We’ve all shared the same proverbial boat for the last year and more. None of us have been spared the challenges, fears and uncertainties provoked by the pandemic and its fallout.
Staying healthy and protecting our mental health has been a massive challenge that has required collective effort and deliberate participation. We’ve been awed by the heroic efforts of the caregivers and frontline workers, everyday people and communities the world over. We’ve utilized the positive aspect of social media to inform, inspire and share good news.
One of the many touching efforts to raise spirits has come from two London Underground workers, station assistants Jeremy Chopra and Ian Redpath, collectively known as All On The Board.
These two Transport For London employees have in fact been sharing uplifting messages and poems on the announcement boards across the English capital’s train network for the past four years. Initially totally anonymous, going by the names N1 and E1, they were branded the “Banksys of the Underground” as they shared their words of wisdom and humor to highlight mental health challenges and simply raise a smile.
And although lockdown meant less people saw their daily dose of support on their commute, the two friends decided it was “even more important” to continue their work over the last year. Their social media following has exploded, with almost 800,000 people including U2, Ricky Gervais and Michelle Obama now following them on Instagram. Katy Perry and Mumford & Sons are among the fans to have shared selfies by their boards. And late last year, with the world in more need than ever of their inspiring messages, they released the All On The Board book of their work that became a Sunday Times Bestseller.
Both Ian and Jeremy have faced their own mental health problems. In 2008, Ian was driving a train when a young girl jumped on the tracks, leaving him with PTSD and anxiety. And Jeremy has suffered with an eating disorder, and is keen to end the stigma facing men suffering with such issues.
And here they remove their masks as the latest subjects of our ‘Who The F*** Are You?’ profile, answering the 20 questions that get to the heart of who we are.
Who the f*** are you?
JEREMY: I’m Jeremy. On the surface I’m one half of the sometimes called ‘Banksys of the Underground’ more commonly known as All On The Board. My day job is as a Customer Service assistant on the London Underground. I live in East London. If it wasn’t for All On The Board you would likely not be wondering who I am and I wouldn’t have a problem with that as I’m someone who has always found it quite normal to go unseen. I’m more reclusive by nature than many would realize upon meeting me.
IAN: My name is Ian Redpath and I am one half of the fourth most successful Right Said Fred tribute band in the UK with an ambition to be Batman, but without all the fighting. Apart from that I am still trying to work out who the f*** I am. I have loved being creative with words and all kinds of things since I was born. I am 50% of All On The Board. and we are known for being station assistants writing on boards on the London Underground, having a bit of a following on social media and also have a Sunday Times bestselling book.
How are you feeling right now?
JEREMY: Exhausted. I’m writing this on the eighth day of getting about three to four hours of sleep per night (probably less). I’m an insomniac and have tinnitus and when they combine it’s a horrid period that no doubt readers who are hit by the same can testify to experiencing. This bout is not the worst I’ve had though. Regardless, I chug along because I know these periods don’t last and things always get better. Coming out of insomnia can feel like an “overnight success” when it ends. I’m looking forward to that any day now.
IAN: At the time of writing this I am feeling quite hot and sticky because it has been one of the hottest days of the year. I’ve got a bit of a headache too. Also feeling a little bit discombobulated as life gets back to some sort of normality and I feel far from normal. Whatever normal is?
Where did you grow up and what was it like?
JEREMY: I grew up in Goodmayes in Essex. A merged, non-distinct area that you would struggle to describe in any beautiful, dramatic or exciting manner. It’s no Stephen King novel town shall we say, even though when growing up I often found myself wondering what it would be like if it was. I’m a huge horror fan. It hasn’t really changed much, though it seems to be even more lost than it always felt back then. If my life was a movie, returning there would not include that scene with a wonderfully poignant and nostalgia-filled return of the lead character.
IAN: I grew up (or got taller – don’t think I’ve ever properly grown up) in Elephant and Castle in South East London and lived on the Heygate Estate, which featured on a TV show and was labelled one of the roughest council estates in the UK. It was my home and I loved it. To an outsider it looked intimidating surrounded by tower blocks, but it was a wonderful place to grow up and had a real community spirit.
What excites you?
JEREMY: Obviously my better half. It’s particularly difficult to concentrate on anything with her around. Otherwise, movies, art, music. They’re all tools for telling stories in the most immersive way possible and they’re effective at reaching your soul when they do. In particular I like stories that teach me something about myself or the world. To me storytelling is precious. There’s nothing quite like the cinema experience in truly immersing me in a moving tale about a compelling character that leads me to some understanding beyond what I had before. Mind you a good camp fire story is just as great and after all that’s where stories began.
IAN: My wife. She would be upset if I didn’t say that. Apart from the wife, I get excited by movies, music and football. One of the most exciting feelings for me is a summer blockbuster movie that I’ve been eagerly awaiting and I’m sitting in the cinema and the lights go down and it begins. I love that magic feeling.
What scares you?
JEREMY: The climate crisis. I think we all have an obligation to make the world a better place while we are here and leave it for the next generation as somewhere they can thrive and pass forwards in turn. Perhaps we have forgotten that.
IAN: I used to fear embarrassment, but I don’t anymore. If me being the biggest clown makes someone happy or makes someone feel better, then it’s all good with me. The things that scare me now are anything bad happening to my loved ones. And spiders. Spiders can absolutely do one, although I do admire their web making skills.
What is your proudest achievement?
JEREMY: My most proudest is a very personal one I keep to myself, but becoming a published author partnership of a Sunday Times bestselling book that has saved lives and changed others is definitely right up there. We had to navigate some huge obstacles to build what we have and especially the book, which had some particularly tough moments. I’m not a brain surgeon or a paramedic or other life-saving professional or even a particularly well-educated person, so to have saved lives and those I’ve never even met is honestly to me a huge achievement.
IAN: Convincing my wife to marry me. Also, managing to create a wonderful book (even if I do say so myself), it becoming a bestseller and the amazing reviews it received. It was hard work putting it together while we were both working full time during the pandemic and we had some hurdles to overcome, but we made it happen.
What is the hardest thing you have ever done?
JEREMY: Surviving secondary/high school and then the months directly after.
IAN: Throughout my life I’ve had to deal with my own health and mental health conditions (just like everybody else) and as hard as it has been sometimes, I’ve managed to get through them. I’ve not overcome them, but I have managed to get by. Also during the pandemic it was so hard being separated from loved ones and having to keep a distance. I’m a hugger and it was hard not being able to hug people.
Who was your greatest mentor, and what did they teach you?
JEREMY: I never had a mentor really. Most of what I know is self taught or a buffet of lessons from experience. I’ve never had the honor of spending a considerable amount of time with a person of exceptional experience, knowledge and integrity to be able to say I was mentored. I do wonder who I may have been today if I did, or if it would have been possible with my tendency to be a recluse.
IAN: John, Paul, George and Ringo (aka The Beatles) have been the greatest mentors that I’ve ever had and have taught me quite a bit about life. They didn’t help much with my grades when I was taking exams at school, but, pretty much the best teachers that I’ve had have been musicians with their lyrics ranging from being yourself to not giving up and all kinds of life lessons. Musicians and my parents.
Who are your fictional and real-life heroes?
JEREMY: Fictional – Buffy The Vampire Slayer for teaching us that the the hardest thing in the world is to live in it, but you’ve got to be brave and live. Jack Burton because if you are a fish out of water it’s best to say ‘what the hell’ and give it your best shot because the world is gonna give you its. Real life – Jeffrey Wigand for risking everything to do the right thing for countless people who likely will never know of what he did. Gandhi for teaching the world you have to be the change you want to see in it. John Carpenter for being a rebel in the movie world and making some of the most iconic and inspiring genre films of my youth.
IAN: In no particular order, Batman, Sir Alex Ferguson, John Lennon, Eric Cantona, my wife, mum and dad.
What is your favorite item of clothing in your wardrobe?
JEREMY: Can we include drawers? Just because my PJs are in a drawer and that’s definitely the best item of clothing I have, I have more than one but as long as it’s PJs, it’s all good. I’d be happy to PJ most days if I could.
IAN: I’m not too fussy to be honest. As long as whatever in my wardrobe fits and covers up my naughty bits, it’s all groovy. I do like my pyjamas though. I would wear them everywhere if I could, although my bosses might have something to say about that.
What music did you listen to aged 13 – and do you still love it now?
JEREMY: Mostly musical scores from movies. It’s always been the sound of my youth. Movie scores tell stories without lyrics and as a huge movie fan, if I couldn’t watch a movie I would listen to the music and imagine the movie or reimagine it in a different setting. Back then the only way to do that was to hold up the radio with its little mics to the TV to record the music onto cassette tapes as the movie played. In terms of popular music; rock n roll mostly, Aerosmith, Guns ‘N’ Roses, U2 etc.
IAN: I loved The Beatles and Huey Lewis & The News when I was 13 and I still love them now. I was also partial to a bit of Vanilla Ice and talked my dad into taking me to his concert at Wembley Arena and even tried to get a barber to style and cut my hair like Vanilla Ice, but my barber refused. I’m so glad he did.
What is the most inspiring book you’ve ever read?
JEREMY: ‘The Martian.’ It’s quite possibly the most impossible situation I think I’ve ever read for a character that not only requires them to have huge knowledge and the environment but also a mental strength to match just to survive, despite the odds being virtually completely against them in every other way. The journey he goes through is an inspiration for how to keep yourself going through the most brutal form of isolation and stress imaginable.
IAN: I don’t mean to blow our own trumpets, but genuinely our book is the most inspiring book I’ve ever read. Two station assistants putting together a book (while facing numerous hurdles along the way) designed to make people feel better and less alone during a global pandemic and that book goes on to save people’s lives. Even though we wrote the book, for us to read it is very inspiring.
What is a movie that left a lasting impression on you?
JEREMY: I know you want one, but this is so tough because so many movies have done this for me, I can’t possibly choose one or list them all and so I’m gonna just go off the top of my head here… ‘Star Wars’, ‘Stand by Me’, ‘Big Trouble in Little China’, ‘Clerks’, ‘Swingers’, ‘Aliens’, ‘Elephant’, ‘The Insider’, ‘Jaws’, ‘Toy Story’, ‘Midnight Run’, ‘Titanic’, ‘Moon’, ‘The Dark Knight’, ‘Legend’, ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and so many more. For me it’s how the stories are told that first pulls me in and then the message at the end that keeps me forever. Every movie has a message, even the bad ones. Sometimes it’s the wondrous nature of the experience that is so convincing or different and exciting that the message isn’t even that huge or original but is made memorable by being the end meaning of what I’ve just experienced and fallen in love with.
IAN: Choosing a favorite movie for me would be like a parent choosing their favorite child. Some of my best memories are from movies. I would probably have to go for ‘Star Wars’, because I owned pretty much every Star Wars toy as a child and I still get excited about Star Wars 40 years later. The ‘Star Wars’ theme by John Williams still mesmerizes me.
What is your favorite word or saying?
JEREMY: To be honest, I don’t have one, though right now it might just be “uninterrupted sleep.”
IAN: A genuinely cheesy, but truthful answer would be, ‘I love you.’ I love saying it to people I love and I love hearing it back from them. Also, I love the word ‘f***.’ It can be used for so many situations. A very useful word, but one we can’t put on our boards.
What do you want people to say at your funeral?
JEREMY: Whatever they they need to. When that time comes all that really matters anymore is those left behind, those who love us will miss us and need to be able to say what they need to in order to move on. I would want those who may miss me to be able to say what they need to no matter what it is, because my legacy should be to leave the world in a better place for others and what better way to do that than to help those who love you get through a period of personal darkness.
IAN: Not too bothered what people say about me at my funeral, I just hope a few people turn up to it. Maybe, something like, ‘The boy done good’ or something along those lines. I hope they like my choice of music for the funeral though.
And finally, a quickfire five favorites…
JEREMY: Real life — Mini Cooper Original (it’s a unique experience to drive one). Fantasy: KIT from Nightrider.
IAN: Herbie, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang or the DeLorean from Back To The Future. Any one of them will do. I would even settle for Jimmy Carr.
JEREMY: West Ham United.
IAN: Manchester United.
JEREMY: Anything with salmon, I love salmon.
IAN: Give me a spaghetti bolognese or a bubblegum flavored ice cream with rainbow sprinkles and strawberry sauce and I will be happy as Larry. Whoever Larry is…
JEREMY: Whatever is available to do the job.
IAN: I’m not really into grooming products, but I love a nice flannel.
JEREMY: If it fits and I need that item of clothing at that time, I will tend to buy it from wherever I am at the time.
IAN: I try to stick with clothes that have ‘medium size’ on the label.
Buy Jeremy and Ian’s All on the Board book here.