I remember well the first time that I met Richard Creme (I imagine that many people could say the same thing) but for me it was early 2010, when visiting our Stroke Association communication group in Trafford, Greater Manchester. Some people are able to draw others in, effortlessly engaging, interesting and (pardon the pun) larger than life. Richard is one of those people. That day I remember clearly the group using music as a way to communicate, people who have been left feeling lost without words, that lit up the room with their instruments. At the centre of it all was Richard, his great lungs producing the most amazing drawn out notes on a didgeridoo and the rest of the group then joining in with his bass line. It may sound ridiculous but, believe me, it was incredibly moving.
I have only known Richard since his stroke, now a man with almost global aphasia (complete loss of language), yet when I think of him it's his wicked sense of humour (sometimes sarcastic, often Micky taking) and his 'old romantic' streak (apparently he was a sucker for Blind Date and now believe it or not Take Me Out) that really strikes me.
Imagine, if you can, living one day without using any form of language to communicate. Now multiply that by a lifetime. Yet this is the daily challenge faced by Richard, his wife Shelley and many thousands of stroke survivors. So for me this exhibition represents an amazing comeback for an amazing man and I know Richard hopes it will inspire and interest in equal measure. Please read on and find out more....
To find out a bit more about how 'Richard Creme' the exhibition came to be, please read the blog below by Clive Parkinson, Director of Arts for Health, MMU. Needless to say he tells the story much better than I can....
Who could say better what Richard Creme and his designer boutiques were trying to achieve in Manchester than Richard Creme himself. "We are Manchester based and have been here for 25 years. We have always retailed fine quality products and we have tried to show something different. We've pioneered this philosophy by showing designers, before designer labels became everyone's God. I won't bore you by telling you about lines we launched, lines we've lost and lines we've left, suffice to say we continue on the merry go round of looking for new things. Oh...and I forgot to say our service and knowledge is pretty special too." Richard Creme, 2006.
"A striking and memorable chap, not least because of his immense physical stature. Always great to chat to, attentive charming and very courteous. I still own every piece of clothing I bought from him. They're almost like pieces of art to treasure. To pass down to my own kids. Including... A rubber, hooded, reversible Gaulthier bomber jacket. A pair of white Kathryn Hamnett track suit bottoms with black sequins down the sides and chrome referee whistles on the ends of the waist ties. Some black suede zip up ankle boots by Patrick Cox. He sold me another Gaulthier piece (a beautiful heavy, wool, zip up roll neck cardigan) with the line 'only two in Manchester. Morrissey just bought the other' Just had to have it didn't I. Always the great salesman." Clint Boon, Inspiral Carpets, 2012.
Richard has worked with some of the leading names in fashion over the years. "In the summer of 1989, Richard had the chutzpah to commission the late royal photographer Norman Parkinson (seen with Richard above) to shoot the L'homme brochure, working with the serious young Lancashire graphic designer he admired, David Kirkwood. The modelling shoots took place at Agecroft power station, Southern Cemetery and the Esso refinery at Carrington. 'Parks' responded to this creative brief: "I was fascinated by that fellow called Creme," he said. "I so liked his attitude that I said I would do this one." Richard said "Parkinson has never been let loose before. For four days he did what he liked. We un-caged him." I could tell Richard was getting colossal pleasure from making such a creative project happen in dear old Manchester. "We are producing an important document". Andy Spinoza, 2012.
Richard and Shelley worked with Richard Burbridge, one of the leading fashion photographers in the world today, and one example of his work is shown above.
"Before I see the first images he’s created, there is a powerful smell of ink, and not some fine printers ink, but the smell of ink that I remember from school exams, the ink of a biro. Opening these first pages in one of the completed sketchbooks, was sensate and riveting. This was a man, who hadn’t turned his hand to the arts since his school days. In front of me were the most dense and heavily worked drawings, produced from photographs and other artists images, but in blue biro. Some so meticulously over-worked that he’d patched up the other side of the paper, where he’d scratched through. Hours and hours of work and fine draughtsmanship in each piece." Clive Parkinson, 2012