exists in a mysterious place between life and death, simultaneously composed of both’.
In 2015 I designed and made a wall sculpture 'The Cherry Tree' for Guy's Hospital, London and in 2018 the artwork 'The Nightingale' for St Thomas's Hospital to honour and remember organ donors. In 2011 my installation 'Innocence Betrayed' was the Remembrance-tide focus in St Paul's Cathedral, London. My work has been shown in several other cathedrals including Norwich, Llandaff, Gloucester and St David's. My 2017 exhibitions included 'Sins of the World' through Lent at Gloucester Cathedral and in November at St Bride's, Fleet Street; and 'Legends of St Padarn' - 16 etchings on welsh slate to celebrate the 1500th anniversary of the arrival of St Padarn in Wales. In 2019 a new version of 'Sins of the World' was part of the exhibition 'A View from the Edge' at Washington Arts Centre, UK. Also in 2019 I completed a series of 30 charcoal drawings illustrating lines from the poetry of the Welsh poet-priest RS Thomas for the two RS Thomas festivals. This year I have been focussing on portraiture, including a self-portrait, one of my grand-daughter Carys and had several socially-distanced sittings with subjects for portraits for The National Library of Wales.