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Secret 7” - music and art for the mind

Image: Kevin King, founder of Secret 7”

These vinyl sleeves have been designed by famous artists to support mental health charity Mind – here’s how you can buy one.

A man named Kevin King has potentially just raised £35,000 for Mind, the mental health charity. How? By celebrating what music does best – bringing communities together.

Kevin is the founder of the annual charity event Secret 7", a project which invites world famous (and some not famous at all) artists to design vinyl sleeves for seven chosen tracks per year.

Once the seven tracks are chosen, this year to reflect the theme of mental health, 100 copies of each track are pressed onto vinyl and a throng of artists set loose on them to design vinyl sleeves which reflect the seven singles, their own art and the theme of mental health.

Kevin describes below to Run Riot the brilliance of how “two people can interpret the artwork for one song in such wonderfully different ways,” and those people vary from being “a knighted artist like Sir Anish Kapoor through to an illustrator we've discovered on Instagram”.

Anonymising the designs of contributors who this year include Sir Anish Kapoor, Sir Paul Smith and Jeremy Deller, and the set designer for Lady Gaga’s live shows, punters pay £50 for their chosen vinyl and sleeve - and only find out who designed their sleeve when they’ve made their purchase.

This year’s seven songs are Lover, You Should’ve Come Over by Jeff Buckley, I’m Not Down by The Clash, I Saved The World Today by Eurythmics, Castles Made of Sand by Jimi Hendrix, Help by London Grammar, No Surface Feeling by Manic Street Preachers and Damaged by Primal Scream.

The singles have been designed by an incredible 700 creatives for 2018 – 50% invited by Kevin and 50% lesser-known found via the submissions process - and the collection will be on display at the Greenwich Peninsula for three weeks before being on sale June 8 – 23rd. Buy records on Sunday June 24th at 10am (first come, first served). Tip: if buying, get there early.

Here’s what founder Kevin King had to say about his landmark idea.

Adam Bloodworth: Hi Kevin. How come Secret 7" has been such a huge success?

Kevin King:
There're a few factors. Since 2012 vinyl has gotten popular again. Plus, designing a record sleeve is one of the most exciting briefs to work on. It's also very accessible, both in terms of our open call for submissions and the way our first-come first-served sale gives anyone a chance to own something special. Plus, co-founder Jordan and I put blood, sweat and tears into making Secret 7" a success every year, and I think that comes through to anyone who engages with the project.

Adam: Where did you get the initial idea from?

I was working at a record label when I had the idea for Secret 7". The company was doing various fundraising for its charity of the year through things like cake sales, quizzes, fun runs and a painful Three Peaks Challenge. A visit to the RA [Royal Academy of the Arts] postcard sale inspired me in two ways. First I thought translating the project into records would be a simple way to involve the label’s music and musicians into our fundraising. Also having been reduced to a mere spectator at many corporate auctions the secret sale approach really appealed to me.

Adam: How do you go about asking visual artists to be involved?

Typically via email, if I can find one. If not, I'll try various other means like going via galleries, or introductions by other artists, or finding an address via the Companies House website and sending them a hand written invitation! I'd make a good detective.

Adam: How do you go about choosing the seven records?

We always try to work with a selection of tracks that span time periods and genre. It starts with a longlist, which evolves as we start to get confirmation from our musicians. This year we've worked closely with Sony Music to pick tracks that haven't been on 7" before and that were in part influenced by this year's cause Mind, the mental health charity.

It's a long process given that we need musicians to be on board with the concept of using their work in this way. We’d been working on the concept of ‘One year one track’ for months, but it fell through and we were left with 24 hours to fill a spot before our scheduled launch. Yoko Ono had contributed artwork the previous year so I took my chances, emailed her team explaining the situation and asking if we could use a John Lennon track and somehow Imagine was approved in time!

Adam: Which sleeves do you remember most fondly from over the years?

I always reference two that I loved from 2015 when asked for my favourites, one by Non-Format and the other Boneface. They were both for Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer in 2015 and side-by-side they beautifully encapsulate the essence of the project, in that two people can interpret the artwork for one song in such wonderfully different ways. Non-Format requested the record from me and encased it within a concrete sleeve, while Boneface created a fully packaged toy figure.

Adam: What tips would you give designers as they approach the project this year?

Make it memorable.

Adam: There's something nice about the vinyl all being priced the same come the sale...

Yeah, that was an important element in shaping the project and as I mentioned about making it accessible to all. It results in some incredible feats of dedication too, our first-come first-served queue started 36 hours ahead of doors opening one year.

Adam: Do designers choose which track they create art for, and how does that process work?

Yes, everyone chooses the track they design for. There is an open submission, people send us work via our website and in the post. This year we had over 5,000 submissions in six weeks! Our selections from the open submission join those who we've invited to contribute.

That could be anyone from a knighted artist like Sir Anish Kapoor through to an illustrator we've discovered on Instagram. The 700 sleeves in the show is about 50:50 in terms of people who've submitted via the open submission and those we've invited.

Adam: Can you describe the power in the room when all the designs come together on display?

A formidable wave of positive creativity.

Adam: Is there one artist you haven't pulled into the project yet that you'd love on board?

Martin Creed.

Secret 7” Exhibition
8-23 June, 11am - 7:30pm
More info about the exhibition

Secret 7” Artwork Sale
10am, Sunday 24 June
All the sleeves go on sale. First come, first served.
More info about the Sale

Secret 7” Venue
The Jetty
Greenwich Peninsula
London SE10 0JF