Wilkinson was a visual artist before he was a musician. He moved from Manchester to Leeds in 1975 in order to pursue a degree in fine arts with a concentration on painting. After graduation, he began playing the alto saxophone. He joined the group Crow, which also included drummer Paul Hession, who would become Wilkinson's longtime associate. After touring Belgium and Holland with the band, Wilkinson decided to give up painting in favor of music. In 1979, Wilkinson formed a band and began experimenting with other instruments -- mainly percussion -- and integrating composition with improvisation. In 1982, he attended a summer music school in South Wales, where he would come into contact with such prominent musicians as Peter Brötzmann, Barry Guy, Fred Van Hove, Keith Tippett, and Phil Wachsmann. Soon afterward, Wilkinson began playing gigs on the London free improv scene. He played in a trio with Hession and pianist Akemi Kuniyoshi; he also collaborated with drummer Steve Hubback on a number of projects. In 1983, he appeared in duo with Hession at the tenth annual Free Music Festival in Antwerp and at the Holland Art Initiative in Eindhoven. That year, he also helped organize the Termite Club in Leeds, a venue for the presentation of experimental music and other performing arts. In 1985, Wilkinson joined the Ubiquity Orchestra, a large improvising ensemble. From 1985-1988, he played in a trio with Steve Noble and Tony Moore, and from 1987-1989 with a quartet that included Willi Kellers, Christoph Winckel, and Alex Maguire. Like most English improvisers of note, Wilkinson has participated in Derek Bailey's Company Week activities; Company collaborators have included Barre Phillips, Ernst Reijseger, Don Byron, Ikue Mori, and Phil Minton, to name a few. In the '90s, Wilkinson's most significant association was a trio that also included Hession and bassist Simon Fell. The band formed when Fell joined the longtime Hession/Wilkinson duo in 1989. It continued to perform and record during the '90s. In 1996, the band recorded with guitarist Joe Morris, performed with Bailey at the Termite Festival, and played several dates with Brotzmann and Kellers. In 2000, the band recorded for the Ecstatic Peace! label.