Disabled Stowmarket artist sells first painting to her pop idol Billy Ocean

Billy Ocean has bought a painting by Michele Bourke, who suffers from a debilitating genetic condition called polycystic liver and kidney disease.
Picture Mark Westley
Billy Ocean has bought a painting by Michele Bourke, who suffers from a debilitating genetic condition called polycystic liver and kidney disease. Picture Mark Westley

A disabled Stowmarket woman who is a lifelong Billy Ocean fan has made her first sale as an artist to the 1980s pop star.

Michele Bourke, 51, asked if she could meet her idol after seeing him in concert with her daughter Stephanie in Ipswich on Monday, April 10.

Michele Bourke and her daughter Stephanie Ziza with Billy Ocean

Michele Bourke and her daughter Stephanie Ziza with Billy Ocean

During the show the singer had already spotted Michele from the stage and gave her a mug he had been drinking from. Michele suffers from a debilitating genetic condition called polycystic liver and kidney disease and finds solace in her art and craft work.

The mother-of-five has been displaying her paintings at Stowmarket Library since September and had not yet made a sale - until eagle-eyed Billy noticed one of her works on her phone.

“We were getting ready to take some photos and he saw my screensaver,” Michele said.

“He said ‘that’s lovely, where did you get it?’ and I told him I sell my paintings at Stowmarket Library. He said ‘I love it, could I buy it off you?’.

“His PA came back with £25 - £20 for the painting and £5 for the postage. He said ‘if you can send it to my PA in London she will pass it onto me’.

“It was amazing - I’m still walking around with my head in the clouds.”

Michele was diagnosed with her condition about 20 years ago and is currently fed through a tube in her nose.

She says there will come a day when she needs a kidney and liver transplant and has found inspiration through the tough times in Billy’s music.

“His song ‘When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going’ is my motto,” Michele explains. “Obviously I do have down days but you just dust yourself down and get back up.”

She is also sending Billy’s daughter, who was a backing singer in the show, a necklace. She makes the jewellery using dried flowers from her garden.

Michele praised the staff at the library for their support.

To buy her paintings or jewellery, email michelebourke9@gmail.com or visit Stowmarket Library.