Drawing: Aisling Franciosi

Autographed drawing of actor Aisling Franciosi

Irish-Italian actress Aisling Franciosi was in London this week at a Q&A event following the screening of Jennifer Kent’s period thriller THE NIGHTINGALE at the Curzon Soho cinema. The 26 year-old plays Clare, a young Irish convict at the British penal colony based in Tasmania, Australia in 1825, seeking revenge after a young British soldier raped her then murdered her husband and child.

It premiered at the 75th Venice International Film Festival last year, winning a Special Jury Prize. Aisling won the Gotham Independent Film Awards Breakthrough Actor gong and the Best Actress Award at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards where THE NIGHTINGALE also won Best Film, Direction and Script. For her supporting role as Katie Benedetto in the British-Irish TV crime drama series THE FALL, Aisling received an Irish Film and Television Award in 2015. GAME OF THRONES fans will know her as Lyanna Stark during seasons six and seven.

Aisling signed my drawing when she arrived at the Curzon Soho last Saturday with co-star Sam Claflin.

Drawing: Sam Claflin in Journey’s End

Autographed drawing of actor Sam Claflin in Journey's End

One of the best films I have seen recently is Saul Dibb’s war drama JOURNEY’S END, based on R.C.Sherriff’s 1928 play. Released in 2017, it is the stage plays fifth film adaption. It follows a group of British soldiers awaiting their fate in an Aisne dugout under the leadership of a young officer Captain Stanhope during the Spring Offensive, a series of German attacks along the Western Front near the end of WWI.

Sam Claflin plays the boozy, brooding, self-loathing, belligerent Stanhope. Peter Bradshaw, in his four-star Guardian review said it is “expertly cast and really well acted:forthwright,powerful and heartfelt.” Sam was nominated for the 2018 Evening Standard Best Actor Award Film for his performance. He came to International prominence as Philip Swift in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES in 2011, followed by his role as Finnick Odair in THE HUNGER GAME film series (2013-2015). This year he joined the cast of the TV series PEAKY BLINDERS as Oswald Mosley.

Sam signed my sketch at the screening of his latest film, THE NIGHTINGALE before his Q&A at the Curzon Mayfair in London last week.

Drawing: Pedro Almodovar

Autographed drawing of film maker Pedro Almodovar

Against his parents wishes Pedro Almodovar left the religious boarding school in the Spanish city of Caceres, where they hoped he would study to become a priest and moved to Madrid in 1967 to become a filmmaker. When dictator Francisco Franco closed the Madrid School Cinema, he became self-taught, influenced by fellow Spaniard Luis Bunuel.

Working at a number of jobs, he bought a super 8 camera with his first pay, making silent short films – it was too difficult to attach the thin magnetic soundtrack strip – which he would screen in bars, providing the music with a cassette and doing all the voiceovers live. He came to prominence during La Movida Madrilena, The Madrid Movement, a counterculture group and cultural renaissance that emerged following the death of Franco, becoming involved in experimental cinema and theatre, writing, acting, singing and contributing comic strips.

His first feature, PEPI, LUCI, BOM (1980), shot in 16mm, later blown up to 35mm was based on one of his comics. Pedro gained international recognition eight years later with his black and white feminist light comedy, WOMEN ON THE VERGE OF A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN, his first critical and commercial success, earning an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film. Since then he has became a major player in the filmmaking industry, winning two Oscars, five BAFTAS, two Golden Globes, nine GOYAS (Spain’s national cinema award), four prizes at the Cannes Film Festival among a host of other accolades. He was presented with the French Legion of Honour in 1997, the Gold Medal of Merit in Fine Arts from his country’s Culture Ministry and Honorary Doctorates from both Harvard and Oxford.

Pedro was presenting one of this years BAFTA Screenwriters Lectures at the Curzon Soho Cinema in London last Saturday, where he kindly stopped to sign and dedicate my drawing.

Drawing: Christy Moore

Autographed drawing of musician Christy Moore

One of Ireland’s most compelling musicians, folk singer and songwriter Christy Moore has released over 25 solo albums in a career spanning five decades. He was one of the founding members of the hugely popular and influential band Planxty and Moving Hearts.

In 2007 Christy was named Ireland’s Greatest Living Musician in RTE’S People of the Year Awards. His political and social commentary reflects a left-wing, Irish republican perspective, supporting the unity and independence of Ireland. His songs have covered a wide range of subjects, including the Maze Prison H-Block protests and hunger striker Bobby Sands, to the Irish socialist volunteers who fought in the Spanish Civil War against Franco and the 1972 ‘Bloody Sunday’ Bogside massacres in Derry.

Some songs have been banned, such as ‘They Never Came Home’, about the Stardust nightclub fire in Dublin in 1981 where 48 people died, which the judge ruled was prejudicial to the court case determining compensation with lyrics such as “hundreds of children are injured and maimed, and all just because the fire exits were chained”, or ‘The Time Has Come” about the last meeting of a hunger striker and his mother, considered subversive. In October 2004 he was detained at the Welsh port of Holyhead by Special Branch Officers and interrogated for two hours about lyrics of his songs.

A regular performer at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Christy returned in May this year, where he signed my sketch for me.

Drawing: Gloria Estefan

Autographed drawing of singer Gloria Estefan

Gloria Maria Milagrosa Fajardo Garcia was born in Havana, Cuba sixty-two years ago and became the lead singer and headliner for the Miami Latin Boys-later to become the Miami Sound Machine, established by her future husband Emilio Estefan in 1975. She achieved international recognition with her signature song ‘Conga’ in 1985. The winner of many accolades, including three Grammy Awards, Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine scored their first No.1 hit on Billboard’s Hot 100 with ‘Anything for You’, which she wrote, in 1988, followed by a string of singles success with ‘Rhythm is Gonna Get You’, ‘1-2-3’, ‘Bad Boy’, and ‘Get On Your Feet’.

She has sold an estimated 115 million records worldwide, 31.5 million in the US alone. In 2015 Gloria and Emilio received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour for their contribution to American music.

Gloria and Emilio wrote the Tony-nominated jukebox musical ON YOUR FEET! THE LIFE OF EMILO AND GLORIA ESTEFAN, which premiered at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre in 2015, before moving to the Marquis Theatre on Broadway. It transferred to the UK earlier this year with an initial run at The Curve in Leicester then to a limited two-month residency at the London Coliseum, followed by a national tour.

Gloria signed my sketch at Wogan House after appearing on Graham Norton’s BBC Radio 2 show in early June this year.

Drawing: Nile Rodgers

Autographed drawing of musician Nile Rodgers

The legendary composer, producer, arranger and guitarist Nile Rodgers was the curator of this years MELTDOWN Festival at London’s Southbank Centre. It’s been 40 plus years since he and his prized ’59 Fender Stratocaster, aka ‘the Hitmaker’, first started filling dance floors across the world. The multi-Grammy winning NewYorker co-founded CHIC, the slick disco pioneers with the late Bernard Andrews in 1976. They launched a string of hit songs, including ‘I Want Your Love’, ‘Le Freak’ ( the largest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records) and ‘Good Times’, which sparked the advent of Hip-Hop.

Niles work the CHIC Organisation and the production for artists such as David Bowie, Diana Ross and Madonna have sold over 500 million albums and 75 million singles worldwide. His innovative, trendsetting collaborations with the likes of Daft Punk, Disclosure and Sam Smith reflect the vanguard of contemporary music. In its press release announcing Nile as the MELTDOWN curator, the Southbank Centre said, “He is constantly traversing new musical terrain and successfully expanding the boundaries of popular music.”

Last year he released a new album with CHIC, the Top Ten ranked ‘It’s About Time’ featuring Elton John, Emeli Sande and Lady Gaga amongst others.

Nile signed my sketch for me at the Royal Festival Hall after he and CHIC kick-started the nine-day MELTDOWN festival in early August.

Drawing: Petula Clark

Autographed drawing of actor Petula Clark

The amazing Petula Clark is still performing at 87, returning to the West End after twenty-two years in the acclaimed revival of MARY POPPINS, PL Traver’s magical story of the world’s favourite nanny at the Prince Edward Theatre. She plays the small but crucial role of the feed-dispensing ‘bird-woman’, who sings the iconic song ‘Feed the Birds’, which was, according to it’s composer Richard Sherman, Walt Disney’s favourite song in his classic 1964 film.

Considered a National Treasure, Petula has been performing for eight decades, becoming a star at nine singing for the troops stationed in England during WWII at live and on BBC Radio. she became the biggest British female recording artist of her time triggered by the 1964 phenomenon ‘Downtown’ written for her by Tony Hatch. It was an instant international hit going to No.1 across the globe, including the US Billboard, winning a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll recording. That was followed by a string of chart-toppers, ‘I Know A Place’, ‘Colour My World’, ‘Don’t Sleep In The Subway’ and the Charlie Chaplin penned ‘This Is My Song’ among others.

The multi-lingual Petula also recorded in German, French, Italian and Spanish, appeared on stage in both the West End and Broadway, including the role of Maria von Trapp in the 1981 London production of THE SOUND OF MUSIC featured in such memorable movies as FINIAN’S RAINBOW with Fred Astaire and GOODBYE MR CHIPS with Peter O’Toole. In a recent interview with the Telegraph’s Dominic Cavendish just after her casting for POPPINS was announced, Petula commented on her role. “I see her as a spiritual person, who was grand once and has fallen on hard times. It’s not a song about bird-feed, it’s metaphysical, it’s about being generous.”

I left this montage portrait of Petula at the Prince Edward stage door, which incidentally was the site of the Queensbury All Services Club where she made her big breakthrough 77 years ago, and she kindly signed and returned it to me.

Drawing: Salman Rushdie

Autographed drawing of writer Salman Rushdie

Indian-born British author Sir Salman Rushdie’s career has been both celebrated and controversial. His second novel MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN, written while he was still a copywriter at the advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather ‘catapulted him into literary notability’. It follows the life of a child, born at the stroke of midnight as India gained its independence, who is endowed with special powers and a connection to other children during the birth of the modern Indian nation. The novel won the 1981 Booker Prize and was selected as the Best of the Bookers from all the previous winners at both the 25th and 40th anniversaries of the prestigious award, the latter was voted by the public.

His most controversial work was his fourth novel THE SATANIC VERSES, also shortlisted for the Booker, published seven years later. It was seen by some as an irreverent depiction of Muhammad, resulting protests in many countries and death threats were made against him. His books often focus on the role of religion in society and conflicts between faiths and non-faiths. He combines ‘magical realism’ with ‘historical fiction’ based on the connections between Eastern and Western civilisations.

Sir Salman’s fourteenth novel QUICHOTTE, inspired by Miguel de Cervantes classic work DON QUIXOTE was published this year and also shortlisted for the Booker Prize. He joined the five other finalists for a reading at London’s Royal Festival Hall the day before the Prize announcement, where he signed my portrait sketch for me.

Drawing: Jamie Cullum

Autographed drawing of jazz musician Jamie Cullum

Popular British jazz musician Jamie Cullum paid for the production of his first album, ‘Heard It All Before’ with £480 out of his own pocket in 1999. His second album ‘Pointless Nostalgic’ became a best-seller. It’s success grabbed the attention of the mainstream broadcasters, including Michael Parkinson, who invited him to make his first television appearance. As a result, Universal beat Sony in a bidding war, offering him a £1million, three album contract.

His first CD album under their label, ‘Twentysomething’ (2003), a mixture of standards, originals and adaptions sold over 2 million units. While primarily a jazz musician, the mostly self-taught 40 year-old is often regarded as a ‘crossover’ artist, incorporating a wide range of styles and his jazz compositions are heavily influenced by contemporary popular music. He has played at all the major festivals, including Montreal, Montreal, New Orleans and Glastonbury, winning numerous awards Including the British Jazz Rising Star accolade and collecting the Artist of the Year at both the BBC Jazz and Jazz FM Awards. He has also been nominated for three Brit Awards, a Grammy for ‘Twentysomething’ and a Best Original Song Golden Globe Award for Clint Eastwood’s 2008 film GRAN TORINO.

Since 2010 Jamie has presented a weekly evening jazz show on BBC 2 Radio, which is broadcast from its studios in Wogan House, where he signed my sketch for me last year.

Drawing: Annika Sorenstam

Autographed drawing of golfer Annika Sorenstam

Autographed drawing of golfer Annika Sorenstam

One of the greatest golfers in history is Annika Sorenstam. In a professional career spanning sixteen years from 1992-2008, the Swedish sensation and former World No.1 had 93 professional wins, the most of any player in the women’s game, including ten majors. She won the US Women’s Open, the PGA Championship and the ANA Inspiration (formerly the Kraft Nabisco Championship) three times and the British Open. She also tops the LPGA career prize money list. Annika competed for Europe in the Solheim Cup on eight occasions, winning six and won the World Cup, representing Sweden in 2006.

Annika’s list of Awards is a long one, most notably winning the Player of the Year eight times and the 2004 Laureus World Sports Awards Sportswoman of the Year. I sent this drawing to Annika at her Academy in Florida, where she kindly signed it for me.