Background to the role of Warden
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.
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
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.
During Pat Loughrey’s time as Warden, buildings stopped being named after men.
Goldsmiths now has a Margaret Macmillan building and a Caroline Graveson building– women lost to history and whose contribution needed elevating.
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 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.’
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.’
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.
Goldsmiths has become home to the Confucius Institute for dance and performance.
Goldsmiths also now has its own University Press with pioneering concepts of open publishing and multimedia presentation of research.
Internationally a global reach has been well established through the association with LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore.
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.
One of its best sellers has been Les Back’s Academic Diary published by the Goldsmiths Press.
Nine years of progress and development
Liz Hutchinson is now Director of Communications at the British Academy.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.
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.’
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.
Sexual harassment and violence have been confronted to the extent that the response has been seen as a model for other universities.
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. ‘
That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.