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How pleasant to meet Angry Dan

In August 2020 Walthamstow was transformed into the London Borough of Limericks. A shop front gallery and treasure trail of nine clever, delighting and colourful murals put the work of musician, painter, filmmaker and poet ‘Angry Dan’ firmly on the map. His captivating combinations of inventive, witty and charming wordplay together with eye-catching, bold graphic imagery proved a big hit.

The pandemic put a temporary halt to more pops of mural joy and thoughtfulness appearing in towns and cities across the UK but he’s back at it now. When we met for a bit of a waffle over a falafel, I couldn’t resist stating the obvious, “You don’t seem that angry!”

“Ha! That goes back to my first email address, when we all had stupid email addresses. If anything, I try to be the antithesis of angry. I wasn’t sure at first but I’ve embraced it now. Adults always ask, ‘Why Angry?’ But kids never do.”

Dan’s creations have graced walls from Reykjavik to Barking, they appear on street furniture in Manchester and Hastings, friends’ backyards, under bridges, beside railways, they’re all over the place.

As straight five-line limericks these compositions are skilful, amusing and often quietly affecting. When transformed into visual artworks in urban spaces (as well as the postcards, prints and paintings) a fresh configuration of word and image evolves.

The characteristic rhythm and rhyme remain but lines are curtailed or carried past the five-line poetic form so viewers are encouraged to re-read, to remake the poems in their minds, to confirm their limerickness. This mode of presentation slows down reception but there’s an agreeable satisfaction in teasing out the original form nestling in the bold illustrative visual presentation.


Words by Adrian Burnham

Angry Dan - Photography by Ben Katzler
Mural, Pedley Street - Photography by Mark Charnock
Roof top mural, Jealous Gallery

So who inspires Dan? The wit and wisdom of Tom Lehrer songs; soulful, mordant and satirical Randy Newman lyrics; Radiohead’s soaringly fertile paranoia. These are a few of Angry Dan’s creative touchstones.

In visual art terms he rates Bacon, Warhol, Lichtenstein, Haring and Hockney but it’s his best-loved writers that are key inspirations.

There’s Ogden Nash, one of the few poets who can elicit actual lols with his idiosyncratic rhyming, brevity and wit. Roald Dahl’s delight in sound, his blended words and celebration of childlike mischief. Spike Milligan’s comic timing, absurd drollery and, on occasion, fearless poetic forays into darker corners of the mind.

Here’s a trio of Dan’s less puckish, more meditative contributions to the limerick form:

The strange illustrator within
Lies awake through the night with a grin
And he draws what he thinks
In invisible inks
Then throws it all into the bin

If you let yourself be defined
By how other’s beliefs are aligned
You might be allowed
To be one of a crowd
But you’ll never be one of a kind

When history earnestly tells
Of how evil colludes and compels
We should not deny
What this might imply
Of the darkness inside of ourselves

The famed limerick and nonsense poet Edward Lear wrote to distract himself from his numerous aversions such as: noises, crowds, hustle, gaiety, fools and bores… Why do limericks appeal to Dan?

“I love them because the form of a limerick makes funny things funnier, and intellectual or more philosophical observations become easier to absorb. Questionable statements can immediately seem irrefutable. And as the great performance poet John Cooper Clarke has said, ‘…because it rhymes, that means it’s true.’“

And what about subject matter? “I’ve always loved science and have a fascination for the natural world, culture in its broadest sense, history… If there’s something dominating my mental space then I’ll sometimes work through it with limericks or longer poems. Problems might not go away but they can seem more manageable, writing allows us to cogitate, or navigate stuff, it helps us to get through things… I think both making and experiencing all sorts of art helps our mental health.”

Of course, it’s not all ‘dark night of the soul’ stuff. For instance, who would dare, on a first anniversary date, to present a partner with a poem comparing their relationship to poo and wee commingling beyond that portal we call the loo? And journeying down the drain to the sewer together and maybe ending up at the seaside, whereupon she can go swimming, but he’ll be in the pub?

Angry Dan, that’s who. “I wondered if a poem about human waste could make her cry tears of love, and you know what, it worked. These are exactly the sort of challenges that keep the accomplished poet awake at night.” It must be said, this sort of, erm, romantic gesture might not work for everyone. Dan’s partner is a nurse and so possibly more immune to a scatological billet-doux than most.

Another favourite, which is presented as an animation on Dan’s website is a longer poem called The Man Who Stood Still Forever. It’s a sobering tale that meditates on our propensity to self-mythologise. Written during a period when the poet had tasked himself to come up with a new limerick every day for a hundred days. “I woke up from a dream with the first line, everybody likes to invent a story about themselves and what they’ve achieved in life. I suppose it’s a reminder or an antidote to egoism or self-centredness.”


Crate, Walthamstow - Phtography by Alexandra Dye
T. Rex, Kilburn - Photography by Olivier Guiberteau
T. Rex, Kilburn for Global Street Art

Along with many creative souls Dan can spend weeks, months alone in his home studio with only himself and words and paints for company. “That’s one of the attractions of making work on the street. It was a real spur when people first came up to me to say they liked a piece. And recently I was working on a junction box for Coastal Currents Festival, the box was quite grubby when I got there so I went to the shop for some cleaning spray and kitchen roll. I was just getting my paints out and two women in their 70s walked past. One said, ‘Ooh, that smells nice!’ So I said, ‘I think it’s Flash spray. I’ve finished with it now, you can have it if you like?’ And she said, ‘Yes please, it’s not every day you get a flash off a young man in the street.’”

So, what does the future hold?

“Something I’m working on now that’s really exciting is a Soho Radio show. It’s an hour long special looking at the culture surrounding limericks… I want to make films, comedy drama that doesn’t take itself too seriously but addresses serious matters. I want to write books. And, in terms of street painting I want to take that side of things further afield. But the larger projects aren’t handed to you on a plate. There are so many things that can go wrong, with permissions, funding, bureaucracy, etc.”

Uncertainty of income predisposed Edward Lear to seek a sinecure. In 1863 he petitioned the king of Greece to give him a ‘place’ specially created, the title to be ‘Lord High Bosh and Nonsense Producer’… What position would Angry Dan be keen to assume and what’d be your title?

“Limerick Laureate would be good.” And with that we wish him well.

When Trying To Write From The Heart
Angry Dan - Photography by Olivier Guiberteau
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