John Midgley – Obituary

John Midgley obituary

John Midgley at work in his studio in Norfolk.
John Midgley at work in his studio in Norfolk. He specialised in designing posters and banners for trade unions


My husband, John Midgley, who has died aged 85, was an artist who specialised in creating posters and banners for trade unions.

He got into designing for trade unions following a period of his own workplace activism in the early 1960s, when he was sacked as a tutor at the Camden Arts Institute in London for supporting staff and students in a labour dispute.

He then set up a studio with a group of other artists in Brent in north-west London, and began to create political posters and banners for several trade unions, in particular for the National Union of Mineworkers, as well as for various community groups. He also created panels for the TUC’s Congress House in London. To see his many banners moving along the streets during the Durham Miners’ galas made him immensely proud.

Born in Leeds to Sidney Midgley, a butcher, and Grace (nee Lupton), a teacher, John went to Ilkley grammar school and after national service trained in fine art at Harrogate Art School.

September Song, painting by John Midgley
September Song, by John Midgley

From 1965 to 1980, he lived in London, working for a couple of years as an arts adviser for the London borough of Haringey, helping the council to set up art exhibitions and encouraging local artists to show their work around the borough – while also continuing his private art work. He then taught at Camden Arts Institute before setting up studios in Brent for artists, film-makers, craftspeople, sculptors etc. It was during this period – in 1969 – that he and I met at the Railway Tavern in Hampstead.

In 1980 we moved to Aylsham in Norfolk, where we were married in 1981, then, shortly afterwards, to Plumstead, also in Norfolk, where John ran a small business making his banners and posters from a purpose-built studio. Aside from that work, he was excellent at drawing people and scenes; around 2010, John became a member of the Norwich 20 Group of artists. We moved to Mundesley in 2013, not long after he sold his business, and John did some of his best paintings there.

Over the years his work was shown at a number of galleries, including at Whitechapel Art Gallery in London and at the Anteros Arts Foundation in Norwich.

John was a kind and generous man, and will missed by his many friends and past colleagues.

He is survived by me and by his sister, Christine.

Maggie Midgley

Wiveton Bridge

Road To Southrepps

Oil on canvas – 50 x 70cm

Back Road

Oil on canvas – 50 x 70cm

By Road

Oil on canvas – 50 x 70cm

Farm Road

Oil on canvas – 50 x 70cm

Forgotten Road

Oil on canvas – 50 x 70cm

Very sorry to write that John died in November 2020, RIP.

From John: ‘One of many paintings of a single ‘motif’. The value of restricting work to one single image like this, from nature, is that the fundamental changes that happen as work progresses, force the artist to constantly reassess his role in the creative process.

This is a quote from a discussion about the impulse to create coming from some mysterious external location…which I don’t really go along with BUT I do know that the harder you consciously will yourself to create something, the less creative you are actually likely to be.  You have to ‘get out of your own way’ somehow.’


Posted on 28 February 2021