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I slept on Tube to stay warm & could barely make ends meet – now my hobby is worth £100k

A MAN who fell on hard times and was forced to sleep on the Tube now has a hobby worth £100,000.

Ed Worley, 34, is now back on his feet and has found fame as the artist ‘Opake’.

Ed Worley, 34, has turned his passion for graffiti art into a successful career
Ed has turned his life around after spending years sleeping on the Tube
Ed recently turned down a six-figure sum to create works for a high-end London gallery

Worley’s parents had a working-class background growing up in Hoxton, East London, and built their way up, eventually owning 12 galleries before moving to Essex.

While an interest in art was a big part of the family’s life, so was drinking and the alcohol would flow at parties that went on to the early hours of the morning.

Ed’s memory stretches back to when he was just four and hearing guitarist Jimi Hendrix being played while his parents and their friends were partying.

He told MyLondon: “I had a normal childhood as a kid but I guess where the madness came into it was with alcohol.

“My family’s friendship group and the social drinking aspect of life were so evident that I thought that’s what having fun was about; going to pubs, adults getting drunk and us playing.”

“I grew up associating a good time with drinking,” he said. “I remember laying in bed around 3am in the morning hearing Jimi Hendrix being hammered out and that was cool.”

He smoked his first cigarette when he was nine and got drunk with a friend after stealing a bottle of wine and Bacardi from the fridge.

Ed was busted though after he was caught calling his pal’s landline and slurring down the phone to her mum.

He attended a boarding school but was seen as an outsider as his family didn’t have any generational wealth.



Ed said he was seen as “problematic” at the school and had the nickname “Chav”.

During the school holidays he would go and visit his friends back home who were more like himself.

It was around then he started to sell weed and gain an interest in graffiti art.

That interest soon developed into an obsession which led him down a dark path.

To fund his creativity he would steal paint from shops when he was just 13 but admitted he “loved it”.

HARD DRUGS

As he became more involved in the culture of graffiti art he was introduced to harder drugs, including mushrooms and cocaine.

After leaving school he went to Leeds University where his life continued to spiral.

He said: “I was writing graffiti every night, stealing paint then taking drugs and drinking every day.

“Uni introduced me to lots of different people but also the concept of selling drugs to survive – university is a bubble and you justify your behaviour in your head as it is allowed.”

After leaving university, he began smoking crack and started having psychotic episodes.

Ed said: “I was driven by my addiction to smoking crack to then drinking to fall asleep every day. I was a drug addict.”

He ended up homeless and would stay in derelict buildings in Tottenham. He spent the next eight years sleeping on the Piccadilly line.

TURNED HIS LIFE AROUND

Amid his desperate life he realised he needed to sort himself out.

He said: “It’s a very rare thing for a human being to be broken down, to be a shell, then be able to build yourself back up to the person you want to be.

“I didn’t want to be cured, so to speak, of my addiction but I wanted whatever my addiction was to be harnessed into a real positive outlet, to change my life for the better.

“I take that drive and will I had when I was broken and I transfer that to what I do day to day with my artwork. My art is now my addiction.”

Some five years ago Ed ditched the drink and drugs and is now a successful artist known as ‘Opake’ who describes his style as “the disintegration of pop culture”.

He now has more than 120,000 followers on Instagram and recently turned down a six-figure offer from a high-end London gallery to create works of art.

Ed said: “I believe everything happens for a reason. I could have made over £100,000 with this contract and I was ready to sign then I met James and Will who run Quantus Gallery. They understood me instantly and gave me the freedom to create what I wanted to create.”

He is now going to be working with homeless charity Centre Point ad Quantus Gallery to put on an exhibition showcasing his work.

To mark the opening he will be hosting a breakfast for the homeless, rather than the usual canapes and champagne.

He added: “I had a choice to take a safe option or the right one. I had to take the right one regardless of how rocky that road is going to be.

“My addiction now is my artwork – that’s what I want. I want to show people there is a way out.

“It’s never too late. It’s all about living in the moment because my brain is the issue, not the drugs and alcohol. They were the solution and now my artwork is.”

Ed has found fame as the artist ‘Opake’
Ed says his artwork is now his addiction

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