Mick Jones was born in Bideford in Devon in 1944, son of Jack Jones, the trade union leader and International Brigade veteran, and Evelyn Jones, an active socialist. He grew up in Coventry, won a scholarship to Solihull School and from there went on aged sixteen to Birmingham Art school to study 3D design. He passed the National Diploma (NDD) in 1964, progressing to the Royal College of Art where he studied industrial design. For a period after leaving college, he worked at the BBC TV Centre constructing, designing and painting for TV, working in special effects as well as designing consumer goods and sign writing. In the 1970s Mick won bursaries to study sculpture in Yugoslavia and Czeckoslovakia and travelled widely to India, Mexico and Canada. He also acquired a teaching degree at Goldsmiths College and went on to teach printmaking at a London secondary school from 1973 to 76.
Mick was a prolific artist, with talents in all the visual arts. He drew and painted with huge skill, in an inimitable manner, persuasive and dramatic, making easel works, portraits, murals, silkscreen posters and banners. He also made sculptures and stained glass. His work was always infused with his passionate Socialist spirit, for and about people. He was a born leader of teams and took naturally to working in community arts, undertaking research, encouraging particpation and talent.
Many of Mick’s murals were funded by government job creation schemes, targeting young people to give them confidence and skills. For a time he worked with Phil Hartigan and his ‘Fine Heart Squad’ making murals at Lismore Circus, before starting his own team – ‘The Artworkers Co-op’. In 1978 he organised the Camden Mural Project, training young people as painters to create art on housing estates, community centres and on the streets, including the Carlton Centre and the Kentish Town Health Centre. In Tower Hamlets he painted murals for the Abbey Road Centre, the Weaver’s Field Youth Centre and in Mile End ‘The Peasants Revolt’ with Ray Walker. He was an enthusiastic and inspiring teacher. One of his team said, “Working with youth in North Paddington – the best thing he ever did!” In 1980 the Fitzrovia Community Association commissioned a mural from the Art Workers Co-op for a very tall gable end in Tottenham Court Road in Camden, which Mick designed and carried out with Simon Barber. He recalled how he and Simon went about creating the artwork.
“It was done in close consultation with local people. We took inspiration from local life: the newsagents, workers, a butcher, builders, office workers, nurses, a pub and local school children all found their way into the composition. It’s a montage of scenes, all relevant to the area at the time: construction activities, the Post Office tower, TV screen advertising, Horace Cutler, leader of the GLC as a Dracula-like creature pointing at County Hall plans for sky-scrapers, a window-cleaner, office workers using computer-like machines to churn out bills and so on. The skyline reflects the speculative building of the time, the young boy hemmed in behind a fence is a comment on the lack of open spaces and amenities in the area. “We developed a kind of highly figurative, narrative cartoon style which contains humour and hopefully wit as a way of highlighting the themes and issues,” he said. They went at it quickly. “I worked on the top half, Simon the lower half. It had to be completed in five weeks”
Besides the many banners Mick made for unions, there were other murals, notably a series for the Unite Centre in Eastbourne and the great ceiling mural for the Liverpool Trades Council Centre.
In 1983 Mike’s friend, the artist Ray Walker died, just as he was preparing to paint the mural he had designed for a site in Dalston. It was to be one of the ‘Peace Murals’ appearing in London – part of the Greater London Council’s ‘Peace Year’. Mick took on the task of organising and painting the mural with the assistance of Ray’s wife, Anna. A new design was developed from Ray’s sketch, and the work went ahead, the wall was rendered and prepared for painting in Keim Silicate paints. The mural has been a great success, depicting the Hackney Peace Carnival procession – with portraits of local people – marching noisily down the street beneath the Dalston Skyline. It was completed in 1985 and restored by Paul Butler and Linda Jane James in 2016
Mick died in 2012.