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From a stranger to a figurehead - meet Tony Nero

Tony Nero is one of the influential figureheads in Peterborough's buzzing art scene, aiming to utilise art to inspire pride in both the history and present-day life of Peterborough.  

Originally from the Caribbean Island of St Vincent, Tony grew up in Stoke Newington, London, and moved to Peterborough in the latter half of 1999. 

“In the beginning of my journey, I wanted to go to fashion college to become a designer but then I received work in graphic design when I came out of school at the young age of 16. 

“I used to design record sleeves for the music industry and back then we didn’t have computers so everything was done manually with cow gums and scalpels” 

After nearly two decades within the graphic design industry in London, Tony decided he had enough of the hustle and bustle of the big metropolitan city and packed up to move to Peterborough.  

When asked what inspired his move he said: “If I'm being honest, I just really wanted to get out of London. I could have thrown a dart at a map and would have gone wherever it landed.  

“But I had cousins and an auntie in Peterborough so I would always visit during the summers so it was an easy decision for me” 

Tony continued to describe his first few years in Peterborough: “I felt like a stranger just gliding through a crowd of people I didn’t know” he said.  

“My cousin was busy with work so I just spent most my free time in the library and the museum while working between jobs at a local charity and in the passport office. 

“I spent literally years talking to my friends at the office about me holding my own exhibition. One day my manager said to me ‘you keep talking about this exhibition. When are you going to make it a reality?'  

“I quickly realised that I had no work to showcase in the exhibition. I also realised I was just sitting talking about things I wanted to do but I had taken no action to achieve my own dream” 

Following this revelation, Tony spent the next few years creating different pieces of art from portraits to landscapes to painting animals, with only one goal in mind - to host his own exhibition. 

“One day I got my big break, a couple of friends of mine ran an estate agency and they purchased two small paintings from me, one of the library and the other of the solicitors' building. 

“As I went to grab a hammer from upstairs to hang the paintings on the wall, I saw two empty rooms 

“I imagined all my works up in that room, my own exhibition coming to life. 

“I asked if they would like to let me hire out one of these rooms and they let me have it. We set a date and set up an exhibition with all my original works and it was like a dream come true.  

“I went from a stranger in the city to having friends that helped me promote this exhibition even dragging people off the street to come and have a look” 

After Tony’s successful exhibition, his mind, like many other artists, was set on moving back to London which is seen by many people as the only way to make it, especially as in artist.  

“It wasn’t until a colleague of mine said to me ‘why don’t you build something here first’ that I realised I had an exhibition but I wasn’t aware of these local artists. 

“I began to keep my head up and getting to know local artists and started getting involved in creative things happening across the city.  

“I started documenting this scene within the city and covered everything from open mics to poetry to local exhibitions within the city” 

Tony soon became a figurehead in this scene shining a light on local artists as well as actively working to help his community; through workshops and tuition. 

“I never wanted to be a teacher but I love sharing my passion with the younger generations and helping them do something more positive” 

He quickly took up the mantle of responsibility within his community showcasing various exhibitions as well as the Black Heroes project which was first hosted within the Town Hall.

“I really wanted to do something to help ethnic youngsters so I decided on the Black Heroes project. 

“The idea was to paint portraits of prominent black people such as Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr, long with a few paragraphs as an introduction to inspire young people to do their own research.  

Tony continues to say: “Hopefully such a project shows them that there are people who look like us that do positive things, life-changing things, so we can also do positive things no matter how small or big our impact may be” 

This exhibition first opened in 2008 with only eight pieces - now there is a total of 22 pieces  

“This project matters so much to me so I’m always aiming to add to it every year.” 

Black Heroes Tony
Tony Nero In front of Black Heroes Exhibition. Tony Nero

When speaking on his future plans Tony said “I want to do an exhibition to paint the local people who are achieving stuff, such as Olympians from Peterborough, as well as regular people who are inspiring the community who you don’t usually hear about.” 

He continues: “People in Peterborough usually say ‘no one's done anything in Peterborough' so I want to show young people that you don’t HAVE to feel forced to leave the city in order to achieve something. 

“There's people who come from your hometown who have made a huge impact whether that be in city, nationally or internationally. 

“I want to show people you can be proud of your home and you should be proud of your home. You shouldn't feel the need to leave in order to achieve.” 

To Find out more about Tony Nero and his work Follow him on his Instagram and Facebook