Ed Sheeran’s father has told how he encouraged his son’s creativity from an early age and changed his work direction to support him and his brother due to the 2008 financial crisis, in a talk at a charity event.
John Sheeran shared details in an illustrated talk entitled My Life In Art, which helped raise more than £40,000 for “two Suffolk-based charities that mean so much to my wife, Imogen and me” – GeeWizz and Castle Community Rooms.
Mr Sheeran, who retired aged 60, worked for more than 40 years in the arts, as a curator, exhibition organiser and lecturer.
He said, in a souvenir programme for the charity event held at Elveden Hall in Suffolk: “Imogen and I encouraged Edward’s creativity, including drawing and painting, from early childhood.
“In 2019, after the end of his Divide world tour, he took up painting again, producing 40 abstract pictures in a month.
“As with his music, he was just incredibly driven.
“He was inspired by the technique and style of Jackson Pollock.
“I filmed and photographed him at work.”
Mr Sheeran said he and his wife had moved from their one-bedroom flat in London to Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire in 1986, with their son Matthew born in Halifax in 1989 and his brother Edward in 1991.
They moved to Framlingham in Suffolk in 1995, running their art consultancy Sheeran Lock.
Mr Sheeran said the business was “badly affected by the financial crisis” in 2007 to 2008, and he and his wife were “finding it difficult” to support their two sons who were both by this point studying music.
He said they changed their “work direction” as a result.
“Projects and sponsorship dried up,” said Mr Sheeran.
“Our children also left home: Matthew to study classical music composition at Sussex University, and Edward to attend Access to Music College in Bow in the East End of London, as well as to gig and record.
“We were finding it difficult to support them.
“Out of urgent necessity, we needed to change our work direction.
“We decided to focus on what we both individually wanted to do.
“Imogen started a jewellery-making business from scratch, working from home.
“I started a public art lecturing business combining art history with art appreciation.
“After travelling so much for my work as an art curator, I decided to restrict my lectures to Suffolk, and to venues less than an hour’s drive from home.
“I read hundreds of art books over many months in preparation.
“It was incredibly stimulating.
“Necessity truly was the mother of invention for me as I ended up creating my perfect job.
“After a very difficult year when we felt we might go under, we were back on our feet again.”
The two charities supported by the event at which Mr Sheeran spoke are GeeWizz, which supports children and young adults with disabilities or life-limiting illnesses, and Castle Community Rooms in Framlingham, Suffolk.
The nearly completed venue will replace the late Victorian St Michael’s Rooms, where Mr Sheeran first started public art lectures in 2008.
He said, in the programme which was printed and sponsored by Healey’s Printers, that his pop star son has taken him to meet giants of the art world, including Damien Hirst and David Hockney.
“In 2015, Edward took me to meet his friend Damien Hirst at his studio and home in Gloucestershire,” Mr Sheeran said.
“We visited Damien again in 2019, this time at his studio in central London.
“He was working on a series of cherry blossom paintings.
“Imogen and I saw them exhibited at the Fondation Cartier, Paris, in 2021.
“It was one of those special, feel-good exhibitions that we just didn’t want to leave.
“In 2018, Edward introduced us to David Hockney at one of his gigs in Los Angeles.
“I had briefly met Hockney 30 years earlier in Bradford, West Yorkshire, when I worked there as a curator.
“In 2020, Hockney invited us both to his studio in LA to look at his latest work, including some of his first Normandy pictures.
“We had such a good time with him.
“We love his unfailing positivity, how celebratory his art is, and how he brings so much joy to so many.
“He cracked open a bottle of champagne and started singing raunchy old Yorkshire songs to us.
“It was hilarious. What a highlight that visit was for us both.
“A good and great man.”
He added: “Edward encouraged me to take up art as a hobby for my retirement.
“I’m very much an amateur.
“I thought I’d be hyper-critical of what I produced, but actually, when it came to it, I didn’t care.
“I love doing landscapes – expressing what I feel, rather than recording what I see.
“Like Edward, I give my pictures away to family and friends.
“I like the idea of them having a little piece of me hanging on their walls.”
Mr Sheeran said that delivering the charity lecture at Elveden Hall was a “real treat for me”.
“We have lived in Suffolk now for 27 years and passed near the Hall many times while on our way to Center Parcs with our boys, or to Euston Hall or Thetford Priory,” he said.
“I have always wanted to visit but never thought it would happen, as the Hall has been uninhabited for decades, and is now mostly used as a film location.”
But he said he “finally got my wish” when he, his wife and Gina Long of GeeWizz Charity went to meet Edward Guinness, 4th Earl of Iveagh, and he “embraced” their idea for a charity event, which included an auction.
Mr Sheeran said afterwards: “I was so delighted to deliver the lecture ‘My Life In Art’ in aid of two Suffolk-based charities that mean so much to my wife, Imogen and me.
“Being able to give my lecture in the Marble Hall, in all its exotic splendour, was a real treat for me.
“I feel blessed to have had a working life so full of interest, challenge and excitement, and to be able to share this with the invited guests in such a magnificent, historic house.”
Gina Long MBE, founder of GeeWizz Charitable Foundation, said: “We are incredibly grateful to Lord Iveagh for gifting us this very prestigious venue and remarkable opportunity to host what was a fantastic fundraising evening at Elveden, in the astounding Marble Hall, which has been likened to a Taj Mahal magically transported to the cold heartlands of Suffolk.
“We are also indebted to John Sheeran for sharing his My Life In Art, in these challenging and uncertain times.”
For details about GeeWizz Charity, see www.geewizzcharity.com
For details about Castle Community Rooms, see www.castlecommunityrooms.co.uk