Steve Lobb obituary

Other lives: Muralist who also made banners for trade unions and had a separate existence as a surreal performance poet

My husband, Steve Lobb, who has died aged 87, was a mural artist in the community arts movement, working in south-east London. He was also a performance poet appearing under the name of Emile Sercombe.

Born in Ilford, Essex (now in the London borough of Redbridge), Steve was one of the four sons of Mary (nee Davey), a potter, and Richard Lobb, an insurance clerk who enjoyed painting. In 1939, at the outbreak of the second world war, the family moved to Bookham and then Fetcham in Surrey.

One of Steve Lobb’s Hitchcock Mosaics murals at Leytonstone tube station in east London
One of Steve Lobb’s Hitchcock Mosaics murals at Leytonstone tube station in east London Photograph: None

Steve went to the nearby Dorking grammar school and then to Guildford Art School before attending the Royal Academy Schools in London. After graduating he went on to teach at Ravensbourne College of Art (now Ravensbourne University London), where he met Carol Kenna, a student. They married in 1965 and had two children.

In 1975 the couple set up Greenwich Mural Workshop, an artists’ collective, and they painted their first gable end mural, titled The People’s River, on Creek Road on the Meridian estate in Greenwich, working in consultation with its tenants. More large-scale murals followed in the area, including one in Floyd Road in Charlton celebrating a successful campaign that persuaded the local council not to demolish the street, and another at Rathmore youth centre which featured Gaudí-style mosaic benches.

In 1983 the Greater London council asked him to produce a Wind of Peace mural for GLC Peace Year, and the following year it commissioned People of Greenwich Unite Against Racism for its Anti-Racism Year.

Steve Lobb performing as Emile Sercombe at the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, Kent
Steve Lobb performing as Emile Sercombe at the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, Kent Photograph: None

The murals eventually transformed from paint to mosaics and included the Hitchcock Mosaics at Leytonstone tube station in east London and the Glyndon Estate mosaics in Plumstead, south-east London. Greenwich Mural Workshop also made scores of banners for trade unions and other community groups, and restored a banner for the International Brigade British Battalion, that fought in the Spanish civil war.

In 2019 Steve and Carol were involved in creating For Walls With Tongues, an online project with a related book that gathered together some of the oral history of street murals.

I met Steve in 1980 when he was performing his own brand of surreal poetry as Emile Sercombe with the Worthless Words group of poets. Over the years he appeared at many poetry events, including the Apples and Snakes Poetry Cabaret, Dodo Modern Poets, Landing Place Poets at the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate and Eats ’n Beats Poets, which he hosted in Ramsgate, Kent.

Steve and Carol divorced in 1995, having been separated for some time. He and I married in 2001.

In 2013 we moved to Ramsgate, after which Steve had several exhibitions of his colourful paintings and constructions at the Pie Factory gallery in Margate and found a new audience for his work. He was a gifted artist, original, inventive, funny and warm, who was painting and performing until February this year.

Steve is survived by me, two sons, Ben and Nathan, from his first marriage, five grandchildren, Lilly, Cicely, Hetty, Sam and Joe, and his brother Andy.

Berni Cunnane

The GuardianTramp

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