Big Jeff has been an avid gig goer for over 20 years in & around Bristol. He is very open about his personal mental health issues, learning disabilities & anxiety. He’s someone who is driven by passions; for being creative & for live music.
Whilst living in Bristol, Jeff has gone to at least one gig a night, sometimes it’s two or three. What going to gigs has done for him is to help him build his confidence, overcome his anxiety and lead an independent life.
Previously, he’s been a performer, promoter, DJ, & tried film making. He’s also been an extra in a TV show, tried performance poetry & draws & paints at gigs.
“I began painting as a way of dealing with lots of difficult emotions and my struggle to deal with the world around me. It came as a natural and cathartic release. Art for me is about creating space for myself and using my creativity to find my voice. At times this can be intimidating.”
“I use drawing and painting as a form of self reflection. A lot of my work is a reflection on my struggle around feeling like I don’t fit into this world. My first painting was of a music artist called “Raggs”. The painting came together around a blurry photo I had taken at a gig. I began to paint an imaginary world around her image.”
“I’m obsessed with painting the face, almost everything I do has a face. When I paint a face it’s an emotional centre and gives me a place to feel my alienation from the world.”
Painting & drawing at gigs helped Jeff find a new purpose at gigs too & has generated some real interest from promoters, artists & audiences seen on his social media channels. He’s also worked with Bigger House Films on a project called Different Voices, an ongoing film talent development programme for emerging Neurodiverse film makers & creatives around Bristol.
Jeff was the very first non-artist ambassador for Independent Venue Week & used the platform to share his experiences of being a gig-goer with learning disabilities. He’s been on Steve Lamacq’s BBC 6 Music Round Table show with two of the other ambassadors Adrian Utley (Portishead) and Nadine Shah and numerous times since with Steve. He was also interviewed on stage at the 100 Club at the IVW launch event with BBC 6 Music’s Shaun Keaveny.
In 2020, Jeff travelled around the country visiting various venues for IVW in his role as ambassador. You can read all about his experience on the road on a blog he wrote here.
When lockdown hit, together we launched The Big Jeff Chat – a series of interviews he did, on zoom, with a whole host of artists and people from our community. You can catch those brilliant conversations with Bill Ryder-Jones, Primal Scream, IDLES, Mogwai, Arlo Parks, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, Billy Nomates as well as The Boileroom, The Exchange, The Brudenell Social Club and many more here.