St John – Age 81

“When I am teaching drawing I ask my class to take a step back and reconsider what they have drawn. Look at the good and the bad, then with an optimistic mind, make a bold move and see what boundaries can be pushed. I have found this principle works in all other aspects of my life.”

50 years ago I had very bad bronchitis, we had a holiday in Peacehaven and didn’t go back. I got a job at the Royal Pavilion as an artist, designer and picture restorer. I’ve always been interested in sculpture, and 30 years ago I made an 8ft high cat that’s still in the entrance of the Brighton Museum. It’s covered in roses, and very elegant. You can put money in the front of its tummy and it purrs as it’s a donations box. I also made an 8ft sq snakes and ladders game that the children play in summer: it’s in the music room in the Royal Pavilion. The dice are twelve inches square!

I got into kayaking by starting as a swimmer, moved on to surfing, and then 20 years ago I began kayaking. I started doing really dangerous stuff in the beginning, on some of the very fast rivers in Yorkshire. Now I go twice a week in the sea by the pier.

Coming to Brighton has totally changed my life. I love the difference between the sea and the countryside, which is just twenty minutes away. A few times a week I cycle up to Devil’s Dyke, down to Poynings and ending up at Shoreham Airport, it’s wonderful.

The city has changed an awful lot: there are new shops and homes that didn’t exist when I lived in the centre. It’s very progressive in a nice way. Over the years I’ve got to know all the people working on the seafront and many people through the town. People come up and say, “I haven’t seen you for a bit.” That’s nice!