The Sunderland artist who has struck up an unusual friendship with notorious prisoner Charles Bronson - and even has his artwork tattooed on his leg

A former boxer who took up art after being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder has spoken about his unlikely friendship with Britain’s most infamous prisoners – who has been locked up for 46 years.

Sunday, 24th November 2019, 8:00 am
Artist Andy Parkin with letters and correspondence from Charles Salvador

Andrew Parkin first wrote to Charles Bronson, who now goes by the name of Charles Salvador, six years ago and ever since the pair have developed an unlikely friendship having bonded over their love of art.

The 59-year-old attended his wedding and visited him at both HMP Frankland in Durham and HMP Woodhill, in Milton Keynes, and even has one of his drawings tattooed on his leg.

Their friendship began after Andrew was encouraged to take up art after he was diagnosed with bi-polar disorder six years ago.

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Andy has Charles Salvador tattoo design on his leg

After see Charles Salvador’s work, the ex-boxer decided to write him a letter but never expected a friendship would blossom like it has.

Now the unlikely duo are working together to on a piece of artwork which could be auctioned off to raise funds for causes in the North East.

“Over the years we’ve maybe sent 100 letters to one another and I email him sometimes too,” said Andrew, who is now completing his masters at the University of Sunderland – which he says has been his ‘salvation’.

“I first contacted Charlie six years ago after being diagnosed with bi-polar and hypomania. For my therapy I was advised to take up drawing which I did.

Andy in his artist studio

“I'd never had any interest in art before this and at 52-years-old it was the last thing on my mind.”

Andrew said he was inspired to contact the notorious prisoner after watching the 2008 film Bronson.

He said: “I watched the film Bronson staring Tom Hardy as Bronson – who is now Charles Salvador after changing his name in respect of the artist Salvador Dali.

“Since that point I was inspired by Salvador I looked at his art how intricate and detailed it was.

A piece of art by Charles Salvador and instructions for what Andy should add

“I wrote to Charlie and we've been pen pals to this day and even created art together.

“He’s always encouraging me, when he asks what my best piece of art I’ve done yet – he tells me it’s a piece I’ve not yet created.”

The student says even he has been taken by surprise by how strong of a friendship they’ve developed.

He said: “I never thought we’d build such a strong friendship. When I see a letter on my doorstep with a spider in the corner hanging down, it makes me smile – I know it’s from Charlie ”

Sunderland's Olympic boxer Tony Jefferies and Robbie Williams artwork by Andrew Parkin

Salvador, or Bronson as he was then known was first jailed for an armed robbery in 1974, then again for planning another robbery, before he was jailed for life for violence while in prison.

Over the years the notorious prisoner has created a number of paintings to support causes in the North East and has raised thousands of pounds for charity.

Letters from Charles Salvador to Andrew