As good as Goldie

If Madonna is the queen of reinvention, then Goldie is arguably the king. From drum and bass pioneer to classical composer, breakdancer to Strictly Come Dancing contestant and reality TV star to Hollywood film actor, his path to fame is characterised by interesting twists and turns.

But his creative roots lie in Wolverhampton, where he first acquired a reputation as a graffiti artist. Goldie’s significant contribution to the creative arts was celebrated by the University recently when the School of Art & Design awarded him an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Design.

The prestigious honour recognised work nationally and internationally, both as a performer and artist.

Conferring the award, Dr Bryony Conway, Dean of the School of Art & Design, said: “This multi-talented figure has been creative across a broad spectrum of media. Goldie’s strength is that he has shaped and made his own success. He keeps learning new skills and reinventing himself.”

A proud moment

It was a proud moment for Goldie and his family who attended the ceremony at Wolverhampton Grand Theatre.

In his speech, Goldie, real name Clifford Price, said: “It really means something coming to Wolverhampton. It is an incredible honour to be recognised in these fields and to be recognised by the academic community, it’s quite overwhelming.”

Born in Walsall, Goldie spent his childhood in foster care and children’s homes. His eclectic career began at the age of 18, when he moved into a block of flats in the Heath Town area of Wolverhampton. Goldie threw himself into graffiti art, decorating stairwells, garage doors and walls on the estate with murals. Although not strictly legal, Goldie’s art struck a chord with the residents of Heath Town who identified with his social messages about poverty and alienation.

This period of his life was documented in a photographic exhibition at the School of Art & Design to coincide with Goldie’s honorary award and the MA Graduate Show.

Goldie’s former manager and agent Martin Jones carried a camera everywhere he went with Goldie in the 80s, creating a vivid and unique archive of the early years of Hip Hop culture. The photographs show Goldie in his native Black Country, outside Wolverhampton Art Gallery where he had his first exhibition and in Walsall where he helped to found the first ever legal graffiti art gallery. They also show him in New York in 1986, meeting Hip Hop’s founders in the Bronx as his career began to take flight.

The rest, as they say, is history. In 1991, he moved to London and launched the Sunday Sessions at the Blue Note. This saw the birth and growth of the now infamous Drum and Bass label Metalheadz that created his album Timeless. He went on to become an actor, making numerous TV and film appearances, including Guy Ritchie’s classic Snatch and the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough.

He became a firm favourite with Eastenders fans as Angel and recently appeared in the highly successful BBC Maestro. He was then asked to score a piece of music for the Proms, entitled Sine Tempore. A two-part BBC documentary, Classic Goldie, followed portraying his talents. Most recently, he took to the dancefloor to take part in the BBC’s hugely popular Strictly Come Dancing.

Inspiration

Whatever Goldie turns his hand to, there is a consistent thread of determination, imagination and vision running through his art. In his graduation speech, Goldie described his inspiration and the driving force behind his creativity.

“Over the years, I have worked on many different themes in many different mediums, often with themes recurring, weaving in and out – switching the medium, but applying the same technique, and each time getting a little closer in closing my circle, trying to approach completion and closure – and I think that in itself is the point – conceptualising, then carrying out the effort to realise that vision – this cycle that at once actively engages us and propels us through our lives as artists.”

And he had some words of inspiration for the talented graduates collecting art and design degrees at the same ceremony. “I learned early on that if you cannot say what you want about something, well, just paint it. For me the struggle, the effort, has always been to reconcile what’s inside of me, and what I see around me, to the medium at hand, and always adapting and evolving, and never still. It’s nice to know that whenever I feel imperfect or incomplete, art is there.”