Noisemaker: Lily Green, artist and publisher

Lily Green is a multimedia artist and the founder of No Bindings, a print and audio publisher working directly with communities across the globe. No Bindings has been responsible for creating print books and postcards, podcast, interactive print and audio installations, live shows, events and workshops, and is based in Bristol.

Photo credit: Emma Hughes

Beginnings: Oxford

The University of Oxford has churned out an almost relentless stream of politicians, lawyers and bankers. So it might seem like a surprising choice of further education for someone who has ended up shunning a vocational career in favour of something utterly independent and away from the norm.

Lily Green, artist and founder of publisher No Bindings admits she didn’t initially consider it as an option. ‘I didn’t really want to apply to university because although I loved learning and studying, I was really disenchanted with the whole system’, she says, looking back. ‘The incentive behind everything I do has always been a love of learning.’

But she made it to Oxford, which ended up providing the trigger Lily needed to start thinking about a possible creative future. She applied for the position of Arts Officer at her college. The early days of fundraising and sourcing hidden pots of money were the early signs of an astute ability to make shit happen. And it wasn’t just money she was able to gather, it was people. ‘I sought out people in the college who could help — someone ran ballet classes, someone taught cello lessons and another organised life drawing, all for free,’ says Lily. ‘I was only able to achieve so much with the role because people had bought into the idea and took things on themselves.’

For us at The Noiseletter, it was the weird and wonderful creative pursuits we did outside our contracted hours at university that have defined everything we’ve done in our ‘work’ lives ever since. The same goes for Lily and the burgeoning art scene she was creating in Oxford. ‘I kept thinking I’d really love to do this in ‘real life’,’ she says. ‘But I had no idea what that meant because I’d only ever been exposed to vocational career pathways.’

Sewing the seeds: Spain

Photo credit: Jo Hounsome Photography

‘I actually missed my entrance exam to Oxford — I got put in a broom cupboard without a watch or a clock to do it after everyone else.’

Studying Spanish and Portuguese at university, a year abroad was part of the deal. So off to Brazil and Madrid she went. After walking past a printmaking studio on her way to work, Lily signed up for a course. By the time she left Madrid, she’d been offered a printmaking apprenticeship.

However, as many artists know all too well, sometimes projects and studios cave to financial pressure. By the time Lily graduated, the studio wasn’t getting enough students and had to close down, leaving her without a plan for what was next. ‘I was then in a bit of a quagmire because I’d found my passion’, she says. ‘I’d decided I was going to be a printmaker — that was going to be my life.’

Hustling: Bristol

Photo credit: No Bindings

‘I found it so hard to break the big institutions, and ended up getting really turned off visual arts in Bristol’

So, it was time for plan B. After graduating, Lily moved to Bristol with Jamie, her now husband. And then came the oh-so-infuriating-but-all-too-common problem of trying to find a job in the Arts. ‘Even though I had all this experience with the Arts and had dedicated so much of my time to learning the trade, if it’s in a university setting people don’t give it the credence’, says Lily, as I nod furiously in agreement. ‘But then again, it was a very different experience — I had people working for free on these projects. That’s not real life.’

After getting relentlessly rejected from arts administration and gallery jobs and reaching an all-time low, Lily threw herself into printmaking and volunteering. A voluntary position at Leigh Woods led to her starting a drawing group, which became incredibly successful, becoming an eight-week course which she was responsible for running.

‘When I’m given the space to do something myself, I’ll come up with an idea and go with it’, she says, looking back on these early days of running community creative groups. ‘Ideation and prototyping has always been, and still is, my thing. That’s the bit of the process I enjoy the most.’

Photo credit: No Bindings

Alongside this, Lily did printmaking classes at Spike Print Studio, where they ran a one-day workshop for bookmaking. It was here Lily began thinking about zine culture and combining poetry and publishing. No Bindings was born. ‘The name came from the idea that I would make books without glue, staples or string to hold the pages together’, says Lily. ‘I also wanted to bring in sound. People jump on buses in Brazil and sell little books of poetry and perform them live. Poetry and zine culture is so mainstream over there.’

Creation: No Bindings

Photo credit: Jo Hounsome Photography

‘Having people that believe in you that are slightly ahead is so important. I’ve had so many champions of what I do, which has been the biggest help. It’s really special.’

Every project needs a starting point, and for No Bindings it was ‘Spring’, which was made up of art and writing by Lily’s friends and family. All the contributors make a cut of the profits in No Bindings projects, no matter how small. In the case of ‘Spring’, it was little more than a fiver. ‘I wanted to attach value to what the artists did, regardless of whether they were professional or amateur’, says Lily. ‘A blend of artists on a page is much more interesting, and the stories that come out of it are more diverse.’ This has remained a constant throughout all of No Bindings’ projects ever since.

With inclusion in mind, Lily then went on to work with Wyldwood Arts, a project running intergenerational arts activities. This collaboration opened up a can of metaphorical creative worms, leading to the creation of Here We Grow, No Bindings’ first major project funded by Bristol Ageing Better. An opportunity for a grant to connect with artists in East Africa followed, which became the birth of RadioBook Rwanda, a global project with some major funding.

What’s next?

Photo credit: Emma Hughes

‘2018 was a mad year. I’ve been able to work with people who have really inspired me, and I’m now thinking I’ll have to go full-time with No Bindings. At the moment I’m deciding if I want to keep my work within the communities in which they’re made, or give it a bigger platform,’ says Lily. ‘There’s still so many decisions to be made, but I need to make sure that those principles I’ve had since the beginning are still there.’

For more information about Lily’s publications and to immerse yourself in her work, visit www.nobindings.co.uk — it has a shop too. Wink wink.

Lily’s Read: Tjawangwa Dema’s debut collection of poetry, The Careless Seamstress.

Lily’s Hear: For all your melancholic needs: Cesaria Evora’s Petit Pays and obviously, my husband Jamie Cruickshank’s new EP Worn Through.

Lily’s Think: Combining 5G and blockchain | Publishing as a creative act | DIY and the environment | How much I love TV

Lily’s Do: With a new house to my name, I’ve been getting really into eBay and Gumtree, driving around the South West to collect my winnings and meeting lots of fascinating humans along the way! I’d highly recommend it as a way to shake up your normal routine and life outlook.

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