Billy Childish was in a relationship with Emin from 1981-85 during the period when she attended Maidstone College of Art. Although it appears to have been a troubled relationship she names him as an influence in her work and his names appeared prominently in ‘Everyone I have ever slept with’ which is now destroyed. Childish is an artist, a novelist, a poet and a musician, however, most famed for being the one-time boyfriend of Emin. With Charles Thomson, he co-founded the ‘Stuckist’ art movement which he subsequently left in 2001. This movement was named after a comment Emin made to him in which his paintings were ‘Stuck’, the movement became more successful through its association with Emin and her success through winning the Turner Prize.
Childish shares many similarities with Emin in that he had a difficult upbringing. He was sexually abused by a male family friend at the age of nine. Sharing a bed with the man on holiday he tried to sexual abuse Childish on several subsequent nights, him then refusing to go near him again. In 2002 he was interviewed by Ted Kessler of the Guardian and he states that he has forgiven his Abuser and his family for not realising what had happened. He was bullied by his father, a man who was sent to prison in 1981 for smuggling cannabis, Childish eventually hitting him on his release and return home. Changing his name from ‘Steven John Hamper’ was an attempt to shun his Fathers influence on himself. Drinking heavily as a teenager to escape his troubled upbringing he now claims himself, his Father and his Brother are all alcoholics. Other examples of decadence would be contracting gonorrhoea and herpes through sleeping with prostitutes when he was touring with one of his bands.
Although Childish has achieved some success through his creative endeavours most are on an underground level. His books are printed by his own imprint; Hangman Books. His records are generally released independently and limited to five hundred copies. His exhibitions are usually one-man shows to be viewed on appointment. His thoughts on Emin’ creativity were documented by Ted Kessler:
Rather than being about limitation and embracing failure, which my work is all about , she’s using the same methods to advance her career. And by increasing her ego like that, she’s become more lost’
In relation to Emin’ artistic career, Childish’ pales in comparison. His subsequent interviews after she won the Turner Prize can be seen as bitterness and perhaps openly documenting their relationship was a step too far.