Artist profile: Bill Billings15 June 2018
Bill Billings was born in London in 1938. He moved to Milton Keynes in 1974 to work on the building sites for the new town.
Starting his career in the arts as a poet under the tutelage of writer Jack Trevor Story, he worked for television and radio, calling himself ‘The Poet Lorryate’, as he was a lorry driver!
His work covered a huge range of art forms – poetry, sculpture, painting and drawing, comics and art history, music and playwriting. He also worked with an equally wide range of collaborators – from school children and young people to prison inmates.
4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse, date unknown
Bill had high hopes for the role of a creative thinker in the new town of Milton Keynes, but was sometimes disappointed.
Listening to him talk is like meeting an express train head-on with one arm tied behind your back. He can carry you away with the force of his argument, his energy, his anger. His perceptions have been honed by years of struggling against the system. The phrase ‘a prophet without honour in his own country’ might have been coined for him.– Pioneer Tales: A New Life in Milton Keynes
You may know his triceratop dinosaur sculpture in Peartree Bridge. In keeping with Bill's rebellious nature it was built without formal permission in 1979. This was his third dinosaur sculpture – the ones at Netherfield and Bleak Hall were destroyed after complaints. This angered Bill, going against his hope for the new town as a place where anyone could create new things.
Bill also helped community artist Liz Leyh build Milton Keynes’ iconic Concrete Cows.
In 1986 he was awarded an Honorary Degree from the Open University and received an MBE in 2000 for his work as an inspiring artist working with communities in Milton Keynes.
Bill died in 2008, his last project being the Secret Garden in Wolverton.
4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse was donated by Jon and Emma Gregory in 2010. Emma Gregory is the daughter of local sculptor Ernest Bottomley, and you can see one of his sculptures in the waiting room at the Treatment Centre in the hospital.
Find out more about Bill’s painting 4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse in The Collection.