Les Nind

1925 – 2018

Not much is written about Leslie Nind over the internet, but his contribution to West Drayton, Yiewsley and the Borough of Hillingdon was a great one. He was a very talented self-taught artist from humble beginnings. It’s true to say without his initial hard work, influence and dedication; there would probably not be an art centre in Yiewsley and West Drayton. And for this, we will be forever grateful.

Leslie James Meaden Nind was born in 1925, an only child to Walter Fredrick Nind and Emma Sarah Nind (Previously Tarrent). When Les was aged 13, his father got him a job to work in a Butcher, where he earned 12’6 (62.5p). A Job he didn’t enjoy, as he had to walk to Stanwell and back to deliver goods.

Les then got a job in the Co-op, which paid him a little more. There he stayed until, aged 19, Les was sent to India to join the war effort. He joined the Fourteenth Army and spent his time in India doing Jungle training. From India, the Fourteenth Army was sent to various parts of Asia to fight the Japanese. War ended in 1945, but it wasn’t until 1947 Les was shipped home.

On coming home, Les’s father said he could no longer live at his home and sent him away. The next few nights, Les spent on a park bench until he was able to find suitable accommodation.

In 1950, Les married his childhood sweetheart, Joan Buck.

Les then got a job with London Transport as a Bus driver. At this time, Les decided to dabble in a bit of painting to help him forget the horrors of war. He found out he was actually quite good at it. He entered a painting in an exhibition, which then got him noticed. He set up an art group with the London Transport Workers and had paintings which were hung at the London Transport Art Show in Charing Cross. Les became quite a celebrity at this time, featuring in many papers of the day; photographers would follow him to his bus to get a picture. Consequently, he became known as the bearded busman.

The Story Les Told for Having a Beard:-

The green bus drivers got a pay rise, and the red buses didn’t. Unions were very influential in those days, so the drivers of the red buses went on strike. Being a bus driver then meant you also had a strict dress code; you had to be smart and clean-shaven to be a bus driver. So whilst on strike, Les grew a beard in defiance. As the strike went on, he was asked by his colleagues, “When will you shave your beard off?” Les replied, “When we win the strike”. They never won the strike. Les has had a beard ever since. In fact, some of the public was so upset that he kept his beard while driving his bus that they would stand in front of Les’s bus in protest.

He was spotted by ‘Windsor and Newton’ (Art Suppliers). They approached Les, impressed by his paintings and asked if he would like to work for them. Les then became Windsor and Newton’s official demonstrator, often taking only 30 minutes to complete a painting in his demonstrations.

In 1963, Les set up Yiewsley and West Drayton Art Council. He asked Sir Allen Lane if he would be President, which he accepted. The Art Council then made Les the Chairman. He also wrote the constitution for the Art Centre.

In December 1964, it was agreed by Yiewsley and West Drayton Art Council that they could occupy Southlands on a seven-year lease at a peppercorn rent for use as an art centre.

Les left London Transport to work at Penguin Books as a Warehouse Assistant. From there, he worked his way up to Warehouse Manager and was praised for streamlining warehouse production.

In 1966, Les was asked to art direct “The Tiger and the Deer”, a historical pageant for the London Borough of Hillingdon. It was a fairly sizeable production; for this, Les commissioned Pinewood Studios to make a model of the “Valcan”, which was the first train to run on the Great Western Railway.

When Les retired, he still continued to play an active role in the general running of Southlands Arts Centre until the late 1980s. He attended “Les Artists”, the art group he set up in the 1960s beyond that time, although he didn’t do any painting due to a slight deterioration of his sight. He enjoyed the interaction, told his stories, joked around, and was happy to advise if you asked him. And he was always very welcome here at Southlands Arts Centre.

Les Nind’s influence, contribution, and dedicated hard work have brought the Arts to Yiewsley and West Drayton and have been core to what Southlands Arts Centre means to us today.

Les sadly died in 2018. But the Yiewsley and West Drayton Art Council that he created still live on with its original mantra in place. Creativity.

Les Nind - portrait with canvas and easel

1925 – 2018

News & Events

Sign up to our newsletter to stay updated