Photography by Harry Yeates
Words by Harry Potts
Performance Poet John Cooper Clarke was our first Greater Mancunian. Born in 1949, the legendary ‘Bard of Salford’, became famous during the punk rock era of the late 1970s being labelled a “punk poet”. Since then his career has spanned cultures, audiences, art forms and continents. Today, JCC is as relevant and vibrant as ever, aside from his trademark ‘look’ and his poetry – John’s work has been included on the English curriculum syllabus and he continues to have a significant influence within the modern music scene.
In July 2013, Clarke was awarded an honorary doctorate of arts by The University of Salford in acknowledgement of a career which has spanned five decades, bringing poetry to non-traditional audiences and influencing musicians and comedians.
“It’s often said that you shouldn’t meet your idols, but meeting one of mine was one of the greatest experiences I think I’ll ever have. We met with John Cooper Clarke on a rainy afternoon at his hotel, the day after a show in Manchester. After a quick introduction, me and Harry (tutor) drove JCC across the city (his stories had us in stitches), to his chosen location for the shoot; under Blackfriars Bridge on the Manchester/Salford border alongside his life-size stencil by London based graffiti artist ‘Stewy’.
The whole thing was a surreal, incredible experience for me. The man himself was everything I had expected – the epitome of cool, and a fantastic subject to photograph. The location was perfect for the shoot, the wall itself had history – like the subject himself.
The experience overall was a major confidence builder for me. The opportunity to photograph a hero of yours doesn’t come around often, but I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity through a fantastic project, and concept.”
Around the time of the shoot, photographer Harry was completing his year 2 final major project entitled ‘Cigarette Daydreams’. The documentary based project involved photographing friends, family and strangers, then immediately passing a pen and paper tasking them to provide an anecdote or personal thought. Harry asked John and in an instant obliged with some pearls of wisdom!
“I say to people, have you heard of John Cooper Clarke and if they say, yeah he’s an absolute genius and you just go, ‘oh – OK, you’ve saved me a lot of time.”
© All images – The Manchester College (unless otherwise stated)