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The V2 Woolworths rocket bomb disaster 25th November 1944

National Fire Service people and Heavy and Light Civil Defence rescue squads search for survivors of a V2 rocket bomb on London during the autumn of 1944. Image: War Illustrated.

A V2 rocket bomb which descended from the sky on the Woolworths and Coop stores in the New Cross Road Saturday lunch-time 25th November 1944 became the most devastating Home Front disaster caused by the world’s first long-range guided ballistic missile.

New Cross experienced mass destruction of buildings and human life.

This catastrophic event happened a stone’s throw from Deptford Town Hall, now an important building used for teaching by Goldsmiths, University of London.

The people’s history dimension of this event is more bound up with the history of Goldsmiths than has hitherto been fully appreciated.

Goldsmiths now owns the site of the former St James’s Church, which has been converted into gallery and teaching spaces and is part of the memorial and human geography of what happened in the Second World War.

Much has been written about an event which tore the heart out of the local community; largely because so many women and children died. Norman Longmate in his book Hitler’s Rockets: The Story of the V2s devotes pages 207 to 212 to a detailed description and analysis along with eye-witness accounts.

After WW2 Deptford Borough Council set about rebuilding on the site of the Woolworths tragedy and by 1947 the building now standing was constructed enabling Woolworths to return to the New Cross Road and with the provision of two storey maisonettes for council tenants above. Image: Goldsmiths History Project

But there is little evidence now of what happened either by way of commemoration to those who died or tribute to those who took part in the rescue operation. Lewisham Council Local History and Archives Centre lists the details of those who died and could be identified. It seems 23 could not.

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Remembrance at Goldsmiths- a question of resilience?

Goldsmiths, University of London Richard Hoggart main building entrance in 2023 with a jet plane flying overhead. Image: by Tim Crook for the Goldsmiths History Project.

Armistice Day- the eleventh day of the eleventh month symbolises the UK’s immeasurable losses to armed conflict in the Great War of 1914 to 1918. It is then followed by Remembrance Sunday.

The memory of those who died in war is one of the first displays seen when walking through the Goldsmiths entrance. It is set out in the polished and carved brown oak panel in the alcove to the left.

It is very tactile in the sense you can touch the surface with your fingertips and outline the names commemorated for ‘They Died For Freedom And Honour.’

When the sun streams in through the windows, light can shine on the group of individuals where rank and service is identified with the names of people who had mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and more often than not young children; sometimes infants who would grow up without any memory of a father’s voice, smile, touch and loving eyes.

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Percy Thomas Rothwell- Outstanding Goldsmiths’ student, lecturer who played Hockey for England, survived Dunkirk, liberated Tobruk and then died defending it

For more than 30 years now I have walked past the Goldsmiths’ memorial to those students and staff killed in the First and Second World Wars of the 20th century and have been finding out about the lives these names and initials represent.

Goldsmiths memorial to alumni (staff and students) who died while in service during the First and Second World Wars. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London

Goldsmiths memorial to alumni (staff and students) who died while in service during the First and Second World Wars. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London

Their achievements and sacrifices are truly humbling.

Their loss left grieving and unutterable sadness.

The sound of the crack of a hockey stick against ball whenever the game is played on what is now the College Green bordered by the Professor Stuart Hall, Ian Gulland and Richard Hoggart main buildings summons up the memory of one of them.

He was Percy Thomas Rothwell and would go on to play Hockey for England.

When he was a student teacher at Goldsmiths between 1931 and 1933 he was known as ‘Jinks’ and while there he fell in love with fellow student teacher Dorothy Ellen Lord who was known by her nickname ‘Bill.’

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Mary Quant- the entrepreneurial fashion legend whose genius was inspired by her time at Goldsmiths

Dame Mary Quant has been hailed as the fashion genius who changed the way people thought, felt and looked in Britain.

After her passing at the age of 93 on 13th April 2023 she featured on at least 10 of the front pages of the UK’s national newspapers with tributes such as the ‘Designer who revolutionised British fashion in the 1960s’, and ‘The 60s high street fashion trailblazer’ who ‘blew the doors off fashion as we knew it.’

The headlines reflected her iconic status: ‘Farewell, Ms Miniskirt’ (Metro), ‘Pioneer of mini-skirt who shaped Sixties’ (Express), ‘Visionary British youth culture pioneer and 1960s fashion icon’ (Financial Times), ‘Fashion owes so much to her” (Guardian), ‘Farewell to the queen of fashion’ (i newspaper), ‘The genius who invented modern fashion’ (Mail), ‘Revolutionary Quant’ (Scotsman), ‘Mini skirt queen Mary’ (Star), ‘Farewell, contrary Mary’ (Telegraph), ‘fashion designer who popularised the miniskirt and created a liberated look for young women that defined the Swinging Sixties’ (Times).

In her two autobiographies, Quant by Quant, first published in 1966, and Mary Quant Autobiography, published in 2012, she started with her time at Goldsmiths and the years she pursued her passion for art and design in The Goldsmiths’ College Art School of that time.

She celebrated her dramatic and stylish first encounter at a Goldsmiths Christmas Arts Ball with her first husband and partner, the aristocrat Alexander Plunket Greene and she relished talking about the influence and experiences with the avant-garde world that Goldsmiths opened up for her.

She was taught by leading modernists and surrealist artists, designers and illustrators such as Sam Rabin, Betty Swanwick and the legendary embroiderer and textile artist Constance Howard.

She was surrounded by fellow disruptors and cultural subversives- the notorious art forger, Tom Keating, who dedicated his talent and painting career to expose the capitalist greed of the art world, and Quentin Crisp ‘The Naked Civil Servant’- writer, illustrator, actor, and artist’s model. The celebrated abstract artist and designer Bridget Riley was another contemporary student.

Mary Quant would always remain a friend to Goldsmiths. On 23rd September 1993, she returned to receive an Honorary Fellowship and her advice thirty years ago to the graduating students in the Great Hall of the Richard Hoggart main building remains prescient in the present day.

She predicted the impact and significance of ‘the knowledge explosion’- which is now the digital information age of artificial intelligence, the implications of people living longer, and the need to be flexible and seize the opportunities of the future.

Mary was born Barbara Mary Quant in Blackheath in 1930 to high achieving parents, Jack and Mildred from tough working class backgrounds in Wales. They both gained firsts at university and became teachers- her mother actually lectured at the London College of Fashion.

Her family evacuated to the Kent countryside during the Second World War where she witnessed the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940.

portrait of Mary Quant in 1966

Mary Quant in 1966. Jack de Nijs for Anefo. Creative Commons.

Mary was a pioneering counter-culture rebel and decades before being one was the zeitgeist.

She wanted to go to fashion school. Her parents wanted her to become a teacher.

The compromise was enrolling on the art teaching diploma course at Goldsmiths’ College Art School.

Mary never had any intention of being a teacher. The tensions and rows at home predicted the intergenerational discord of the 1950s and 60s.

Mary explained why her parents’ implacable resistance to her dreams of going to fashion school proved to be an advantage in the end:

‘There is no future in fashion, they said, and from their perspective they were probably right. There was no future in the old ways, fashion came direct from the top couturiers of Paris, and was produced in cheap copies by mass manufacturers for everyone else. Dior’s ultra-luxurious and opulent New Look, for instance, was developed out of a longing for past ideas of female beauty and a desire to sell more fabric – Dior being owned, directed and backed by the millionaire cotton manufacturer Marcel Boussac. The look was so impossibly extravagant and unwieldy for everyday street life that it probably helped hasten the demise of the domination of Paris couture. If I had gone to a fashion school at that time I would have been taken to Paris to see the collections and taught to adapt them for mass production, as that was the way things were done. Luckily I wasn’t. But I longed to design clothes. My parents and I settled on a compromise. I enrolled at Goldsmiths.’

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Eric Fraser- the Goldsmiths Art Student who symbolised the age of modernist broadcasting

2022 is the 100th year of the BBC’s history.

For at least 50 years of that century it was Goldsmiths Art School graduate Eric Fraser who provided many of the illustrations imagining Broadcasting’s Radio Age and its journey and transition into the television world.

The cover for the ‘Radio Drama Number’ 1st March 1929 captures the sense of excitement in pioneering creative sound drama from seven different studios.

All the sources are mixed together using the new ‘Dramatic Control Panel’ live to air from the BBC’s then headquarters at Savoy Hill on the Embankment near Blackfriars Bridge.

It’s only a short walk away from the famous Savoy Hotel on the Strand and the hub of London’s West End theatreland.

There’s a sense of Art Deco futurism, cubism and the Machine Age all contributing to an imagined iconography of the culture and creativity of the BBC’s first ten years.

This special issue is devoted to radio drama for the first time.

At the top is the outline of the orchestrating, piloting, conducting radio producer flying or playing the control panel of sound feeds.

These feeds are panelled in seven parts around the titles of the main articles discussing the past, present and future of the microphone play.

Eric has drawn in pen and ink the pulsating rhythm of live band and symphony, sound atmospheres and spot effects, and actors performing singly and in ensemble.

There are tributes to ‘The Kaleidoscope’- a modernist experimental sound feature auteured by Lancelot De Giberne Sieveking, D.S.C , ‘The White Chateau’- the first anti-war play written by Reginald Berkeley M.C. for Armistice Night 1925 and the first British radio play ever published in book form, the dramatisation of Joseph Conrad’s novel ‘Lord Jim” by Cecil Lewis, and “Carnival” by the novelist Compton Mackenzie who performed the narration of his own book, and had plenty to say about ‘The Future of the Broadcast Play.’

The reference to ‘Speed’ was BBC Radio’s first and original foray into science fiction on the radio- written by its first Director of Productions R E Jeffrey under a pseudonym.

Goldsmiths’ Library has its own collection of most of the original issues of the Radio Times published during the 20th century.

The Goldsmiths History Project has also acquired two original invitation cards designed by Eric when a student in New Cross.

He illustrated the cards for the School of Art’s Fancy Dress Ball on 10th February 1923 and the Fancy Dress Ball for St Patrick’s Day 17th March of that year.

This online feature has been researched, written and published to coincide with an exhibition of Eric Fraser’s work and links to Goldsmiths in the Library’s Special Collections area from June 27th to 12th August 2022. (See more details at the end of this posting.)

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Goldsmiths History Project Podcasts

Podcasts for the Goldsmiths History Project by Professor Tim Crook

 

Anita Elias- Goldsmiths voice trainer and visiting lecturer

Voice trainer, actor and Goldsmiths visiting lecturer Anita Elias as the candidate in the 2015 advert for Shreddies Nanas

Voice trainer, Goldsmiths visiting lecturer and actor Anita Elias playing the role of the candidate in the 2015 Shreddies Nanas launch NanaState advert.

Longstanding Associate Lecturer in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, Anita Elias, passed away 22nd December 2021 at her home in Hampstead at the age of 79.

Anita was an outstanding voice coach and highly respected professional actor having studied at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, University of London for three years.

She taught use of voice to MA Radio students at Goldsmiths University of London as an associate lecturer for 25 years.

Many generations of broadcast journalists and radio broadcasters owe her a great debt for the skills and confidence she imbued in them.

She is in a noble tradition in Goldsmiths’ history.

Anita’s willingness to travel to New Cross for the very modest fees paid to visiting lecturers and provide all the benefits of her artistic and professional knowledge and experience represents a vital part of the story of the College.

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Goldsmiths History Timeline 1930s

The 1930s: Navigating the Depression and the Prelude to War

Goldsmiths’ College students 1932-33. Images: Goldsmiths Archives.

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How and why did Sex Pistols Manager Malcolm McLaren burn down the Goldsmiths’ College library?

The destruction caused by the fire in Goldsmiths’ College library in March 1971. Image: Goldsmiths’ archives.

For three to four years between 1968 and 1971 Malcolm McLaren, then known as Malcolm Edwards, was a charismatic, enigmatic, disruptive and strikingly original art student activist at Goldsmiths’ College.

It seems likely his behaviour as a Situationist Marxist was being regularly reported to Metropolitan Police Special Branch and then on to MI5.

He helped instigate the biggest, loudest and most memorable art and music festival in the university’s history.

It’s never been repeated because when King Crimson played the back field, they could be heard loudly and clearly in Hilly Fields Park near Ladywell- well over a mile away.

So many thousands descended on the College grounds- lured there with the exaggerated and false promise of Pink Floyd and the Rolling Stones, College security and the police surrendered all hope of controlling the numbers.

The scent of marijuana was in the air and lying and rolling around on the grass in the summer sunshine, it could be said people got to know each other much more intimately than would normally be expected in an educational environment.

Malcolm left Goldsmiths without completing his degree, spooked the senior management of the College by invading and squatting in their meetings with ‘silent staring’, stole the library’s most expensive art books to sell to Charing Cross Road rare book dealers and later confessed to burning down the College library to cover his traces.

It’s also been claimed he assaulted Andrew Forge, the chair of the Art School’s Academic Committee with a copy of Chairman Mao’s ‘Little Red Book,’ and the agitation and student unrest he fomented generated intolerable stress for the Art School’s Principal.

Cover of the much-acclaimed biography of Malcolm McLaren by Paul Gorman, published by Constable in 2020

In 2020 the back cover of his acclaimed biography by Paul Gorman offered some 86 descriptions and identities to attempt to answer the question ‘Who was Malcolm McLaren?’

Many of his contemporaries and alumni interviewed for the Goldsmiths’ History project would agree with ‘troublemaker, anarchist, exhibitionist, media manipulator, and Situationist.’

Those sympathetic to his complex and creative personality would also agree with ‘cultist, art student, enabler, friend, iconoclast, humorist, performer, painter, raconteur, romantic, visual artist and visionary.’

In popular culture, the Guardian said Malcolm McLaren was ‘the Manager of the Sex Pistols and a pivotal influence on late 20th-century pop culture.’

Dave Simpson wrote that the impresario ‘was one of the pivotal, yet most divisive influences on the styles and sounds of late 20th-century popular culture.’

He is perhaps best known as manager of the Sex Pistols, the punk-rock band that was a rude and loud cultural counter-point to the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977. When he died in 2010, the BBC reminded us that ‘he was arrested on the Queen’s Silver Jubilee after sailing down the Thames on a boat with the band while they played their anti-establishment song God Save The Queen.’

The lyrics continued: ‘The fascist regime, They made you a moron, A potential H bomb’ when sailing by the Palace of Westminster.

Simpson said: ‘With his first partner, the designer [now Dame] Vivienne Westwood, he popularised looks from punk to fetish, which still dominate the fashion world.’

The journalist Julie Burchill once said ‘we are all children of Thatcher and McLaren.’

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