Lord Biro Has Left the Building

Lord Biro left the building on 4 December 2022. He was a Nottingham legend, campaigning on everything from free neutering of cats and Boris Johnson to impeaching Tony Blair for war crimes. The above video is a celebration of his life via artefacts found in the Ray Gosling Archives and from his website.

For years, I would bump into Lord Biro in Forest Fields, out on the campaign trail. He would have massive Elvis ‘Las Vegas’ glasses on, greet you with an ‘uh huh,’ and be armed with a plaggy bag full of flyers he’d had photocopied down the nearest community centre.

On the surface, his campaigns seemed a bit puerile – a poem in rhyming couplets and a drawing that looked like it had been knocked out in a few seconds. But beneath the puns and euphemisms he was fighting serious social issues – both local and global – many of which were in collaboration with Ray Gosling.

In May 1963, Ray Gosling stood as an Independent Liberal in the Lenton Ward, inviting people to ‘Vote for a Madman. For just once in your life. Vote for a madman’. He got 475 votes and it would pave the way forward for people such as Screaming Lord Sutch. However, a criminal record would later prohibit Gosling from standing again which is the point at which Biro stepped in. Together they formed the ‘Bus Pass Elvis Party’.

As a member of the ‘Bus Pass Elvis Party,’ Biro and Gosling fought the cause of the elderly. Gosling did this on TV via his Inside Out documentaries addressing issues such as poverty and loneliness. He also paid the £500 retainer required to stand for election, knowing full well that Biro was unlikely to obtain the specified proportion of votes that would guarantee the refund.

Biro stood in various elections up and down the country. In 1997 he went up against Neil Hamilton in the Conservative stronghold of Tatton. Hamilton was at the centre of a ‘cash for questions’ row which would eventually see him lose his seat to Martin Bell, who was running as an independent MP. If you want to read more about this, see John Sweeney’s excellent book Purple Homicide: Fear and Loathing on Knutsford Heath.

In 2014 he reaped a success of sorts in Nottingham City Council when he received 67 votes, beating the liberal democrat candidate, Tony Marshall, who managed a measly 56 votes. Biro campaigned for a 30 percent discount in brothels for OAPs, later it would be free condoms for OAPs. But beneath the silliness was a serious question: What were the council doing to provide for the elderly. This would see him campaigning against the lack of public toilets, and the right to use your bus pass at any time.

One social issue he was particularly vocal about was the Bedroom Tax. This was a provision of the British Welfare Reform Act 2012 whereby tenants living is social housing could lose benefits for having a spare room. The policy was intended to evict people from their homes – no matter how long they had lived there. The implication being they should be grateful for whatever they were given. Biro was ‘all shook up’. It’s one of the few times I witnessed his humour give way to anger.

In 2014, when I began putting together Dawn of the Unread – a series of online comics celebrating Nottingham’s literary history, I wanted to include a nod to Biro’s campaigning and so included his flyer ‘Elvis Wouldn’t be Seen Dead in Tesco’ on a pub wall in Issue 12. Again, this campaign was raising a really important point about the homogeneity of city centre planning or as the Militant Elvis Anti-Tesco Popular Front (one of the numerous names his party went under) put it, our aim is to ‘overthrow the Corporate Capitalist State which turned Elvis, a man of immense talent, into a fat media joke’.

We tried to interview him for LeftLion numerous times, but he wasn’t interested in discussing his upbringing or his working life as a painter and decorator. He just wanted to do the fun stuff. In 2010 we worked together at the British Art Show at the Nottingham Contemporary where he read some pithy poems slagging off art establishment celebrities. One of these was Damien Hirst, who in 2007 spent £12 million sticking 8,601 diamonds onto a skull he called For the Love of God. Appalled by this vulgarity, we nipped into Toys R Us, bought a medical skull toy, and covered it in jelly tots. Unfortunately, nobody bought it.

Dave Bishop ‘left the building’ on 4 December at the age of 78.

The above article was originally published on LeftLion. I chose the title Return to Sender for this as it is the greatest headline never published. It was the original headline for Elvis’s death in The Sun (I think) but was pulled at the last minute out of respect. 

For more information on Lord Biro see grumpyoldelvis.co.uk

Lord Biro’s Olympic Rings

Sue me… Artwork Lord Biro.

The planning of the next issue of LeftLion has been a bit of a headache because of the Olympics. We’ve become so paranoid about what we can and can’t do with those frigging rings that none of us dare put a coffee cup down on the table for fear any stain may contravene strict branding regulations. This is because the Olympic rings (designed in 1912 and debuted in the 1920 Antwerp Olympics) are a trademark of the Olympic Movement and therefore they are doing everything they can to protect their brand. This should come as no surprise given that we live in an era where large corporations such as Marlboro have tried to paten light and celebs (in the loosest sense of the word) such as Paris Hilton have tried to monetise catchphrases such as ‘that’s hot’. It’s an absolute joke. So it was a relief to hear the London Major defiantly state: ‘If you want to stick five doughnuts in your window and call them Olympic rings then be my guest.’

The Olympic Movement has exclusive rights to any interlocking arrangement of five rings, as well as the usage of the word “Olympic” which has meant we have had to drop one illustration for the ‘Canadian in New Basford’ Column (because the rings in the image showed utter contempt for symmetry) as well as certain ones by Lord Biro featured on this page.

The 2012 logo finally looks good… Artwork Lord Biro.


I feel really angry about this because the Lord Biro drawing is his art work and commentary and therefore not our opinion. Yet such is the level of paranoia created by the ‘brand army’ – who have employed people to check out designs in posters, etc across the country – that we’ve failed to fully support someone who is making an important stance against this overburdening bureaucracy. But a potential £20,000 fine to a voluntary-run magazine is too much of a risk.

The Games look set to be over budget and nearing 11 billion. This is worrying, particularly as it took Montreal thirty years to pay off the debts accumulated from hosting the ’76 games. But with 2 billion raised through sponsorship it is understandable that some effort needs to be made to protect the rights of the marketing partners. The question is, how far do you go? What happens if someone employed to work at the games turns up for work with a can of Pepsi instead of Coca Cola or if they choose to wear Nike trainers instead of Adidas. How much personal freedom will be lost to ensure the partners claw back their returns? Is it going to be a case of straight bananas?

Two jugs Biro and me with a recession-busting Damien Hirst skull at the British Art Show, ‘Tempreh.

Lord Biro is the leader of the Bus-Pass Elvis Party. He recently stood in the Feltham Bye-election, December 2011 and campaigned against fast food corporations sponsoring sports events. In 2005 he campaigned against junk food in the General Election (Erewash) on behalf of the Church of the Militant Elvis, long before Jamie made such things fashionable. It is clear from his latest exhibition that when it comes to corporate sponsorship, he’s not lovin’ it. He seems to have a problem with McDonalds despite it being a well-known fact that all athletes love a burger, fries and McFlurry to help them hurry down the track. With a whopping 533 million being spent on security alone (that’s 243378995 Happy meals in case you were wondering) our favourite satirist is certainly spoilt for choice when it comes to venting spleen although he might just be jealous because he hasn’t got a missile launcher on his roof.

‘Teddy Bears Picnic Banned From Olympics’, 27 July – 16 August, West End Arcade shop fronts. Free. For more info see mclympics.wordpress.com