My friend Bobby Grierson, who has died suddenly aged 64, after heart surgery, was an accomplished fashion and graphic designer, a DJ, artist, poet, photographer, drag performer and community activist.
He was empathetic and witty, and held fast to his roots, socialist values and unstinting passion for fairness and equality. A native of Cumnock, birthplace of Keir Hardie, he spoke his Ayrshire Scots with eloquence and a levelling barb that was a joy to hear, and a generosity of spirit that won many enduring friendships.
The son of Bill, a baker who also worked for Cumnock Juniors football club, and Cathy, a spinner at the wool mill, Bobby went to school at Cumnock academy, then on to study fashion at Edinburgh College of Art in 1976. He embraced the punk cultural revolution and student politics, as comfortable marching under a banner as spinning discs on a DJ console. Wherever the action was, his input, exuberance and elan were crucial to what was happening. He was an out gay man when it was hard to be so, and he helped win acceptance for today’s young people.
As a DJ for the nightclubs Valentinos, JJ’s, the Backroom and Blue Mondays at Fire Island, he provided the soundtrack for Edinburgh’s post-punk scene, with an ability to engage an audience that endured throughout the 1980s and 90s. Clubs he ran with friends in the city’s cavernous bowels mined the best of dance and electronic music.
Never a follower, Bobby was an observer, adapter and innovator. He had a unique take on drag, formed through early 80s performances of Genet plays with Lindsay Kemp’s Edinburgh devotees. His occasional performances as Doris De Luxe linked his musical and fashion interests. He was co-founder in 1984 of the fashion outlet Greylight, and designed for friends and luminaries across Scotland. His clothes made wearers feel fabulous, but the store’s fate – it folded in 1988 – reflected his total disregard for money. Extravagance took on a new meaning with him – restaurants, fashion emporiums and bars all benefited from his profligate generosity.
Bobby embraced web design while retaining a skill for creating enthralling physical artefacts and he brought these talents together at Greater Pilton Design Resource, a community arts centre in north Edinburgh where he found, inspired and nurtured creativity in others. In the mid-1990s he set up D4Digital, creating web presences for fellow artists, artisans, social enterprises and campaigns.
Returning to Cumnock in 2011 to care for his mother, Bobby took up gardening, winning prizes in the local competition. He rediscovered his camera and wrote poetry to accompany the results. He chaired the local history group, and investigated and preserved much for future generations, skilled at getting others involved in valuing the town’s history and community.
Bobby is survived by his sisters, Anne and Beth, and his brother, David.