Delve into the world where Brexit, Boris Johnson and Phil Mitchell collide

Imagine a world where a 'Brexit Day' street party is held featuring a guest list including Vladimir Putin, Steve Bruce, Noel Edmonds and Roger Daltrey.

Spencer’s uncharacteristic ‘positive’piece, with things that make him happy
Spencer’s uncharacteristic ‘positive’piece, with things that make him happy

Or one where Boris Johnson and other Conservative MPs sit stranded in the middle of a field in an old Vauxhall Nova, while Nick Knowles and Sir Cliff Richard look on.

How about an episode of Eggheads, with Theresa May and a boiled egg-sucking Nigel Farage among a panel which has just seen a teary-eyed Ian Beale get knocked out?

In recent years such weird and wonderful landscapes have been brought to life by Cold War Steve, real name Christopher Spencer, who sees his satirical collages as an antidote to the doom and gloom that has descended over Britain since the EU referendum.

The 44-year-old Brummie started producing pieces on his phone using an app that cost a couple of quid, then posting them on Twitter.

They feature public figures – predominantly politicians and celebrities – placed on a backdrop of his idea of typical British settings: run down high streets, seaside towns, caravan parks and Wimbledon.

Dozens of figures who the artist appears to view as being staples of British culture are involved.

From the football world we get Dudley's very own Sam Allardyce, Peter Beardsley, Alan Brazil and José Mourinho. There's Les Dennis, Jeremy Clarkson, Danny Dyer and Michael Barrymore.

Slade appear half naked in one image, while West Midlands Tory MPs Michael Fabricant and Gavin Williamson also make appearances.

Occasionally Spencer uses the classics as his canvas.

Rembrandt's The Anatomy Lesson of Dr Nicolaes Tulp is reworked to feature Dominic Cummings as the Doc, instructing a group of students including Dominic Raab, Jeremy Corbyn and Ann Widdecombe.

Dominic Cummings as Dr Nicolaes Tulp

The one constant in most pieces is Steve McFadden (hence Spencer's Cold War Steve nom de plume) the actor best known for his long-running role as Phil Mitchell in Eastenders.

He's there outside Greggs, gazing at Donald Trump, Piers Morgan and Spandau Ballet. When Kim Jong-un is chatting to Eamonn Holmes in a greasy spoon, McFadden is at the end of the table starring into space.

"He's an everyman, an observer, the hero of the pieces, the anchor to the real world," Spencer said in an interview with The Guardian. "He’s me looking on in disbelief, really."

What started out as an in-the-know social media trend has quickly become a phenomenon. Spencer now has more than 200,000 followers and has seen his work widely published, most notably on the cover of Time magazine.

He's just released his latest book, Cold War Steve presents... A Prat's Progress. It's not a bad CV for someone who was once rejected by the University of Wolverhampton when he applied to do a fine art degree.

A typically surreal Cold War Steve scene

One of his most recent pieces (shown at the top of this page) marks a departure of sorts as it celebrates, in his words, the large part of Britain that is still "wonderfully diverse".

"I wanted to move away from my usual Brexit dystopian hellscapes to produce something visually and spiritually uplifting," he says.

According to Spencer, he started making his collages as a "coping mechanism" having attempted suicide after suffering a breakdown related to depression and alcoholism.

Underpinning his work is an obvious hatred for Brexit (he says the EU referendum result almost sent him into relapse), Boris Johnson and seemingly the entire Conservative Party.

While it is this anger and frustration that fuels his work, the apparent reasoning behind it is more than a little problematic.

Spencer's is a world of 'good guys' and 'bad guys', where the latter category includes anyone who voted for Brexit.

Christopher Spencer’s latest book

He's wiping out a large chunk of Britain's working class in one fell swoop, something you would imagine would be hard to reconcile for a committed socialist.

A reviewer in The Socialist Worker had an interesting take on it, describing Spencer's work as being "full of liberal prejudice" in the way it ridicules the lives of working class Brexit voters.

On a most basic level, however, Spencer's work is marvellous silliness, and it would be nice to believe that he does not take himself too seriously.

This certainly seems to be the case when he points out in his new book's introduction that the progressing 'prat' in question could very well be him.

Spencer has become a new darling of the left, having created a piece for the National Galleries of Scotland and appeared at Glastonbury.

Demand is such that he has been able to quit his day job as a probation officer.

Progress indeed.

  • Cold War Steve presents... A Prat's Progress is published by Thames & Hudson and is available for £12.95.

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