The Admission of the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu as an Honorary Freeman of the London Borough of Lewisham, Great Hall, Goldsmiths’ College 4th May 1990. Image: Copyright Goldsmiths archives.
Sir Desmond Mpilo Tutu is the world’s most revered living anti-apartheid and human rights activist.
He was the first black African to hold the position of Bishop of Johannesburg and then Archbishop of Cape Town.
He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his advocacy and activism of non-violent opposition and protest against the South African apartheid regime. In his acceptance speech he said:
Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Image by Benny Gool, public domain.
This award is for mothers, who sit at railway stations to try to eke out an existence, selling potatoes, selling mealies, selling produce. This award is for you, fathers, sitting in a single-sex hostel, separated from your children for 11 months a year… This award is for you, mothers in the KTC squatter camp, whose shelters are destroyed callously every day, and who sit on soaking mattresses in the winter rain, holding whimpering babies… This award is for you, the 3.5 million of our people who have been uprooted and dumped as if you were rubbish. This award is for you.
His steadfast and dignified campaigning for the rights of Black South Africans is credited with playing a key role in persuading the apartheid regime in South Africa to relinquish power, release Nelson Mandela and hold democratic elections in 1990.
Goldsmiths, University of London hosted Archbishop Tutu’s return to London to receive the freedom of Lewisham in May 1990.
Students and staff created the music and poetry which celebrated his achievements in bringing about peace and reconciliation.
The South African cleric and theologian’s links with Lewisham had been and remain affectionate and meaningful.
Living and ministry in Grove Park
Admission as an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Lewisham was the highest honour the Borough could bestow on the Nobel Peace Prize winner who had led the wide-ranging ecumenical opposition to apartheid.
The 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2004. Image by Carey Linde. CC BY-SA 3.0
What was less known internationally, though cherished locally, was that he had lived in Lewisham during the early 1970s and acted as honorary curate at St Augustine’s Church, Grove Park for three years while working as Associate Director for Africa of the Theological Education Fund.
He was no stranger to London having earlier studied for and been awarded a BA and MA in Theology at King’s College, University of London.
In fact, the Archbishop inadvertently gave his name to a key aspect of University slang in the United Kingdom because a 2:2 degree became known as ‘a Desmond Tutu.’
The sobriquet is meant to be respectful and consoling about the achievement of obtaining a university degree whatever the hierarchy of classification and grading.
This remarkable and memorable ceremony took place in the packed Great Hall of Goldsmiths and was hosted and organised by the College.
Archbishop Tutu was welcomed by Mary Barrie who was Goldsmiths’ Academic Registrar at the time.
Speeches were provided by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, who’d known Archbishop Tutu since his schooldays, Paul Boateng MP, and Deptford MP Joan Ruddock.
Goldsmiths’ College Hallmark cover for May 1990. Image: copyright Goldsmiths Archives.
The Mayor of Lewisham said:
In honouring Archbishop Tutu, this Council is paying tribute to his courageous non-violent struggle against apartheid and the inspiration he has given to oppressed peoples everywhere; and we take pride in him as a former resident of the Borough. Above all we are recognising his human qualities: his courage and enthusiasm, his intellectual vigour and wit, his gentle care and compassion, and his resilience in the face of adversity.
Goldsmiths’ College music, dance and drama
The Freeman of Lewisham ceremony was followed by a celebratory programme of performance.
This included music composed by Goldsmiths’ Professor of Music Stanley Glasser, (1928-2018) The Drought, which had been commissioned by the local school Colfe’s for their tour of California.
The lyrics had been written in Southern Sotho by Goldsmiths’ BMus student Ndonda Khuze (1957-2017) who had grown up in one of South Africa’s Black Townships.
Increasing political frustration and police harassment had forced him to leave as he developed his career in creative and performing arts.
In exile, he co-founded the versatile ensemble Amandla that had toured throughout the world, appeared in concerts with major South African artists such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, and worked on the music for the Oscar winning film Cry Freedom.
The photograph also depicts the involvement of Goldsmiths’ Youth Orchestra that was run under the auspices of the College’s then Department of Continuing and Community Education.
Report on ceremony for Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Goldsmiths’ Hallmark magazine for staff and students.
All of the public record and reporting of this event was the work of Sue Boswell who edited and published Goldsmiths’ internal monthly printed magazine Hallmark and was assisted at the time by Sally Oliver.
Grove Park connections
The Times reported that Archbishop Tutu was also presented at the ceremony ‘with an illustrated scroll with pictures of St Augustine’s Church, Grove Park, south London, where he served as honorary curate between 1972 and 1975.’
His work for the Theological Education Fund (TEF) meant that he travelled widely from his family home in Lewisham and in 1972 witnessed Idi Amin’s expulsion of Ugandan Asians.
He experienced one of his only racist encounters in Britain when a stranger told him ‘You bastard, get back to Uganda,’ mistaking him for a Ugandan Asian refugee.
At the time he also acknowledged that he retained his own subconscious anti-black racist thoughts; when on a Nigerian plane, he felt a ‘nagging worry’ on discovering that both pilot and co-pilot were black.
He had realised he had been conditioned into thinking that only whites could be entrusted with the great skill and responsibility of piloting a plane with passengers.
The Grove Park Heritage and Character Assessment published in June 2016 would celebrate the area’s Desmond Tutu associations; particularly in Baring Road, the location of the Church and public parks.
The report recognised that ‘Grove Park accommodated one of its most famous residents […] when in 1972 Anglican Bishop and South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu moved into a home on Chinbrook Road where he lived for three years. […] In 2009, the Tutu Peace garden was opened.’
The idea for the peace garden
Opera Singer Suzannah Clarke discovered Archbishop Tutu had lived in her house in the 1970s.
She decided to invite him back to the house to see how the area had changed.
After contacting the South African embassy, she was astonished when the archbishop himself phoned her to accept her invitation to tea.
Suzannah told the BBC:
After he accepted, I then realised that there was nothing to note that he had actually lived here for about 10 years in virtual exile, so I thought I would build him a commemorative peace garden. To begin with I was going to do it in my back garden but was thrilled that Lewisham Council offered us the park to build it in.
The garden was designed by designer and TV presenter Chris Beardshaw and took him six weeks to complete.
Desmond Tutu at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. Image by Kyle Cassidy.CC BY 2.5
Chris Beardshaw said:
This was a huge challenge as I wanted to create something which is aesthetically rewarding, of educational value, and will promote social interaction and harmony in the community. We aimed to create a model garden that could be developed further over years to come. Peace is the catalyst, not the end result.
The Tutu Peace garden initiative was reported by the BBC in 2009 largely because Archbishop Desmond Tutu was so delighted to travel back to Britain to open it himself in another significant event honouring his work in peace and reconciliation.
Terry Waite CBE, who had been taken hostage himself when on a mission to Beirut to negotiate the release of people abducted during the Lebanese civil war, also spoke at the 60-minute ceremony.
Nigel Perkins in the third floor studio of the Blomfield building of Goldsmiths, University of London in 1996. Image by kind permission of Paulo Catrica.
Lecturer Nigel Perkins passed away from COVID in January 2021 after a brilliant career lasting forty one years teaching photography and image communication in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies.
The postgraduate MA he convened, now called ‘Photography: The Image & Electronic Arts’ has been one of Goldsmiths’ most successful.
Nigel can be credited with producing more than forty cohorts of students from all around the world who have had outstanding careers as artists, photographers, and influencers in all spheres of culture, media, and academia.
He should also be remembered fighting for and preserving film making at Goldsmiths when in the 1980s the pressure to focus on television and media theory threatened its extinction.
The story of Nigel at Goldsmiths is the story of advancing and sustaining the arts in university media and the wider cultural industries.
The powerful expression of tributes from past and present staff and students in the days following his death provides a significant document about the purpose and value of the arts and humanities in university teaching.
It is clear he was a legend and inspiration.
Significance in Goldsmiths History
Nigel’s time and contribution to the history of Goldsmiths is also symbolic of what has happened in British society and culture over four decades.
From 1980 to 2020 we have journeyed from the analogue world of typewriters, filing cabinets, darkrooms, film cameras and petrol cars to the digital information age of virtual online reality, robotics, artificial intelligence and electric vehicles.
It is the difference between 1905- when cars looked like stagecoaches without horses, the Wright brothers were experimenting with early aeroplanes that had the appearence of curtains strung across climbing frames, an artillary shell needed firing from a howitzer to displace a basement of earth- and 1945 when silver metallic B29 multi-engined bombers could drop atomic bombs and annihilate whole cities, and racing cars looked like imaginary flying saucers with four wheels and the aerodynamics of a bullet.
The front car park of Goldsmiths, University of London during the 1980s. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Aerial view of Goldsmiths in black and white late 1970s. No library building or Professor Stuart Hall complex behind the back field. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Aerial view of Goldsmiths around 1980 in colour. Just possible to make out the parked vehicles at the front of the main buiilding. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
New Cross 1981 by H. Mackenzie. Watercolour in Goldsmiths Art Collection. This view is from the position of Sainsburys and Costa Coffee in 2021. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
At Goldsmiths in 1980 the site of the glass fronted Professor Stuart Hall Building with its digital photolabs, film, television, sound studios and multi-media laboratories was merely a grassy promontory dotted about with a dilapidated portakabin or two, and a ‘pottery’ for ceramics.
Cars were parked in front of what is now called the Richard Hoggart main building on Lewisham Way.
And Richard Hoggart as Goldsmiths’ Warden was struggling to save the College from oblivion.
Goldsmiths was not even a ‘school’ of the University of London, its degrees had to be validated elsewhere, its lecturers had to be ‘recognised’ at Senate House in Bloomsbury before they were allowed to lecture on any University of London degree course, and there were no Goldsmiths’ appointed Professors.
‘Chairs’ had to be sponsored- one by the London Borough of Lewisham; the other by the Institute of Education.
Goldsmiths had an apostrophe and came after ‘University of London’ and the comma.
It was a hotchpotch of Art School, Teacher Training College- the biggest in the country, and Adult Evening Institute.
Money was so tight staff were told to only use the phones after 1 p.m. to take advantage of the cheaper call-out rate.
Staff Bulletin from Goldsmiths in January 1980 with message from Warden Richard Hoggart reporting on earnest efforts to gain School of University of London status. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
This was only a few years after the National Front had been repulsed at the Battle of Lewisham, and a matter of months after Margaret Thatcher’s monetarist Conservative government had been elected by a landslide to cure inflation with unemployment and recession.
Goldsmiths’ School of Art had been ‘exiled’ to the Millard building in Camberwell, formerly St Gabriel’s Teacher Training college and gobbled up in a merger when the government decided the country’s schools needed fewer teachers.
But in the process Goldsmiths had gained a building and a Picasso and Constable for its Art Collection.
New Wave- ‘Godard has lost his greatest fan.’
Into this cauldron of chaos and desperation the photographer and film-maker Nigel Perkins arrived with his characteristic turtle-neck sweaters and the elan of somebody who had just finished working on a Jean-Luc Godard or Luchino Visconti film.
Nigel was New Wave. His mother gave birth to him in the spring of 1948 after Great Britain’s worst winter of the 20th century and in a society very much marked by the austerity of post-war rationing.
He learned his art and crafts in the counter-culture age of 1960s Chelsea and his photographic and performance gigs connected with Paul McCartney, Ginger Baker, and Art House movies.
Creative courage, experimentation and free-thinking drove his adventures.
He applied his lens to the image as boldly as his ancestor Horatio Nelson played risk and chance with sail and cannon ball.
In the academic year 1979-80 the Department of Visual Communication had gained a lecturer with the looks and style of Paul Newman in the part of the racing car driver in the 1969 film Winning, or Steve McQueen on motocycle in The Great Escape (1963) and car chasing and racing in Bullitt (1968), Grand Prix (1966) and Le Mans (1971).
The idea of his involvement in motor-racing is not at all fanciful.
He told his colleague Arnold Borgerth and others that he had indeed been a racing driver at some point. He was about to sign a contract as a professional driver with the Jaguar team, but decided he did not want to dedicate his life to that world and left the car racing circuit.
And it is some irony another colleague, Professor Colin Gale, recalls that in the early 1980s it would be a Citroën Dyane parked outside his studio in the more run-down part of Chelsea; not Jensen, Aston Martin, Ferrari, or even Jaguar.
At the same time Nigel was a gentle and friendly mentor and teacher. He would talk and converse softly and offer his enthusiasm and care to every student.
On hearing of his passing his colleague Dr. John Hampson said:
I shall miss our very long talks on anything and everything. Godard has lost his greatest fan.
Jean-Luc Godard at Berkeley, 1968 notable for the films Breathless, My Life to Live, Contempt, Pierrot le Fou and A Woman Is a Woman. Image by Guy Stevens. CC BY 2.0
‘Something Zen about him’
Professor James Curran joined Goldsmiths as Head of the Department of Visual Communication in September 1983 and remembers Nigel as embodying ‘the free thinking, warm, art house tradition of the old Goldsmiths that we must cling on to.’
I admired the way he combined an active dual life as an artist and inspirational teacher. The quality of his teaching was reflected in the stunning exhibitions of his students in the summer term – displayed year after year.
James says ‘There was also something Zen about him. He was totally without ambition. He was just happy in what he did, and he did not want to change it. He was a person untarnished and undiminished by the neoliberal times in which we live.’
As a person he was warm, boundlessly enthusiastic, idealistic, and empathetic.
James believes Nigel Perkins was also the product of the early 1970s indie moment which shaped him.
He felt there was ‘also something quite old-fashioned about him – from the location of his studio to the way that for over 35 years he always sent me a Christmas card, signed Nigel P with an engaging and almost indecipherable note beneath it.’
He belonged to a time when our department was small, and we really knew our colleagues and our students. His death symbolises a larger loss. But what I retain above all is the memory that he was a sweet man.
Reunion of the class of 1996-97- ‘One of the best teachers I ever had in my life’
In September 2019 Head of Exhibitions at The Photographers’ Gallery, Clare Grafik, proposed a reunion of the Image and Communication class of 1996-1997 at her place in London. Students of that particular year convened from all corners of the world to celebrate what they described as their ‘incredible year in Goldsmiths.’
The architect, photographic artist and academic Dr. Yiorgis Yerolymbos flew in from Athens.
Yiorgis had never forgotten that ‘Nigel was one of the best teachers I ever had in my life. He taught me qualities that I still follow in photography, my profession by choice as well as on life itself.’
He was the first person I met in college, London or the UK for that matter. He welcomed me the very first day and was eager to establish contact, although at the time, I have to admit I was not fluent in English. He didn’t mind, he was patient with me, he gave me time and space to gradually find the way to express myself.
Yiorgis remembered that during their brief encounter in September 2019: ‘he revisited every single student project we produced that year almost two decades ago. He talked in detail about our original as well as our final projects that formed the graduating exhibition. He even remembered the interim stages each and every one of us explored and rejected.’
Yiorgis and those at the reunion recall that ‘Along with Ian Jeffrey they formed an incredible duo that worked as crossfire during tutorials, the practitioner and the theoretician leaving nothing out of sight or discussion.’
Ian Jeffrey (left) and Nigel Perkins (right) during reunion of class of 1996-97 in September 2019. Image: kind permission of Dr. Yiorgis Yerolymbos.
Yiorgis added: ‘A tutorial with them meant you had to enter in that room really well prepared otherwise you would face the consequences.’
To this day I never forgot that lesson; I still prepare myself to the last detail I possibly can before entering a professional meeting or a lecture in front of an audience. I vividly remember him telling me exactly that, “next chapters in life can prove to be quite a challenge so I need to make certain you know how to handle yourself.”
Dr. Yerolymbos gave permission for his tribute to Nigel Perkins to be read out in full by Professor Natalie Fenton at the first Departmental meeting following the news of his death.
More than 60 members of staff heard that ‘Nigel was nothing but a positive influence on me, his presence shaped my life to a large extent ever since I met him some twenty-one years ago.’
During the brief time I myself taught in the university in my home country I implemented his guidelines and style bringing out incredible responses from the students. Twice during my MA in Goldsmiths I produced work that was above average but nothing more, it would just suffice to get my degree. Both times Nigel assured me “that is quite all right, you can leave it there… if you choose to. But are you sure you want to stop there?” Those words triggered me to go back and start again in order to get a better result, and I have to admit I copied his method down the line.
Yiorgis recalled that he ‘always considered Nigel as a tutor that could greatly affect any student, whatever their ethnic background, nationality, colour or belief system. He could motivate not only the hard working students but also the not so much. In the end we all wanted Nigel to think highly of us. He did that with grace and wit.’
It has often been said that teachers are defined by the memories and testimonies of their students. This was certainly true when Yiorgis said:
Permit me to express my gratitude to my tutor for everything he has done for me, I will remember him as well as his impact in my life. To his family and the people closest to him, your loss is my loss, I extend you my deepest condolences.
‘During his cancer treatment, he Face-timed me for my tutorial from his hospital bed’
Nigel Perkins supervised lecturer and artist Monalisa Chukwuma during her MRes in Filmmaking, Photography and Electronic Arts at Goldsmiths between 2017 and 2018. He was also one of her supervisors during the first year of her PhD.
She says: ‘Nigel had an extraordinarily unique way of seeing and provided me with tools for dreaming, for thinking and for making art.’
Monalisa is now lecturing at Goldsmiths and she told the staff meeting commemorating Nigel’s contribution that ‘Over the years, I have been moved by the great acts of personal kindness that Nigel showed me.’
Last year during his cancer treatment, he Face-timed me for my tutorial from his hospital bed. He began by apologising that he couldn’t sit. During the tutorial, he gave me one of his warmest smiles. And he was clever and never referred once to his obvious discomfort.’
Afterwards, I was struck by how much he cared for his students and very sad to see him like that. A few months later before I went for my fieldwork in Nigeria, he asked me to come and see him. He still couldn’t sit for long periods of time. So, he stood for two hours as he showed me clips from several films, which he thought could influence my fieldwork.
From left to right Nigel Perkins, Yiorgis Yerolymbos, Clare Grafik, Alexandra Moschovi, Anne Christine Jenssen, Ian Jeffrey and Paulo Catrica at the reunion of the class of 1996-7 in September 2019. Images by kind permission of Dr. Yiorgis Yerolymbos.
‘One sensed that he loved mankind as it was, despite itself’
There was consensus throughout the Department from colleagues that the most memorable experience they had of Nigel Perkins was his engaging and welcoming smile.
Monalisa says this was something shared by his students and it was because: ‘One sensed that he loved mankind as it was, despite itself, and that he had little patience for those who followed trends, unnecessary rules, and conventions. As a leader, and teacher, he believed in opportunity, growth, and action.’
Monalisa wanted to emphasise how much of an impact Nigel had on her life in his role as a University lecturer:
Many teachers are great, but few capture the imagination and spirit of their students like Nigel. His warmth, devotion and sense of humanity made it easy for him to communicate compellingly to bring forth the best from all his students.
He was a paragon and his influence on my practice and life cannot be denied. I still hear his voice, “Just create work. You don’t have to wait for your ideas to be fully formed. The creative process is research. Examine, question, and test your ideas. Get on with it. Things emerge through making work.”
Monalisa’s remembrance of Nigel is longlasting and enduring:
Nothing I say is really adequate to convey my feeling of loss and gratitude to Nigel Perkins. I thank God that I was privileged, to have had this great and vibrant man as my teacher, my mentor, and my friend. They say that history is a living thing that never dies. A life given in service to others never dies.
Art School ethos
For many years Nigel taught photography in a high ceilinged studio on the third floor of the Blomfield building, constructed specially for the School of Art in 1908.
This is where early Goldsmiths’ College painters and engravers used statues and statuettes as models.
The great African modernist Ben Enwonwu (1917-1994) had sketched and painted in these very same interiors at this time.
Quentin Crisp (1908-1999) was a frequent visitor during the 1940s as a life model. In 1944 he held his pose and poise during an air-raid while the students fled to the shelters.
A doodlebug descended nearby blowing out some of the windows.
When everyone returned they found that Quentin had remained as they had left him so they could resume their sketching.
Art students at Goldsmiths sketching in a studio of the Blomfield Building in 1908. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Corridor on third floor of Blomfield Building early 20th century. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Art students at Goldsmiths’ College 1908. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Before photography with Nigel Perkins 1979 to 2021, students did drawing classes studying statues and statuettes early 20th century. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Art survived and so did the studios.
While the art of embroidery was still practised next door, Nigel and his colleagues taught photography and built darkrooms by converting offices off the stony Edwardian corridor.
The playwright and current head of Radio, Richard Shannon remembers first working with Nigel in 1990 and second marking ‘the most incredible photographic exhibition.’
Nigel led me down into a dark basement in Laurie Grove and in the dank and dim light, showed some student work which was really challenging – naked images and religious images I will never forget.
Nigel faced down the Gradgrind banality of Higher Educational metrics with a charming equanimity that while gently frustrating and sidestepping the hopes and plans of ‘Research Assessment Exercise’, ‘Quality Assurance Agency’ and ‘Skillset Vocationalism,’ always protected the creativity, development and success of his students.
He hardly ever talked about himself. He related to the people and, of course, the students he was speaking to.
The last time anyone can recall his participation in the presentation of his ‘research output’ would have been about a quarter of a century ago.
Nigel showed his 1976 film Justine– currently catalogued by the BFI as ‘A series of non-dramatic tableaux representing scenes from De Sade’s novel.’
The beauty, art and emotional resonance in watching it cast an aesthetic spell over the entire symposium.
All the intellectual angst and emotional migraine of grasping the higher reaches of a national league table in academic and practice research theory drifted therapeutically into the dusk of a summer sunset in south east London.
The Studio Workshop- ‘Common sense is quite often not held in common’
Monalisa Chukwuma has held onto Nigel’s maxim on the artistic implications of common sense.
If he was the Merlin of art in media and communication, he was also its wizard in teaching technique.
He had no objection to the University edict that teaching needed to be ‘peer-reviewed’ and I once had the privilege of sitting in on one of his workshops with third year undergraduates.
There was no document setting out the lesson plan.
‘Aims and objectives’ had not been bullet-pointed and ‘learning outcomes’ were suitably absent from the tick-box grid of surveillance and verification of ‘standards.’
What unfolded before me was a calm, stimulating, and very precisely thought-out creative exchange of questions, suggestions and enthusiastic conversation about the student projects.
Dr Alexandra Moschovi is now a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, and is so very well placed to explain why Nigel was a ‘spirited and inspirational teacher:’
I remember fondly our tutorials and animated discussions about art, photography, and life. While Nigel was an empathetic listener and a caring tutor, he used a tailored ‘Socratic’ method to get us all out of our comfort zone and think outside the box in the journey of becoming independent and resilient, reflective practitioners. His tutelage had a transformative effect on my creative practice and future career.
It may have been that at the dawn of the digital revolution, I could not fully grasp the potential and subtleties of media convergence that Nigel was talking about, but by encouraging me to experiment with new media, he opened new areas of discourse and practice. What is more, in the course of my academic career, I adopted and adapted some of Nigel’s learning and teaching methods and working philosophy as a programme leader: to concentrate on people and the things that matter most.
Nigel Perkins in September 2019. Image by kind permission Dr. Yiorgis Yerolymbos
Another former student and present College deputy principal is the photographic artist Kerim Aytac.
The cohort was mainly talented artists who hadn’t, for whatever reason, had the space to develop themselves. It was a second chance for those seeking to develop their creative potential. Output was mainly photographic but there was video and interactive work also. What really distinguished this course from others was a really light touch approach to project work and much stronger emphasis on creative exploration that didn’t need to be justified critically or historically.
We were encouraged to follow paths that may not have resulted in original work per se, but were instrumental in developing our practice. I loved every minute of it and believe, truly, that I would not be an artist today had I not attended. At that time, Ian Jeffrey, noted Photographic historian and writer, was a tutor on the course and was very influential on my practice. He was very encouraging and turned me onto Japanese photographers like Moriyama and Tomatsu, both of whom are big heroes of mine. He also helped me to think of my work as part of universal collaboration in which all artists help and feed off each other.
‘Teaching as practised on Nigel’s course was maybe more like a prolonged conversation’
Ian Jeffrey is one of the world’s most respected historians of art photography.
He has written some of the most influential books in this field.
Nigel Perkins respected and recognised his importance.
Ian had left Goldsmiths sometime in the 1980s for more fulfilling and successful pastures of research and lecturing.
Nigel later persuaded him to come back on Thursdays to talk to his students and present joint tutorials.
They became an awe-inspiring pedagogical partnership.
Revisions: An Alternative History of Photography by Ian Jeffrey.
Bill Brandt edited by Ian Jeffrey.
All At War: Photography by German soldiers 1939-45 by Ian Jeffrey.
How To Read A Photograph: Lessons from Master Photographers by Ian Jeffrey
Shomei Tomatsu by Ian Jeffrey.
Back cover of Revisions: An Alternative History of Photography by Ian Jeffrey.
Ian recalls those days with admiration and affection:
We often gave joint tutorials in a room at the top left of the building, quite close to the fabrics dept. The room with some old chairs and two old tables was never cleaned as far as I could see.
The course took place in nooks and crannies. On the back fields there was a clutch of portakabins where people worked on computers. The cabins were cramped and not well ventilated, but as you were talking to one student you could see five or six others at work. It was a sociable and rather over-intimate environment but it gave life to proceedings.
Nigel’s course was a success. It depended almost exclusively on him. He cared for his students and explained things at length to them in tutorials – sometimes at absurd lengths. He had new teaching procedures almost every year – unvetted by anyone in authority.
It was a difficult course to run. An M.A. in Fine Art would have recruited students who were already experienced art makers. Nigel’s intake was much more diverse, and people did need individual attention – and special instruction in some cases. Some were from rigorously taught and drilled courses and needed to break free – that was always a problem.
Arnold’s international experience of teaching in several colleges and universities between Brazil, Argentina, Portugal and the UK provided a valuable overseas support and complement that enabled students to appreciate complex ironies and transcultural dimensions to photographic art.
Ian says ‘Arnold offered foundational reliability, steadiness and the perspective of a former engineer which enhances the understanding of students coming from varied walks of life.’
This atmosphere and culture of creative teaching and global experience enabled art and artists to develop with confidence, direction and the necessary discipline:
Nigel needed people around him – as supporters. It wasn’t from the point of view of academic coverage, more a matter of talk and reliability. I knew from my own earlier years in Goldsmiths how important it was to have colleagues who talked. Teaching as practised on Nigel’s course was maybe more like a prolonged conversation. Sometimes at the end of the day Nigel would prolong the conversation by walking to the station with me – or half-way there.
Nigel’s idea of teaching, perhaps unselfconsciously held, took account of companionship. In Nigel’s case I think that the more one spoke to him the more buoyed up he became, the readier, too, for his burdens. Nor was he very judgemental – and would spend a lot of time encouraging even the most modest students. I think that if he had relaxed or slackened his attention the course would have gone under – it depended on his energies, his liveliness and his obvious delight in meeting people, including students.
He never seemed to me to be at all malicious – very equable, even in adversity. There was no sense ever that he was out to impress anyone – I never thought so, anyway. I think he would have put the effort into any group, just for its own sake – old people, children, the disabled. There was no sense of institutional prestige about anything he did. He assumed, I think, that people were out to do their best, and they responded in kind.
Ian Jeffrey (left) and Nigel Perkins (right) in 1996. Image: Kind permission of Paulo Catrica.
The culture of teaching on Nigel Perkins’ Image and Communication programme defines what is so unique about Goldsmiths.
The eclectic, the diverse, the pluralistic, the surprise and unpredictable, and the open mind tend to be what marks out any creative academy of excellence in educational history. Ian Jeffrey recalls that Nigel identified patterns that suited him and his students:
His procedures, whatever they were, didn’t really fit with the times which preferred codifications that could be set out on a grid. He did have a way of doing things, and the way could, with thought, be identified. You probably needed a special temperament to carry it out.
He was always at the centre of a world which involved, for example, his ramshackle or untended properties. He noticed stuff on his journeys and the things people wore on the streets of New Cross. He was sharp and able to make connections – always entertaining to be with.
Ian remembers that he generally kept quiet about his creative life:
I presumed that he had things under consideration. He was involved with The Active Archive. He had worked for Metallica, the heavy metal group. Nigel, though, was never one for lingering on the past, on any good old days that he had undergone – it was NOW that he was keen on, and he was in a hurry to get to it.
Nigel’s lack of professional ego means that 21st century googling yields little by way of Wikipedia profile or online curriculum vitae achievements.
It was described as a raw representation of Tovan’s daily routine.
Tovan said: ‘People who haven’t actively engaged with the socio-political issues of urination might view it as shock-art. It’s not.”
Ian and Nigel wrote the text accompanying the exhibition.
‘Somewhere along the line he had learnt the creative power of disruption’
The respected artist Professor Colin Gale PhD has held the posts of Head of the School of Fashion and Textiles and Director of International Recruitment and Partnerships at Birmingham City University.
BCU had started in the early 19th century as the Birmingham School of Art and its later history is as eccentric, chaotic and dramatic as that of its New Cross London counterpart.
Colin joined the Department of Visual Communication at Goldsmiths in the same year as Nigel.
This was the academic year of 1979-80 and a vicious time to be in Higher Education.
There had been internal warfare, redundancy, and nervous breakdown among the staff.
The pressure from above veered from wanting to transform the department into a centre for media theorists, to working out how and whether to keep and develop media practice at the same time.
The first I properly recollect of Nigel was when I had been run over and crushed by the College as happens to academics once or twice in their careers. I was outdoors probably moping into a coffee when he walked over and empathized. He too had had his run-ins. In a short time we became friends, co-conspirators, seditionists and subversives. We had common cause in being part outsiders and being practitioners.
In the early 1980s Nigel and I found ourselves in a cloaked battle to preserve practice and even more importantly the intellectual standing of practice.
By the second half of the 1980s I was Head of Electronic Graphics and Animation and Nigel Head of Photography and also I think Film. In fact, I think Nigel can be credited with saving film at Goldsmiths. It was when TV was in the ascendant and film in marked decline. Nigel argued eloquently in defence of film and its importance. It survived barely but in a few years the fortunes of film and TV were reversed. Film became all the rage artistically and commercially and used as the best medium to author content for distribution to different formats and markets.
In 1992-93 Colin and Nigel collaborated and created the MA in Image and Communication drawing together the practices they were responsible for – animation, graphics, photography, film, video shorts, computer graphics – but framing them in an innovative interdisciplinary and theoretical context.
It was most probably the first of its kind in the country. It has certainly become the most successful, never needing to advertise and regularly oversubscribed and over-recruiting for practically every year of its existence.
At the beginning, they had to fight off opposition from Fine Art.
The programme drew from a number of Art School traditions but it was also firmly framed by the professional practice of the disciplines involved:
So began a number of years teaching together and undertaking many journeys in philosophy, politics, criticism and pragmatism with our students.
I remember spending whole days seeing a succession of students in a tiny room on the third floor with a round window that looked on the College fields. We looked at contact sheets, storyboards, designs and photographs and when necessary we decamped to studios to watch time-based media.
We discussed everything from the appropriateness of models and subjects, to editorial process to technical resolutions. We would have seminars at the end of the day exacting revenge on media sociology and post-modernism and deconstructing over simplifications of practice and meaning to find the personal and meaningful.
Colin has a clear idea of why Nigel’s philosophy of teaching has been so successful when more managerially minded higher ups may have despaired at what they perceived as ‘disorganisation,’ or ‘vagueness.’
He had a great facility for flipping things, somewhere along the line he had learnt the creative power of disruption. We once had an East Asian student, a photographer, who shot everything on automatic, resultantly there was no creative space in his process, no opportunity to develop and the student kind of knew it.
Nigel suggested he build a pinhole camera. He did. He then experimented with colour film stock and the results were like looking at the modern world through a Victorian lens and fascinating. On another occasion we had a student whose work was somehow vague. We discussed adding text to nuance lines of interpretation. The final works seemed profound and the external examiner mightily impressed.
Colin also remembers an understanding of the ‘distinct attitudes that lay behind his creativity.’
They worked together at Goldsmiths when Nigel set up his studio operation and production projects in Chelsea. Goldsmiths art school luminaries of the past, such as Clive Gardiner, Evelyn Gibbs and even the first ‘Headmaster’ of the Art School in the original Goldsmiths Institute from 1891, Frederick Marriott, had been part of the Chelsea community and tradition of artists.
But Nigel’s centre of operations was a ‘World’s End’ away from the bijou squares and Thames embankment vistas associated with Turner, Whistler, Wilde, and Epstein.
79-89 Lots Road, Chelsea where Nigel Perkins had his studio and workshop. Image: RBKC.
79-89 Lots Road, Chelsea SW10 was a run-down, tatty yard on an industrial side-road backing onto what had been a recent slum clearance. When he moved in, it was still humming to the turbines of the adjacent Lots Road Power station providing electricity for the London underground.
Colin remembered that his idea of business did not chime with corporate accountants or investors: ‘Nigel understood some projects were not about making money.
They were about staying creative, exploring new spaces, training new staff. He was always alert to the periphery, the edge where new forms arose. He documented black British poets in clubs when it was not the ‘in thing’ because he knew it was important and would be recognised as such one day.
His company became known for its access to communities and was employed by large companies to undertake market research. He also had connections to music, I think Metallica and Paul McCartney were clients of his.
Colin enjoys recalling how Nigel found to his surprise that the vicinity of the modest workshop building, in the cheapest and least appealing part of Chelsea that more respectable and snobbish residents preferred to place in Fulham, became rather gentrified and much sought after.
Industrial townscape of Lots Road area of Chelsea in 1920s. Image: English Heritage.
Google satellite view of gentrified Lots Road Chelsea in 2021
A nearby creek that had been one of London’s popular fly-tipping locations had been transformed into ‘Chelsea Harbour’. International stars began driving past in their Bentleys and Rolls Royces. Even ‘south east London’s best’- Sir Michael Caine, had a condominium there, and travelled from it to Goldsmiths to pick up his honorary fellowship in New Cross in the middle 1990s:
As the area gentrified, blue chip clients moved in. One day someone asked him about a tatty car outside the building. It was a Citroën Dyane. Nigel said it was his, the tenant said ‘but you own this building! Why haven’t you got a Merc or something?’ Nigel said why would he? It’s just a car.
Nigel was one of those lucky people who knew what was important to him. I think I would classify Nigel as a slightly eccentric, genteel Englishman; it was the source of his creativity, his imagination and his preoccupations. He had been born into a notable lineage, a descendant of Nelson, he was really rather posh but you wouldn’t know and you probably wouldn’t care. He was just a very interesting chap.
Colin Gale says it would be right to recognise that the special pressures on ‘practice academics’ in the university did take their toll on Nigel:
His double life of teaching and running a company started to catch up with him and he went to see many medical experts but nothing improved in the end until I believe he went and saw a Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist.
After assessing him he asked Nigel what his daily life was like and the alternative physician told him he was ill because he didn’t stop and that from now on he should stop to eat properly. After this we made a habit of always putting aside an hour that we would eat together in an era when University managers started scheduling meetings during lunch hours. We got into trouble rather frequently but we had a lot of interesting conversations.
Colin is a major figure in art and design in British Higher Education today and anxious to give credit to his old friend and colleague:
In the years to come his thoughts and attitudes were to become part of my own teaching repertoire. If you are lucky you meet a handful of people who shape and frame your life and Nigel was such for me.
Life is indeed made of meetings and partings but some are important. Nigel applied all his spirit and intellect to the works and ambitions of generations of students because he loved creativity. He earned his space.
Macushla and lasting testament
Nigel’s colleagues, his students past and present, are determined that his spirit will endure at Goldsmiths.
Professor Angela Phillips said Nigel’s teaching was a testament to the belief that vocational education is an impoverishment of the soul:
He believed that learning is not ‘a bucket to be filled but a fire to be lit’ and he lived and taught according to that ethos. He will be very much missed – even by those who argued with him most.
Reunion of Nigel Perkins, Ian Jeffrey and class of 96-97. Image: Kind permission of Dr. Yiorgis Yerolymbos
Arnold Borgerth had worked with Nigel on the Photography MA since 1997:
He was really inspirational, not afraid of a controversy if this is what it would take to get his voice heard, his principles and vision about what education is really about respected. Loved by our students, he will be terribly missed.
Wherever you are now Nigel, I just want you to know that we will try to do the best we can without you.
Former student Clare Grafik recalled that Nigel Perkins believed in embracing what he described as the ‘non-functional’ in Higher Education:
Nigel used to share some of the material and messages that would come from him and go to him around the so-called ‘non-functional’ meetings which at the time helped me in my job in the increasingly functional cultural sector!
One such sharing was the 1935 recording by the tenor Richard Crooks of Macushla- the title of which in Irish means ‘pulse of my heart.’
Nigel had picked up the recording at an adhoc meeting of practice lecturers discussing the idea of students in different media working together and inspiring each other.
And they did. Audio and image combined. The pulse of art was beating like seeing and hearing cosmic snowballs of trailing comets in the night sky.
In the passing of a teacher like Nigel Perkins, in an Arts University such as Goldsmiths, the creative and progressive energy of his legacy lives on.
Richard Crooks singing Macushla from 78 rpm Victor Shellac disc released 1935.
Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.
Professor Ken Gregory when Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London and wearing a Goldsmiths’ tie. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London
The ninth Warden of Goldsmiths between 1992 and 1998, Professor Ken Gregory, has passed away at the age of 82. University historian Professor Tim Crook provides an obituary and assesses his contribution to Goldsmiths.
Arriving at Goldsmiths- a distinguished Geographer with a beard and without a Geography department
When he arrived at Goldsmiths he was Ken Gregory BSc, PhD, DSc and FRGS. When he died on 23rd November there were many more honours to add to his profile: CBE, DSc (Hon), DUniv, C.Geog, FGCL, and FBSG.
Ken was the Warden during six turbulent and dramatic years for universities during the 1990s. He was calm, collegiate and effective in changing the university’s direction and strengthening its stability and viability in an increasingly market driven economy.
‘Fun In The Sun- Goldsmiths style’- students celebrating graduation during Professor Ken Gregory’s time as Warden.
He arrived in the year of Prime Minister John Major’s Conservative Party victory in the General Election of 1992, when Diana, Princess of Wales secretly collaborated with Andrew Morton on the book Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words and Linford Christie won Olympic Gold in the 100 metres at Barcelona.
Irish Republican terrorism had also devastated the City of London with a car bomb killing three people.
Within the first month of his appointment he told students and staff he was attracted to Goldsmiths ‘because of its mission, its unique mix of strengths, and the potential this offers to develop in its own distinctive way in the new diverse university system.’
From the word go he was ‘impressed by the quality of the staff […] and their ideas and imagination.’
Professor Gregory won friends and affection because he was not prone to exercise the imperative and ego of his own academic discipline. Goldsmiths had shut down its own Geography department and Geology teaching some years before.
It was ironic that Ken had even been the Geography department’s external examiner during the 1980s.
Somebody with a PhD on the geomorphology of the North York Moors was not inclined to restructure the academic ground of a small university that needed to play to its strengths; particularly in arts and humanities.
What did Ken do for Goldsmiths and Goldsmiths do for him? Some recall that he arrived with a beard and left without one, but his impact was undoubtedly substantial and improving.
Like all Wardens he did the rounds of consultation with staff, departments and students and he was certainly somebody prepared to listen. At first, he was beginning to feel that if he had a vision it was to preserve Goldsmiths’ distinctiveness and ‘pay some attention to improving the way we are perceived – for instance, through our performance in league tables, to think of a topical example.’
How had he changed Goldsmiths by 1998?
On his departure in 1998, there is no doubt he had led a substantial improvement in Goldsmiths’ research ratings which at that time meant an increase in funding when there were caps on student recruitment.
As a result, the University attracted higher quality research and teaching academics and the publication profile and public and media impact of staff achievements increased Goldsmiths’ appeal to the vital and expanding overseas market in students; particularly from China, India and other parts of Asia.
1998 was the year when New Labour under Prime Minister Tony Blair completed its first year of government, the Good Friday Agreement brought about peace to Northern Ireland, and the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in the car crash in Paris the year before was still being felt.
The Revd Dr Peter Galloway as Chairman of the Goldsmiths Society said ‘His achievements have been impressive, not least in building up reserves, and in the construction of the Rutherford Information Services Building.’
Warden Ken Gregory with the Princess Royal and opening the Rutherford Information Service Building in 1998- named after the Warden Ken succeeded.
His most singular impact had been to make Goldsmiths ‘research intensive’ in the academic sphere.
At the end of his six year tenure, Goldsmiths had appointed its first Black Professor, Paul Gilroy, from the department of Sociology in 1997. Other professors appointed during Ken Gregory’s time as Warden included Nikolas Rose, Windy Dryden, Alan Downie, Andrew Louth, Frances Heidensohn, Michael Craig-Martin, Peter Dickinson, Michael Musgrove, Peter Smith, and Roger Slee. All of their inaugural lectures were published by Goldsmiths as pamphlets.
Warden Ken Gregory increased the number of professorial appointments, and they included Goldsmiths’ first Black Professor Paul Gilroy in 1997. Inaugural lectures were also given extra prestige with publication in pamphlet form.
The Laurie Grove baths complex had been acquired from Lewisham Council and converted into art studios. Goldsmiths had also taken over and began to use Deptford old Town Hall.
Ken said it had been a privilege to have been Warden and he was very happy to ‘hand over a thriving, vibrant academic institution.’
He retained his affection and admiration for Goldsmiths after his retirement and said he believed it continued to reach and achieve ‘new heights’ in the years following. He would be a quiet and supportive counsel for the following Wardens if they felt they needed it.
What he said during his archive interview for Goldsmiths History Project in 2017
He very kindly recorded several hours of archive interview for the Goldsmiths history project on a bright and warm summer’s day in 2017. He recalled how being Warden was not like being the Admiral of a ship or a chief executive of a private company.
It was more of a case of leading by persuasion. He recalled that the bigger vision would sometimes mean his aims may not have been popular in some quarters. Putting pressure on all staff to be strongly research active was stressful. Shutting down some courses and subjects courted protest.
He remembered with great affection how the department of Ceramics made him a tombstone to symbolise the death of a longstanding art and craft subject.
The report in Goldlink on Ken Gregory’s retirement dinner in 1998. It highlights that he had increased the number of Goldsmiths Professors from 13 to 46. He arrived with a financial deficit and left with reserves of £2 million.
The Goldsmiths community was always one where debates and arguments would run and have a passionate and activist edge. There was a celebrated occasion when he had to back down on a student union protest against increases in cafeteria and canteen prices.
The Union simply used its own funds to buy food and cook meals for students that they could afford. During his time as Warden he encouraged and implemented the introduction of student evaluation, a need that had arisen following the introduction of Departmental Reviews.
During his time, Ken Gregory originated the Warden’s Advisory Group; otherwise known as WAG which meant he was in more direct and close contact with heads of department. This came about through his canvassing of views, opinions and aspirations from academic and support staff for whom he always retained great respect.
During the archive interview he emphasised ‘the coherence and high quality of Goldsmiths staff.’ He said as a result of listening to their views: ‘We removed Faculties and created WAG, which I always found to be a very good forum for discussion.’
Assessing Warden Gregory’s legacy
It is important to recognise and confirm the legacy that Professor Ken Gregory left for Goldsmiths during the six years of his tenure.
Like with most Wardens the primary objective was survival. Goldsmiths had to survive in 1992-93 despite the deep cuts to Higher Education and it had to develop a strategy that was research intensive.
Warden Ken Gregory presided over graduation ceremonies held in the Great Hall of what is now the Richard Hoggart main building. Many famous people received honorary fellowships including Dame Mary Quant, the author P.D. James and cockney actor Sir Michael Caine who also did a special workshop with the Drama students in the George Wood Theatre.
He created a management structure that was consultative through reorganisation and removal of Faculties. He introduced assessment of departmental academic performance otherwise known as ADAP. He persuaded the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) as Chancellor of the University of London to preside at a degree ceremony and this was subsequently copied by other University of London colleges.
An example of Ken Gregory’s style of communicating to staff, students and alumni. In this Goldlink magazine for 1998, it demonstrates his leadership on increasing Goldsmiths as a research intensive university.
He convinced the University of London of methods of promotion and advancement that applied to Goldsmiths’ disciplines, and were not inhibited by the physical sciences model. As a result, Goldsmiths could promote Professorial Chairs acknowledging practice subjects such as Music and Media and Communications. Ivor Gabor was appointed the first Professor of Broadcast Journalism in the University of London.
Ken Gregory enhanced the formal link established with the Goldsmiths Company by having the Company’s Clerk to be an ex officio member of Goldsmiths College Council. While in New Cross Professor Gregory led the introduction of a financial allocation model of management which emphasised research intensive culture. And once research funding was improved, Goldsmiths was able to recruit significant new staff in its specialist subject areas.
Fundamentally Goldsmiths’ College stopped being known as the Art School and Training College for teachers. He strongly developed its new identity as Goldsmiths University of London despite some internal administrative resistance. This avoided the cost of external consultants and has subsequently been followed by Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway and others.
During my interview with Ken he remembered that his biggest challenge as Warden was coping with the lack of ample funding and the security and flexibility of strong financial reserves which he did his best to build over six years.
He and his wife Chris managed to develop social events despite the lack of money.
They became famous for their receptions and dinners at the suburban Warden’s house in Ulundi Road ‘where Chris cooked and I went to Majestic for the wine. We even did dinners after inaugural lectures this way.’
Ken Gregory also fondly remembered the opportunity of meeting remarkable, interesting and famous people in his role as Warden. These included the politician and local MP Joan Ruddock, the author P.D. James, the theatre director Richard Eyre, the actress Frances de la Tour, actor Sir Michael Caine, the legendary fashion designer and entrepreneur Dame Mary Quant, and the linguist and English academic Randolph (Lord) Quirk.
Ken Gregory (1938 to 2020), Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London between 1992 and 1998.
Professor Alan Downie and the College Orator, who worked closely with Warden Ken Gregory during his time at Goldsmiths in the 1990s writes:
How a hydrologist helped transform Goldsmiths
As well as being Warden, Ken Gregory enjoyed an international reputation as a hydrologist.
He took over from Professor Andrew Rutherford at a crucial moment in Goldsmiths’ recent history. Although the College had secured school status in 1988, as a consequence of its previous status as an Institute with Recognised Teachers it had not been permitted to accumulate reserves. Further, it came bottom in the 1989 Research Assessment Exercise. Ken set about investing in research and in quality assurance. (He had been the QA DVC at Southampton.)
As a consequence of his policies and his leadership, in 1996 Goldsmiths was described in the THES as ‘a rising star’ of the RAE, and the significant further improvement in the 2001 RAE was also largely a result of Ken’s research strategy. By the time he stepped down as Warden in 1998, he had also managed to build up small but important reserves, partly as a consequence of a large increase in student numbers, not only undergraduates, but also postgraduate and overseas students.
Warden in a patterned cardigan
Ken was a congenial man who inspired immense loyalty, especially among his closest colleagues—his Deans (when there were faculties), his Pro-Wardens, and his Professors.
With his wife, Chris, doing the cooking, Ken famously hosted regular dinners at the Warden’s residence in Ulundi Road, always unsuited and casual (a patterned cardigan), ensuring his guests never ran out of drinks as he kept topping them up by his own hand. (The Gregorys refused to use caterers.)
These dinners were not restricted to senior members of the College. Over the six years of his Wardenship, there can scarcely have been a member of the academic or administrative staff who had not been invited to dinner at Ulundi Road.
Had it not been for Ken Gregory’s Wardenship, Goldsmiths would be unrecognisable as the research institution it is today.
Painted portrait of Goldsmiths’ ninth Warden Professor Ken Gregory in College robes and at the foot of the stairs of Deptford Town Hall. Image: Copyright Goldsmiths, University of London
Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.
M. McCullick’s ‘Barrage Balloon backfield’ dated 1942 but still including the former Chapel tower which had been largely knocked down by a balloon removed from its moorings by a storm in October 1939.
This country and most of the world is at war with an invisible (to the eye) virus.
And most of the academics and students have been evacuated to their homes to work- apart from a skeleton group of staff providing basic services and looking after the buildings.
These are unprecedented times. We have to wind back the clock of history to September 1939 and the outbreak of World War Two for a comparison.
Goldsmiths had to carry out a complex, stressful and devastatingly disruptive exile to Nottingham University which lasted for seven years.
A sketch of fashion recommendations for Goldsmiths’ College students in The Smith magazine for Easter 1939. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
Many of the fashion conscious students soon had to surrender their individuality for the drab constancy of uniforms and make do and mend.
Not everyone left. A small group of Art School tutors and their students worked and lived through the Blitz and ravages of World War.
The College was never the same again.
Sights, sounds, culture and life familiar in 1939 would be lost and when there was a return in 1946, Goldsmiths, and indeed British Society, would be so different.
This three part series tells the story of evacuation, exile and return.
We begin with the crisis of a war of arms and not pestilence being declared Sunday 3rd September 1939.
Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax outside Downing Street after the declaration of war 3rd September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch
To Nottingham and the pantechnicon evacuation
When Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain broadcast his regretful and sad declaration of war by radio on Sunday 3rd September 1939, Goldsmiths’ College had already planned to evacuate most of its staff, students and equipment to University College Nottingham.
It was anticipated that most of the students would be women and a large proportion of the men would be called up through conscription into the armed services.
The mood of the student writing in The Smith June edition for the summer of 1939 was sombre:
Editorial: ‘The male section of this community, and this concerns future members- up to the next war, will soon be tasting of conscription, a source of controversy and a savoury topic for the “politicians.” Military training and training received at College are poles apart. Whether or no the student character will change as a result remains to be seen’ (The Smith Summer 1939:6).
A poem by a student described as ‘Tex’ was ‘Written on the horrors of the Spanish Civil War’ which had ended in defeat for the Republicans and the pathetic scenes of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing over the border to France:
She plodded through the filth and slime,
The refs of the gutter,
In the footsteps of her Master.
Please (God?) she died, forgot her shame,
She was my love, my Spain !’ (ibid 10)
This cartoon in Goldsmiths’ College student magazine The Smith for Spring 1938 pokes gentle fun at a recent publication by staff of their book ‘Actuality in Education’ and references the ritual of compulsory morning assembly with the enjoyment some women students said they derived from observing men students doing physical education classes in the quadrangle in their distinctive tracksuits with ‘G’ sewn onto their backs.
There were more recruits and interest in the College’s Officer Training Corps or ‘OTC’.
Corporal A. Aldred reported on the ambition, later fully realised, to fire the British Army’s formidable Bren machine gun:
Parades this term have been devoted to general drill and instruction and competition shoots. The former, carried out under the auspices of Sgt. Oldknow of the Grenadiers, have been very well attended, owing to the fact that a former rumour of our having a Bren gun has at last taken shape […] Musketry Camp this year was well attended, and the shooting results were on the whole, good. The most outstanding feature of the more serious side of the Camps was that several members were able to fire a Bren gun. But the most impressive feature for the majority was the spectacle of trooping the colours (the Sgt’s pyjamas) before our more respectable and autocratic rivals, the lads of Battersea Polytechnic (ibid 33).
Advanced History group in front of the Blomfield building just before the Munich crisis in 1938. Two women students in the front row playfully mock their supposed ‘Advanced’ status by chalking on a blackboard the deliberately misspelt ‘Are they intrested in us? Who did the werk? What ave they tawt us? We don’t know. We are DULL & BACKWARD’
The Borough Council that wanted to take over and asset strip the College
Even though the negotiations for the Nottingham transfer had been completed during the Spring term of 1939 when the German Nazi regime’s full invasion of Czechoslovakia and march into Prague trampled over and rendered invalid everything agreed at Munich, the practical challenge of such an operation was utterly daunting.
The rather predatory Deptford Borough Council had designs on the facilities and spaces that the College offered for War-time civil defence.
What was being left behind in 1939. Goldsmiths’ College before Deptford Council and the RAF moved in. The back field would be ploughed up. The upper field wrecked with building projects. The Great Hall became a temporary warehouse for ‘stuff’ that needed to go to Nottingham- books, cutlery, crockery, bedding and equipment.
The College thought it had made an agreement for the Council’s use of the building and grounds to be temporary- a short let all over with by the end of the war.
By the time Warden Arthur Dean and 29 of his staff met in the College on the 13th of September, Goldsmiths had been transformed from a place for peace-time teaching and learning into what could only be described as part military camp and an emergency centre ready for heavy rescue and disaster relief.
The upper field was a building site.
The council was constructing a first aid centre and an air raid control centre for a large area of South East London- much of it underground.
Borough Council Air Raid Precautions and local canteen workers had moved in.
The intrusion, albeit for patriotic purposes, was clumsy and rather heavy-booted.
College furniture was effectively requisitioned and, in some instances, damaged.
Nothing had been finalised about rent and liability for the Council rates.
Another art student’s caricature of life in the College in New Cross in 1939: ‘In fact one wonders why they patronised Goldsmiths.’
Over the next two years, solicitors would be consulted, counsel’s opinion sought, legal letters exchanged, and litigation threatened.
Relations would deteriorate further during the War when it became apparent that the council had ambitions to take over the whole college site permanently.
The Royal Air Force had also made themselves at home.
They ploughed up the main playing field with the installation of a Barrage balloon unit and billeted themselves in the Sports Pavilion and five rooms in the main building.
Volunteers turning up to fill sandbags, 4th September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch
Balloons were intended to defend against dive bombers flying at heights up to 5,000 feet, forcing them to fly higher and into the range of concentrated anti-aircraft fire.
Anti-aircraft guns could not traverse fast enough to attack aircraft flying at low altitude and high speed.
By the middle of 1940 there were about 500 balloons operating over the London area.
The first air raid warning of the Second World War 3rd September 1939. Later air raid warnings and the real thing would soon wipe the smiles from the faces of these Londoners. The boxes they’re holding up are personal gas masks which government hoped would be made and distributed for every person in the population. Image: Daily Sketch
Even the College Dining Room belonged to somebody else day and night as the main canteen for all of the Borough’s A.R.P. workers.
During the summer vacation, the School of Art in the Blomfield building had been shut and bolted less anymore troops of war were tempted to find a use for it.
The headmaster, Clive Gardiner, intended to stay in New Cross and meet the expected terror of aerial bombing and fire from the sky with paintbrush and pencil.
Goldsmiths’ College School of Art taught illustration, portraiture, and encouraged their students to do caricatures of staff and students. The ‘’ists’ of 1939 could be said to be very much around in 2020. The cartoons by ’Sloo’ apparently resembled recognisable students and staff in 1939.
To borrow some of the humour of the 1970s BBC comedy series Dad’s Army, the wonderful neo-Wren main building, designed by John Shaw, had become Air Raid Warden Hodges headquarters ringing to the cry after dusk of “Put that light out!”
As the Goldsmiths’ Warden Arthur Dean and his senior management team pondered all of the indignities of their home being so invaded, they must have wondered when and how Captain Mainwaring and the New Cross equivalent of the Warmington-on-sea Home Guard platoon would turn up.
Early casualties- the old Chapel tower and jobs
To make matters worse on a stormy morning 4th October 1939, the Barrage balloon unit lost control of one of their balloons.
Untethered, the large volume of hydrogen filled cloth became a battering ram in the sky and the first object to meet its destructive force in the high wind was the pretty tower of the old Royal Naval School chapel.
It smashed into the tower, swept away the ornamental dome, and a fair part of the roof of the building, for long used as an important lecture hall, was badly damaged.
The outbreak of war meant the end of University soccer. Goldsmiths student Eustace Burn (seated far left) had been selected for the University of London’s football team for the 1938-9 season.
This means Goldsmiths College was first a casualty of ‘friendly’ or RAF ‘balloon fire’ during World War Two and not the Luftwaffe.
War ended student rag weeks when the students would dress up, and carnivalesque style, raise money for charity on the streets of Lewisham.
When the College wrote to the Air Ministry asking for compensation it was met with obfuscation and the kind of bureaucratic gobbledygook that civil servants are most likely to indulge in if they are not sure of surviving a world war:
The Air Ministry is not in a position to authorise payment against your claim, pending the promulgation of decisions to be operated by public departments generally, upon war losses procedure (College Delegacy 1939:5).
Job cuts- all visiting lecturers, the Associate Lecturers, of today dismissed
The Monday edition of the Daily Sketch after the declaration of war quoted the King’s message ‘Stand calm, firm and united!’
The King’s Message carried in the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939 ‘Stand calm, firm and united! Meet the challenge!’
But the need for Goldsmiths’ College to leave New Cross was divisive and devastating for a substantial number of people who depended on teaching there as their main source of income.
This was particularly so for most of the Art School’s part-time teachers.
They were all made redundant.
A total of 60 visiting lecturers were sent letters on 4th September telling them that their ‘sessional appointments’ were being terminated.
F.J. Halnon was the encouraging teacher of sculpture and modelling who mentored the Greenwich fireman, George France, to enter his work into the Royal Academy exhibition in 1931.
Halnon had been at the Art School since 1898. He had modelled the bust of the College’s first Warden William Loring.
He was the equivalent of half-time and had been so for 41 years.
This was how most artists in Britain could afford to pay the rent and put food on the table.
On the radio he heard King George VI say: ‘The task will be hard. There may be dark days ahead, and war can no longer be confined to the battlefield.’
Goldsmiths’ College Warden Arthur Edis Dean
A few days later he received a letter from the London County Council saying his battle would now be unemployment and destitution.
Warden Arthur Dean later told the College Delegacy:
The demand for Mr Halnon’s particular type of work has in recent years very much fallen off, and when the School of Art was partially re-opened the Headmaster was unable to include Mr Halnon in the very small teaching staff required. Mr Halnon’s domestic circumstances were distressing because of family illness, his income had almost entirely ceased, and he had been unable to obtain other work. He had applied to the Board of Education for a pension but, as he had never contributed to any pension scheme, the application has been refused. Moreover, he was still under 60 years of age (Delegacy 11 April 1940:7).
Arthur Dean had written to the Goldsmiths’ Company and the London County Council asking them to help, but by the time of the Delegacy meeting on 11th April 1940, there had been no reply or result.
Courses closed down and new appointments frozen
The War also meant the shutting down of the Special One-Year Course for the Training of Art Teachers and the Special Third Year Course of Physical Training for Men.
Thirty-two students had to be told that they had no courses to attend and they would have to find something else to do. All third-year courses for Certificated Teachers were having their funding withdrawn by the Board of Education (Delegacy 11 November 1939:2).
Anxiety and confusion near Downing Street. The outbreak of war meant disruption, insecurity and fear. Image: Daily Sketch.
Goldsmiths’ had pioneered and specialised the concept and provision of training and educating teachers over three years rather than two; something that would be recognised in the 1960s and further transformation of the Teacher’s Certificate into a Bachelor of Education degree.
Two recent appointments for the posts of lecturer in Geography and Mathematics had to be told their jobs were unlikely to materialise.
Two long-standing lecturers in Latin and Physics were informed that they were now surplus to requirements.
The Daily Sketch would have a centre spread setting out the geography of war and the strength of the Allied Powers. But there would be no replacement geography lecturer at Goldsmiths’ College to teach it. Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.
Support staff not going to Nottingham discovered that they had to find some other kind of war-time service.
The librarians were laid off.
While the College’s Chief Accountant, John Mansfield, stayed on in his office in the main building, his brother Alfred had to go part-time and make up his earnings doing national A.R.P service with Deptford Council.
The council had, however, agreed to continue the employment of all of ‘the house staff – porters, cleaners, stokers, kitchen workers, college workmen and electricians, and some laboratory assistants.
The Goldsmiths’ College Art Nouveau swimming pool in the summer of 1939. The summer sun streaming through the distinctive naval portal window. This is the last time it would ever be seen like this. By the autumn the water had been drained and turned off and the building prepared as an emergency mortuary for those expected to be killed in air raids.
The Artesian well to the College’s lovely Art Nouveau swimming pool was turned off and the empty pool converted into an emergency mortuary to accommodate the anticipated carnage of multiple casualties from Guernica style bombing raids.
Time to go, organising the evacuation, and infants first to Lady Norah’s
When Germany invaded Poland on the 1st September 1939, the College’s Nursery School was the first to be evacuated on that very day.
An original party of 15 children, Superintendent Miss Silcock and her assistant Audrey Burton, and seven voluntary helpers, six of them being mothers of the children, travelled to Lady Norah Howard’s House, Wappingthorn Manor, near Steyning in Sussex.
Wappingthorn Manor in the Sussex countryside in 2020. Image: Google satellite
The beautiful house and grounds were an enormous contrast to living in urban Deptford.
Two mothers and their children preferred to return to South East London by the end of November.
The remaining children were in the care of the Froebel trained Certificated teacher Miss E.M. Taylor on a salary of one pound ten shillings a week (Delegacy 11 November 1939:6).
The safety of younger children from expected heavy bombing of the cities was a national obsession.
Even though the wailing of the sirens on that sunny Sunday following the Prime Minister’s broadcast from Downing Street turned out to be a false alarm, millions of Londoners did take shelter.
Another air raid warning had sounded at 2.a.m. with the all clear signalled an hour later.
On the following day nerves were frayed and people were beginning to discover what it was like to have a daily existence with not enough sleep.
Stop press news. Sinking of the passenger liner SS Athenia- the day after War broke out. The United States also made it clear it would remain neutral.
And anyone reading their copy of the Daily Sketch would have read in the ‘Stop Press News’ that a passenger liner sailing to Canada with evacuees on board had been torpedoed.
The capital letters printed at right angles to the back-page text revealed: ‘Ministry of Information state S.S. Athenia with 1,400 passengers on board, has reported to Admiralty she had been torpedoed’ (Sketch 4 September 1939:24).
98 passengers and 19 crew had been killed in the sinking of this unarmed civilian vessel in the icy waters of the Atlantic, North West of Ireland.
Many of the victims were American and Canadian, including a ten-year-old-girl from Hamilton, Ontario.
It was the Second World War’s first war crime.
Diverting the students from New Cross to Nottingham
After the infants had gone, the College next had to contact all of its incoming and returning students to find out who was prepared to go to Nottingham.
Letters were sent out on 22nd of September.
369 out of 443 replied saying they were happy to do so.
There was not the expected fall-off in men as it had been decided not to call up 18 and 19-year-olds for service in the armed forces at this time.
Students had to make their own way there and were expected to arrive by early afternoon Tuesday 3rd of October using train services from St. Pancras and Marylebone.
It was proposed that all the women students could be accommodated at Hugh Stewart Hall in University College, Nottingham.
The men would have to be found lodgings.
All the students were advised to keep down the total amount of their personal belongings, but to bring with them a pocket torch showing a blue light.
Parting and saying goodbye September 1939. Image: Daily Sketch
As men were living out of lodgings, they were advised to bring their bicycles.
As there was a shortage of laundry, women students staying at Hugh Stewart Hall were told they must provide for themselves four sheets, three pillow slips, three face and bath towels, three table napkins with a ring and their regulation gas mask and box.
In these days before the National Health Service, students were advised that the cost of medical attendance in excess of four visits would have to be paid for and any students who had been in contact with infectious illness during the vacation must bring a medical certificate to show that they were free from infection’ (Delegacy 12 September 1939:3).
The contingency of war meant that men who had reached the age of 20 risked rude interruption of their studies and the conscripting despatch to the boot camp:
Men students who have already attained the age of 20 must realise that the earlier concessions about postponement of military training for students no longer apply. The Government have not yet made any clear pronouncement about this, but it is possible that such men may be called up before the end of the session or even before Christmas. The College is obviously unable to give any guarantee in this respect and cannot offer any further guidance as to individual decisions: but if men are not able to complete the 1939/40 session some refund of fees will be made (ibid).
As Goldsmiths’ College students made their way to Nottingham, the King and Queen stayed at Buckingham Palace and went out to meet Londoners on the streets. Image: Daily Sketch
Pantechnicons for the books, bedding and crockery
More than twelve pantechnicons were booked to transport the massive amounts of equipment of all kinds, including books being mustered in Deptford.
One thousand volumes were selected from the library and packed up in the Great Hall.
Around one thousand Goldsmiths’ College library books were piled up in the Great Hall for packing in boxes to go to University College, Nottingham where they were used in teaching for seven years. Given the Luftwaffe’s destruction of the library by incendiaries in 1940, their selection was an effective reprieve from becoming the collateral damage of war.
200 beds with bedding, followed by crockery and kitchen equipment from the Hostels filled the convoy of lorries assembling in Lewisham Way.
Goldsmiths’ lecturers travelling in advance of the students to manage the arrival of the transport lorries were pleasantly surprised at how quiet it was in Nottingham, where cleaner air and the very fine Hall of Residence in Hugh Stewart Hall were in stark contrast to the heavy and throbbing traffic on Lewisham Way, the myopic and suffocating London smogs, and the threadbare and gloomy main building first built in 1844.
No sooner had most of the staff arrived than two of them had to leave following mobilisation. The Physical Education lecturer and England Hockey international player, Percy Thomas (P.T.) Rothwell, had a commission as second lieutenant in the Tank Corps and the French lecturer Dr. Arnould was called up into the French Army.
The uncertain future
Warden Arthur Dean said September was:
…a strenuous month […] with much hurrying to and fro, vast correspondence with scattered staff and students and a great deal of physical labour over the transport of gear whenever we could lay hold of a pantechnicon’ (GCOSA Yearbook 1939-40:1-4).
In a letter to alumni he warned them that should they visit their old College in New Cross:
Warden Arthur Edis Dean- the head of Goldsmiths from 1927 to 1952
…you would hardly find the College exhilarating in its sandbagged and blacked-out condition. The R.A.F. occupy several rooms at the South Eastern corner and have a balloon in the grounds, and their burrowings and lorry-runnings have played havoc with the Lower Field. The Upper Field has been devastated to make a large underground A.R.P. Control Centre and large parts of the buildings are in occupation by the Deptford Borough Council for First Aid Post, and A.R.P. purposes. A day-and-night canteen for auxiliary workers in the Borough is in operation in the College Dining Hall and kitchen, where the lights have never been out since the war began’ (ibid). Arthur Dean ended his long letter with the rumination that ‘The future – particularly the immediate future – is obscure, but there will be a world to rebuild after the earthquake, and Goldsmiths’ craftsmen will have their share in that. Meanwhile, I hope we shall keep together in spirit – new Smiths’ and Old Smiths’ – and that all of you will make some effort to keep in touch (ibid).
Arthur Dean and his colleagues, the students and the alumni could be forgiven for fearing whether the College would ever be able to return to its home in New Cross.
And the horrors of a Second World War would inevitably mean that some Old Smiths’ would never be able to keep in touch when they became casualties of the conflict and new names to be carved on the College’s memorial.
Lives and futures were to be interrupted and terminated.
Future developments in British education were also paused abruptly.
The 1st September 1939 was supposed to have been the day when the school leaving age was raised to 15.
In December 1938, the findings on Secondary Education with special reference to Grammar and Technical High Schools, generally known as the Spens Report, set out a new policy of a clean break between primary and secondary education at the age of 11 and a half.
It reiterated that secondary schooling should be free to all, but also sufficiently diverse to serve a wide range of abilities.
It retrieved and hailed the late 19th Century recommendations of the Bryce Commission that there should be three types of secondary school, Grammar, Modern and Technical High.
The ideas and hopes were there, but there was no time.
And as Kenneth Richmond observed:
So far as education in this country was concerned, Hitler’s infernal genius could scarcely have chosen Der Tag with more devastating precision. The plans of Bryce and Spens went all agley. Chaos descended long before the bombs (Richmond 1945:122).
Then and now. What was different in 1939 and what was rather familiar now?
The distance in time is 81 years.
In 1939 Britain was the capital of an imperialist European power and sociologically it was class-ridden, sexist and racist.
Students hoping to be language teachers in 1939 and packing their suitcases for Nottingham would have probably bought the Daily Sketch as their newspaper of choice because it always had a page providing the news in French, English and German.
Page of the Daily Sketch 4th September 1939. The news in three languages daily. The theme on this momentous day was ‘How we declared war on Germany.’
The Daily Sketch’s most popular strip cartoon was called Blondie and its representation of women would now be regarded as stereotypical and offensive.
Blondie by Chic Young. Image: Daily Sketch
When women joined in the civic emergency task of urgently building air raid defences, their filling of sandbags would be noticed.
‘Women have just taken up a new war-time fatigue’- Image: The Daily Sketch.
The threat and fear in September 1939 was the idea and reality of total war.
At the beginning, the British population expected terrible air-raids, mass casualties and the use by the Germans of gas and chemical warfare.
In 2020, the threat and the fear is caused by a pandemic virus and perhaps something historically last experienced during the Great Plague of 1665.
Image: Daily Sketch
In 1939 the outbreak of war would mean the closure of shops, business and services.
People would also try to leave London in addition to the large-scale evacuation of children to the countryside.
Many Londoners with second homes would skedaddle.
Large numbers of the aristocracy would depart for their mansions and country estates.
Many middle-class people with private incomes would become long-term residents in hotels in country villages, towns and seaside resorts.
Image: Daily Sketch
In 1939 the government introduced national identity cards and the developing impact of U-boat attacks on merchant shipping resulted in the introduction of rationing.
Image: Daily Sketch
Petrol was the first commodity to be controlled in 1939.
On 8th January 1940, bacon, butter and sugar were rationed.
This was followed by successive ration schemes for meat, tea, jam, biscuits, breakfast cereals, cheese, eggs, lard, milk and canned and dried fruit.
There was recognition that farming and food yields needed to be substantially expanded.
There were plans to form a land army open to women to ensure the increase in food crops could be harvested.
On 4th September panic-buying was not so much for toilet-rolls, hand sanitiser and dried pasta, but sand for sandbags.
In 2020 there is a need for personal protection equipment on the part of health workers.
The presence of decontamination suits was not an unusual sight in 1939 since civil defence was preparing for First World War style gas attacks.
Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.
One clear similarity between then and now is that police had to be deployed to enforce emergency powers.
In 1939, the police even had to deal with the welfare of the German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop’s dog that he had left behind when he returned to Berlin after his time as the German Ambassador to Britain.
The closure of London schools meant children would be at home unless being part of the evacuation scheme.
How to amuse your children when at home was certainly a theme of newspaper feature writing.
Image: Daily Sketch 4th September 1939
What was different? Apart from newspapers that substantially slimmed down to two or three folded sheets, there was only one radio station- the BBC.
The very limited schedule of hourly news bulletins, records and an excess of Sandy McPherson playing the electric theatre organ generated so much boredom, exasperation, and protest that both the BBC and the government would realise the general public needed entertainment and culture in these difficult times.
Daily Sketch 4th September 1939.
There was no television, since its early years of broadcasting from Alexandra Palace was shut down.
Cinema and newsreels would prove popular, but there were no internet services, online platforms and smartphones.
No digital video-conferencing.
A majority of the population smoked.
Aspro was the painkiller of choice; not paracetamol.
And there were many advertisements for remedies for flatulence, indigestion, and irregular bowel movements.
‘CICFA for sixpence’ did not last, but the product name was an acronym for ‘Conquers indigestion, constipation, flatulence and acidity.
‘Chilprufe’ or pure wool underwear for children would not win any marketing awards.
In 1939, scratchy, woolly underwear seemed all the rage.
Goldsmiths emptied to be re-constituted through the generous hosting of University College Nottingham.
The teaching largely remained the same. Life continued to be face to face and social.
In 2020, the retreat and dispersal physically is into the home and the digital realm.
The controls and rules of the emergency are counter-social and anti-social in the physical sphere.
In 2020 we are connected to work in multimedia cyberspace.
The switch from operating in a physical location to an online one had to be achieved in seven days.
In 1939, the College’s senior management had six months, April to September, to plan the move to the refuge of a provincial university college in Nottinghamshire.
The Second World War would fundamentally change British society after its outbreak in 1939.
The fascinating question in 2020 is whether the COVID-19 pandemic will fundamentally transform the very nature of social existence, the distance between work and home space, and the culture of Higher Educational teaching and learning.
This is the first draft of another chapter in the history of Goldsmiths, University of London.
Coming next- Part Two: Exile
Daily Sketch newspaper, 4th September 1939.
Goldsmiths’ College Old Student Association (GCOSA) Yearbook 1939-40.
Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy minutes for 1939
Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy minutes for 1940
Richmond, Kenneth W., (1945) Education In England, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books
The Smith Magazine, Goldsmiths’ College, Summer 1939.
Shiba Chatterjee seated front row fifth from the right- the only non-white and overseas student at Goldsmiths’ College in 1932-33. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Shiba Prasad Chatterjee was the only non-white- what we would now describe as BAME- student at Goldsmiths’ College in 1933.
As the only Indian student in the college, he was studying for a one year teaching certificate in a society that was deeply racist and in a country that was Imperialist and refusing to grant his own people either home rule or independence.
The cover of the first edition of Katherine Mayo’s ‘Mother India’ first published in USA in 1927 and Great Britain in 1928 and which purported to reveal ‘for the first time […] the truth about the sex life, child marriages, hygiene, cruelty, religious customs, of one-sixth of the world’s population: India’s 350,000,000 people.’
Equally pernicious at the time for Shiba Chatterjee, was the popularity and wide discussion of a book by the American historian, Katherine Mayo, called Mother India which insulted, denigrated, patronised and humiliated Indian society, culture and religion.
It was a best seller, widely quoted and the authority and talisman for all those British Imperialists who believed that Indians were not capable and fit to run their own affairs.
That was the majority of the Great British population, the position of most of the British press and leading and influential politicians such as Winston Churchill.
There had even been a United Empire Party spawned and sponsored by the most powerful newspaper barons, Lords Beaverbook and Rothermere, that sought to break into British mainstream politics.
It had been defeated in 1931 when the Prime Minister of the National Government, Stanley Baldwin, condemned the press barons for wanting: ‘power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages,’ using their newspapers as ‘engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes, personal likes and dislikes,’ and distorting the fortunes of national leaders ‘without being willing to bear their burdens.’
At the same time the leader of the Indian Congress movement seeking self-determination for 350 million Indians, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, had been jailed for the eighth time.
The official student record for Mr. Chatterjee contains very limited though impressive information about his background.
He was born in March 1903 and came to Goldsmiths with a Master of Science degree in Geology from the University of Benares in India.
At the age of 29, he was therefore much older than the other British students attending the college.
While studying at the College he lodged with a Mrs Fenlon at 37 Breakspears Road in Brockley, SE4.
Houses in this conservation area are currently valued at nearly £1 million with two bedroom flats often selling for around £500,000.
He was sponsored during his stay in London by a Mrs Riccobena of 5 Oakley Square N.W.1.
He gained his teaching certificate recognised by the British Board of Education in July 1933.
Nothing more is known about him. In the only other College archive document his presence on the one year teaching certificate is indicated not in type-written script, but by pencilled handwriting.
It is as though the recording of his presence was something of an afterthought.
The traces of Shiba Chatterjee’s existence in the College records may be very slight, but the power and presence of his political and cultural identity is on a giant scale with an article he wrote for the Goldsmiths’ magazine Smiths in the year of his graduation.
The article titled ‘To My English Friends’ represents one of the most heartfelt and dignified appeals for political and cultural understanding it would be possible to find throughout all the archives held at Goldsmiths.
It has the compassion, courtesy, and imperative of Mahatma Gandhi, of whom he was undoubtedly a follower and admirer.
To My English Friends
The only known picture of Shiba Chatterjee, bespectacled, studious, and older than his contemporaries (He was 29) wearing the Oxford bags fashionable at that time, but not the striped College blazer so sportingly worn by the European students around him. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
India has many problems to-day touching every phase of life, and her best brains are actively engaged in solving them. India is fully conscious that her contribution in the modern age to humanity is long overdue, and is directing her whole energy and resources to enable her children to stand as equals alongside other nations of the world with a view to making original contribution befitting her past traditions. India had a glorious past. Indian civilisation and culture are not to be unearthed as prehistoric fossils. They are still throbbing with life. India gave birth to two world religions- Hinduism and Buddhism, and it is claimed Muhammed, the prophet, founder of the Islamic religion had his inspiration from the Indian savants of that age. India is essentially a religious country, religion is her life blood. Millions of souls belonging to different countries such as China and Japan, Burma and Siam, Tibet and Ceylon look to India as their spiritual home. Without deprecating in the least the wonderful work done by the Christian missionaries in my country, the Indian takes it to be an irony of fate when he sees a Christian missionary engaged in proselytising work in India showing “light to the heathens.”
Workshop strikers preventing people from entering and leaving their place of work in support of The Indian National Congress movement led by Mahatma Gandhi that sought independence from British rule in 1930. Public Domain.
Gandhi at Dandi, South Gujarat, picking salt on the beach at the end of the Salt March, 5 April 1930. Behind him is his second son Manilal Gandhi and Mithuben Petit. Image: Public domain.
An unsympathetic critic may find fault everywhere in India. If he is an important personage he will rush down to Calcutta, the commercial capital, from Bombay, the main gateway by the imperial mail train, thereby covering a distance of more than one thousand miles in about twenty-four hours time, his quick brain all the time analysing and storing up with what glimpses of the Indian life through a carriage-window of the moving train his powerful eyes catch; he will stay for about a week at Calcutta in a palace as the guest of the Governor of the Province of Bengal, attend a dance and race course; then he will proceed to Delhi, the political capital of India by the fastest train, through the densest part of India, will stay another week at Delhi in the viceregal palace and will keep himself engaged in the same sort of activities. He will, of course, not forget to visit some Indian states where he will be entertained by Rajas and Maharajas, Nawabs and Chiefs, and will take part in shooting the wild animals, tigers and elephants, bears and lions and hordes of others.
He need not stay in India for more than a month, as by this time he will gain sufficient knowledge of a country inhabited by 350,000,000 souls, and in size as big as Europe minus Russia; and then, when he reaches home he invariably comes out with a book indicting the whole Indian people and justifying their perpetual subjections. What a tremendous wave of indignation swept over the length and breadth of our country on the recent publication of a sensational book about India !
Gandhi, front row, far right with the stretcher-bearers of the Indian Ambulance Corps during the Boer War. During the same conflict the first Warden of Goldsmiths’ College, William Loring was a decorated soldier with The Scottish Horse Regiment. Image Public Domain.
Mahatma Gandhi characterised it as a “drain inspector’s report.” When a powerful writer abuses his power the result is disastrous for the whole of mankind; his writings have a tremendous effect on the minds of the intelligentsia of his country, and it is how one nation begins to hate another, establishing the truth of the statement, “The nation we hate is the nation we know not.” To illuminate my point I may be pardoned if I refer to an incident which may be shocking to my friends here, to know. The English men and women at one time were made to believe that the French were no better than apes, and when the French prisoners from the Napoleonic wars were taken in the streets of London, some of the onlookers had seriously lifted the greatcoats of the French soldiers from behind to discover their tails. No further comment is necessary.
The world is changing. The interdependence of nations is increasing rapidly and the international co-operation is the need of the day. The progressive thinkers have realised that the national freedom is the indispensable pre-requisite of international co-operation. India is struggling to win her birth-right and paradoxical as it may sound, the oppressed do not bear any ill-feeling towards the oppressor due to the religious mentality of the masses, which is awakened after ageing stupor by the magical wand of Mahatma Gandhi, the politico-religious leader of India. India needs sympathy from other nations politically advanced, and entreats them, specially English women and men of the present generation, to keep an open mind and not to be influenced by the writings and speeches of the unsympathetic critics.
Shiba Chatterjee’s brilliant denunciation of Katherine Mayo’s book exposed the shallowness of an alleged expert presuming to write with authority on the basis of holiday or vacation knowledge of India that she had experienced through the lens of the rich and powerful.
In reality, it seems probable she was fed large amounts of slanted data and information by British Indian propagandists.
… it is the report of a drain inspector sent out with the one purpose of opening and examining the drains of the country to be reported upon, or to give a graphic description of the stench exuded by the opened drains. If Miss Mayo had confessed that she had come to India merely to open out and examine the drains of India, there would perhaps be little to complain about her compilation. But she declared her abominable and patently wrong conclusion with a certain amount of triumph: “the drains are India.”
In 1933 the British media distorted and suppressed the true picture of the growing independence movement in India.
In the news-reel cinemas, people in Britain would be told of the first telephone connected service between London and India in patrician terms. It was not the world that had gotten smaller, but the British Empire in the short Pathé report “Hello India!” All European voices and faces are present, and not an Indian individual in sight or sound.
In reality India was a country of protest, resistance and agitation.
There had been extensive prosecutions of Communists for treason.
Choudhary Rahmat Ali published his pamphlet in 1933 advocating a state of ‘Pakistan’ in the Indus Valley, with other names given to Muslim-majority areas elsewhere in India.
This would be taken up by Muhammad Ali Jinha’s All-India Muslim League and become a foundation for the future establishment of the Muslim state of Pakistan.
The British colonial authorities had used the police to shut down an Indian National Congress meeting in Calcutta.
On the 8th May 1933, Mahatma Gandhi had begun a three week hunger strike because of the mistreatment of the lower castes.
On the 1st August, just days after Mr Chatterjee’s graduation, Gandhi had been re-arrested again.
But wherever Shiba Chatterjee and his Indian compatriots in London looked, there would be the ever-present distortion of mainstream media for the purposes of imperialist propaganda.
Pathé short filmic representation of ‘The Country That Is India’ in 1933 was simply another manifestation of the pro-imperialist, Indophobic and racist prejudices contained in Mayo’s ‘drain-inspector’s’ colonialist tract:
86 years later, the integrity and grace of Shiba Chatterjee’s generous address to his English friends at Goldsmiths’ College deserves amplification, recognition and respect.
He may have had sympathetic and supportive friends among his fellow students.
An edition of the College magazine 1931 contains an account from three trainee teachers who decided to accompany Ghandi on his early morning walks in the East End when he was in Britain for talks on home-rule.
But the historical truth about University of London, Goldsmiths’ College during the 1930s is that it was a higher educational institution that perpetuated and served the racist and colonial purposes of the British Empire.
Many students were trained to pursue teaching careers in colonies that subjugated, exploited and denigrated the human rights of people throughout the world.
It also needs to be acknowledged that recent historical investigation has highlighted evidence that during the twenty one years of Gandhi’s time in South Africa in the midst of British imperialism and colonialism he was corrupted by and contaminated with hierarchical racism in his recorded attitudes to Africans.
The South African academics Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed in the award-winning 2015 study The South African Gandhi Stretcher-Bearer of Empire, published by Stanford University Press, argued that Gandhi ‘throughout his stay on African soil, stayed true to Empire while showing a disdain for Africans. For Gandhi, whites and Indians were bonded by an Aryan bloodline that had no place for the African. Gandhi’s racism was matched by his class prejudice towards the Indian indentured.’
Shiba Prasad Chatterjee was a highly educated Indian scholar, writer and independent thinker who, on his own expense, travelled thousands of miles from his home in India to study in New Cross and acquire a British professional teaching qualification.
Perhaps he gave back to the College and British society much more than he was ever given. He left a message for future generations that is as valid and enduring now as it was in 1933:
The world is changing. The interdependence of nations is increasing rapidly and the international co-operation is the need of the day.
Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.
A composite of 13 images of Goldsmiths’ College on one postcard in November 1914
It’s the first autumn going into the winter of the Great War in 1914.
A first year 18-year-old student at Goldsmiths’ College called Wilfrid sends a composite postcard with 13 different images to a Mrs Hinchliff in South Yorkshire.
We know not whether she was a guardian, family friend, or somebody more intimate.
She may have been Wilfrid’s mentor and former teacher who helped him believe in himself and encouraged him to pursue Higher Education and a career in teaching.
The tone begins formally “Dear Mrs Hinchliff […] This card gives you some idea of the College.’
Wilfrid’s postcard ends with ‘with best wishes, and kindest regards’ (and) ‘yours very sincerely.’
What is there to read in this early twentieth century equivalent of an email or instagram sent to a married woman with the address of a small colliery worked by about 30 miners, near Sheffield, which is then diverted by the Post Office to a hotel?
What would become of Wilfrid in the ghastly carnage of the First World War that gobbled up young volunteers and conscripts like him in what became industrialised slaughter?
A contemporary satellite image of Hoylandswaine in Yorkshire where ‘Mrs Hinchliff’ lived. But the colliery ‘Guider Bottom’ no longer exists.
When he arrived in 1914 this group of Seniors was celebrating the completion of their two year teaching certificate courses in the Quad, which at that time was a popular meeting place for all students during lunch-time and breaks between lectures.
This photograph is so evocative because it is still possible to look out into the corner of the quadrangle and imagine them at that exact spot 105 years ago.
In shifting attention from one smiling and grinning countenance to the next the connection with past lives, personalities and all that constitutes a human being becomes so resonant.
How many of these happy young men would survive their service and experiences between 1914 to 1918?
How many would insist on becoming Conscientious Objectors and face prejudice, derision, and the punishment of military tribunals refusing to recognise and respect their pacifist beliefs?
“Jolly Good Fellows As You May See” the class of 1912-14 graduating and celebrating in the Summer of that year- only to have their teaching careers interrupted by the outbreak of global war a few weeks later. Just how many of these smiling and happy faces did not live to see the end of the First World War?
If Wilfrid was beginning his first term in 1914, the mobilising of the College’s officer training corps (OTC) would have been ever-present as is evident in this cartoon in the College’s magazine Goldsmithian.
“Smiths as Tommies”- Cartoon of increasing encroachment of army life to new students to Goldsmiths like Wilfrid in the autumn of 1914.
In the editorial for the college magazine published only a few weeks after Wilfrid sent his postcard to Mrs Hinchliff, he would have read this sobering editorial:
Smiths! We are at the end of the first term of yet another year- possibly the most momentous in our Island story. We are anticipating the vacation which should usher in a season of Peace and Goodwill. Alas! our ears are deafened by the booming of cannon, the clash of steel, and the lamentation of war-stricken nations. Many old familiar faces have left us to answer their country’s call:- we think with pride of the Warden who heads our list.
The Warden, Captain William Loring, who welcomed Wilfrid and all the other first year students that autumn, would never return to the College.
He died after being shot by a Turkish sniper at Gallipoli one year later.
Another leading member of staff named above the editorial, William Thomas Young, a popular Lecturer in English, would be killed in artillery fire on the Western Front in 1917.
The pictorial side of Wilfrid’s postcard provides an evocative composite slideshow of what Goldsmiths looked like before the First World War. The sequence of 13 photographs in columns of four, three, three and three (left to right) can also be seen as the equivalent of an instant online Youtube video.
There are four photographs.
Beginning with a view of the outside of the College main building before 1914 from where Costa Coffee is now situated.
Then the college green looking at the back of the current Richard Hoggart main building with male and female students in Edwardian dress. The viewpoint position is from the current path just before it gets to the tennis courts.
The tennis courts pre 1914 were situated in the quadrangle currently between the main refectory and lecture-rooms off Kingsway corridor.
The fourth image is the Great Hall with the magnificent organ in its original Art Nouveau design and the dais dressed in flowers for some ceremonial occasion and the floor crammed with chairs.
The viewpoint is from the doors entering from what is now reception.
The college library in those days was situated on the second and third floor of the main building, mainly to the north eastern side parallel to what is now Dixon Road.
The photograph depicts a woman student seated poring over books and a man standing somewhat furtively behind watching her.
Is he a librarian about to tell her of a book he’s found for her, or an admirer who wants to invite her to tea?
What is described as the Dining Room, wonderfully laid out with white table cloths on the trestle tables, carafes of water, vases of flowers and cutlery is the current Cafe 35 and the viewpoint is from where Chartwells staff would see you ordering your cappuccino and croissant.
The far wall seen there would now extend beyond the walls of one or two rooms partitioned in the current structure, and what you see as a huge carved coat of arms has been replaced in 2019 with Josh Drewe’s mural on the history of Goldsmiths and its surrounding community.
The outline of the carving looks like Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the Latin motto Justitia Virtutum Regina– ‘Justice Is Queen of Virtues’ seen below.
Recollecting the Goldsmiths’ motto of all those years ago seems so relevant in 2019 when the University has inaugurated its first law degree.
Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the motto ‘Justitia Virtutum Regina- Justice Is Queen Of Virtues.
The third bottom image in this column is a picture of ‘an art room’ and looks like one of the current ground floor lecture-rooms at the back of the current main building perhaps with windows looking out onto the back field (now called the Green).
At the top we begin with ‘The Nature Study Room’- now likely to be another current lecture-room probably on the ground floor with tall windows looking out onto the back field.
No signs of wild-life in the picture, or fauna and flora exhibits. Perhaps nature was more of a theoretical consideration.
The following images in this column are quaintly described as the Women’s Common Room and the Men’s Common Room.
It is possible to detect how they have been gender-valued in interior design and furniture.
In the men’s room there is a huge snooker/billiard table, and there are pictures on the wall seemingly of sports teams etc. The chairs are solid and hard-backed.
There are rugs on the floor perhaps ready to accommodate an impromptu wrestling match to settle old scores.
In contrast the women’s room is full of soft furnishing, table covers, cut flowers in vases, and the pictures on the walls seemingly portraits of high women achievers in staff and student faculty from the past.
Some of the chairs are soft cane-backed.
We start with the gymnasium then situated where the current main College refectory is.
It’s full of large gymnastic and exercise contraptions built to stretch the human frame to breaking point and there’s a burly ‘tough guy’ with moustache apparently dressed in fencing regalia.
Next something labelled as ‘The Museum’- full of models and objets-d’art.
As a historian one wonders what treasures lay on the tables and shelves here and regret the fact that Goldsmiths no longer has any museum.
Though it could be argued that Special Collections in the Library is certainly its equivalent with its regularly held exhibitions from the archives and unique holdings such as the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths Textile Collection and Constance Howard Gallery, and the Daphne Oram Archive.
The last image in Column Four is of the College’s beautiful Art Nouveau swimming pool largely constructed out of wood and fine carpentry.
It was created for the Recreative and Technical Institute from 1891 and sadly was burned down during World War Two and never reconstructed.
Its location was behind the George Wood theatre and Drama and Performance suite of buildings.
It was situated at right angles to the main building and would have been accessed via the main corridor.
What’s so lovely about the photograph is the sun streaming through the huge naval style port-hole window, and the spectators leaning over the balconies.
The changing cubicles can be seen running on either side of the pool.
Jim Bartlett’s postcard sent to his father in 1928 is a picture of the College most probably from 1905.
In November 1928, trainee teacher Jim Bartlett is just settling in to his studies and life at Goldsmiths’ College.
He’s full of joie-de-vivre and writes to his father Henry, a successful builder with an impressive family home at 1 East End Villas, Birchington, in Kent:
Bravo bravissimo! The age of miracles has not passed! Have you found a place for it yet? Or will some ancient piece of furniture have to be shifted to make room? I think this view is a bit antique. What price the road sweeper! Yours Jim.
Jim has clearly found and sent something to his Dad- a birthday present perhaps. It sounds like a modern piece of furniture. What a charming term of affection for his father ‘bravissimo!’ which in Italian is the highest form of praise.
It is what one might say to a singer who has just completed a fantastic performance in an opera.
The picture of Goldsmiths’ College certainly belongs to how it looked more than 20 years previously- most likely 1905 or 1906.
The small children are in early Edwardian clothes- young children were dressed in the fashion of adults at that time.
There was no such thing as children’s fashion.
And the ‘road sweeper’ identified by Jim is the legendary Goldsmiths’ College ‘beggar’ nick-named ‘Cripps’ by students in 1910 because his moustache reminded them of the notorious wife-killer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen put on trial for murder at the Central Criminal Court, found guilty and executed.
‘Cripps’ had a road sweeping pitch there for decades stretching way back to the Victorian times of the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Recreative and Technical Institute, and the Royal Naval School before that.
It may be a short postcard, but the writing is full of ebullient character, zest and charm: ‘Please thank Mum for cake and shoes. Both very acceptable. Hope you enjoyed Whist drive.’
What more can a new student arriving at Goldsmiths ever want, even in 2019, but cake and shoes from his mum!
In 1928, all women would be given the equal franchise in the General Election to follow.
With private motoring booming, deaths on the road through traffic accidents are soaring.
Well over 5,000 people have been killed in just one year. The Austin Seven is the car most people can afford at £225.
The Oxford Morris Minor car has been launched in August 1928.
The Highway Code would not be published until 1931, and driving tests not introduced until 1935.
Everton’s centre forward Dixie Dean has scored a record 60 goals in the football season ending, and artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth stage their first London exhibitions.
It would be the year that Professor Alexander Fleming at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington would discover the potential antibiotic properties of the blue mould penicillium notatum.
This is what Goldsmiths’ College looked like from the air in 1928. There are no buildings around the back field, nor indeed the upper field which is the site of the present Professor Stuart Hall and Lockwood buildings. The wonderful Art Nouveau swimming pool can be seen behind the George Wood Theatre, which in the 1920s still had the original Chapel tower and parallel with the bend in Dixon Road.
Goldsmiths trainee teacher Jim Bartlett was born in 1910. The 1911 census reveals that he had four older sisters.
In 1928 his father was 63 years old, most likely retired- hence his enjoyment of card games such as Whist Drive, and his mother Christiana 58 years old.
Whist is not as popular as it was in the 1920s.
An alternative to Bridge, three of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories feature the card game.
In The Adventure of the Empty House, Ronald Adair plays whist at one of his clubs shortly before he is murdered.
In The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot, Brenda Tregennis plays whist with her brothers George, Mortimer, and Owen shortly before she is murdered.
In The Red-Headed League, the banker Mr. Merryweather complains that he is missing his regular rubber of whist in order to help Holmes catch a bank robber.
There is no evidence Henry had any involvement in any Sherlock Holmes style mystery murder, or that he was a round the world traveller such as Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, a frequent winner at Whist when not quietly reading newspapers.
1911 census showing the Bartlett family living in Birchington. Jim is the youngest at 11 months old.
By the time of the Second World War, Jim was working as an elementary school teacher living in lodgings in Margate.
The 1939 national register taken in September after the outbreak of the Second World War. Jim Bartlett is well into his teaching career with a post at an Elementary School in Margate where he is living in lodgings in the seaside town.
Jim would die in Brighton in 1986. It would appear he was single and had no children.
The house in the Kent village of Birchington, where he was brought up with sisters Joyce (3 years older), Bessie (12 years older), Lily (14 years older), and Christiana (same forename as his mother and 15 years older), no longer exists.
This postcard sent to Miss Sally D. Hart by her grandmother in 1949 is clearly a picture of Goldsmiths’ College in the 1930s.
It’s June 1949 and a grandmother with shaky handwriting, presumably because of her age, writes to 18 year old Sally D. Hart who we can also assume has just been awarded a place at Goldsmiths’ College.
Grandma has been checking out the place.
The postcard is definitely a picture of the front of the College between the wars and doesn’t show how the Luftwaffe and flying bombs smashed and battered the Victorian buildings that have been repaired using emergency funds and building materials.
By now the swimming pool is no more. The tall chimney stacks have gone. The front gate columns are scarred with shrapnel, but the trams are still running down Lewisham Way.
Dear Sally, What a beautiful place. Make the most of it. Mum and Dad are doing alright. Lovely weather and I am O.K. Love Grandma X X X
The chain-smoking King George VI is still on the throne.
Some war-time rationing is still in place though in 1949 it was ending for chocolate, sweets and clothing, and unlike her predecessors, Jim in 1928 and Wilfrid in 1914, Sally won’t have to worry about having to pay medical bills.
The National Health Service has been operational for a year.
The education system divides state educated children by the eleven-plus examination giving a minority the privilege of going to grammar school and getting middle-class professional jobs, and the rest going to secondary modern and technical schools where their futures would be mainly in trade, factories and industry.
The first launderette has opened in Bayswater.
Sally is presumably having a holiday at the Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay, which still exists to this day.
The Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay in 2019- just as it most probably looked in 1949 where Sally D. Hart was either staying on vacation or working at a summer job.
It’s also possible that her family owned it, or it was where she was working at a summer job before beginning her studies at Goldsmiths in September.
Sally would be joining Britain’s largest teacher training college with an art school that would shortly be nurturing the talents of the great art faker Tom Keating, and the brilliant designer Mary Quant.
In 1949 the Art students had been busy caricaturing their lecturers.
An art student called ‘Joyce’ caricatured College lecturers for the Magazine ‘Smiths in 1949.
The Warden, Arthur Edis Dean has been running the College since 1927.
He led the war-time evacuation to Nottingham between 1939 and 1946 and it is has only been three years since Goldsmiths has literally risen from the ashes and revived teaching and learning in New Cross.
When Warden Dean was Sally’s age he had already graduated from Durham University. He was an intellectual child prodigy.
Arthur Edis Dean, Warden of Goldsmiths’ College 1927 to 1950.
And so we have three postcard snapshots of the lives of three students from the past and the charming connections with their family and friends.
Sally Hart’s grandmother in 1949 having a look round the College, and clearly bursting with pride over the fact that her granddaughter has won a place to study there.
Jim Bartlett sending thanks for the cake and shoes from his mother in 1928, and hoping his ‘Bravissimo’ Dad, Henry, has had an enjoyable Whist Drive.
And an apprehensive and very polite Wilfrid in November 1914 sending Mrs Hinchliff a composite postcard giving thirteen pictures of Goldsmiths College just as the Great War is brewing up into a furnace of destruction, grief and despair.
Nowadays these messages, in all likelihood, would be by Instagram, Twitter, email, Facebook and LinkedIn.
But the sentiments, love and care by and for students at Goldsmiths, in all the twists and turmoils of an often troubling world, are more than likely to be the same.
Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.
The headquarters of the current Security Service, MI5 at Thames House on the north side of the River Thames. Image: MI5 Thames House Image Gallery, (OGL v1.0).
The Goldsmiths’ History Project becomes the subject of a freedom of information battle this week.
The Information Tribunal First Tier in London is hearing an appeal by Goldsmiths’ historian Professor Tim Crook on his application for MI5/Security Service files kept on staff and students before 1989.
This will take place in Court 7 Field House, 15-25 Breams Buildings
London, EC4A 1DZ starting on Wednesday 10th July at 10 a.m.
The Tribunal has allocated two days to the case.
There are significant events in the history of the staff and students where the perception of political extremism and actions may well have attracted the engagement and interest of the Security Service otherwise known as MI5.
The Communist cell forcing a Warden’s resignation
Cover of “Golden Sunrise’- Sir Ross Chesterman’s memoirs.
In his candid memoir ‘Golden Sunrise: The Story of Goldsmiths’ College 1953-1974’, the fifth Warden (or Chief Executive), Sir Ross Chesterman, wrote that on his appointment in 1953 he learned that:
…the Communist Party had succeeded in establishing a cell in the College – a collection of about half a dozen men and women dedicated to the communist cause, and prepared to further their way by all kinds of obstructive actions. […] The communists were so well organized that they had managed to dislodge the previous Warden who, realizing that he was defeated, had resigned his post, taken Holy Orders and had gone to run a small North of English Church College.
He reported that Metropolitan Police Special Branch were visitors to the College ‘collecting information about left-wing activities.’
It is a fact that the previous Warden, Mr. Aubrey Price, did resign one year before the completion of his first four-year term.
His resignation was received with great regret by the University of London Goldsmiths’ College Delegacy.
Although submitted to the agenda and identified as part of the minutes of the relevant Delegacy meeting, his resignation letter has been removed from the College archives.
The student union President who went to Moscow
Sir Ross Chesterman, Warden of Goldsmiths’ College 1953 to 1974. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
Sir Ross Chesterman further writes about a President of the Goldsmiths’ College Student Union in 1952-3 ‘with very pronounced left-wing views’ who embezzled several hundred pounds from student union funds to finance his expensive trips to Moscow, Russia and other Soviet controlled Warsaw Pact countries.
In a remarkable account Sir Ross describes choosing not to prosecute the Student Union President in return for his paying off the debt over many years.
The individual given the pseudonym ‘Fred Soames’ was in all probability the late Clifford Peter Faith whose visits to Russia and Moscow led to regular cultural and educational delegations visiting the College during the height of the Cold War and being awarded the special Soviet emblem of ‘the best college in English Universities.’
Clifford Peter Faith’s report on a violent incident he witnessed behind the Iron Curtain for Goldsmiths’ College magazine in 1953.
Extremist students supporting fascism and terrorism
The College archives disclose texts and articles that caused distress and consternation at the time of their publication.
Virulently anti-Semitic and misogynistic propaganda was signed off as ‘The Fascist’ during the early 1930s.
Another student gave himself the moniker ‘Nationalist’ when justifying the deadly terrorist bombing of Coventry and other places in Britain in 1939 and early 1940.
CND, Vietnam and the 1960s
College students and staff played key roles during the 1960s in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the violent protests against the Vietnam War in London in 1968.
Bertrand Russell (centre), alongside his wife Edith and Ralph Schoenman with Michael Randle (second left), leading an anti-nuclear march in London, 18 February 1961. Image: Tony French CC BY-SA 3.0
The Student weekly newspaper Smith News ran the story in 1969 that Metropolitan Police Special Branch had been given access to student files. The decision and debate arising were highly controversial matters for both students and staff.
While the connection here is with the activities of the police ‘Special Demonstration Squad’ the statement of the anonymized ‘Mary’ raises the acute public interest issue of disproportionate methods being deployed by the state to gather information on activities which are on the borderline of political activism and political subversion and a threat to national security.
What are the connections with MI5 and files collected and kept on Goldsmiths student and staff activists?
A further statement to the inquiry by Tamsin Allen of Bindmans LLP contains multiple references to another political activist student at the College during this time, Richard Chessum, making allegations about the same undercover police officer with the cover name Rick Gibson having intimate relationships with other Goldsmiths’ College students while investigating political activism.
Goldsmiths- the happy home of the Communist Party of Great Britain?
University of London, Goldsmiths’ College seems to have been the spiritual and ideological home of the London District of the Communist Party of Great Britain- the largest and most influential part of the CPGB.
The annual congresses of the London District were regularly held at Goldsmiths by the invitation of the student union throughout the twentieth century up until at least 1982.
Karl Marx’s grave in Highgate Cemetery. Image: Paasikivi. CC BY-SA 4.0
This was at a time when the Communist Party of Great Britain had always been the subject of surveillance by the Security Service.
The CPGB was a political organisation committed to supporting revolutionary action to achieve its political objectives and the recipient of financial support from the Soviet Union.
The College archives reveal that in 1953, the College had the distinction of hosting both a left-wing Socialist Society and a separate Communist Society run by the students and supported by members of staff.
The legal issues
Professor Crook’s appeal is being opposed by both the Office of the Information Commissioner and the Home Office.
They argue that the Security Service/MI5 is not subject to FOI law and any information relating to security bodies has absolute exemption status on a neither confirm/nor deny basis.
They also say the Home Office has never been responsible for MI5 archives and information.
In short as they did not hold the information requested, the appeal must fail.
Professor Crook’s position is that MI5 was the responsibility of the Home Office before the Security Service Act 1989.
He submits that a ruling by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg, Magyar Helsinki v Hungary 2016, gives him a standing right to public interest information for historical research purposes.
The Home Office is going to be represented by counsel to oppose his appeal.
The hearing is open to the public.
The appeal is a test case challenging the absolute exemption blocking historical researchers from requests for files and information held by the intelligence agencies relating to people and events more than 30 years ago.
If Professor Crook is successful in persuading the Tribunal that MI5 was the constitutional and legal responsibility of the Home Office before 1989, this could open a gateway for FOI applications for historians in this area.
The appeal is supported by the Chartered Institute of Journalists, which has campaigned for FOI access to the historical files of the intelligence agencies where there is no risk to the interests of national security.
Update 23rd July 2019
Judge Alexandra Marks CBE ruled Friday 19th July that the Home Office did not hold the information at the time Professor Crook made his FOI request and dismissed his appeal.
In her ruling Judge Marks observed that Professor Crook submitted at the hearing:
The Security Service Act did not reform MI5 but transformed it (from an executive function of the Home Office (HO) to a separate statutory body). Though MI5 was not ‘part of’ the HO, it was ‘of’ the HO.
HO is the responsible state government body that should provide access to the information requested.
Because of the public interest of his academic historical research project, the ‘standing information right’ determined by Magyar fits this case ‘like a glove’.
The Tribunal has the opportunity – for the first time – to decide that Article 10 rights apply to the Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA). The ‘parallel’ route – namely seeking information from a public body under the common law and, if access to such information is denied, applying for judicial review – is neither preferable nor necessary. It is also a burdensomely expensive course for an academic historian;
HO’s position of ‘closing the gate’ to FOIA by saying it does not hold the information is not sustainable after Magyar. That case changed the jurisprudential environment by recognising a standing right to state information, thus serving democratic accountability and academic research.
The Tribunal rejected all of Professor Crook’s grounds of appeal. It decided that as the Home Office did not legally hold the information at the time the request was made, the Article 10 issues did not arise.
Professor Crook says: ‘Journalists and academic researchers in Britain should have been given freedom of information access rights to state information as a result of the ECtHR Grand Chamber ruling in 2016.
Yet, the UK Freedom of Information legal regime has very little to do with providing actual freedom to information.
I’m wanting access to historical information that is more than 30 years’ old and is not likely to pose any threat to national security.’
The decision of the Information Tribunal is downloadable on the link below:
An application for leave to appeal to the Upper Tribunal was made to Judge Alexandra Marks.
Professor Tim Crook argued:
1. The decision on 19th July in EA/2019/0073 means that the current UK legal FOI regime does not provide the applicant with Article 10 freedom of expression rights to access state archives for the purposes of public interest/watchdog historical research when no other human rights are being breached.
This is a denial of remedy under Article 13 of the Human Rights Act and European Convention of Human Rights particularly as the Grand Chamber Ruling in Magyar Helsinki v Hungary 2016 establishes this qualified standing right for the applicant as a matter of jurisprudential principle.
The FOIA is therefore incompatible with Articles 10 and 13 in respect of ECtHR jurisprudence.
The applicant believes the historical information being sought is being physically and/or virtually held by the UK’s Security Service; otherwise known as MI5 which according to section 1 of the Security Service Act 1989 operates ‘under the authority of the Secretary of State’ for the Home Office.
Section 23(3)(a) of FOIA prevents the applicant making any application directly to the present manifestation of the Security Service as constituted by the SSA. As the Security Service operates under the authority of the Home Secretary whose government department is the Home Office, the applicant believed the Home Office was the relevant authority to apply for the information.
The applicant argued that on the balance of probabilities there was evidence in law that prior to the Security Service Act 1989, the Security Service was a covert executive body operating as part of the Home Office and this position further justified the relevance of making the FOI application to the Home Office; particularly as all the information sought related to matters and people occurring before 1989.
By ruling against the applicant’s contention that he had the gateway sought via Section 3(2)(b) of FOIA, he has no remedy available to him to achieve a proper consideration of his Article 10 right to state information for public interest/watchdog historical research purposes.
He argues that the interference with the applicant’s freedom of expression rights was not “necessary in a democratic society,” and there was no “pressing social need” for such abrogation.
In conclusion, the applicant therefore submits that under Human Rights Law, he is entitled to proper consideration of his request for access to the historical information being held.
2. The applicant argues that there is a point of law of general importance about whether on the balance of probabilities he should be denied the engagement of Article 10 rights because the State government body applied to ‘did not hold’ the information sought when it was applied for.
3. The applicant argues that on the balance of probabilities he did demonstrate in law that the information requested was held by a security service under the legal constitutional and executive control of the Home Office and the Secretary of State for that government department e.g the Home Secretary.
On 20th August 2019 Judge Marks CBE refused leave to appeal and her decision is downloadable on the link below.
Marjorie James on her degree presentation day December 2018 at the age of 93. Image: David RJ Young.
At ninety three years of age, Marjorie James was the oldest certificated student teacher who was awarded an honorary degree at a special ceremony at Goldsmiths in December last year.
She stood tall and proud in the Marquee reception afterwards, surrounded by her family and explaining to the Warden and other senior University figures how thrilled she was to visit Goldsmiths, University of London New Cross for the first time in her life.
This is because despite studying hard for the intensive two year teacher-training course between 1944 and 1946, she had never set foot in the main college building or its campus and grounds in Deptford.
In 1939, Goldsmiths’ College was evacuated to Nottingham and several hundred New Cross students joined University College Nottingham’s undergraduates and just over one hundred other teacher trainees from the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury.
In the first history of the College published in 1955, titled The Forge, the Warden at the time, Arthur Edis Dean wrote:
In the as yet unrevealed conditions of possible aerial attack some doubt had been expressed about the choice of Nottingham as a war-time refuge but it was evident from the first that the choice was a happy one.
The reception at Nottingham was very friendly, and Goldsmiths’ was generously treated in the matter of accommodation in the excellent buildings of the University College, particularly on the residential side.
A Goldsmiths graphic artist turned the College’s exile to Nottingham into a light-hearted cartoon with lots of wit. Goldsmiths’ College ‘modes and manners’ were said to have caused ‘comment in high places’ and there is a cheeky picture of a male student wearing a Goldsmiths’ College jacket with his arm around a female student above the caption ‘and we lost no time in settling in !’ beneath the sign for the mixed Common Room. The reference to LDV in the last sketch is ‘Local Defence Volunteers’ which became the Home Guard. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
A fine hall of residence (Hugh Stewart Hall) was placed entirely at the disposal of Goldsmiths’ College and housed 220 women students, together with half-a-dozen members of staff and the Warden and Mrs Dean, who lived there throughout the war […] circumstances in the shape of bomb damage in London kept Goldsmiths’ at Nottingham throughout seven sessions, during which well over a thousand students passed through the College.
Hugh Stewart Hall- the home for Marjorie James and her fellow students at University College Nottingham during World War Two. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Marjorie started teacher training after D-Day 6th June, and the battle of Normandy and during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in the early autumn of 1944.
She had completed her schooling in Blackpool over a period of nearly five years of war-time conditions since September 1939:
When the time came I applied for a place at Manchester University and also at Goldsmiths. Both applications were successful. I chose Goldsmiths. One of my teachers had been to Goldsmiths and told me about the successful and happy time she had had as a student there.
Marjorie remembered being interviewed by a very charming woman who was easy to talk to and was responsible for the English curriculum. It is these first impressions that persuaded Marjorie that two years in Nottingham would be preferable to Manchester: ’She was fairly young, good-looking and very organised.’
Over the two years on the certificate course she studied English Language and Literature to an advanced level, History, Geography, Handwork, Principles and Practice of Education, Physical Education and Health.
Marjorie James née Hollis with her student group in 1944. She is number 17 in the middle row standing on the far left. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
She did her teaching practice at a junior school in the centre of Nottingham and was supported by ‘a very kind headmaster’ who was a ‘very good disciplinarian’ and would come and sit in her classes from time to time and offer mentoring and feedback.
Marjorie says life:
…did not seem to be too affected during time of rationing and shortages. I lived in College in Hugh Stewart Hall- a grand building within the gardens of the College. No male student was allowed to visit us in the Hall. Students had all their meals in Hall. We were issued with our one pound of marmalade which had to last a month. In college we could get a cup of coffee.
This sketch in the College magazine hints at illicit liaison between men and women after dark and patrolling members of staff with torches more interested in finding their cat called ‘Timothy’. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
We still had our weekly dance in the College which I believe was in the lower Hall. The students had their own student band. This entertainment was the highlight of the week on Saturday evening.
The ‘Dick’s Question Page’ cartoon from a Goldsmiths WWII Nottingham student magazine hints at some of the in-jokes of the time: “Are college friendships ‘purely platonic’” and “Who are the Dicks?’. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
It was a long walk from College to the local bus stop to travel to Nottingham. The bus came infrequently due to petrol rationing and students hadn’t the money to spend in Nottingham. A weekly wage could then be £5.
The copper-plate immaculate handwriting of 93 year old Marjorie James in her contribution to the Goldsmiths History project. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
Marjorie James enthusiastically contributed to the Goldsmiths History project with an elegantly hand-written account of her time training to be a teacher during the last years of the war.
On April 1st 2019 she wrote:
I am now 93 years of age. I grew up through the war years. It didn’t seem to me an unhappy time. People were very kind to each other and everything was rationed. No-one seemed more fortunate than anyone else.
I very much enjoyed my years as a Goldsmiths student. It is hard to believe that I had never seen Goldsmiths College in London until I came first before Christmas to be awarded my degree in Education.
December 2018 honorary Batchelor of Education ceremony for past student teachers at Goldsmiths, University of London. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
I have always been in touch over the years and had the magazine and had my book on Blackpool placed in your library.
Marjorie James in her official degree photograph December 2018. Image: Estate of Marjorie James.
After I was married I taught for a while and had my two children. Life was very involved, but how wonderful to have been able to visit Goldsmiths just before Christmas and to have been awarded my degree- even at my age. There was a great welcome. It was a very happy time and I feel very privileged to have been a student at Goldsmiths.
The College magazines published during Marjorie’s time with Goldsmiths in Nottingham present a very lively student culture.
They enthusiastically caricatured their lecturers:
Student artists also amused themselves sketching the sporting pursuits of women students playing tennis and rounders.
As far as she could remember, Marjorie says:
…the different cultures of Goldsmiths’ College, Institute of Education and Nottingham University College mixed very well. There were two main rooms. One for Nottingham men students and the other for female Goldsmiths, and a third called ‘a mixed Common Room’. All three rooms were used for leisure time.
The art-work produced by students hints at their preoccupations with war-time food:
the challenges of living away from home:
and the pressures of studying and taking exams:
Here I met my future husband Boyd James. He had been interviewed by the War Office, but could not be accepted due to his inability to see certain colours. He was taking a degree in engineering. He went on to become Senior Partner in an engineering and architectural practice which became the largest outside London.
We were married a year after our student years ended and were married for seventy years. He died last May. A very happy marriage with lots of memories.
The Second World War occupied all of Marjorie’s teenage years:
I was an only child. Goldsmiths taught me to be independent. The wonderful private boarding and day school I had attended in Blackpool encouraged me to work hard and have responsibilities.
My father, who was a captain during the war, was away from home, except for his army leave. I lived in Blackpool with my grandmother who was 85 years old. We had a very quiet life with ‘blackout’ in the evenings, except when there was an air-raid by enemy planes.
We had air-raid wardens who patrolled the streets to check that we had no lights showing. I can remember reading my home-work by torchlight.
When I travelled from home to Nottingham by train I remember that all stations had had their names removed so that a spy during the war would not know where he was.
At the age of 84 Marjorie completed her illustrated history of Blackpool: Progress with Pleasure.
She described the great impact of the war years with ‘thousands of troops … mainly training and marching on the promenade.
Sometimes from school we played hockey on the beach between rolls of barbed wire.
Evacuees poured into the town and the landladies had a busy time.’
Marjorie had vivid and evocative memories of the student celebrations for Victory in Europe and Victory over Japan (V-J) days during 1945:
I was still a student when the end of the war with Japan was announced. Goldsmiths’ students celebrated by joining all the people thronged into Nottingham to watch the fireworks, and as I learned afterwards, to paint the stone lions in Nottingham’s Old Market Square. I shall never forget it. There was so much noise and people were dancing and singing.
Marjorie James passed away on Friday 31st May 2019. Her son-in-law wrote:
She was at the hairdressers having just had a colour and set, put on her lipstick and dropped like a stone. If we all had a choice as to how to go, I cannot think of a better one!
She did so enjoy picking up her degree last December, albeit 73 years late.
Marjorie was one of the most enchanting Goldsmiths’ College alumni collecting her degree at Christmas 2018.
Her poise, concentration and precision of conversation left a deep impression on all people in the current Goldsmiths world who had the privilege of meeting her.
Goldsmiths is proud to have her wonderful book on Blackpool in its library and her memories of life as a student between 1944 and 1946 in its archives.
Coming soon: That’s So Goldsmiths: A History of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.
It is fortunate that a historian does not have to write a job description for the role of chief executive of Goldsmiths, University of London.
To do so might discourage any application from anyone and leave this ‘unique’ of university parishes rudderless for the foreseeable future.
The fate and reminiscences of past incumbents are not particularly reassuring.
The first Warden, William Loring, was shot in the leg by a Turkish sniper in one of the Great War’s more disastrous military operations. He died on the hospital ship shortly after his leg was amputated, and his body consigned to the depths of the Aegean Sea.
Loring was the only head of a British University who went to war and never came back.
The second Warden, Thomas Raymont, said he was never happier when leaving behind the crises that year on year had threatened the College’s very existence.
On his retirement it was said that had it not been for his ‘exertions, there would have been no Goldsmiths’ College that day.’ During his last year the London County Council had plotted to take over the campus and install a new South East London Polytechnic.
Photograph from ‘The Smith’ Goldsmiths’ College magazine Winter 1954. The image of a bulldog in crash helmet and protective googles could be seen as metaphor for the resilience and challenge facing Wardens of Goldsmiths at any time during its ‘unique’ and ‘remarkable’ history.
The third Warden, Arthur Edis Dean, had to battle with Deptford Borough Council who had similar predatory designs during the Second World War.
What the council had not succeeded in achieving, the Luftwaffe nearly managed by incendiaries and high explosives.
Warden Dean, like a 20th century Merlin, conjured the rising of a Goldsmiths’ phoenix from the ashes and brought the students and staff back from their exile in Nottingham.
His successor though, Aubrey Joseph Price, found it difficult to cope with the rebellious students and staff and according to the person who took over from him, Ross Chesterman, ‘realising he was defeated, had resigned his post, taken Holy Orders and gone to run a small North of England Church College.’
Ross Chesterman was given the job in 1953 because the Cambridge graduate applicant ahead of him had exaggerated his curriculum vitae and been found out. When visiting New Cross for the first time he discovered that the ‘College situation really was quite dreadful.’
He returned home to Malvern and wished he had never heard of the place and ‘as I started sleeping badly and was frequently assailed by feelings of real terror I felt that my nerve was going completely, and I possibly faced a nervous breakdown.’
Chesterman said he was saved by Jungian therapy. He stayed to navigate a course that ran to 1974 and earned him a knighthood.
Arthur Edis Dean, though, found it difficult to leave. He kept returning in various guises- mainly participating in amateur dramatics.
According to Chesterman, he became his alter ego and something of an interfering presence always agitating against his successor’s reforms and policies.
Sadly Mr Dean was run over and killed when crossing a road in Blackheath on his way for another College sojourn in 1961.
In one case a Goldsmiths Warden decided an offer to take up a University of London post at Senate House after less than a year in New Cross was really too tempting to refuse.
The history of Goldsmiths is characterised by its association with a richness, plethora and variety of adjectives: ‘very special’, ‘inspiring’ ‘radical’, ‘edgy’, ‘quirky’, ‘eccentric’, ‘challenging’, ‘critical’ and ‘innovative.’
All of them have the potential for ambiguity and remind one of the usefulness of saying something is ‘interesting’ when you would rather not disclose emotions and feelings closer to the truth.
In the not too distant past the Goldsmiths’ Student Union made badges bearing an earthy Anglo-Saxon adverb in the middle of the refrain ‘That’s so Goldsmiths’.
A sense of tolerating the intolerant seems to come with the territory. Student protest and revolt during the 1960s involved the future Sex Pistols’ manager Malcolm McLaren invading senior management meetings and squatting there with a disruptive group of fellow Art students who simply stared and remained menacingly silent throughout the proceedings.
He called this ‘Situationist political theatre.’
The patience of the mild-mannered and mellow Warden Ken Gregory was challenged by the student union in the 1990s serving up free food in protest against what was seen as inflationary refectory pricing.
McLaren’s situationist warriors protested against catering services by provoking a food fight in the Great Hall that needed a week of deep cleaning and a crane to remove the remnants of tomato and egg from the ceiling.
Enter Warden Pat Loughrey- a graduate of the Troubles
When Pat Loughrey arrived in 2010 he said: ‘I firmly believe that Goldsmiths has huge potential for the future.’
On his appointment in 2010, Goldsmiths called Pat Loughrey ‘a history man’ because of his degrees in the subject and a track record in history documentary at the BBC.
His first few months were certainly a baptism of fire. The Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition government tripled the cap on student fees and there were violent protests at Westminster.
The opening of the £20 million New Academic Building to accommodate Media and Communications and the Institute for Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship on the other side of the backfield was disrupted by a loud and angry protest prompted by the fact that the guest of honour, Archie Norman, had been a minister in a Conservative Government.
Pushing and shoving, the trashing of hospitality, the noise pollution from ear-splitting sirens, whistles, and low frequency throbbing of a music machine in a pram was the welcome he received.
But the ‘That’s so Goldsmiths’ shenanigans were not going to put off or discourage the new Warden who was there for the long haul.
Anyone feeling alienated and upset by the cynical u-turns of establishment politics and struggling to swim in the rough swell of recession while the entitled looked after themselves and their own, need never have feared a Warden bringing more of the same.
Pat Loughrey was adopted in early childhood. He was born in the Republic of Ireland but went to university, worked and lived for 25 years in Northern Ireland. He was the first person from his village in Donegal to go to University. He was and always has been the outsider coming in and then recognising, bringing in and advancing those who innovate and ‘replenish the flow of the new.’
The BBC’s historian Professor Jean Seaton knows his hinterland. She also knew the agonies, frustrations and toils of being Warden of Goldsmiths.
She was married to the renowned social historian and political biographer Ben Pimlott- only the second Warden to die in post.
Pat- a gift from the BBC?
Jean Seaton says Pat Loughrey was ‘formed in the culture wars of Northern Ireland, where he was born and grew up during the Troubles, and headed the BBC. He brought this sensibility to gritty Goldsmiths, a creative place with a distinct temperament. At least New Cross dragons don’t come equipped with Armalites and car bombs!’
Pat never slayed any of the New Cross dragons. He charmed, calmed, and even if they didn’t know it themselves, guided, mentored and persuaded them to achieve the very best of themselves.
The rather banally named ‘New Academic Building’ would become the first University of London building to commemorate a leading Black intellectual and thinker- the cultural studies pioneer Professor Stuart Hall.
Professor Stuart Hall Building at night- home to the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies. Image: Goldsmiths
During Pat Loughrey’s time as Warden, buildings stopped being named after men.
Caroline Graveson had actually been acting Warden when Thomas Raymont needed convalescence from the exhaustion of running the college during the First World War.
After Ben Pimlott’s death, the hugely respected head of design, Professor Kay Stables, was acting Warden for nearly a year. The spirit of Pat Loughrey’s time is making the invisible in history visible as herstory.
Professor Seaton said ‘In 1994, after becoming Head of the iconic BBC Northern Ireland education department (previous employees, Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon) he was appointed the first Catholic Controller of the Corporation in Northern Ireland. This was a genuinely historic achievement in a place where the Corporation’s even-handedness and integrity is more important and more challenged than anywhere else.
He took over at a delicate moment in what was to be the most significant achievement of British post-war diplomacy – the Good Friday Agreement in 1997. The BBC nationally had been nearly destroyed by decades of grumbling conflict with governments over the reporting of Northern Ireland. And although the BBC in Belfast had been repeatedly bombed, staff harassed, reporting challenged, and audiences split along bitter factional lines, yet by 1997 the BBC was seen as central to a new cross-community settlement: it was a remarkable success.’
Director of Goldsmiths Estates Vivienne Rose says ‘Pat was the right Warden for the right time. We needed somebody from outside academia who in his case had managed over 6,000 staff at the BBC across over fifty broadcasting centres. We needed a communicator and somebody who could engage with the outside world.’
BBC Northern Ireland. Image: BBC
BBC historian Jean Seaton explained that after Northern Ireland Pat was called ‘as all BBC aristocrats must’ to the Centre.
He inspired, renewed and developed a core part of the BBC’s broadcasting that in the age of devolution and deregulation had been neglected.
Jean says: ‘As a notably agile Director of the Regions and Nations he was responsible for the BBC’s television, radio, online programmes and services in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and the regions. He singlehandedly pushed through a commitment to local content making, which had been obstructed by years of obfuscation, made regional news really work, encouraged the return of Dr Who to be produced in Cardiff, took the BBC to Salford, and pioneered digital reporting. But the job was demanding – balancing as it did the fiercely competing demands, politics and needs of the nations and regions.’
The outsider tendency and experience was at its peak as the Celtic farm boy on the BBC’s Executive Committee for eight years. Being the first Catholic Head of Programmes and then Controller of Northern Ireland was something of a doddle in comparison.
Professor Seaton observes: ‘He nurtured creative talent and cared about the stories of Britain beyond the metropolis, because the nation needed to hear other voices.’
She added: ‘There was also – as in the best of BBC mandarins – a genuine cultural hinterland. Loughrey cared about history and its practice, drawing on his own experience growing up in a consequential and contested history. He cared about creative intelligence because it tells new truths.’
A sense of humour helps and ‘charging confidence’
When a new Warden has been appointed, the staff usually carry out an intelligence gathering exercise. It’s the second guessing on recruitment: ‘What is he like, what he has done, is he one of us, what is he going to do?’
‘Ah’ said some, ‘he hasn’t got a PhD.’ The new Warden self-deprecatingly joked and put up his hands: ‘Sorry I don’t have the academic driving licence.’
Little did they fully realise that he was going to delegate and inspire them to drive the juggernauts and formula one racing cars in scholarship, research and academic innovation.
There was none of the feared BBC corporate haughtiness. Pat took to the apt observation of a Britpop alumni that Goldsmiths was more screeching tyres than dreaming towers.
Unlike some of his BBC contemporaries he was not taking cream teas and moving punts at the helm of an Oxford or Cambridge College.
The Goldsmiths working environment dances not to Tchaikovsky, but a cacophony of ambulance, police and fire service sirens.
Very soon academics, students, and staff found talking to ‘Pat’ left you feeling upbeat, wanted and confident.
One academic met a former BBC staffer who told him that she was once terrified of having to make a presentation as the only woman among 20 competitive, ambitious, male executives most of whom had been privately and Oxbridge educated: ‘He just said something to me beforehand that settled the nerves and empowered me. Then he said something during the meeting which had all the men afterwards coming to me for advice. I hadn’t been tokenised at all. I was respected and equal.’
Pat Loughrey at an alumni event in the Council Chamber of Deptford Town Hall.
Professor James Curran has worked under five Wardens. The founder of Cultural Studies, Richard Hoggart was the Warden who appointed him in the late 1970s:
‘A very nice past Warden stopped me half way when I told him about the affirmative action admissions policy we had in the then Department of Media and Communications. ‘I mustn’t know about this’, he said. In contrast, the idea of getting more ethnic minority and working class students from South East London is food and drink to Pat Loughrey. He is plugged into the progressive culture of the College.
Comparing him with other Wardens, he seems to me to have been among the best. Like Richard Hoggart, he has driven through new degrees – in Loughrey’s case critical versions of PPE (Politics, Philosophy and Economics), management studies and law.’
Goldsmiths, University of London as a place for new and innovative degrees, new spaces, and new horizons.
James Curran added: ‘Like Hoggart, he is an insider-outsider. An insider in terms of political skills: an outsider in terms of who he is – a Catholic making his way in Northern Ireland.
And he has managed to maintain a sense of community at a time when most Goldsmiths staff have had a salary cut for the best part of a decade. He has done this by being convivial, nice, unstuffy: one of us.’
So much has gone well. The Open Book project aiming to break down the barriers that discourage people from entering higher education has been boosted and worked closely with a network of agencies to support people from a wide range of non-traditional backgrounds including offending, addiction and mental health.
Pat’s tenure at Goldsmiths has even seen the revival of an independent bookshop, The Word, situated in the New Cross Road and serving the local community, but also specialising in stocking books for students and staff of Goldsmiths.
She had been recruited as Director of Communications and Public Affairs at Goldsmiths during Pat Loughrey’s time at Goldsmiths.
She recalled that he ‘was always open to pitches of new ideas and had a great eye for spotting the very best ones.
It was under Pat’s leadership that Goldsmiths launched what has now become a mainstay literary award in The Goldsmiths Prize which has shone a much-needed light on the College’s literary expertise.
Given its focus on experimental fiction, and championing of writers outside of the mainstream, in PR terms it was also a fantastic vehicle to demonstrate the Goldsmiths’ character of creative daring.
The Goldsmiths Prize 2018 shortlist. Image: Goldsmiths
He sought out new academic programmes in the same way as he must have done for a very different type of programme at the BBC – not afraid to try something different, and always thinking about how we might reach new audiences.’
Liz recalls how Pat Loughrey thrived and enjoyed himself at graduation ceremonies:
‘Ever the journalist, Pat was a regular source of stories for the Communications Department often pushing unsuspecting students and their parents at graduation ceremonies our way after hearing a particularly brilliant back story from them.
A warm and eloquent public speaker with a gift for remembering just the right quote or phrase, his graduation day speeches were a highlight for parents and students alike.’
As a communications expert, Liz Hutchinson credits him with being ‘able to show that it is more than “an art school” and a place where serious research happens right across the disciplines of humanities and social sciences.
His championing of things like the Goldsmiths Prize, the setting up of the Management School, the Law School, the Political and Economic Research Centre, the driving for expansion of subject areas such as Computing and Psychology has all contributed to that – generating ‘non-art’ stories and angles for the communications team to promote.’
Pat Loughrey with Lord David Puttnam at the opening of the Curzon Cinema. Lord Puttnam had attended an evening course at the College before embarking on his film career and received a Honorary Fellowship.
The nine years of leading a complex university during complex and demanding times have inevitably meant having to cope with the unhappy, controversial, tragic and unacceptable dimensions of human and social experience.
Sexual harassment in the context of improper staff and student relationships, baggage from his time at the BBC, the pensions dispute, the near 20 per cent gap in BAME student attainment, the occupations of Deptford Town Hall all need discussion, communication, listening, analysis and understanding.
Trade union poster offering a critical view on the kind of Warden needed for Goldsmiths, University of London.
Liz Hutchinson says: ‘Pat was always very concerned with making sure we got the communications right internally too. While difficult matters were often raised, and answers were not always possible, I got the sense that staff (and on occasion students!) appreciated Pat’s Open Meetings and the frankness with which he would speak.
He was always keen to celebrate the success of students and faculty, and was instrumental in reviving and elevating inaugural lectures which had been somewhat sporadic and staid before his time.’
Liz Hutchinson and Director of Estates Vivienne Rose emphasise he has been keen on making sure Goldsmiths was a presence in the local community too – championing the new Curzon cinema, making sure the library opened to local people, introducing new bursaries aimed at local residents and supporting new ways of engaging the public with research.
Liz recalled: ‘The Warden’s awards for Public Engagement was one such idea ‘pitched’ to him and which he readily supported, which has showcased a whole host of innovative activity aimed at engaging the public, and particularly local people, with the research that happens on campus.’
Universities have an abiding need to compete and thrive in improving the student experience, the quality of teaching, and increasing the significance, impact and importance of the research produced by its academics.
The Curzon cinema offering a service for Goldsmiths and the local community that was not available before.
Professor Richard Grayson says: ‘In History, we have been especially fortunate since Pat is someone who has been a practitioner in the subject himself and there have been times when we have had meetings simply to talk about the subject.
He has often attended History seminars simply because he is interested in the matter under discussion, and I know such intellectual engagement by senior managers in the work of academics is all too rare at other institutions. That alone will be much missed.’
The head of Special Collections in the library, Lesley Ruthven, also acknowledges that the enthusiasm and commitment to an area she would not expect a university chief to be necessarily interested in: ‘Pat’s great love of history and of Goldsmiths have seen him engage over the years with the Goldsmiths College Archive, part of Special Collections & Archives in the Library.
He has been a great supporter, seeing how this important collection can reveal our history, connect current and former students and staff, as well as highlight what’s missing from the official narrative. His genuine enjoyment of and absorption into this material has been wonderful to see.’
When Head of History between 2011 and 2014, Professor Grayson saw two great strengths: ‘One was an understanding of what it is we actually do as academics. That rested on, and grew from, a tour of all departments which he did at the start of his term, simply exploring what we do in terms of teaching and research.
St James’s Church transformed into cutting edge multimedia studios.
The other strength is that I always felt him to be suitably challenging about our performance, asking probing questions about what we do and how we could do it better or, just as importantly, differently. A result of that has been the number of new programmes we have initiated in History in the past few years, and those we are still developing. He leaves a very significant academic legacy.’
Then and now
Pat Loughrey described Goldsmiths as being ‘shabby chic’ when he arrived. He was talking about what current Director of Estates Vivienne Rose is prepared to acknowledge as being the somewhat ‘neglected and under-invested’ campus.
Vivienne Rose first started working at Goldsmiths in 1987 as a temp on a two week contract. She had not gone to university and says there is something special about a university that enabled her to thrive and achieve so much.
Having worked under so many Wardens she says the success of Pat Loughrey’s nine years is down to the fact that the College chose somebody with the right personality, talent, and skills needed.
‘Goldsmiths needed a more public face; somebody who was media savvy. I know there was something of a kickback from some of the academic community, that they thought he was not the academic lead. But I don’t think we needed that at that point. We needed to take the university into a more positive public view. You can live on your reputation for only so long.’
St James Hatcham- ‘A Space Reborn.’ The transformation of old buildings into innovative and high tech teaching, research, and exhibition spaces.
She added that ‘Over the years he has always been approachable and supportive of his colleagues at all levels. Never standoffish or elitist. A very warm human being who shows interest in the welfare of all staff and students. That’s really important when you want to get the best out of your teams.’
Vivienne says the University needs a different kind of leadership now, somebody who listens but takes their own line and pushes their agenda through.
In nine years Vivienne said the Goldsmiths Campus has become the envy of the university world. Despite still being in one of the poorest, most deprived and polluted urban neighbourhoods, Goldsmiths is an income and employment generator and has been setting the agenda in development and improvement.
‘We have always liked to joke that he will be remembered for improving the toilets. “At least in my time I got the toilets working.”‘ It’s the kind of light-hearted self-effacement that has engendered great affection and popularity.
Theatre and studio complex re-development at Goldsmiths.
Vivienne pointed out that Goldsmiths, unlike most universities, is still an open college despite an increase in all kinds of crime statistics in London.
There is no police presence on the campus. The College security are discreet, protective, non-intrusive and so much appreciated by staff and students that a member of the security team was recently recognised with a student union award for being somebody who had ‘gone above and beyond.’
Vivienne Rose says Goldsmiths is now a College any student or parent, whether from home or overseas, can see is buzzing, modern, contemporary and looks like it must have value on the inside because it looks good on the outside.
During Pat Loughrey’s time the front of the main building has been landscaped and redeveloped: ‘It looks stunning and is a central hub for people to enjoy congregating and meeting.’
The Centre for Contemporary Art brings attention and interest from all over the world to a continually curated cutting edge art exhibition space.
The new Centre for Contemporary Art.
Much of the funding came from new generations of globally recognised and successful alumni.
Vivienne believes investment in the estate creates a positive cycle of further investment: ‘There’s the new complex of theatre and studios, and there’s the centre for 200 support staff in the Caroline Graveson building.
Pat reversed the under-investment and funding and the campus now looks amazing.’
The new front of Goldsmiths, University main building.
Vivienne added: ‘A college’s appearance is a reflection of the quality of the teaching and the experience the students are going to have. College alumni continually tell me how wonderful the campus looks when I take them on tours.
We had a conference of time-tablers from Universities all over the country. The remarks about the campus were lovely. It feels very human and doesn’t have the soulless and corporate feel of developments in other universities.’
Vivienne also credits Pat Loughrey with bringing students into key consultative roles at all levels of the college management and representation.
Vivienne and all the many people speaking on and off the record for this analysis acknowledge that the last nine years have been anything but a smooth ride.
Everyone acknowledges there is a long road to confront racial injustice, the problem of student retention and narrowing the BAME degree attainment gap.
It is a reflection of Pat Loughrey’s sensitivity and respect for those who speak out that he wrote to the students currently protesting with the occupation of Deptford Town Hall that their calls for reform ‘helped me and my SMT colleagues to further understand the level of intellectual and emotional care with which you are addressing these matters.’
He added: ‘We recognise that you view your continued occupation as proof of your commitment to achieving racial equality at Goldsmiths.’
And:- ‘I have deep respect for your cause, and for your dedication in ensuring progress is made and that the College is held to account on delivery. Indeed, as I prepare to leave Goldsmiths, I know that I will carry with me the dedication our students have to the issues they most care about.’
This is the language of conciliation, mutuality, reparation and restorative justice. It is the care of somebody who had to do journalism in a society that was in a state of virtual civil war during the troubles of Northern Ireland.
Professor Jean Seaton defines Pat’s success at Goldsmiths as having empathy, understanding, a willingness to listen and doing everything to motivate the people around him to achieve positive change and progress.
She explains: ‘If you want to know where Loughrey became so warm, eloquent, wily, ambitious, welcoming and steely, the BBC in the middle of a conflict is the answer. ‘
Naming the New Academic Building after the pioneer of Cultural Studies, Professor Stuart Hall.
That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.
The top of the psychedelic poster design for Golddream at Goldsmiths’ College between June 26th and July 1st 1969. Image: Poster donated to Goldsmiths Archives by Greg Conway.
In 1969 Goldsmiths’ College student union organised a third Golddream summer festival of music and arts.
This festival was going to last an entire week and one of the organisers, the late manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren (then known as Malcolm Edwards) wanted it to be free and open to everyone.
Some of the world’s leading performers filled the campus performing rock music, folk music, poetry and readings.
The poetry readings included a performance by the respected film actor of the period, David Hemmings, who starred in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blowup in 1966 in which Goldsmiths’ College students took part as extras; particularly in the scenes filmed in Maryon Park, Charlton.
There was also a political speech from the black revolutionary and civil rights activist of the 1960s Michael X who was under surveillance by Britain’s intelligence services.
The first poster announcing the Goldsmiths’ College Arts Festival of 1969 being ‘Absolutely Free’. Image: Dave Riddle
He was born with the name Michael de Freitas and also known as Michael Abdul Malik and Abdul Malik.
His controversial life ended with his execution in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, in 1975 after being convicted of murdering a member of his political commune.
Many thousands of mainly young people played, partied, danced, and ‘rock’n rolled’ for seven days and seven nights.
The sound of the performance of the progressive rock group King Crimson could be heard many miles away with massive mega-watt speakers facing out from the College main building onto the back field.
King Crimson’s performance was spectacular at dusk with Pete Sinfield’s light show and strobe lighting effects creating the illusion of the disintegration of the rear wall of the building.
The legendary folk musician Gordon Giltrap was an active member of the College’s Folk Club and took part in the festival- an experience he has never forgotten:
Those Goldsmiths days hold very fond memories as I was slowly making a name for myself on the London folk/blues scene. I well remember being a part of the college Arts Festival and even being featured in the local paper (I still have the clipping) and witnessing a spellbinding performance by an amazing new band called King Crimson. Another band playing at the festival was Ambrose Slade later to become Slade. Magical Days indeed! A few close friendships were made during that time, and one in particular remains to this day (page 9 The Way We Were).
Ambrose Slade publicity photograph sent to Goldsmiths’ College Student union social secretary Dave Riddle. Image: Dave Riddle.
The exhibition is combined with the documentary photography of a Goldsmiths’ student from the late 1960s, Dr. David Bracher.
In 2011 he authored and published a remarkable photographic and documentary testament to the culture and social life of this period in the book The Way We Were which is being republished to coincide with the Golddream exhibition and 50 year celebrations of 1969.
In the book Gordon Giltrap remembers David Bracher as ‘a hip, good looking student who took me under his particular wing of friendship and would chauffeur me to various gigs and rehearsals in and around London in his old Austin Seven with my guitar poking out through the roof!
Cover of ‘The Way We Were’ being republished in 2019. Image: David Bracher
Other College alumni who were there and part of the unique music, artistic and student culture from this decade have contributed their memories and memorabilia.
In particular, Goldsmiths Student Union President in 1969-70, Russell Profitt, who remembers Cream (Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker) and John Cleese and the Cambridge Footlights performing in the Great Hall in the early hours of the morning during a May Summer Ball in 1967.
The drummer/percussionist was the very striking red-headed and charismatic Ginger Baker, who was Lewisham born and bred, and has always had a reputation for a temperament that could be described in the politest terms as ’emphatic’.
The cover for the double album Heavy Cream released in 1968.
When he was setting up the instruments on the stage of the Great Hall he would meet the equally formidable College Superintendent, Len Lusted, who had served with distinction during the Second World War and reached the rank of Captain in the British Army.
A remarkable feature of the Goldsmiths music days and performances would be the fact that they were often all evening and through the night events with breakfast being provided in the morning in the College refectory.
One of the exhibits in the Goldsmiths exhibition is a programme of the 1967 May Ball showing that Cream performed their two hour set between 2.15 and 4.15 a.m. The programme is personally autographed by the comedian John Cleese (later of Monty Python fame).
He performed for The Cream’s half hour interval at 3 a.m, who were then followed at 4.30 a.m. by John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
A highly regarded reggae band of the period, The Coloured Raisins and steel band Trinidad Tropicanoes also performed.
‘Alvari and his Gypsy Ensemble’ were booked to perform during the midnight buffet in the refectory.
These events occupied multiple sites on the College campus including the Quadrangle outside the Refectory and the Small Hall (which is currently the site of the Curzon Cinema).
The Small Hall was the venue between midnight and 3.30 a.m. for suitably Sixties sounding groups ‘Monty Sunshine’ and ‘Dave Gelly Art Themen Quintet.’
The Goldsmiths Student Union’s handbook for the following year included three photographs from the Summer Ball of 1967 featuring Cyril Stapleton and his band, Monty Sunshine and his band, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.
From top to bottom: Cyril Stapleton, Monty Sunshine and their bands, and John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
It was reported:
The major idea behind the Summer Ball, the highlight of the year’s social events, was to offer as diverse a choice of entertainment as was possible between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. Apart from three bars open till 4 a.m. and a buffet supper and breakfast, the entertainment ranged from a gypsy ensemble in the refectory, through a steel band and a Greek band in the open air quadrangle. Monty Sunshine’s and Art Themen’s Jazz Bands in the Small Hall, to the centre of the Ball in the Great Hall, where during the night could be heard Cyril Stapleton and his band, The Cream, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, The Coloured Raisins as well as a cabaret in the form of John Cleese and the Cambridge Footlights. Altogether a fantastic night.
Dave Riddle, when student union social secretary, was responsible for booking the super group, LOVE, for a concert in the Great Hall in 1970.
Standing in the same place about half a century later, he shared his memories of some of the great performances he had been responsible for bringing to the College.
Goldsmiths alumna, Ann Grigsby, has vivid emotions about the night Arthur Lee and LOVE performed at Goldsmiths.
Publicity for LOVE playing at Goldsmiths in 1970. Image: Greg Conway Archive.
It was during the rather appropriately called Goldsmiths’ Valentine’s Ball:
The West Coast, Rock Band led by Arthur Lee was the main attraction that long ago night and why we went to the event in the first place. They didn’t perform until three in the morning and by then everyone was mellow.
However two impressions of that evening remain – the dimmed lights in the Great Hall packed with students, seated on the floor in groups, most holding lighted candles – magical!
And then the beat of the music reverberating through the wooden floor of the balcony where we were seated; the intensity of it passing through my body so that I thought I would collapse under the force. But of course it took over our senses and emotions and we remained wrapped up in the music until 6.00a.m., when sadly LOVE had to pack up and we wandered off to breakfast.
The 1960s College circuit played a key role in the development of the music business at this time.
It was an investment in grants for students being given a much wider social access to higher education that funded the national touring of the developing bands and musical artists as well as increasing the demand for albums.
Images of tickets to Goldsmiths’ College gigs donated by Greg Conway. The bottom row, middle ticket is for the first Gold-Dream event held in 1967. Gold-Dream ran over three years with the celebrated seven day ’69 event being the last.
This demand in the UK for qualitative jazz, blues and rock music meant that significant black artists from America such as Muddy Waters, Otis Span and Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup found that they could earn more performing at British universities and colleges and experience bigger audiences than in their own country.
Late 1960s alumni David Mason (an editor of the student union’s weekly newspaper Smith News) and Peter Skinner say their experiences of seeing this music live has always been inspirational:
The first Gold Dream Festival took place in the summer of 1967 and was intended to be ‘a vehicle for displaying the many and varied talents of students in the College, an opportunity for experimentation in certain art forms and an occasion for students and the public to enjoy together certain types of entertainment.’
Manfred Mann’s Chapter III in the Great Hall in 1970. Image by Dave Bracher.
In other words ‘Gold Dream’ was supposed to be the College community and the local community partying and celebrating art together. In that first summer the campus rang out to ‘a balloon debate which kicked off to Donizetti’s opera “The Elixir of Love”, a freak-out with the St Louis Union and a poetry reading by Kemble Williams, a Norfolk poet. Drama students found many opportunities for displaying their talents in a review, an experimental improvisation and a workshop production to the theme “Stand Up and Shout No!” A College group put on a music and lights show, there was a Bert Jansch folk concert and and a film showing of ‘Les Carabiniers’ by Jean-Luc Godard.
The idea of turning the Summer Ball into a kind of mini-rock and arts festival was conceived in 1966 under the Student Presidency of John Lauwerys.
After graduating with a B.Ed in 1970, he went on to become Secretary and Registrar of the University of Southampton.
In an interview with alumni magazine Goldlink he said:
The whole idea seemed so improbable but also so exciting. Why should all night Summer Balls be exclusive to Oxbridge colleges? Why shouldn’t we have such an event at Goldsmiths in New Cross despite not having a river to punt down? That was the proposition put to a General Union Meeting early in 1966 by a wonderfully eccentric student called Hugh Walwyn-James, himself a pure ‘Brideshead’ character. The meeting gave overwhelming support to the proposal without worrying about the possible financial risk to the Students’ Union.
Poster for 1966 Goldsmiths’ College Summer Ball. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
As can be seen the first Summer Ball negotiated performances from the Kinks, The Bonzo Dog Do-Dah Band (actually formed at New Cross with former Goldsmiths’ art student Neil Innes in the line up) and Humphrey Lyttleton and ‘A Strict Tempo Band.’
This is when the tradition of a gypsy ensemble playing with a snake dancer during the buffet originated.
This was all about ambition and a sense of cultural and artistic optimism.
The plan was for there to be music playing in parallel throughout the three locations, the Great Hall, the Small Hall, and in the Quadrangle outside the Refectory. In addition there would be a continuous film show of 1920/30s classic comedy films for those in need of a rest! The buffet was to be served at Midnight in the main Refectory with a light breakfast available at 5 am for those who hadn’t flagged out earlier.
The Summer term at Goldsmiths thus proceeded through the late 1960s with the over-ambitious Summer Ball in May followed by the equally over-ambitious Summer Arts Festival in late June and early July.
Goldsmiths’ College students in 1967 raising money for charities in ‘Rag’ events. Image: Goldsmiths Archives
Where does this extraordinary spirit of adventure and hope for a better future come from?
Many of Goldsmiths women student alumni offer important explanations.
In a poetic contribution to ‘The Way We Were’ Judy Fawcett asked the question ‘Did the sun always shine?’ and answered with the lines:
Music, friendship and endless fun.
Every day full of optimism – no money but, … we knew how to dance,
how to laugh, how to love and how to be together.
Biba and Bus Stop gave us style,
Julie Driscoll, Arthur Brown and Bonzo Dogs gave us joy.
We had dreams, we had ideals,
Life was about caring, principles and passion.
The world was going to be different with our generation – we had discovered – ‘All you need is love.’
We lived ‘Love and Peace’ and we believed education would change the world!
Julie Driscoll performed ‘Season of the Witch’ in the Great Hall of Goldsmiths in 1968
Maggie Law explained:
I journeyed from Lancashire to the throbbing, swinging heart of a country in the midst of a huge political, musical and fashionable upheaval to Goldsmiths’ College, which proved an excellent place to be in order to get the best of all that was on offer in this – the best of times. […]
In ’66 it was a group of drama students, staying behind at the end of term, who were co-opted into Antonioni’s “Blow Up”. They can be seen, rather self-consciously cavorting in Maryon Park around the tennis courts, one of them being the famed Anne Webb- What a powerful woman she was.
Anne Webb, President of the Goldsmiths Student Union- the first woman in this role in the 1960s leading an executive in 1966-7 consisting of all men in a College where there were more women students. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
Lizzie Mapson said:
We knew that there was an energy that permeated everything we did…that nothing seemed impossible…that we were going to change everything because the rule book had been abandoned as we alighted from the New Cross train. […]
But more than all of this, we believed… in each other, ourselves, the power of democracy, the right to protest and be heard, the freedom to love in any way we wanted and in the fact that the world of our parents had endured two world wars and that we would make sure it never happened again.
Dr Dave Bracher was recording the faces of the people immersed in this social and cultural revolution through documentary photography.
It would not be an exaggeration to say he was a genuine Henri Cartier-Bresson of Goldsmiths’ College.
Marsupilami playing the Quadrangle during the Summer Festival of 1969. Image: Dave Bracher
He had been encouraged in the art of photography by his mother who gave him a box camera when a child, and mixing with Goldsmiths’ College Art students gave him an opportunity to find out more about technique and technology.
Russell Profitt became the UK’s first ever Black President of a university student union.
During his year in 1969-70, Goldsmiths’ College students, being in the biggest teacher training institution in the country, led the protests against poor teachers’ pay.
Here is the iconic photograph taken by Dave Bracher of Russell mediating between the students and the police on a day of protest and action starting in New Cross.
Goldsmiths Student Union President Russell Profitt at the entrance to the College during a student strike against the freezing of teachers’ pay. Image: Dave Bracher.
The late sixties were certainly turbulent in terms of student politics.
Goldsmiths Student Union President Anne Webb wrote at the beginning of the academic year 1967-68:
There has been a change in the climate of student opinion, probably beginning long before last Easter, but only clearly visible since last October. An increasing demand for student militancy, caused primarily by frustration due to lack of consultation, information and recognition by the University authorities and H.M Government involving in particular the instance at L.S.E. has caught the attention of the press and television. I feel that the lesson to be learned from this is that no group of college administrators or Union officials should become self-satisfied, but should strive to discover the needs of the student body and consult them on major issues.
In 1967-68 many Goldsmiths students took part in major demonstrations against the Vietnam War; one of them turned into a riot and battle with the police outside the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square.
This page from the Goldsmiths Student Union Handbook for 1969-70 depicts Dave Riddle at the 1969 Arts Festival (bottom image) and the Honorary Treasurer reports a student population of 2,379. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.
College Warden Sir Ross Chesterman had to ring up the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Robert Mark, to assure him that his students were law-abiding young people who simply wanted to make the world a better place.
The student union had a Peace Group, as well as a Labour Club, Liberal Society, and Conservative Association.
There was still a tradition of debating with a thriving Debating Society run by Janet Dawson and Lynne Schofield.
Janet observed that Goldsmiths College debating had ‘achieved over the past few years a considerable amount of fame tinged with notoriety amongst other colleges in London and also elsewhere.’
In other words you debated with Goldsmiths’ students at your peril. You had to be good to win your argument.
The academic year in 1967 began with left wing trade union leader Jack Dash addressing about 300 students on a disruptive and controversial Dock dispute.
The Society ran an Inter-Hall debating competition on the proposition ‘American political friendship is the kiss of death.’
Malcolm Edwards (later known as McLaren) led a Maoist and Situationist approach to politics from the College’s Art School which had its own ‘School of Art Union.’
This decried debating and advocated ‘direct action’- something Russell Profitt was to experience during his presidency in 1969-70.
The issue of food is something of a perennial one in the history of Goldsmiths.
There were food strikes before the First World War.
Student union handbooks through the 1960s allocated a page to advise those new students not particularly enamoured of ‘the prospect of living in New Cross for three years or maybe more.’
Student Philip Hotton observed:
New Cross has an abundant supply of pubs: The New Cross House offers friendly service and extremely good sandwiches and rolls; this is situated about one hundred yards from College. One hundred yards in the other direction is the Rosemary Branch which also offers snacks.
Not a lot on offer for a palate that wants more from life than English sandwiches and rolls and a few 1960s pub snacks, or indeed Blackburn’s Fish Bar, or Burrough’s Eel & Pie Shop.
John Lauwerys offered a guide for ‘The Gourmet On A Shoe String’ in 1966-67.
He also warned the new student that in his opinion there was only ‘one restaurant in South East London that can measure up to the high standards of the average Soho ones.’
Not a lot was recommended on offer at the Roma Grill- described as ‘Italian, pleasant decor’ and only good for a steak.
Goldsmiths alumni David Swarbrick had a distinguished career in teaching spanning more than three decades after graduating from Goldsmiths with a degree in 1972.
The College food and militant politics were not particularly his thing, but the music, entertainment and culture certainly were.
It was student union social secretaries in the years 1967 to 1970 who bore the main brunt and responsibility for booking the big acts that put Goldsmiths’ College on the map in regard to the university musical circuit.
They were Greg Conway, John Glockler, and Dave Riddle. Sadly John Glockler passed away in 2016.
His friend and fellow band player, Dave Mason (yes, Goldsmiths students from this time formed their own bands and performed as support acts to the famous groups playing at the College) paid tribute to the significance of John Glockler’s contribution:
He was the second of three brilliant and imaginative Goldsmiths Student Union Social Secretaries who covered the period 1967-1970, the others being Greg Conway (1967-68) and Dave Riddle (1969-70). In 1967 the music industry, led by Chris Wright and Terry Ellis (who later founded Chrysalis Records), turned towards the university and college circuit as a more lucrative market for their performers. Greg, John and Dave seized this opportunity to provide Goldsmiths students with the biggest and the best of bands. In total they booked more than 150 acts, giving us a musical legacy it is difficult to forget and Goldsmiths College a reputation as a place to hear the best in music.
Here is a small selection from the acts that John, Greg and Dave booked – 1967 to 1970
• Cream, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Moody Blues, Traffic, Jethro Tull, Hawkwind, King Crimson, Love.
Original ticket invitation. Image: Greg Conway.
• Pentangle, Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Gordon Giltrap, John Renbourne
• Judy Collins, Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger & The Trinity, Christine McVie with Chicken Shack.
• Georgie Fame, Yardbirds, Chris Farlow, Pretty Things, Joe Cocker and the Grease Band
Original ticket invitation. Image: Greg Conway.
• Ambrose Slade (renamed later as Slade), Atomic Rooster, East of Eden
• The Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Liverpool Scene, Scaffold
Original ticket invitation. Image: Greg Conway.
• Muddy Waters, Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup.
John Glockler (1944-2016), Goldsmiths College Student Union Social Secretary 1968-69.
Dave Mason speculates that it may well have been the intersection of John Glockler’s musical talent and originality and Malcom Edwards/McLaren’s presence at Goldsmiths that was the spark that catalysed Punk:
In 1969 John formed a rock’n’roll group, aptly named Johnny Rock and the Prowlers. John as Johnny Rock on vocals, Julian Bailey on lead guitar, Alan Hales on bass, David Mason on piano and Frank Kelly on drums. When John Glockler took on the Johnny Rock persona, it was a Jekyll and Hyde transformation. This quiet and modest man delivered every number with a unique style of a-tonal screaming aggression, spitting out each word at the audience in an anarcho-punk style that predated Johnny Rotten and the Sex Pistols by almost a decade. Johnny Rock and the Prowlers performed at the Goldsmiths Arts Festival in 1969. One of the Festival organisers was Malcolm Edwards, later known as Malcolm McLaren. He must have seen John perform. Is it too much to claim a causal link between Johnny Rock and Johnny Rotten?
In 1967-68, Social Secretary Greg Conway was organising a ‘Gold Freak Out Dance’ before the Gold Dream Festival.
He and his father installed a Vox 50 Watt amplifier, two 15 Watt Fane speakers, and two Gerrard SRP 22 record decks for the discotheque infrastructure in the Small Hall.
He had donated his copy of Student Union minutes from December 1967 in which he reported that:
It was obvious at the Flower Inferno that large numbers of people were entering College without tickets, particularly via the windows of the Small Hall and T.V. Room.
The Social Secretaries had to run a complicated business where large-scale events needed to break even, and if possible make a profit through ticket sales.
Greg remembers that the allure of the riches on offer from the Summer Balls and Arts Festivals was a significant attraction to prospective students visiting the College when deciding on their choices for University and teacher training.
In 1968, those looking around the College were given the following notice:
This is the first time we have ever given you, a prospective Goldsmiths’ student, the chance to attend the major function of our social calendar- The Summer Ball.
You will see Goldsmiths’ and meet your fellow students and have the experience of a lifetime.
Come to Summer Ball and Hear:
BONZO DOG DOO-DAH BAND
At last the 1958 Rock’n’Roll Show, Honneybus: Episide Six; Chicken Shack; Trevor Hall Band; The Cherry Pickers; Mexican Troupo; Limbo
BUFFET and BREAKFAST.
Greg recalled that the Goldsmiths’ College creative and inspirational environment encouraged him to do things he does not think he would ever have done at another university.
He designed three covers for the Student Union weekly newspaper Smith News.
The Goldsmiths Golddream Exhibition has been curated by Dr. John Price (Head of History Department) Public Engagement executive Will Cenci, Director of Estates & Facilities Vivienne Rose, former Goldsmiths student and member of staff Dave Riddle, Dr David Bracher, and Goldsmiths Historian Professor Tim Crook.