Why Neil is keen to disprove rumours of his artistic demise

Neil Buchanan with one of his paintings
Neil Buchanan with one of his paintings

A HUGELY popular artist who shot to fame on the hit kids TV show Art Attack is showcasing his latest work here in Eastbourne – after being inspired to return to the easel after rumours of his death flooded the internet.

Neil Buchanan, a loveable Liverpudlian who has laid down routes here in East Sussex, will be at the Viewpoint Fine Art Gallery on Friday as part of the Little Christmas in Little Chelsea celebrations.

He will be signing souvenir brochures priced £10 or limited edition prints bought on the night. Anyone buying one of his pictures during his visit will get a free canvas, usually sold for £75.

Spending an evening in Eastbourne is never a chore for the man who, at the height of his fame, regularly drew audiences of more than six million to his ITV show.

“If home really is where the heart is,” he explained, “then I’d have to say that Sussex is my adopted home.

“Of course I still sound like a Scouser, but who could resist this very beautiful part of rural East Sussex, with its rolling hills, the amazing bird life and the landscape peppered with oast houses and apple orchards.

“My children have grown up here and went to school in Eastbourne, so I’ve definitely put deep roots down and I don’t plan on ever leaving.

“Eastbourne is one of my favourite haunts actually. Both my children went to Eastbourne College – so I would come to Eastbourne at least a couple of times a month.

“I love the Georgian buildings running along the front and used to take a bag of chips onto the seafront and eat them straight out of the wrapper.

“It’s fabulous to see the bandstand come alive in the summer too and the wonderful tea dances in the open air.

“The walks along the cliff top at Beachy Head are simply stunning too.”

As well as making giant pieces of artwork out of everyday items on the BAFTA-winning Art Attack, he is equally adept at more subtle, evocative and emotional work.

His new group of works, Hope Street, is the first full collection of his career boasting an array of prints based on his childhood memories.

But what prompted him to put paint to canvas this time round? The inspiration, it seems, was not the most usual of starting points.

“Three years ago I switched on my laptop while on holiday with my children to find 69,000 messages of condolence pouring into a Facebook site entitled ‘RIP Neil Buchanan’, following my rumoured ‘death’,” he said.

“We were marooned in a remote, mountain hideaway in Wales, in a mobile phone black spot, and it took me several days before I was able to contact my family and shocked elderly mother in Liverpool to reassure them that I was alive and well.

“Out of these dark and sinister rumours, I started questioning the excesses of modern technology and its negative influences and began to record my own childhood memories in Liverpool in the early 60s long before the days of Facebook, Twitter and the internet, when life somehow seemed simpler.

“In a series of rough sketches I started to depict a time before computers banished us to cyberspace and traffic clogged up our streets...and so the seed of an idea was sown for a new, yet strangely familiar, adventure playground, which eventually grew into the Hope Street collection.

“My pictures represent those days when you could while away the hours without ever worrying what the time was.

“It’s a place of ‘hanging out’ with whoever you liked, wherever you liked in a world where you could be anything you wanted to be and travel anywhere you wanted to go.

“So I’ve painted shared bike rides, fishing with home made rods, eating fish and chips straight from the wrapper, hanging out at the swings and the dead exciting arrival of the ice-cream man.

“My Hope Street is not a place, it’s a state of mind and it’s a nice place to be.”

Mr Buchanan will be at the Viewpoint Fine Art Gallery on Friday from 6pm until 8pm.

For more information call 01323 411547 or visit www.viewpointliving.co.uk.