“You need to take charge, don't just accept what people are force feeding you”
What Steven asked Alfie Killick, artist and founder of Medway's Philosophy Cafe
Artist Alfie Killick studied in Medway, and in that time, set up Medway’s very own Philosophy Cafe. Steven met Alfie on Zoom to discuss what they studied, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and whether a perfect Medway towns is possible.
Where were you born?
Gravesend Hospital, unfortunately.
Where are you now?
I am currently living in Erith.
How did you end up in the Medway Towns?
I studied at UCA, which has recently shut down. I made really close friends there and would spend a lot of my free time in Chatham and around the dockyard. I’ve played in bands at the Command House and various gigs around Medway. I then went on to University of Kent, at the Chatham campus, to study Fine Art. Whilst there I started Philosophy Café, a meet-up of like-minded individuals.
What jobs did your parents do growing up?
My mum was a waitress for the majority of the time that I was growing up. My dad did various things with cars, but he suffers from ill health. I'd say neither of them had big ambitious careers, but my mum was a very hard worker and provided for us.
How did you find school and university?
I didn't enjoy school. I started to truly enjoy education when it became more vocational and you got to college level, where it was an actual chosen path that you wanted to go on. I don't have a very flattering idea of what the education system is. I think it is just an indoctrination process to get you into work and function on that 9-5 basis of pointless exercises. To get you into that mindset of what working life is going to be. It's not that I was a bad student particularly. I've got 3 A-levels and one of them was an A star for Art. English, Music, Art, Science were pretty good, but anything else was just middle of the road because it didn’t inflame the imagination. At UCA I studied BTEC National Diploma in Art and Design. Illustration has been something that I’ve done since I was a kid. That's been a thread that's just woven through my entire creative life, but animation is something I’ve been very passionate about. I've really tried to hone in and focus my efforts on stop-motion animation. That's trying to combine more of the sort of practical hands-on skills that I learned whilst I was working in film and trying to apply them to my own personal projects and creative life. If you're a creative person, you're a creative person, and you apply that in all different fields.
I’ve been in bands since I was 15. I've always made music and I've always enjoyed the more visual aspects of that, making album artwork and music videos for example. Even back in the day we had Myspace, I used to be able to make little GIFs of the band logo. Silly things like that. I've always really enjoyed that aspect of it and trying to create. The bands I truly admire, they craft a universe, it's not literally just about the music. There's always artwork to go alongside it or even lore around it. Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, they work as a musical collective, and that's like me and my friends. We modelled ourselves on that approach of trying to create this large network of musicians that are collaborative and work together on different projects. The reason why I bring them up is because they have this whole lore, referencing this museum that never existed, that was burnt down as part of an art project. It's really crazy out there stuff. I mean Frank Zappa, if you listen to any of his albums, there's always like these in-jokes between albums, and it's really rewarding to a dedicated listener. If you're a true fan, you pick up on these little things. That's the thing that I really like, an in-joke, and if you're a truly dedicated fan, those artists really reward that and that's something that I've always wanted to achieve in my own work.
What was your first full-time job?
I think the very first full-time job I had was a Christmas temp at Argos, working in the warehouse, which I think literally only lasted for that Christmas period (laughs). If you are thinking long-term full-time job, I worked at an audio shop in Bluewater. It's not there anymore. A lot of these spaces have died out it seems, that’s depressing. I was there for seven years. It's retail, so it comes with all the soul-destroying elements that you might expect of that industry. I made a lot of good friends that I’m still with now in a creative capacity. My friend George, we're in a band together now, putting music on Spotify.
That was from working together, it was great in the sense that it's one of those niche jobs where there would be long periods where it was completely dead in the store, so you kind of had a bit of free reign to play music or watch a film. I used to spend most of my time on Wikipedia all day, looking up anything. People would come up to me and ask what the topic of the day was. We would be reading up on black holes, or how old the universe is, or sometimes it was a bit more macabre, different serial killers, but anything to pique your interest and keep you mentally occupied throughout the day. It also afforded other creative options. You could get away with drawing and I’d go out back and use the highlighters to draw characters. I realised that you could use this really cool technique where if you used the highlighter and drew an image which is very vibrant, but then if you photocopied it, the photocopied version had a different colour tone to it. It was good in a lot of ways because it allowed for a lot of free play for ideas because it was so dead, and we had the run of the place as long as people were getting served and you weren't being destructive. As long as you were being sensible, you could get away with it.
What is your official occupation?
Well as of the last month or so, I’ve been in between film projects. You caught me at a bit of a weird time really. I'm actually waiting for DBS and all of that to clear to start working in a college as a technician, in a college of media design. The last actual title would have been Foam Technician, latex foam make-ups for Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power. That was making the Orc suits. Before that, it has been prop maker and model maker. I worked on Barbie in the miniature department.
What additional roles, paid or unpaid, do you do?
This is something that I'm hoping to explore a lot more of, taking on other creative roles. In the future I’ll start doing music videos for bands or promotional content. It's all things that I have applied to bands that I've been in. The main musical project I am involved with currently is one called Slanted Truths.
What instruments do you play?
I play guitar, bass, keyboard, synth. Guitar is my primary instrument, but once you've got the dexterity and the finger movements down, it's just transposing that to a different setting.
What was the Philosophy Café?
Philosophy Café as it exists now is literally just a Facebook group and there's not much activity. That's not to say that it won't come back in the future. I did have almost like a podcast where a friend and I would read various essays from different philosophers and then back and forth through different sections and then sort discuss them and analyse them.
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