British Airways i360 exhibition will help Brighton's homeless

An exhibition of paintings is taking place through the windows of British Airways i360 in Brighton to raise money for young homeless people across the city.

Work by Tony Mills
Work by Tony Mills

The Eight Miles Away exhibition of paintings will be on show through the beachfront and west-facing windows.

Those wanting to bid on a painting can submit a silent bid to the artist Tony Mills through his website.

The seven paintings feature a homeless person in different scenes across Brighton, with the proceeds then being donated to Sanctuary Supported Living’s Brighton and Hove Foyer, which provides supported housing for 50 young people aged 16 to 25.

Artist Tony, who picked up a paintbrush in adulthood for the first time only ten years ago, created the idea for the project from painting a bus shelter opposite his home, where an elderly homeless man was sleeping for a year. He promised that any proceeds from the sale of the painting would go towards getting the man off the street.

Just 48 hours after finishing the first painting, it was sold to a buyer in Australia and people all over the world started buying prints. The painting succeeded in opening doors for the man, so Tony kept painting. In the following two years, he had completed eight different paintings of Brighton – all featuring a homeless person.

The remaining seven original paintings will now be auctioned through the windows of the visitor attraction and, together with sales of every single print, the proceeds will go directly to help homeless young people in the city.

Tony has named the exhibition, the Eight Miles Away Project which references the lights of the wind farm, eight miles out to sea behind where the man slept, which ironically generates warmth for over 400,000 homes.

Tony said: “I am just a painter. I cannot solve all homelessness, but maybe I can help one person at a time. It means a lot to me to be working with Sanctuary Supported Living’s Brighton and Hove Foyer to directly support homeless young people in my city.”

Stephanie Smith, local service manager at Brighton and Hove Foyer, said: “We are thrilled that Tony has chosen to support Brighton and Hove Foyer in this way. Every penny of the proceeds from the sale of Tony’s remarkable paintings and prints will go directly to helping young people who are ready to make that next step and move into their own home. We cannot wait to turn his vision for this project into a reality.”

Ian Hart, chief operating officer of British Airways i360, said: “We are delighted to support this great event. Tony’s Eight Miles Away exhibition and auction are an extremely valuable Brighton community project, providing homeless people with an essential life-changing resource.

“This is exactly the sort of local social venture that the owners and the team at BA i360 want to promote and publicise for the benefit of others. With lockdown restrictions in place, we had to adapt our original exhibition plan. Whilst local people are doing their daily exercise walking along the seafront, they can now also raise valuable funds and awareness for a fantastic cause.”

All details of the project, the auction and how to buy a print can be found at tonymills.com

Tony Mills spent much of his childhood drawing and painting, but instead pursued a career in business on leaving school, as he recalled feeling as if it ‘wouldn’t have felt like a real job’. However, following a career with American Express which saw him work all over the world, he was encouraged to pick up a paintbrush again in 2010. He found a small, nurturing studio and a teacher full of natural encouragement who suggested that after such a long absence he should see if he ‘could still draw.’

He immediately moved into painting. His inspirations are not just physical landscapes themselves but most especially the greater sense of spirituality governing them, as well as feelings that come from human relationships, he says.

Part of UK housing and care provider Sanctuary Group, Sanctuary Supported Living provides personalised care and support through supported housing and related services to people across England.

Through specialist, tailored support and accommodation, Sanctuary Supported Living works with homeless families and individuals, people with mental health needs, people with physical and/or learning disabilities, young people and others with a range of complex needs to help them on their pathway to independence.

Established in 1969, Sanctuary Group is responsible for the provision of social housing, care and management services across England and Scotland. The Group operates under a not for profit umbrella, with surpluses reinvested into the provision of affordable housing, the maintenance of existing properties, and the development of new services for customers.

British Airways i360 is a viewing tower on Brighton’s seafront which was conceived and designed by Marks Barfield Architects, creators of the London Eye. It opened in August 2016.

Visitors board a giant glass observation pod and glide up gently to 138m (450ft) above Brighton beach to enjoy unfolding 360o views across Brighton & Hove, the South Downs National Park and the beautiful Sussex coastline. ‘Flights’ depart every 30 minutes.

At ground level is the British Airways i360 beach building, which houses the gift shop stocked with products from local Brighton artists and suppliers. The venue is also home to West Beach, Brighton’s sea view restaurant.