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Arts Council of Great Britain Posters

The Archive is delighted that, following a generous donation by artist and designer Bob Linney, it now has a complete collection of the iconic Arts Council jazz posters produced by Bob between 1983 and 1989. The collection below includes some from this set as well as examples from other artists.

It is hoped that the complete Bob Linney collection will be digitised and accessible online from this website in the near future. All the artworks are displayed chronologically.


Bob Linney and the Polish circus posters

After leaving school, and discouraged away from a career in art by his parents, Bob Linney studied biology at the University of Birmingham and went on to obtain a PhD in evolutionary genetics. Whilst at university, he became involved in the arts club, which is where he learned screen printing and produced posters for student events. After leaving university he moved to the Western Highlands " to get back to nature.” 

At end of 1972, Linney had an invitation to return to Birmingham to work with the artist Ken Meharg who had a studio in the Arts Lab, a self-governing arts collective. He stayed there for three years and produced a range of posters with designs influenced by contemporary Polish circus posters, which used strong colours to catch people’s attention.

Using a common style and approach, the work done by Linney and Meharg was interchangeable in terms of who did the design and the printing. The director of the Arts Lab was the progressive administrator Ted Little, who secured a job at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London in 1975 and asked Linney and Meharg to join him.

Failing to be appreciated by the ICA establishment, both men left after a year and looked for a workshop in London where they secured an empty warehouse in Butler’s Wharf. They produced large quantities of posters during that period, a lot of them for the emerging punk bands and for small theatre companies.

In 1981 Linney and Meharg plus the painter and printmaker Michael Heindorff bought a Victorian warehouse in Shoreditch, which became their new studio.  They worked there for several years and were mainly involved in designing and making advertising posters for local Cinemas and visiting bands.

Prior to the internet, posters were important as a means of promoting events. There was flyposting everywhere in London during the 1970s and 80s, and Linney’s work became very visible around London. His work was spotted by the music critic Annette Morreau, who founded the Arts Council-funded Contemporary Music Network - She thought the graphical and colourful style of Linney’s posters would make a refreshing change from the traditional styles of poster, which would help to bring in new audiences.

In total Linney produced around 70 posters for the Network during the 1980s, which were all entirely his own work having split from his collaboration with Ken Meharg. All are approximately A2 in size and a space at the bottom of each design had to be left clear for overprinting the details of each venue.

When Linney worked on a design for a particular musical artist, he listened to a recording of their music at the same time, believing that it helped him focus on creating something fitting. He always had a strong interest in jazz, including favourites Don Cherry and Django Reinhardt, and Don Cherry features in the Arts Council posters. He has also been commissioned for artwork and album covers for UB40 and The Beloved.

During the 1980s Linney’s posters were exhibited all over the world including Japan, Brazil, Greece and India. In 1981 he went to India and ran workshops on poster design, which led to him to recognise how posters could aid public education on health and the environment. Shocked by the conditions he saw in India, for the next 25 years half his time was spent in the UK working for the arts and the other half was dedicated to educational projects in developing countries, including Laos, Thailand, Ethiopia and Mexico.

Bob Linney continues to work and produce posters and album covers. He has a home in Suffolk where he works in his home studio and plays guitar in a gypsy jazz trio.