XXV: Art in the right place

The transient, undulating undercurrent of Brighton’s art communities provide fertile ground for many finding their way in the city.

The collaborative dedication to progression and inter-personal support has served Tom Stroud, the man behind XXV Art and potential best artist in the world well in his years in the city by the sea, now suitably equipped with thicker glasses and aching joints, he is looking to pay back into the sub cultures that have brought him so much.

“Brighton has got such a bustling creative scene, and there seems to be so much going on all time, so many people doing different things. And everyone always seems very open to collaborating. Which really helps foster passion for, and development of whatever one is working on at any given time,” Stroud commented.

This collaboration, this combined effort to affect change and push things forward permeates across the city as a singularity of artistic expression. Music, design, fashion, performance. All existing in and of their own right, but with the lines between blurred.

Separate bodies inextricably linked by artistic endeavour, those that create them and that which they create intertwined through form, function and interpersonal collaboration.

“I wouldn’t be where I am now, or have done what I have managed to do thus far if it wasn’t for friends throughout music scenes. I’ve had the opportunity to go from flyer work, to t-shirts, record covers, and working with the kind of bands I’ve always looked up to (Stroud designed a t-shirt for punk legends AFI).

“Not to disparage other parts of the UK or other scenes, but in Brighton there is a spirit of people building each other up that I haven’t felt to the same extent anywhere else.”

As well as inspiring, the spirit of localised collaboration can also act as a great motivator when struck down by the forces of ennui, procrastination and work/life burnout.

“It works in different ways, first of all, you’re doing it for someone you respect, so you’re going to do it and it drives you to push yourself. Sometimes self motivation can be hard to come by, but working with others gives you that platform, that ability to feed off other people’s energy.”

Due to the transience of the Brighton populace, and the standing that it has within the wider national consciousness it can generate a continual stream of creatives looking to do something cool.

Not to disparage other parts of the UK or other scenes, but in Brighton there is a spirit of people building each other up that I haven’t felt to the same extent anywhere else.

Tom Stroud, XXV Art

With the resident artistic population subject to such tumult an openness to new ideas is to be expected. Whereas certain creative scenes, or entire cities may cling to a certain mythos or construct defences around its historical identity, the mercurial nature of Brighton makes it a constant work in progress. An undulating undercurrent ever shifting foundations, changing perceptions, and reformatting what the place, as an idea as much as a geographic construct means.

“There are so many different cultures that Brighton ends up being exposed to, wherein everyone that arrives brings within them a small part of something new, and that feeds into who the whole functions and moves forward. If people come in with an open mind then that can only ever help with a willingness to learn.

“It’s just full of energy, man.”

As is the case with many artists, music was Stroud’s first entry point into actually producing work, be it flyers for shows, be they big or small, shirt designs, cassette covers, or social brandings.

With Brighton seeming to be churning out new bands with the turn of the tide and the UKHC explosion of the mid 2010s, Stroud found himself hitting the scene at a fruitful time – even if the financial output of band guys didn’t always match the artistic endeavour required.

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“There were bands starting out every day at the time that I was so it was a great moment. I was gassed to be doing things even for free, doing posters for bands I looked up to, just asking for free entry in return you know?”

“I thought FUCK, it’s fucking Warhound.”

Even when personal drive fell to low ebbs through any number of mitigating factors, Stroud found inspiration and motivation within the Brighton arts community, much as many have before, and many more will to come.

“If it wasn’t for music I wouldn’t be doing this still. You’re constantly validated, there’s always projects popping off.

“Everyone builds you up, and it’s the best type of marketing, having your creations attached to things that people consume, that they keep, rather than it being in an ephemeral social media post.”

He added that whilst tastes naturally change, and those that were once fronting bands on the back of bare faced vitriol may not have the capacity to do so for long, it’s heartening to see people staying within creative communities, even through changes of capacity.

“But you can see people mature now. The people that I may have met in bands five, ten years ago, now might be House DJs, or creating art installations, or are in new bands, new genres. It’s something that doesn’t leave you I guess, and you can see that these people are always getting inspired in new ways and making things, doing things, pushing it forward

“Even when it’s moving on like that no one forgets who you are, people always have the time of day, people always have new things popping off. There’s an ever-present sense of community.”

Stroud has since sought to payback into the community which he has benefitted from, launching the artistic hub Creative Control and the Shiver Zine with other local artists.

“One of the things that I like about the art scene at the moment, was something that I tried to do with Creative Control, and it worked to a certain extent, but like everyone at the moment is pulling each other up. Go back a decade and it was way more every man out for themselves. 

“It’s much more in line with the notion that other people’s successes are not your failures, and I think that rings true more than ever at the moment.

These support structures within the artistic communities, much like the majority of what makes this city great, are to be found behind the social veneers we are so used to.

Whilst events such as the Fringe Festival, Great Escape and the rest are thrown about as examples of Brighton’s great artistic strength – of which they are – it can be hard to escape a feeling that such events are but passing moments, edifices of commercialisation and creative media teams.

Viable entry points, yes, but what of the creatives seeking support the other 362 day per year? This is where the artistic Undercurrent comes into its own. A shifting body of transient vessels working towards the shared goal of unilateral progression.

“You see a lot of support on social media, like it is an absolute pit for sure, but what flows in groups, private communities, subcultures, everyone is on this big train of hyping each other up, and everyone is exposed to so much creativity, it’s a real positive moment.”

“Even if I had the chance to move back to Bristol now I don’t think I would. Brighton at the moment, as it has been really, is full to the brim with positive, creative people and everyone is accepting and welcoming, which you don’t find in a lot of places.”

“It’s so conducive to everyone else’s creative fervor.”

Going forward into whatever may be Stroud is confident that the community that has served him so well will persevere, that the flow of positivity throughout Brighton’s artistic sub cultures will survive the nightmare of our current life, that as long as people keep giving as they get the city’s creative heart will remain, as undefined, as transient as ever.

“If I’ve got a platform I’m always looking to help further other people. I think that’s important, if you’ve got the ability to pull people up or give them a platform to kick on we as creatives, as people, should always be doing that. It’s mad that being nice, giving back can be seen as a radical option. I’ve been given a lot by Brighton so I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t want to give back.”