Af­ter foot­ball, there’s still life

FEVER PIC­TURE: He used to have his hands full with cen­tre for­wards, but now for­mer foot­baller John Bird is tack­ling a dif­fer­ent chal­lenge. re­ports. Pic­tures by

Yorkshire Post - YP Magazine - - Front Page -

OHN BIRD was once stand­ing mind­ing his own busi­ness when Char­lie Ge­orge si­dled up and knocked out his front teeth. The blow caused one tooth, that didn’t fully dis­lodge, to come through his lip. The ball was nowhere near them at the time and nei­ther was the ref who saw noth­ing of the in­ci­dent. But the lines­man had spot­ted the sly smack in the mouth and so had some in the packed crowd at the Ar­se­nal ver­sus New­cas­tle United match. The Ar­se­nal cen­tre for­ward was duly sent off.

John still doesn’t know quite why it hap­pened. Although he does con­cede that his view of his role as a cen­tre half was to go in hard against his op­po­site num­ber straight from the kick-off “be­cause they’d never send you off in the first five min­utes”.

Af­ter many sea­sons of tu­mult on pitches at the top and the bot­tom of foot­ball’s pyra­mid, feted and li­onised for his ex­ploits, John has now switched to a more con­tem­pla­tive and re­flec­tive means of mak­ing a living.

So com­plete has been the change that in his stylish work­place there is no hint of foot­ball at all, no me­mora­bilia or echoes of a glam­orous sport­ing past. In­stead it is stuffed with orig­i­nal por­traits, land­scapes, wildlife images, pho­to­graphs and prints, plus pic­ture frame sam­ples and bub­ble wrap. There’s a poster on the wall urg­ing browsers to “Spread the Cost of Con­tem­po­rary Art”.

In the far cor­ner is an easel where John stands paint­ing when he’s not busy with cus­tomers in his two-floor gallery sit­u­ated a short step off the hand­some main square of Bawtry, near Don­caster. “I work in fits and starts, I don’t mind noise,” he says.

John shows his own work and that of 25 other artists and has an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion. Re­cip­i­ents of his paint­ings in­clude Prince Ed­ward, the Duchess of Wes­sex and the Gover­nor of Hong Kong. Tate Bri­tain in­vited him to Lon­don to take part in a col­lab­o­ra­tive project and ex­hi­bi­tion where 30 artists se­lected a drawing out of the gallery’s JMW Turner ar­chive to make their own in­ter­pre­ta­tion of it to be ex­hib­ited along­side the orig­i­nal. The idea was to give an in­sight into the meth­ods, in­ven­tions and cre­ativ­ity of a mas­ter draughts­man.

John started what was to be­come his sec­ond ca­reer at the height of his first one at New­cas­tle, play­ing in the First Di­vi­sion at St James’s Park and in Europe. He opened a gallery in the city sell­ing Athena prints and con­verted the space up­stairs into a show­case for new work by lo­cal

TOIL ON CAN­VAS: Main pic­ture right right, John Bird in his art gallery in Bawtry, near Don­caster, and, above, play­ing for Pre­ston North End; far left and top, two of his paint­ings.

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