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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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.

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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.”

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Goldsmiths, Art and Winston Churchill

Winston_Churchill_statue,_Parliament_Square,_London_(cropped)

Parliament Square statue of Sir Winston Churchill by Goldsmiths College’s Head of Sculpture Ivor Roberts-Jones. Photo by Eluveitie – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

It was the worst day of their lives.

That was the sense of emotional and professional disaster for Goldsmiths Art School alumni Graham and Kathleen Sutherland in 1954.

The Prime Minister Winston Churchill had sent round his official limousine with a letter furiously rejecting the portrait of him that Graham had been commissioned by Parliament to paint.

Winston had thundered:

“…there will be an acute difference of opinion about this portrait…it will bring an element of controversy into a function that was intended to be a matter of agreement between the Members of the House of Commons where I have lived my life … the painting, however masterly in execution, is not suitable…”

This was Parliament’s gift to celebrate the eightieth birthday of Britain’s war-time leader between 1940 and 1945.

Its unveiling a few days later in Westminster Hall would be another catastrophic humiliation for the Sutherlands; this time played out live on BBC television and reported in newsreel cinemas.

The irascible statesman, having been persuaded to avoid publicly rejecting the gift, used sarcasm to twist the knife into the portraitist he believed had made him look like a decrepit old man:

“…the portrait [turning to look at it] is a remarkable example of modern art. [Haughty laughter as well as applause] It certainly combines force and candour. These are qualities which no active member of either House can do without or should fear to meet.”

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