Words: Andy McVeigh [twitter] @pantsdanny

Image: The Burley Banksy ? The Adelites [twitter] @theadelites

Andy McVeigh grew up in Rothwell, Leeds 26, during the 1970s. After falling under the spell of the city and its football club for the following three decades, in recent years he began brightening up its streets with paintings of positivity. Having been dubbed ‘The Burley Banksy’, he gained further appreciation with an array of Leeds United themed street art, which have recently attracted headlines for the senseless defacing of them and the subsequent backing Andy has received from the city’s council, club, and people. Here, he describes his journey through football, Leeds, life and art. 

My first game was 1980, Forest at home. 50p to get in, Peter Shilton in the Forest goal making ten times that from the coins being chucked at him. I started going properly about ‘85; the kop atmosphere was intoxicating to a teenager. It began to become an obsession, like it does for a lot of people; a mood definer! Still is. I’m old enough to know better but can’t escape its clutches. 


Supporting Leeds is like being married to the most beautiful but frustrating and exasperating woman on the planet – and no matter how bad she treats you, you can never get a divorce. It’s so important for me and my son Dan, it keeps us together. I’m one of those ‘every other weekend’ dads who misses his kid terribly, so going to the match and texting about the latest lufc news is a big part of ‘us’.


When my little niece was given 6 months to live, I found the painting took my mind off it for a bit, very therapeutic while she was getting worse. After her death, my mum got cancer, my old man was beaten up, my mate took his own life, my relationship broke up with my girlfriend, and it hit me very hard. Lots of things all came at once and I think the art really helped, I don’t know why. This isn’t a sob story. Life throws stuff at everyone. I’m lucky, I’m healthy, and my son Danny is healthy. 


I’d never really done any art before this – I’m a primary school teacher and a drummer in a band! I started doing street art to cover up the horrible tagging that has ruined the areas around where I live. It’s disgusting what these people do, ruin people’s houses, front doors, small businesses, parks… it totally degenerates areas and increases crime – the broken window theory of sociology in action. Street art is fantastic, tagging isn’t. 


I started doing lufc ones after noticing loads on the way to the match and thought kids and Leeds fans would like them. I’ve always loved football design: kits, badges, merch; and Leeds have a rich history of iconic stuff: Smiley badge, the Peacock, sock tags… the list goes on. So I like to do iconic moments in lufc history, classic shirts, lyrics from Leeds songs that mean something to us fans. I tweeted them and it snowballed from there. 


Being a single dad, I’ve got my evenings free, so I did them after school. I’ve always got loads of ideas in my head, so it’s great to put them to good use! It can be challenging doing it down at Elland Road on a midweek night though – industrial area, it’s getting dark, it’s cold, I could get mugged! I do wonder “what the hell am I doing here?” sometimes!! 


The reaction has been totally, universally positive – for both my community art and my lufc ones. Fans say it makes them proud to walk past on their way to a match, kids have photos with them, people say it brightens their day, makes them smile. Really nice. 


I didn’t realise just how much they liked them until that bloke defaced them all. I was totally gutted at first, and freaked out, but massive positives have come from it, which I’m not sure is what he intended! The whole city seemed to have come together, it was incredible! And so positive in such awful, negative times. Sometimes I can’t bear to watch Trump and Boris on TV, so inhumane and selfish, so I go out and do something positive; it makes me feel better. 


I did a lufc mural for EFL/Mind, and am doing some lufc art at Leeds Market, some inside the stadium, maybe one with Mateuz Klich. People have asked me to do their kids’ bedrooms! The Terrace have brought out Burley Banksy merch and the lufc Trust centenary exhibition put my art on to prints to sell off for charity. So who knows where it will lead to? 

Mad that a slightly struggling, a bit lonely bloke who painted boxes to make himself feel a bit better has found himself in this bizarre position of being an ‘artist’, but there you go. I’m still a bit shocked everyone considers me an artist, but if Rothko can paint a big canvas red and sell it for millions then I must be one too! Maybe it was our little Grace looking down and giving her uncle Andy a bit of luck.