Tony Allen wants you to know “you are magical”

The artists powerful, positive messages or ‘tony-isms’ as the Submit To Love group like to call them, will endlessly brighten your day.

1 July 2024

Tony Allen is a multimedia artist working at Headway East London, a non-profit supporting people living with brain injury with therapy, advocacy and access to creative projects. Home to a collective of artists with brain injury, the charity have transformed a railway arch into a vibrant creative space, where artists develop their practice with the support of staff and volunteers; a place that Tony brilliantly named Submit to Love Studios after one of his early artworks. “When he writes ‘Submit to love!’ in huge, densely patterned letters, he really means it, and wants you to take those words to heart”, the team at Headway East London shares. Like many of his other brightly coloured messages such as: ‘cheer up and love each other’ and ‘If you thinking something good. Tell someone about it’, Tony’s illustrated words are deeply felt truths that we didn’t know we really needed to hear.

In an interview with Headway East London on why his art is important to him, Tony says “I’ve been an artist all my life [...] Art makes me smile and it makes me proud of myself”. Working away at thick layers of colour, and “details that would go unnoticed by the casual observer”, he is always drawing: “what’s in my own head”, he says. “I can never draw what’s in anyone else’s head [...] and it’s no good copying anyone!”. Before his brain injury, the artist was a DJ and ran a fruit and veg stall at Chapel Market. Tony’s injury has affected his speech and short term memory, he says; “I can’t remember one day to the next, it’s like someone shutting a door on you” – something which he explores in his artwork ‘I can’t remember fuck all’.

Tony’s work has been exhibited at Stratford Circus, Southbank Centre, Rich Mix and more recently at the Barbican in Submit to Love’s Differently Various exhibit, which is now expanding into Differently Various in Different Spaces’: an art trail of submit to loves work showing across North, Central and East London until August this year. Continuing to share his heartfelt ‘tony-isms’ and technicolour illustrations that are packed with joy, Tony’s biggest artistic ambition is for people to see his artworks, and in doing so, “be provoked into a state of consideration”, say the team at Headway East London. If you are going to buy one of his pieces and have it on your wall, he has one small bit of advice to share: “Just make sure you put it in a good place, where you can see it!”


Tony Allen: I can’t remember fuck all (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2018)


Tony Allen: My dad (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2023)


Tony Allen: Art is freedom (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2023)


Tony Allen: Mother and son (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2010)


Tony Allen: If you thinking something good tell someone about it (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2024)


Tony Allen: You can do absolutely anything with imagination (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2017)


Tony Allen: Love makes you feel good (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2019)

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Tony Allen: You are magical (Copyright © Tony Allen, 2022)

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About the Author

Ellis Tree

Ellis Tree (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a junior writer in April 2024 after graduating from Kingston School of Art with a degree in Graphic Design. Across her research, writing and visual work she has a particular interest in printmaking, self-publishing and expanded approaches to photography.

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