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Lockdown 2020: A book by local artist Elton Darlo

Elton Darlo

Elton Darlo is a well-known local character who can often be spotted obsessively sketching in biro, Elton was born in East Manchester and raised in Longsight.

The seventy two-year-old outsider artist was never formally trained – but he is never without his sketchbook, and creates images from the streets of his hometown.

He’s had his share of hard knocks, homeless for a time, and has struggled with mental health issues.

Despite this, he is proud to have had two of his paintings exhibited in the Tate Modern back in 2010, in the Museum of Everything exhibition.

Now, with the help of Nina Ruth, a furloughed sound engineer with a HND in photography, he’s produced his first book charting the lockdown period in Manchester between March and July 2020.

“I’d known Nina some years but only became re-acquainted at the beginning of the first lockdown. She was out doing the family daily exercise and I was sketching in Castlefield,” says Elton, who says he first met Nina about five years ago at The Y-Club.

“She had just been furloughed and I was out capturing the essence of lockdown on my sketch pad, its effects on the people that were out and about, and the desolation of a city, so silent it was like a ghost town. At first, Nina offered to set up my social media profile and edit some of my work to be displayed online, but soon she said that she would like to help me to put my work together for a book.”

Elton’s dream had always been to have his work published, so Nina made it her mission to make this man’s dream come true. She started a Crowdfunder to raise the funds to self-publish the book, “Lockdown 2020, An artist’s perspective” having never done anything like this before. It was a steep learning curve, but after 28 days they raised enough money to go ahead and get the book into print.

“I had often talked about my dream to have a book published and we talked of that – other people had offered to help me previously and never seen it through. Nina decided there would never be another opportunity like this, and she set up the Crowdfunder to raise the money to self-publish the book. We raised over £1000 in 28 days. The images span the period from around St Patrick’s Day up until 4 July, the day that the first full lockdown ended.”

“It also seemed fitting for me to want to donate a percentage of the royalties to Manchester Mind, as I have suffered from mental health issues myself for many years which were exacerbated by the deaths of my brother and mother. I also spent a period of my life being homeless and experiencing the troubles that came with that situation.”

“Lockdown itself has been a struggle in its own way, as it has for many people. Art is my therapy and salvation. I need to be out and about to do create the work, so the restrictions have sometimes made that more difficult than it would usually be to do that. As a self taught artist having my sketches published in a book has given me a great sense of achievement. I love Manchester, my hometown, and I look forward to all Mancunians being able to share and enjoy my work.”

10% of profits from sales of the Lockdown 2020 book will be donated to Manchester Mind.

Lockdown 2020 is in print now in two editions, you can buy direct from eltondarloartist.com, or via Amazon.

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We know that the lifting of all existing restrictions with regard to COVID-19 will for many people be a relief and be welcome, but for others it will be causing great anxiety.

As an organisation we need to ensure that we are managing these changes carefully and have a service update detailing how we will be responding over the coming months.

Find out more