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Meg Hinwood and her life as a Goldsmiths student in words and pictures-1907 to 1909

This remarkable postcard of a tram travelling past the snow-covered front of Goldsmiths’ College in Lewisham Way just before Christmas 1908 was in an album donated to the University’s archives by Meg Rayner, née Hinwood, in 1968. She had been a student at Goldsmiths between 1907 and 1909. The outline of the tram with an advert on its side can be seen towards the right of the picture as it travels past the iron side gate. Image: Goldsmiths Archives. All rights reserved.

Introducing Meg Hinwood

This is the story of a working-class girl from Dover who exceeded her wildest dreams at the beginning of the 20th century of being able to go to University to train to be a teacher.

In her excitement and joy when studying in London for two years and embarking on a future career as a professional young woman Meg would continually buy postcards depicting life and scenes during her Goldsmiths’ College life.

These would be produced by a resident College photographer called Mr Wilkinson.

An impromptu, informal and popular image of male senior and junior students getting together raucously to pull faces and make gestures in front of the College’s photographer in 1909. Standing at the back is the tall figure of one of the two Egyptian students holding four books during a break between lectures. There was gender segregation during the early 20th century with men’s and women’s entrances and corridors and separate follow-up assemblies and College Vice-Principals. Image: Goldsmiths Archives. All rights reserved.

Meg would write notes on the back with her latest news and post them to her mother with instructions to put them in an album.

Meg Hindwood's handwriting on the back of one of her postcards.

Meg Hinwood writing a note to her mother on the back of the ‘fellows in the quad’ picture of Senior and Junior male students taken by Mr Wilkinson, the College photographer. Image: Goldsmiths Archives. All rights reserved.

This was the early 20th century medium of email or Instagram.

A social news picture and text message.

Though at this time it needed a stamp bearing the portrait of King Edward VII and the auspices of the Post Office to carry it to its destination.

Meg was at University during a crucial period in the social history of Britain.

The London Meg Hinwood chose to study in between 1907-9 was the biggest and richest metropolis in the world, but New Cross and Deptford were mainly working-class with much over-crowding, poverty and child mortality. Around seven million people lived and worked in London. The Jewish community was the largest immigrant group. Chinese and Indian immigrants became more prominent and established, and a small but significant African and Black Caribbean community continued to prosper. The Pan-African Conference had been held in London in 1900 and this was a sign of the capital becoming an important centre of counter-imperial political activism.  The 1901 census recorded 33,000 Londoners as having been born in the British colonies or dependencies. This is a crowded scene in Petticoat Lane market around 1909. Image: George Bain news agency, US Library of Congress. Public domain.

Suffragettes were taking direct action in the campaign to win the right to vote.

London was the capital of an imperialist world power boasting that it controlled one fifth of the world’s surface with racist subjugation of many other countries and peoples.

This was an age when the working classes were beginning to organise for better pay and conditions through trade unions, and Parliament through Liberal governments were laying the foundations of a Welfare state.

The Edwardian period was attended by growing industrial unrest as trade unions began to organise Labour to improve pay and conditions. This is the entrance to the Great East India Dock during a strike circa 1910. Image: George Bain news agency, US Library of Congress. Public domain.

A disadvantaged and Working Class Background

Meg (Marguérite) Hinwood was brought up in her grandparents’ home in Dover by her widowed mother.

Her father, William Hinwood, was only 27 years old when he died in 1889- just two years after she had been born.

She was too young to properly remember him.

He had been an accountant’s clerk and Meg and her mother Anne had been devastated by what the local newspaper described as his ‘deeply regretted death.’

They had to leave their life in Malmesbury Wiltshire to move in with Anne’s parents in Dover.

Meg was brought up in the terraced house at number 30 Clarendon Road overlooking the port and only a few streets away from Dover Priory railway station. They called their home ‘Fern Bank.’

The house is still standing in this residential part of the town.

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Nigel Perkins- a Zen lecturer who gave Goldsmiths more than four decades of teaching and inspiration

A portrait of Nigel Perkins in sweater and open necked shirt taken in studio of Goldsmiths main building in 1996.

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.

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.

The front cover of Goldsmiths' College 'Staff Bulletin' for January 1980 bearing the college logo and a letter from the Warden Richard Hoggart.

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.

Black and white photographic portrait of Jean-Luc Godard wearing dark glasses at the University of Berkeley in California in 1968.

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.’

Portrait of Ian Jeffrey and Nigel Perkins in September 2019. Ian is looking right forefront. Nigel is looking left further back.

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.

Group photograph of Nigel Perkins and the class of 1996-7 at Clare Grafik's home in London. Six are all sitting on a wide sofa. Nigel Perkins is far left in an adjacent chair. There is a coloured painting on the wall above.

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 photography and image communication team were creating in the same space where Graham Sutherland (1903–1980) had been introduced to post-impressionism, where Betty Swanwick (1915-1989) and Clive Gardiner (1891-1960) defied the Blitz during the Second World War to keep on the art teaching during the day while the rest of Goldsmiths was bombed by high explosive and burned by incendiary.

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 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.

Nigel has additional credits in the BFI film archive for Lifescreen Calling all Women (1996), Is Ordinary Life Possible? (1986), The View from Industrial Britain (1983) and Sympathy and the Hero in His Incredible Isolation (1980).

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.

Portrait of Nigel Perkins in September 2019 sitting in chair, hands clasped and looking as though a thought has come into his head and he is about to say something. He's also wearing one of his characteristic turtle neck sweaters.

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.

He has written about the Image and Communication M.A at Goldsmiths being set up by Nigel Perkins ‘as a kind of rescue action for people in positions like the one I was in.’

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.

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.

Ian recalls that Nigel recruited a small salon of photographic experts in a teaching team which included from 1997 the photographic artist and lecturer Arnold Borgerth-Filho. 

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.

Portrait of Ian Jeffrey and Nigel Perkins together in Goldsmiths College main building studio in 1996. Ian is wearing a black scarf around his shoulders. Nigel is wearing a sweater.

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.

He’s referenced in 2008 helping the Goldsmiths Student Union mount an exhibition by the Norwegian artist Andreas Tovan titled ‘Man at his toilet’.

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.

Colin recalls:

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.

Photograph of the entrance to 79-89 Lots Road, Chelsea which is situated behind a block of flats.

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.

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.

Landscape photograph of the gathering of Nigel Perkins, Ian Jeffrey and four alumni from the class of 1996-7 sitting on sofa and chairs in a living room.

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.

Golddream- the music culture at Goldsmiths in the late 1960s

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.

One of the organisers, the then Student union social secretary Dave Riddle, has loaned his unique collection of event posters and memories from the period for a special exhibition in the Kingsway corridor running from early March to April 13th 2019.

Dave recalls:

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.

Arthur Lee has been described as the artist who inspired Jimi Hendrix.

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.

John wrote:

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:




At last the 1958 Rock’n’Roll Show, Honneybus: Episide Six; Chicken Shack; Trevor Hall Band; The Cherry Pickers; Mexican Troupo; Limbo


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.

There is an end of exhibition event for Golddream: 50 Years On being held at the College Saturday 13th April 2019.

Click on the link above to book your place or click through on the image below.

Goldsmiths, University of London thanks everyone who has given their time, memories, and memorabilia to make the exhibition and this historical online feature possible.

Lower section of iconic Golddream poster for the Goldsmiths’ College Free Arts Festival donated to the university archive by Greg Conway.

That’s So Goldsmiths– a forthcoming history of the university is being researched and written by Professor Tim Crook.