This is an archive dedicated to Nick Clements and his work. This is his legacy. Most people know him as someone who works with masculinity and rites of passage. Others know him as one of the longest serving community artists in the UK. Some know him as a performer or stand-up. A few know him as a film maker. He is employed as an author and workshop leader in the field of arts and health. Most of all, he has been a risk-taker, a leader without knowing where to go. To understand the significance of his contribution, we can list some of the names he been called:
The Man Who Can Make Men Cry
The Father Of The Beloved
The Crack In The Pavement Through Which The Yellow Flower Can Burgeon
The Beloved Outlaw
‘Thank you for visiting. You are most welcome. I hope it is of value and use to you. You are invited to explore the website in whatever way you wish, but I would say it is offered as a sequential story, one page at a time. I appreciate this not the way we normally approach a website. Modestly, I would say it is worth the time and effort. The website, as with my life, is a one-off. Go make a cup of tea, bring a biscuit, relax, let’s tell stories.
Over the last 60 years or so, I have been incredibly busy. Every sinew in my body has been contorted by my pursuit of purpose. I have lead an extreme, remarkable – not mainstream – on the edges, in the shadows, sort of life. As a renegade, I have had to work twice as hard to get half the recognition. I hope the next generations are able to find inspiration in the story I tell . In the primal cauldron of challenge and change which is the future- collaboration, compassion, imagination and a belief in the impossible – are essential. Indeed the future survival of our species depends on these qualities. No pressure then!
I start with a brief visit to my immature past, which heavily influenced my maturation into a man and a father. Having ‘failed academically’ at school, I didn’t have many O or A levels. I didn’t know what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, what I was capable of. I lived with my parents in Finchley. I drifted, I was sacked from every job I took. F**k that, I decided it was time to explore the world. Several years and many stories untold.
I settled in Hannover, West Germany, because my girlfriend was studying to be a doctor there. She was embarrassed and a bit bewildered by my drug habits and lack of ambition.
Despite this, quite remarkably, she found me a job as part of a social experiment.
Me, the long haired hippy, was employed as a teachers assistant for three years in a Children’s Home.
I lived-in with them in the Home.
The Home, full of vulnerable children some of whom were just a year younger than me, almost all of whom smoked dope…surely they didn’t mean me…I didn’t speak Deutsch…I only ever wanted to play football…what could I give?
I had never contemplated working as a teacher, or with children.It was not on my agenda.Yet, there I was enjoying every minute of it. The Home gave me family, pride, joy, compassion, love, friendships, everything I had not found in London. With this, the barriers erected by drugs holding back my enthusiasm and love for work were crushed. I became positively charged, wanted to help and please. I still have friends out there, over 40 years later. I include another story from the many on Kinderheim Isernhagen in the Long Biog. As part of my remit I was able to help set up one of the first women’s refuges in Germany, by working with Erin Pizzey. Suddenly, I was a dynamic revolutionary.
In 1977, so as not to break the habit of my youth, I was sacked. This didn’t alter my stride, I wanted more. Someone once said I was either one of the most remarkable people on the planet, or a liar with an amazing imagination. Probably both!
I decided to returned to London, and there I undertook an Arts Foundation Course at Barnet, and a BA (Hons) Fine Art at Cardiff Art College. There are many stories I’ve not included here about my times as a student. Just to say, I sought to experience all the arts and crafts on offer, whereas the majority of my fellow students sought to specialise.
In 1981 I was awarded a BA in Fine Art, as one of the tutors said, a degree worth nothing, a reward for self indulgence and getting drunk. I didn’t care. I saw the potential in joining both aspects of my work thus far. My experience of working in the Children’s Home combining that with using as wide a range of arts and crafts as possible. Five of us recent graduates set up The Pioneers Art Group, an artists-led co-operative, based in Cardiff. We moved into a warehouse with Wales first punks, we talked fast, wildly and did stand-up, performance, paintings and prints, worked with community facilities, summer schemes, adventure playgrounds. I took on the administrative chores whilst retaining some involvement in the art. We shoved, and pushed, and huffed and puffed. By 1986 I became the first full-time employed community artist in Wales.
The Pioneers had two teams of artists, one working in areas of high social need, enabling local people to tell their stories through creativity. The other creating huge artworks in paint and mosaics as commissions, making some of the largest and most ambitious projects in the UK. We undertook over 20 projects a year, and worked with some of the most desperate communities. Once more, many many stories untold here.
Despite the remarkable success of Pioneers for over 25 years, raising millions of pounds to employ large numbers of artists and craftspeople, I moved on in 2000, giving the company away. I then started to collaborate with artists from Valley and Vale Community Arts to deliver a unique work process ‘Person-Centred Creativity’ (PCC). This is used in a wide range of projects for groups and individuals with mild to medium mental health issues, depression, long term unemployed, to prisons and many other institutions. At the same time I deliver three day courses in PCC to health and social care professionals, encouraging them to include creativity in their care plans for clients. I have published five books on creativity.
I have enabled over 20,000 people to tell their stories through art. Establishing the opportunity for long-term unemployed people to gain work. Given broken and forgotten communities the chance to re-claim their pride and confidence. Introducing arts and health and wellbeing, and giving talks all over the world on our work. In 2014, in recognition of my commitment for over thirty years in the South Wales Valleys I was on the Queens New Years’ Honour List, but I turned it down. I don’t need an unelected, multi-millionaire, to tell me how good I am. In 2009 I accepted an Honorary Professorship at Staffordshire University, and I am a Visiting Professor at Warsaw University, Poland.’
You’d think that was enough for one lifetime, but concurrent to the creativity work I have been a leading light in the modern masculinity movement in the UK. I nave been taught ritual and ceremony by indigenous people all over the world, and I use these techniques to create up-to-date versions within our society. As part of this process I am a collector and teller of stories, some of which are pre-historic, others about my present work.
I run an informal mentoring and apprenticeship process, enabling younger men to live and learn with me. They may stay within the process for many years, or a few weeks, depending on their needs.
In 2006 I made a documentary film ‘Muratare – Male Circumcision’ with a semi nomadic tribe of the Samburu people in Northern Kenya. I stayed and lived with them for a quarter of a year to make it. This experience features largely in the trilogy of books I have written on rites of passage and I enclose a small number of stories in the Large Biog page.
The books support a wide ranging programme of workshops, talks and training, which are a response to the increasing demand for my work, and I have recently featured re-wilding, eldership and reconciliation between the genders.
Are you still with me? If you want to carry on you may need to boil the kettle again. Let’s do the big story…
Nick Clements talks about community and the importance of creativity