‘Hackney Mosaic Project got me back on my feet. Now my work can do the same for Leyton Orient’

'Mosaic man' James Johnson James Johnson with his Brisbane Road E10 masterpiece. Picture: Melvyn Cha

'Mosaic man' James Johnson James Johnson with his Brisbane Road E10 masterpiece. Picture: Melvyn Chambers - Credit: Archant

Clapton’s “mosaic man” has helped cement the future of his favourite football club – by raffling off a huge Leyton Orient-themed artwork.

James Johnson, who started volunteering at Hackney’s Mosaic Project as part of his recovery from an alcohol problem three years ago, scored more than £1,000 for Orient’s regeneration fund with his “Brisbane Road E10” design.

He is hoping his work will start to change the club’s fortunes. The regeneration fund is a £250,000 appeal to help rebuild the troubled club in the event it goes into administration.

Having sold an earlier project for £40, James decided to invest the cash in materials to make his Orient masterpiece. It took him almost a month to finish but proved worthwhile.

“Instead of just giving the fund £40, I turned it into £1,065,” he said.

A few people have now requested their own versions of the piece. Money made from the additional works will also be go into the regeneration fund.

“I’ll do whatever I can,” he said. “I’m Leyton Orient through and through.”

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It’s a way of giving back after the mosaic project was “imperative” to his recovery in 2014.

The organisation was set up by artist Tessa Hunkin to help rehabilitate people with mental illnesses or drug and alcohol problems.

“Part of the alcohol recovery service was to come down to the Hackney Mosaic Project,” James told the Gazette. “I joined up straight away and ended up loving it.

“Within 30 minutes I made my mind up [to stay]. It was boredom that led to the drinking, but the project gave me something to do.”

He added: “We’re a family. If someone is down we pick them up.”

Like the O’s, the group faces an uncertain future. Funding cuts have meant it relies heavily on people buying its artwork.

“There are tables outside – we’re selling them and that’s what is keeping us going,” James admitted.

“People only just starting out on their recovery don’t know if this place is going to be here to help them out.”

Ms Hunkin confirmed the project used to be funded by Hackney Council, but now has to pay rent.