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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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When Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu came to Goldsmiths- only months after the release of Nelson Mandela

Black and white photograph of the Great Hall of Goldsmiths on May 4th 1990 taken from balcony looking down at stage in front of the organ where his most reverend Desmond Tutu is receiving the honorary freedom of Lewisham. Lewisham Council dignatories, local MP and Goldsmiths' College staff and students present.

The Admission of the Most Reverend Desmond Tutu as an Honorary Freeman of the London Borough of Lewisham, Great Hall, Goldsmiths’ College 4th May 1990. Image: Copyright Goldsmiths archives.

Sir Desmond Mpilo Tutu is the world’s most revered living anti-apartheid and human rights activist.

He was the first black African to hold the position of Bishop of Johannesburg and then Archbishop of Cape Town.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his advocacy and activism of non-violent opposition and protest against the South African apartheid regime. In his acceptance speech he said:

Colour photograph portrait of Archbishop Desmond Tuto.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Image by Benny Gool, public domain.

This award is for mothers, who sit at railway stations to try to eke out an existence, selling potatoes, selling mealies, selling produce. This award is for you, fathers, sitting in a single-sex hostel, separated from your children for 11 months a year… This award is for you, mothers in the KTC squatter camp, whose shelters are destroyed callously every day, and who sit on soaking mattresses in the winter rain, holding whimpering babies… This award is for you, the 3.5 million of our people who have been uprooted and dumped as if you were rubbish. This award is for you.

His steadfast and dignified campaigning for the rights of Black South Africans is credited with playing a key role in persuading the apartheid regime in South Africa to relinquish power, release Nelson Mandela and hold democratic elections in 1990.

Goldsmiths, University of London hosted Archbishop Tutu’s return to London to receive the freedom of Lewisham in May 1990.

Students and staff created the music and poetry which celebrated his achievements in bringing about peace and reconciliation.

The South African cleric and theologian’s links with Lewisham had been and remain affectionate and meaningful.

Living and ministry in Grove Park

Admission as an Honorary Freeman of the Borough of Lewisham was the highest honour the Borough could bestow on the Nobel Peace Prize winner who had led the wide-ranging ecumenical opposition to apartheid.

Colour photograph landscape of The 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2004. Both seated and laughing at the same time.

The 14th Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both Nobel Peace Prize laureates, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2004. Image by Carey Linde. CC BY-SA 3.0

What was less known internationally, though cherished locally, was that he had lived in Lewisham during the early 1970s and acted as honorary curate at St Augustine’s Church, Grove Park for three years while working as Associate Director for Africa of the Theological Education Fund.

He was no stranger to London having earlier studied for and been awarded a BA and MA in Theology at King’s College, University of London.

In fact, the Archbishop inadvertently gave his name to a key aspect of University slang in the United Kingdom because a 2:2 degree became known as  ‘a Desmond Tutu.’

A recent online guide to university jargon said: ‘You can’t go wrong with a degree nicknamed after a South African Anglican cleric and human rights activist.’

The sobriquet is meant to be respectful and consoling about the achievement of obtaining a university degree whatever the hierarchy of classification and grading.

This remarkable and memorable ceremony took place in the packed Great Hall of Goldsmiths and was hosted and organised by the College.

Archbishop Tutu was welcomed by Mary Barrie who was Goldsmiths’ Academic Registrar at the time.

Speeches were provided by Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, who’d known Archbishop Tutu since his schooldays, Paul Boateng MP, and Deptford MP Joan Ruddock.

The cover of Goldsmiths' College internal staff and students monthly magazine for May 1990 featuring a scanned image of Archbishop Desmond Tutu receiving the Honorary Freedom of Lewisham in the Great Hall of Goldsmiths' College.

Goldsmiths’ College Hallmark cover for May 1990. Image: copyright Goldsmiths Archives.

The Mayor of Lewisham said:

In honouring Archbishop Tutu, this Council is paying tribute to his courageous non-violent struggle against apartheid and the inspiration he has given to oppressed peoples everywhere; and we take pride in him as a former resident of the Borough. Above all we are recognising his human qualities: his courage and enthusiasm, his intellectual vigour and wit, his gentle care and compassion, and his resilience in the face of adversity.

Goldsmiths’ College music, dance and drama

The Freeman of Lewisham ceremony was followed by a celebratory programme of performance.

This included music composed by Goldsmiths’ Professor of Music Stanley Glasser, (1928-2018) The Drought, which had been commissioned by the local school Colfe’s for their tour of California.

The lyrics had been written in Southern Sotho by Goldsmiths’ BMus student Ndonda Khuze (1957-2017) who had grown up in one of South Africa’s Black Townships.

Increasing political frustration and police harassment had forced him to leave as he developed his career in creative and performing arts.

In exile, he co-founded the versatile ensemble Amandla that had toured throughout the world, appeared in concerts with major South African artists such as Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela, and worked on the music for the Oscar winning film Cry Freedom.

Professor Glasser had been born in South Africa, was passionately devoted to the country’s town and country folk music and credited it with being one of the dominant influences that forged his musical language and style.

The photograph also depicts the involvement of Goldsmiths’ Youth Orchestra that was run under the auspices of the College’s then Department of Continuing and Community Education.

The inside page of Goldsmiths' Hallmark magazine for May 1990 reporting on the ceremony in the Great Hall where Archbishop Desmond Tutu was granted Freedom of Lewisham. The article includes a photographic portrait of the Archbishop.

Report on ceremony for Archbishop Desmond Tutu in Goldsmiths’ Hallmark magazine for staff and students.


All of the public record and reporting of this event was the work of Sue Boswell who edited and published Goldsmiths’ internal monthly printed magazine Hallmark and was assisted at the time by Sally Oliver.

Grove Park connections

The Times reported that Archbishop Tutu was also presented at the ceremony ‘with an illustrated scroll with pictures of St Augustine’s Church, Grove Park, south London, where he served as honorary curate between 1972 and 1975.’

His work for the Theological Education Fund (TEF) meant that he travelled widely from his family home in Lewisham and in 1972 witnessed Idi Amin’s expulsion of Ugandan Asians.

He experienced one of his only racist encounters in Britain when a stranger told him ‘You bastard, get back to Uganda,’ mistaking him for a Ugandan Asian refugee.

At the time he also acknowledged that he retained his own subconscious anti-black racist thoughts; when on a Nigerian plane, he felt a ‘nagging worry’ on discovering that both pilot and co-pilot were black.

He had realised he had been conditioned into thinking that only whites could be entrusted with the great skill and responsibility of piloting a plane with passengers.

The Grove Park Heritage and Character Assessment published in June 2016 would celebrate the area’s Desmond Tutu associations; particularly in Baring Road, the location of the Church and public parks.

The report recognised that ‘Grove Park accommodated one of its most famous residents […] when in 1972 Anglican Bishop and South African social rights activist Desmond Tutu moved into a home on Chinbrook Road where he lived for three years. […] In 2009, the Tutu Peace garden was opened.’

The idea for the peace garden

Opera Singer Suzannah Clarke discovered Archbishop Tutu had lived in her house in the 1970s.

She decided to invite him back to the house to see how the area had changed.

After contacting the South African embassy, she was astonished when the archbishop himself phoned her to accept her invitation to tea.

Suzannah told the BBC:

After he accepted, I then realised that there was nothing to note that he had actually lived here for about 10 years in virtual exile, so I thought I would build him a commemorative peace garden. To begin with I was going to do it in my back garden but was thrilled that Lewisham Council offered us the park to build it in.

The garden was designed by designer and TV presenter Chris Beardshaw and took him six weeks to complete.

Desmond Tutu at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004 wearing academic gown and mortar board and holding a long white scroll while a woman in academic robes appears to be adjusting something on his back.

Desmond Tutu at the University of Pennsylvania in 2004. Image by Kyle Cassidy.CC BY 2.5

Chris Beardshaw said:

This was a huge challenge as I wanted to create something which is aesthetically rewarding, of educational value, and will promote social interaction and harmony in the community. We aimed to create a model garden that could be developed further over years to come. Peace is the catalyst, not the end result.

The Tutu Peace garden initiative was reported by the BBC in 2009 largely because Archbishop Desmond Tutu was so delighted to travel back to Britain to open it himself in another significant event honouring his work in peace and reconciliation.

Terry Waite CBE, who had been taken hostage himself when on a mission to Beirut to negotiate the release of people abducted during the Lebanese civil war, also spoke at the 60-minute ceremony.

Nigel Perkins- 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.

Remembering Goldsmiths’ ninth Warden between 1992 and 1998- Professor Ken Gregory

Portrait of Professor Ken Gregory when Warden of Goldsmiths College,Univeresity of London

Professor Ken Gregory when Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London and wearing a Goldsmiths’ tie. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London

The ninth Warden of Goldsmiths between 1992 and 1998, Professor Ken Gregory, has passed away at the age of 82. University historian Professor Tim Crook provides an obituary and assesses his contribution to Goldsmiths.

Arriving at Goldsmiths- a distinguished Geographer with a beard and without a Geography department

Ken Gregory was 54 years old and one of the country’s most distinguished academic geographers when he came to work in New Cross from the University of Southampton where he had been Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Southampton named a lecture series after him, which has run since 1993 within the School of Geography and Environmental Science.

When he arrived at Goldsmiths he was Ken Gregory BSc, PhD, DSc and FRGS. When he died on 23rd November there were many more honours to add to his profile: CBE, DSc (Hon), DUniv, C.Geog, FGCL, and FBSG.

Ken was the Warden during six turbulent and dramatic years for universities during the 1990s. He was calm, collegiate and effective in changing the university’s direction and strengthening its stability and viability in an increasingly market driven economy.

Goldsmiths students in graduation ceremony on the green in 1997

‘Fun In The Sun- Goldsmiths style’- students celebrating graduation during Professor Ken Gregory’s time as Warden.

He arrived in the year of Prime Minister John Major’s Conservative Party victory in the General Election of 1992, when Diana, Princess of Wales secretly collaborated with Andrew Morton on the book Diana: Her True Story in Her Own Words and Linford Christie won Olympic Gold in the 100 metres at Barcelona.

Irish Republican terrorism had also devastated the City of London with a car bomb killing three people.

Within the first month of his appointment he told students and staff he was attracted to Goldsmiths ‘because of its mission, its unique mix of strengths, and the potential this offers to develop in its own distinctive way in the new diverse university system.’

From the word go he was ‘impressed by the quality of the staff […] and their ideas and imagination.’

Professor Gregory won friends and affection because he was not prone to exercise the imperative and ego of his own academic discipline. Goldsmiths had shut down its own Geography department and Geology teaching some years before.

It was ironic that Ken had even been the Geography department’s external examiner during the 1980s.

Somebody with a PhD on the geomorphology of the North York Moors was not inclined to restructure the academic ground of a small university that needed to play to its strengths; particularly in arts and humanities.

What did Ken do for Goldsmiths and Goldsmiths do for him? Some recall that he arrived with a beard and left without one, but his impact was undoubtedly substantial and improving.

Like all Wardens he did the rounds of consultation with staff, departments and students and he was certainly somebody prepared to listen. At first, he was beginning to feel that if he had a vision it was to preserve Goldsmiths’ distinctiveness and ‘pay some attention to improving the way we are perceived – for instance, through our performance in league tables, to think of a topical example.’

How had he changed Goldsmiths by 1998?

On his departure in 1998, there is no doubt he had led a substantial improvement in Goldsmiths’ research ratings which at that time meant an increase in funding when there were caps on student recruitment.

As a result, the University attracted higher quality research and teaching academics and the publication profile and public and media impact of staff achievements increased Goldsmiths’ appeal to the vital and expanding overseas market in students; particularly from China, India and other parts of Asia.

1998 was the year when New Labour under Prime Minister Tony Blair completed its first year of government, the Good Friday Agreement brought about peace to Northern Ireland, and the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in the car crash in Paris the year before was still being felt.

The Revd Dr Peter Galloway as Chairman of the Goldsmiths Society said ‘His achievements have been impressive, not least in building up reserves, and in the construction of the Rutherford Information Services Building.’

Warden Ken Gregory with the Princess Royal and opening the Rutherford Information Service Building in 1998- named after the Warden Ken succeeded.

His most singular impact had been to make Goldsmiths ‘research intensive’ in the academic sphere.

At the end of his six year tenure, Goldsmiths had appointed its first Black Professor, Paul Gilroy, from the department of Sociology in 1997. Other professors appointed during Ken Gregory’s time as Warden included Nikolas Rose, Windy Dryden, Alan Downie, Andrew Louth, Frances Heidensohn, Michael Craig-Martin, Peter Dickinson, Michael Musgrove, Peter Smith, and Roger Slee. All of their inaugural lectures were published by Goldsmiths as pamphlets.

Warden Ken Gregory increased the number of professorial appointments, and they included Goldsmiths’ first Black Professor Paul Gilroy in 1997. Inaugural lectures were also given extra prestige with publication in pamphlet form.

The Laurie Grove baths complex had been acquired from Lewisham Council and converted into art studios. Goldsmiths had also taken over and began to use Deptford old Town Hall.

Ken said it had been a privilege to have been Warden and he was very happy to ‘hand over a thriving, vibrant academic institution.’

He retained his affection and admiration for Goldsmiths after his retirement and said he believed it continued to reach and achieve ‘new heights’ in the years following. He would be a quiet and supportive counsel for the following Wardens if they felt they needed it.

What he said during his archive interview for Goldsmiths History Project in 2017

He very kindly recorded several hours of archive interview for the Goldsmiths history project on a bright and warm summer’s day in 2017. He recalled how being Warden was not like being the Admiral of a ship or a chief executive of a private company.

It was more of a case of leading by persuasion. He recalled that the bigger vision would sometimes mean his aims may not have been popular in some quarters. Putting pressure on all staff to be strongly research active was stressful. Shutting down some courses and subjects courted protest.

He remembered with great affection how the department of Ceramics made him a tombstone to symbolise the death of a longstanding art and craft subject.

The report in Goldlink on Ken Gregory’s retirement dinner in 1998. It highlights that he had increased the number of Goldsmiths Professors from 13 to 46. He arrived with a financial deficit and left with reserves of £2 million.

The Goldsmiths community was always one where debates and arguments would run and have a passionate and activist edge. There was a celebrated occasion when he had to back down on a student union protest against increases in cafeteria and canteen prices.

The Union simply used its own funds to buy food and cook meals for students that they could afford. During his time as Warden he encouraged and implemented the introduction of student evaluation, a need that had arisen following the introduction of Departmental Reviews.

During his time, Ken Gregory originated the Warden’s Advisory Group; otherwise known as WAG which meant he was in more direct and close contact with heads of department. This came about through his canvassing of views, opinions and aspirations from academic and support staff for whom he always retained great respect.

During the archive interview he emphasised ‘the coherence and high quality of Goldsmiths staff.’ He said as a result of listening to their views: ‘We removed Faculties and created WAG, which I always found to be a very good forum for discussion.’

Assessing Warden Gregory’s legacy

It is important to recognise and confirm the legacy that Professor Ken Gregory left for Goldsmiths during the six years of his tenure.

Like with most Wardens the primary objective was survival. Goldsmiths had to survive in 1992-93 despite the deep cuts to Higher Education and it had to develop a strategy that was research intensive.

Portrait of Sir Michael Caine on front page of Goldlink- Goldsmiths alumni magazine

Warden Ken Gregory presided over graduation ceremonies held in the Great Hall of what is now the Richard Hoggart main building. Many famous people received honorary fellowships including Dame Mary Quant, the author P.D. James and cockney actor Sir Michael Caine who also did a special workshop with the Drama students in the George Wood Theatre.

He created a management structure that was consultative through reorganisation and removal of Faculties. He introduced assessment of departmental academic performance otherwise known as ADAP. He persuaded the Princess Royal (Princess Anne) as Chancellor of the University of London to preside at a degree ceremony and this was subsequently copied by other University of London colleges.

An example of Ken Gregory’s style of communicating to staff, students and alumni. In this Goldlink magazine for 1998, it demonstrates his leadership on increasing Goldsmiths as a research intensive university.

He convinced the University of London of methods of promotion and advancement that applied to Goldsmiths’ disciplines, and were not inhibited by the physical sciences model. As a result, Goldsmiths could promote Professorial Chairs acknowledging practice subjects such as Music and Media and Communications. Ivor Gabor was appointed the first Professor of Broadcast Journalism in the University of London.

Ken Gregory enhanced the formal link established with the Goldsmiths Company by having the Company’s Clerk to be an ex officio member of Goldsmiths College Council. While in New Cross Professor Gregory led the introduction of a financial allocation model of management which emphasised research intensive culture. And once research funding was improved, Goldsmiths was able to recruit significant new staff in its specialist subject areas.

Fundamentally Goldsmiths’ College stopped being known as the Art School and Training College for teachers. He strongly developed its new identity as Goldsmiths University of London despite some internal administrative resistance. This avoided the cost of external consultants and has subsequently been followed by Queen Mary University of London, Royal Holloway and others.

During my interview with Ken he remembered that his biggest challenge as Warden was coping with the lack of ample funding and the security and flexibility of strong financial reserves which he did his best to build over six years.

He and his wife Chris managed to develop social events despite the lack of money.

They became famous for their receptions and dinners at the suburban Warden’s house in Ulundi Road ‘where Chris cooked and I went to Majestic for the wine. We even did dinners after inaugural lectures this way.’

Ken Gregory also fondly remembered the opportunity of meeting remarkable, interesting and famous people in his role as Warden. These included the politician and local MP Joan Ruddock, the author P.D. James, the theatre director Richard Eyre, the actress Frances de la Tour, actor Sir Michael Caine, the legendary fashion designer and entrepreneur Dame Mary Quant, and the linguist and English academic Randolph (Lord) Quirk.

Ken Gregory (1938 to 2020), Warden of Goldsmiths, University of London between 1992 and 1998.

Professor Alan Downie and the College Orator, who worked closely with Warden Ken Gregory during his time at Goldsmiths in the 1990s writes:

How a hydrologist helped transform Goldsmiths

As well as being Warden, Ken Gregory enjoyed an international reputation as a hydrologist.

He took over from Professor Andrew Rutherford at a crucial moment in Goldsmiths’ recent history. Although the College had secured school status in 1988, as a consequence of its previous status as an Institute with Recognised Teachers it had not been permitted to accumulate reserves. Further, it came bottom in the 1989 Research Assessment Exercise. Ken set about investing in research and in quality assurance. (He had been the QA DVC at Southampton.)

As a consequence of his policies and his leadership, in 1996 Goldsmiths was described in the THES as ‘a rising star’ of the RAE, and the significant further improvement in the 2001 RAE was also largely a result of Ken’s research strategy. By the time he stepped down as Warden in 1998, he had also managed to build up small but important reserves, partly as a consequence of a large increase in student numbers, not only undergraduates, but also postgraduate and overseas students.

Warden in a patterned cardigan

Ken was a congenial man who inspired immense loyalty, especially among his closest colleagues—his Deans (when there were faculties), his Pro-Wardens, and his Professors.

With his wife, Chris, doing the cooking, Ken famously hosted regular dinners at the Warden’s residence in Ulundi Road, always unsuited and casual (a patterned cardigan), ensuring his guests never ran out of drinks as he kept topping them up by his own hand. (The Gregorys refused to use caterers.)

These dinners were not restricted to senior members of the College. Over the six years of his Wardenship, there can scarcely have been a member of the academic or administrative staff who had not been invited to dinner at Ulundi Road.

Had it not been for Ken Gregory’s Wardenship, Goldsmiths would be unrecognisable as the research institution it is today.

Painted portrait of Goldsmiths’ ninth Warden Professor Ken Gregory in College robes and at the foot of the stairs of Deptford Town Hall. Image: Copyright Goldsmiths, University of London

Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.

A Letter To My English Friends- the political dignity of an Indian student at Goldsmiths in 1933

Shiba Chatterjee seated front row fifth from the right- the only non-white and overseas student at Goldsmiths’ College in 1932-33. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Shiba Prasad Chatterjee was the only non-white- what we would now describe as BAME- student at Goldsmiths’ College in 1933.

As the only Indian student in the college, he was studying for a one year teaching certificate in a society that was deeply racist and in a country that was Imperialist and refusing to grant his own people either home rule or independence.

The cover of the first edition of Katherine Mayo’s ‘Mother India’ first published in USA in 1927 and Great Britain in 1928 and which purported to reveal  ‘for the first time […] the truth about the sex life, child marriages, hygiene, cruelty, religious customs, of one-sixth of the world’s population: India’s 350,000,000 people.’

Equally pernicious at the time for Shiba Chatterjee, was the popularity and wide discussion of a book by the American historian, Katherine Mayo, called Mother India which insulted, denigrated, patronised and humiliated Indian society, culture and religion.

It was a best seller, widely quoted and the authority and talisman for all those British Imperialists who believed that Indians were not capable and fit to run their own affairs.

That was the majority of the Great British population, the position of most of the British press and leading and influential politicians such as Winston Churchill.

There had even been a United Empire Party spawned and sponsored by the most powerful newspaper barons, Lords Beaverbook and Rothermere, that sought to break into British mainstream politics.

It had been defeated in 1931 when the Prime Minister of the National Government, Stanley Baldwin, condemned the press barons for wanting: ‘power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages,’ using their newspapers as ‘engines of propaganda for the constantly changing policies, desires, personal wishes, personal likes and dislikes,’ and distorting the fortunes of national leaders ‘without being willing to bear their burdens.’

At the same time the leader of the Indian Congress movement seeking self-determination for 350 million Indians, Mahatma Mohandas Gandhi, had been jailed for the eighth time.

The official student record for Mr. Chatterjee contains very limited though impressive information about his background.

He was born in March 1903 and came to Goldsmiths with a Master of Science degree in Geology from the University of Benares in India.

At the age of 29, he was therefore much older than the other British students attending the college.

While studying at the College he lodged with a Mrs Fenlon at 37 Breakspears Road in Brockley, SE4.

Shiba Chatterjee’s student record. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Houses in this conservation area are currently valued at nearly £1 million with two bedroom flats often selling for around £500,000.

He was sponsored during his stay in London by a Mrs Riccobena of 5 Oakley Square N.W.1.

He gained his teaching certificate recognised by the British Board of Education in July 1933.

Nothing more is known about him. In the only other College archive document his presence on the one year teaching certificate is indicated not in type-written script, but by pencilled handwriting.

It is as though the recording of his presence was something of an afterthought.

The traces of Shiba Chatterjee’s existence in the College records may be very slight, but the power and presence of his political and cultural identity is on a giant scale with an article he wrote for the Goldsmiths’ magazine Smiths in the year of his graduation.

The article titled ‘To My English Friends’ represents one of the most heartfelt and dignified appeals for political and cultural understanding it would be possible to find throughout all the archives held at Goldsmiths.

It has the compassion, courtesy, and imperative of Mahatma Gandhi, of whom he was undoubtedly a follower and admirer.

To My English Friends

The only known picture of Shiba Chatterjee, bespectacled, studious, and older than his contemporaries (He was 29) wearing the Oxford bags fashionable at that time, but not the striped College blazer so sportingly worn by the European students around him. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

India has many problems to-day touching every phase of life, and her best brains are actively engaged in solving them. India is fully conscious that her contribution in the modern age to humanity is long overdue, and is directing her whole energy and resources to enable her children to stand as equals alongside other nations of the world with a view to making original contribution befitting her past traditions. India had a glorious past. Indian civilisation and culture are not to be unearthed as prehistoric fossils. They are still throbbing with life. India gave birth to two world religions- Hinduism and Buddhism, and it is claimed Muhammed, the prophet, founder of the Islamic religion had his inspiration from the Indian savants of that age. India is essentially a religious country, religion is her life blood. Millions of souls belonging to different countries such as China and Japan, Burma and Siam, Tibet and Ceylon look to India as their spiritual home. Without deprecating in the least the wonderful work done by the Christian missionaries in my country, the Indian takes it to be an irony of fate when he sees a Christian missionary engaged in proselytising work in India showing “light to the heathens.”

Workshop strikers preventing people from entering and leaving their place of work in support of  The Indian National Congress movement led by Mahatma Gandhi that sought independence from British rule in 1930. Public Domain.

Gandhi at Dandi, South Gujarat, picking salt on the beach at the end of the Salt March, 5 April 1930. Behind him is his second son Manilal Gandhi and Mithuben Petit. Image: Public domain.

An unsympathetic critic may find fault everywhere in India. If he is an important personage he will rush down to Calcutta, the commercial capital, from Bombay, the main gateway by the imperial mail train, thereby covering a distance of more than one thousand miles in about twenty-four hours time, his quick brain all the time analysing and storing up with what glimpses of the Indian life through a carriage-window of the moving train his powerful eyes catch; he will stay for about a week at Calcutta in a palace as the guest of the Governor of the Province of Bengal, attend a dance and race course; then he will proceed to Delhi, the political capital of India by the fastest train, through the densest part of India, will stay another week at Delhi in the viceregal palace and will keep himself engaged in the same sort of activities. He will, of course, not forget to visit some Indian states where he will be entertained by Rajas and Maharajas, Nawabs and Chiefs, and will take part in shooting the wild animals, tigers and elephants, bears and lions and hordes of others.

He need not stay in India for more than a month, as by this time he will gain sufficient knowledge of a country inhabited by 350,000,000 souls, and in size as big as Europe minus Russia; and then, when he reaches home he invariably comes out with a book indicting the whole Indian people and justifying their perpetual subjections. What a tremendous wave of indignation swept over the length and breadth of our country on the recent publication of a sensational book about India !

Gandhi, front row, far right with the stretcher-bearers of the Indian Ambulance Corps during the Boer War. During the same conflict the first Warden of Goldsmiths’ College, William Loring was a decorated soldier with The Scottish Horse Regiment. Image Public Domain.


Mahatma Gandhi characterised it as a “drain inspector’s report.” When a powerful writer abuses his power the result is disastrous for the whole of mankind; his writings have a tremendous effect on the minds of the intelligentsia of his country, and it is how one nation begins to hate another, establishing the truth of the statement, “The nation we hate is the nation we know not.” To illuminate my point I may be pardoned if I refer to an incident which may be shocking to my friends here, to know. The English men and women at one time were made to believe that the French were no better than apes, and when the French prisoners from the Napoleonic wars were taken in the streets of London, some of the onlookers had seriously lifted the greatcoats of the French soldiers from behind to discover their tails. No further comment is necessary.


The world is changing. The interdependence of nations is increasing rapidly and the international co-operation is the need of the day. The progressive thinkers have realised that the national freedom is the indispensable pre-requisite of international co-operation. India is struggling to win her birth-right and paradoxical as it may sound, the oppressed do not bear any ill-feeling towards the oppressor due to the religious mentality of the masses, which is awakened after ageing stupor by the magical wand of Mahatma Gandhi, the politico-religious leader of India. India needs sympathy from other nations politically advanced, and entreats them, specially English women and men of the present generation, to keep an open mind and not to be influenced by the writings and speeches of the unsympathetic critics.


Shiba Chatterjee’s brilliant denunciation of Katherine Mayo’s book exposed the shallowness of an alleged expert presuming to write with authority on the basis of holiday or vacation knowledge of India that she had experienced through the lens of the rich and powerful.

In reality, it seems probable she was fed large amounts of slanted data and information by British Indian propagandists.

Gandhi had actually said of her book that:

… it is the report of a drain inspector sent out with the one purpose of opening and examining the drains of the country to be reported upon, or to give a graphic description of the stench exuded by the opened drains. If Miss Mayo had confessed that she had come to India merely to open out and examine the drains of India, there would perhaps be little to complain about her compilation. But she declared her abominable and patently wrong conclusion with a certain amount of triumph: “the drains are India.”

In 1933 the British media distorted and suppressed the true picture of the growing independence movement in India.

In the news-reel cinemas, people in Britain would be told of the first telephone connected service between London and India in patrician terms. It was not the world that had gotten smaller, but the British Empire in the short Pathé report “Hello India!” All European voices and faces are present, and not an Indian individual in sight or sound.

In reality India was a country of protest, resistance and agitation.

There had been extensive prosecutions of Communists for treason.

Choudhary Rahmat Ali published his pamphlet in 1933 advocating a state of ‘Pakistan’ in the Indus Valley, with other names given to Muslim-majority areas elsewhere in India.

This would be taken up by Muhammad Ali Jinha’s All-India Muslim League and become a foundation for the future establishment of the Muslim state of Pakistan.

The British colonial authorities had used the police to shut down an Indian National Congress meeting in Calcutta.

On the 8th May 1933, Mahatma Gandhi had begun a three week hunger strike because of the mistreatment of the lower castes.

On the 1st August, just days after Mr Chatterjee’s graduation, Gandhi had been re-arrested again.

But wherever Shiba Chatterjee and his Indian compatriots in London looked, there would be the ever-present distortion of mainstream media for the purposes of imperialist propaganda.

Pathé short filmic representation of ‘The Country That Is India’ in 1933 was simply another manifestation of the pro-imperialist, Indophobic and racist prejudices contained in Mayo’s ‘drain-inspector’s’ colonialist tract:

86 years later, the integrity and grace of Shiba Chatterjee’s generous address to his English friends at Goldsmiths’ College deserves amplification, recognition and respect.

He may have had sympathetic and supportive friends among his fellow students.

An edition of the College magazine 1931 contains an account from three trainee teachers who decided to accompany Ghandi on his early morning walks in the East End when he was in Britain for talks on home-rule.

But the historical truth about University of London, Goldsmiths’ College during the 1930s is that it was a higher educational institution that perpetuated and served the racist and colonial purposes of the British Empire.

Many students were trained to pursue teaching careers in colonies that subjugated, exploited and denigrated the human rights of people throughout the world.

It also needs to be acknowledged that recent historical investigation has highlighted evidence that during the twenty one years of Gandhi’s time in South Africa in the midst of British imperialism and colonialism he was corrupted by and contaminated with hierarchical racism in his recorded attitudes to Africans.

The South African academics Ashwin Desai and Goolam Vahed in the award-winning 2015 study The South African Gandhi Stretcher-Bearer of Empire, published by Stanford University Press, argued that Gandhi ‘throughout his stay on African soil, stayed true to Empire while showing a disdain for Africans. For Gandhi, whites and Indians were bonded by an Aryan bloodline that had no place for the African. Gandhi’s racism was matched by his class prejudice towards the Indian indentured.’

Shiba Prasad Chatterjee was a highly educated Indian scholar, writer and independent thinker who, on his own expense, travelled thousands of miles from his home in India to study in New Cross and acquire a British professional teaching qualification.

Perhaps he gave back to the College and British society much more than he was ever given. He left a message for future generations that is as valid and enduring now as it was in 1933:

The world is changing. The interdependence of nations is increasing rapidly and the international co-operation is the need of the day.


Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.

Postcards from Goldsmiths- the equivalent of emails or instagrams in early 20th century Britain

A composite of 13 images of Goldsmiths’ College on one postcard in November 1914

It’s the first autumn going into the winter of the Great War in 1914.

A first year 18-year-old student at Goldsmiths’ College called Wilfrid sends a composite postcard with 13 different images to a Mrs Hinchliff in South Yorkshire.

We know not whether she was a guardian, family friend, or somebody more intimate.

She may have been Wilfrid’s mentor and former teacher who helped him believe in himself and encouraged him to pursue Higher Education and a career in teaching.

The tone begins formally “Dear Mrs Hinchliff […] This card gives you some idea of the College.’

Wilfrid’s postcard ends with ‘with best wishes, and kindest regards’ (and) ‘yours very sincerely.’

What is there to read in this early twentieth century equivalent of an email or instagram sent to a married woman with the address of a small colliery worked by about 30 miners, near Sheffield, which is then diverted by the Post Office to a hotel?

What would become of Wilfrid in the ghastly carnage of the First World War that gobbled up young volunteers and conscripts like him in what became industrialised slaughter?

A contemporary satellite image of Hoylandswaine in Yorkshire where ‘Mrs Hinchliff’ lived. But the colliery ‘Guider Bottom’ no longer exists.

When he arrived in 1914 this group of Seniors was celebrating the completion of their two year teaching certificate courses in the Quad, which at that time was a popular meeting place for all students during lunch-time and breaks between lectures.

This photograph is so evocative because it is still possible to look out into the corner of the quadrangle and imagine them at that exact spot 105 years ago.

In shifting attention from one smiling and grinning countenance to the next the connection with past lives, personalities and all that constitutes a human being becomes so resonant.

How many of these happy young men would survive their service and experiences between 1914 to 1918?

How many would insist on becoming Conscientious Objectors and face prejudice, derision, and the punishment of military tribunals refusing to recognise and respect their pacifist beliefs?

“Jolly Good Fellows As You May See” the class of 1912-14 graduating and celebrating in the Summer of that year- only to have their teaching careers interrupted by the outbreak of global war a few weeks later. Just how many of these smiling and happy faces did not live to see the end of the First World War?

If Wilfrid was beginning his first term in 1914, the mobilising of the College’s officer training corps (OTC) would have been ever-present as is evident in this cartoon in the College’s magazine Goldsmithian.

“Smiths as Tommies”- Cartoon of increasing encroachment of army life to new students to Goldsmiths like Wilfrid in the autumn of 1914.

In the editorial for the college magazine published only a few weeks after Wilfrid sent his postcard to Mrs Hinchliff, he would have read this sobering editorial:

Smiths! We are at the end of the first term of yet another year- possibly the most momentous in our Island story. We are anticipating the vacation which should usher in a season of Peace and Goodwill. Alas! our ears are deafened by the booming of cannon, the clash of steel, and the lamentation of war-stricken nations. Many old familiar faces have left us to answer their country’s call:- we think with pride of the Warden who heads our list.

The Warden, Captain William Loring,  who welcomed Wilfrid and all the other first year students that autumn, would never return to the College.

He died after being shot by a Turkish sniper at Gallipoli one year later.

Another leading member of staff named above the editorial, William Thomas Young, a popular Lecturer in English, would be killed in artillery fire on the Western Front in 1917.

The pictorial side of Wilfrid’s postcard provides an evocative composite slideshow of what Goldsmiths looked like before the First World War. The sequence of 13 photographs in columns of four, three, three and three (left to right) can also be seen as the equivalent of an instant online Youtube video.

First Column

There are four photographs.

Beginning with a view of the outside of the College main building before 1914 from where Costa Coffee is now situated.

Then the college green looking at the back of the current Richard Hoggart main building with male and female students in Edwardian dress. The viewpoint position is from the current path just before it gets to the tennis courts.

The tennis courts pre 1914 were situated in the quadrangle currently between the main refectory and lecture-rooms off Kingsway corridor.

The fourth image is the Great Hall with the magnificent organ in its original Art Nouveau design and the dais dressed in flowers for some ceremonial occasion and the floor crammed with chairs.

The viewpoint is from the doors entering from what is now reception.

Second Column

The college library in those days was situated on the second and third floor of the main building, mainly to the north eastern side parallel to what is now Dixon Road.

The photograph depicts a woman student seated poring over books and a man standing somewhat furtively behind watching her.

Is he a librarian about to tell her of a book he’s found for her, or an admirer who wants to invite her to tea?

What is described as the Dining Room, wonderfully laid out with white table cloths on the trestle tables, carafes of water, vases of flowers and cutlery is the current Cafe 35 and the viewpoint is from where Chartwells staff would see you ordering your cappuccino and croissant.

The far wall seen there would now extend beyond the walls of one or two rooms partitioned in the current structure, and what you see as a huge carved coat of arms has been replaced in 2019 with Josh Drewe’s mural on the history of Goldsmiths and its surrounding community.

The outline of the carving looks like Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the Latin motto Justitia Virtutum Regina– ‘Justice Is Queen of Virtues’ seen below.

Recollecting the Goldsmiths’ motto of all those years ago seems so relevant in 2019 when the University has inaugurated its first law degree.

Goldsmiths’ College coat of arms with the motto ‘Justitia Virtutum Regina- Justice Is Queen Of Virtues.

The third bottom image in this column is a picture of ‘an art room’ and looks like one of the current ground floor lecture-rooms at the back of the current main building perhaps with windows looking out onto the back field (now called the Green).

Third Column

At the top we begin with ‘The Nature Study Room’- now likely to be another current lecture-room probably on the ground floor with tall windows looking out onto the back field.

No signs of wild-life in the picture, or fauna and flora exhibits.  Perhaps nature was more of a theoretical consideration.

The following images in this column are quaintly described as the Women’s Common Room and the Men’s Common Room.

It is possible to detect how they have been gender-valued in interior design and furniture.

In the men’s room there is a huge snooker/billiard table, and there are pictures on the wall seemingly of sports teams etc. The chairs are solid and hard-backed.

There are rugs on the floor perhaps ready to accommodate an impromptu wrestling match to settle old scores.

In contrast the women’s room is full of soft furnishing, table covers, cut flowers in vases, and the pictures on the walls seemingly portraits of high women achievers in staff and student faculty from the past.

Some of the chairs are soft cane-backed.

Fourth Column

We start with the gymnasium then situated where the current main College refectory is.

It’s full of large gymnastic and exercise contraptions built to stretch the human frame to breaking point and there’s a burly ‘tough guy’ with moustache apparently dressed in fencing regalia.

Next something labelled as ‘The Museum’- full of models and objets-d’art.

As a historian one wonders what treasures lay on the tables and shelves here and regret the fact that Goldsmiths no longer has any museum.

Though it could be argued that Special Collections in the Library is certainly its equivalent with its regularly held exhibitions from the archives and unique holdings such as the Women’s Art Library, Goldsmiths Textile Collection and Constance Howard Gallery, and the Daphne Oram Archive.

The last image in Column Four is of the College’s beautiful Art Nouveau swimming pool largely constructed out of wood and fine carpentry.

It was created for the Recreative and Technical Institute from 1891 and sadly was burned down during World War Two and never reconstructed.

Its location was behind the George Wood theatre and Drama and Performance suite of buildings.

It was situated at right angles to the main building and would have been accessed via the main corridor.

What’s so lovely about the photograph is the sun streaming through the huge naval style port-hole window, and the spectators leaning over the balconies.

The changing cubicles can be seen running on either side of the pool.

Jim Bartlett’s postcard sent to his father in 1928 is a picture of the College most probably from 1905.

In November 1928, trainee teacher Jim Bartlett is just settling in to his studies and life at Goldsmiths’ College.

He’s full of joie-de-vivre and writes to his father Henry, a successful builder with an impressive family home at 1 East End Villas, Birchington, in Kent:

Bravo bravissimo! The age of miracles has not passed! Have you found a place for it yet? Or will some ancient piece of furniture have to be shifted to make room? I think this view is a bit antique. What price the road sweeper! Yours Jim.

Jim has clearly found and sent something to his Dad- a birthday present perhaps. It sounds like a modern piece of furniture. What a charming term of affection for his father ‘bravissimo!’ which in Italian is the highest form of praise.

It is what one might say to a singer who has just completed a fantastic performance in an opera.

The picture of Goldsmiths’ College certainly belongs to how it looked more than 20 years previously- most likely 1905 or 1906.

The small children are in early Edwardian clothes- young children were dressed in the fashion of adults at that time.

There was no such thing as children’s fashion.

And the ‘road sweeper’ identified by Jim is the legendary Goldsmiths’ College ‘beggar’ nick-named ‘Cripps’ by students in 1910 because his moustache reminded them of the notorious wife-killer Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen put on trial for murder at the Central Criminal Court, found guilty and executed.

‘Cripps’ had a road sweeping pitch there for decades stretching way back to the Victorian times of the Goldsmiths’ Company’s Recreative and Technical Institute, and the Royal Naval School before that.

It may be a short postcard, but the writing is full of ebullient character, zest and charm: ‘Please thank Mum for cake and shoes. Both very acceptable. Hope you enjoyed Whist drive.’

What more can a new student arriving at Goldsmiths ever want, even in 2019, but cake and shoes from his mum!

In 1928, all women would be given the equal franchise in the General Election to follow.

With private motoring booming, deaths on the road through traffic accidents are soaring.

Well over 5,000 people have been killed in just one year. The Austin Seven is the car most people can afford at £225.

The Oxford Morris Minor car has been launched in August 1928.

The Highway Code would not be published until 1931, and driving tests not introduced until 1935.

Everton’s centre forward Dixie Dean has scored a record 60 goals in the football season ending, and artists Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth stage their first London exhibitions.

It would be the year that Professor Alexander Fleming at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington would discover the potential antibiotic properties of the blue mould penicillium notatum.

This is what Goldsmiths’ College looked like from the air in 1928. There are no buildings around the back field, nor indeed the upper field which is the site of the present Professor Stuart Hall and Lockwood buildings. The wonderful Art Nouveau swimming pool can be seen behind the George Wood Theatre, which in the 1920s still had the original Chapel tower and parallel with the bend in Dixon Road.

Goldsmiths trainee teacher Jim Bartlett was born in 1910. The 1911 census reveals that he had four older sisters.

In 1928 his father was 63 years old, most likely retired- hence his enjoyment of card games such as Whist Drive,  and his mother Christiana 58 years old.

Whist is not as popular as it was in the 1920s.

An alternative to Bridge, three of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes detective stories feature the card game.

In The Adventure of the Empty House, Ronald Adair plays whist at one of his clubs shortly before he is murdered.

In The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot, Brenda Tregennis plays whist with her brothers George, Mortimer, and Owen shortly before she is murdered.

In The Red-Headed League, the banker Mr. Merryweather complains that he is missing his regular rubber of whist in order to help Holmes catch a bank robber.

There is no evidence Henry had any involvement in any Sherlock Holmes style mystery murder, or that he was a round the world traveller such as Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg, a frequent winner at Whist when not quietly reading newspapers.

1911 census showing the Bartlett family living in Birchington. Jim is the youngest at 11 months old.

By the time of the Second World War, Jim was working as an elementary school teacher living in lodgings in Margate.

The 1939 national register taken in September after the outbreak of the Second World War. Jim Bartlett is well into his teaching career with a post at an Elementary School in Margate where he is living in lodgings in the seaside town.

Jim would die in Brighton in 1986. It would appear he was single and had no children.

The house in the Kent village of Birchington, where he was brought up with sisters Joyce (3 years older), Bessie (12 years older), Lily (14 years older), and Christiana (same forename as his mother and 15 years older), no longer exists.

This postcard sent to Miss Sally D. Hart by her grandmother in 1949 is clearly a picture of Goldsmiths’ College in the 1930s.

It’s June 1949 and a grandmother with shaky handwriting, presumably because of her age, writes to 18 year old Sally D. Hart who we can also assume has just been awarded a place at Goldsmiths’ College.

Grandma has been checking out the place.

The postcard is definitely a picture of the front of the College between the wars and doesn’t show how the Luftwaffe and flying bombs smashed and battered the Victorian buildings that have been repaired using emergency funds and building materials.

By now the swimming pool is no more. The tall chimney stacks have gone. The front gate columns are scarred with shrapnel, but the trams are still running down Lewisham Way.

Dear Sally, What a beautiful place. Make the most of it. Mum and Dad are doing alright.  Lovely weather and I am O.K. Love Grandma X X X

The chain-smoking King George VI is still on the throne.

Some war-time rationing is still in place though in 1949 it was ending for chocolate, sweets and clothing, and unlike her predecessors, Jim in 1928 and Wilfrid in 1914, Sally won’t have to worry about having to pay medical bills.

The National Health Service has been operational for a year.

The education system divides state educated children by the eleven-plus examination giving a minority the privilege of going to grammar school and getting middle-class professional jobs, and the rest going to secondary modern and technical schools where their futures would be mainly in trade, factories and industry.

The first launderette has opened in Bayswater.

Sally is presumably having a holiday at the Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay, which still exists to this day.

The Robin Hill Hotel in Torquay in 2019- just as it most probably looked in 1949 where Sally D. Hart was either staying on vacation or working at a summer job.

It’s also possible that her family owned it, or it was where she was working at a summer job before beginning her studies at Goldsmiths in September.

Sally would be joining Britain’s largest teacher training college with an art school that would shortly be nurturing the talents of the great art faker Tom Keating, and the brilliant designer Mary Quant.

In 1949 the Art students had been busy caricaturing their lecturers.

An art student called ‘Joyce’ caricatured College lecturers for the Magazine ‘Smiths in 1949.

The Warden, Arthur Edis Dean has been running the College since 1927.

He led the war-time evacuation to Nottingham between 1939 and 1946 and it is has only been three years since Goldsmiths has literally risen from the ashes and revived teaching and learning in New Cross.

When Warden Dean was Sally’s age he had already graduated from Durham University. He was an intellectual child prodigy.

Arthur Edis Dean, Warden of Goldsmiths’ College 1927 to 1950.

And so we have three postcard snapshots of the lives of three students from the past and the charming connections with their family and friends.

Sally Hart’s grandmother in 1949 having a look round the College, and clearly bursting with pride over the fact that her granddaughter has won a place to study there.

Jim Bartlett sending thanks for the cake and shoes from his mother in 1928, and hoping his ‘Bravissimo’ Dad, Henry, has had an enjoyable Whist Drive.

And an apprehensive and very polite Wilfrid in November 1914 sending Mrs Hinchliff a composite postcard giving thirteen pictures of Goldsmiths College just as the Great War is brewing up into a furnace of destruction, grief and despair.

Nowadays these messages, in all likelihood, would be by Instagram, Twitter, email, Facebook and LinkedIn.

But the sentiments, love and care by and for students at Goldsmiths, in all the twists and turmoils of an often troubling world, are more than likely to be the same.


Forthcoming ‘That’s So Goldsmiths’- an investigative history of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.

Remembering Marjorie Fielden James- Goldsmiths student teacher 1944-46

Marjorie James on her degree presentation day December 2018 at the age of 93. Image: David RJ Young.

At ninety three years of age, Marjorie James was the oldest certificated student teacher who was awarded an honorary degree at a special ceremony at Goldsmiths in December last year.

She stood tall and proud in the Marquee reception afterwards, surrounded by her family and explaining to the Warden and other senior University figures how thrilled she was to visit Goldsmiths, University of London New Cross for the first time in her life.

This is because despite studying hard for the intensive two year teacher-training course between 1944 and 1946, she had never set foot in the main college building or its campus and grounds in Deptford.

In 1939, Goldsmiths’ College was evacuated to Nottingham and several hundred New Cross students joined University College Nottingham’s undergraduates and just over one hundred other teacher trainees from the Institute of Education in Bloomsbury.

In the first history of the College published in 1955, titled The Forge, the Warden at the time, Arthur Edis Dean wrote:

In the as yet unrevealed conditions of possible aerial attack some doubt had been expressed about the choice of Nottingham as a war-time refuge but it was evident from the first that the choice was a happy one.

The reception at Nottingham was very friendly, and Goldsmiths’ was generously treated in the matter of accommodation in the excellent buildings of the University College, particularly on the residential side.

A Goldsmiths graphic artist turned the College’s exile to Nottingham into a light-hearted cartoon with lots of wit. Goldsmiths’ College ‘modes and manners’ were said to have caused ‘comment in high places’ and there is a cheeky picture of a male student wearing a Goldsmiths’ College jacket with his arm around a female student above the caption ‘and we lost no time in settling in !’ beneath the sign for the mixed Common Room. The reference to LDV in the last sketch is ‘Local Defence Volunteers’ which became the Home Guard. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

A fine hall of residence (Hugh Stewart Hall) was placed entirely at the disposal of Goldsmiths’ College and housed 220 women students, together with half-a-dozen members of staff and the Warden and Mrs Dean, who lived there throughout the war […] circumstances in the shape of bomb damage in London kept Goldsmiths’ at Nottingham throughout seven sessions, during which well over a thousand students passed through the College.

Hugh Stewart Hall- the home for Marjorie James and her fellow students at University College Nottingham during World War Two. Image: Goldsmiths Archives.

Marjorie started teacher training after D-Day 6th June, and the battle of Normandy and during the ill-fated Operation Market Garden in the early autumn of 1944.

She had completed her schooling in Blackpool over a period of nearly five years of war-time conditions since September 1939:

When the time came I applied for a place at Manchester University and also at Goldsmiths. Both applications were successful. I chose Goldsmiths. One of my teachers had been to Goldsmiths and told me about the successful and happy time she had had as a student there.

Marjorie remembered being interviewed by a very charming woman who was easy to talk to and was responsible for the English curriculum. It is these first impressions that persuaded Marjorie that two years in Nottingham would be preferable to Manchester: ’She was fairly young, good-looking and very organised.’

Over the two years on the certificate course she studied English Language and Literature to an advanced level, History, Geography, Handwork, Principles and Practice of Education, Physical Education and Health.

Marjorie James née Hollis with her student group in 1944. She is number 17 in the middle row standing on the far left. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

She did her teaching practice at a junior school in the centre of Nottingham and was supported by ‘a very kind headmaster’ who was a ‘very good disciplinarian’ and would come and sit in her classes from time to time and offer mentoring and feedback.

Marjorie says life:

…did not seem to be too affected during time of rationing and shortages. I lived in College in Hugh Stewart Hall- a grand building within the gardens of the College. No male student was allowed to visit us in the Hall. Students had all their meals in Hall. We were issued with our one pound of marmalade which had to last a month. In college we could get a cup of coffee.

This sketch in the College magazine hints at illicit liaison between men and women after dark and patrolling members of staff with torches more interested in finding their cat called ‘Timothy’. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

We still had our weekly dance in the College which I believe was in the lower Hall. The students had their own student band. This entertainment was the highlight of the week on Saturday evening.

The ‘Dick’s Question Page’ cartoon from a Goldsmiths WWII Nottingham student magazine hints at some of the in-jokes of the time: “Are college friendships ‘purely platonic’” and “Who are the Dicks?’. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

It was a long walk from College to the local bus stop to travel to Nottingham. The bus came infrequently due to petrol rationing and students hadn’t the money to spend in Nottingham.  A weekly wage could then be £5.

The copper-plate immaculate handwriting of 93 year old Marjorie James in her contribution to the Goldsmiths History project. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

Marjorie James enthusiastically contributed to the Goldsmiths History project with an elegantly hand-written account of her time training to be a teacher during the last years of the war.

On April 1st 2019 she wrote:

I am now 93 years of age. I grew up through the war years. It didn’t seem to me an unhappy time. People were very kind to each other and everything was rationed. No-one seemed more fortunate than anyone else.

I very much enjoyed my years as a Goldsmiths student. It is hard to believe that I had never seen Goldsmiths College in London until I came first before Christmas to be awarded my degree in Education.

December 2018 honorary Batchelor of Education ceremony for past student teachers at Goldsmiths, University of London. Image: Goldsmiths Archives

I have always been in touch over the years and had the magazine and had my book on Blackpool placed in your library.

Marjorie James in her official degree photograph December 2018. Image: Estate of Marjorie James.

After I was married I taught for a while and had my two children. Life was very involved, but how wonderful to have been able to visit Goldsmiths just before Christmas and to have been awarded my degree- even at my age. There was a great welcome. It was a very happy time and I feel very privileged to have been a student at Goldsmiths.

The College magazines published during Marjorie’s time with Goldsmiths in Nottingham present a very lively student culture.

They enthusiastically caricatured their lecturers:

Student artists also amused themselves sketching the sporting pursuits of women students playing tennis and rounders.










As far as she could remember, Marjorie says:

…the different cultures of Goldsmiths’ College, Institute of Education and Nottingham University College mixed very well. There were two main rooms. One for Nottingham men students and the other for female Goldsmiths, and a third called ‘a mixed Common Room’. All three rooms were used for leisure time.

The art-work produced by students hints at their preoccupations with war-time food:

the challenges of living away from home:

and the pressures of studying and taking exams:


Marjorie recalls:

Here I met my future husband Boyd James. He had been interviewed by the War Office, but could not be accepted due to his inability to see certain colours. He was taking a degree in engineering. He went on to become Senior Partner in an engineering and architectural practice which became the largest outside London.

We were married a year after our student years ended and were married for seventy years. He died last May. A very happy marriage with lots of memories.

The Second World War occupied all of Marjorie’s teenage years:

I was an only child. Goldsmiths taught me to be independent. The wonderful private boarding and day school I had attended in Blackpool encouraged me to work hard and have responsibilities.

My father, who was a captain during the war, was away from home, except for his army leave. I lived in Blackpool with my grandmother who was 85 years old. We had a very quiet life with ‘blackout’ in the evenings, except when there was an air-raid by enemy planes.

We had air-raid wardens who patrolled the streets to check that we had no lights showing. I can remember reading my home-work by torchlight.

When I travelled from home to Nottingham by train I remember that all stations had had their names removed so that a spy during the war would not know where he was.

At the age of 84 Marjorie completed her illustrated history of Blackpool: Progress with Pleasure. 

She described the great impact of the war years with ‘thousands of troops … mainly training and marching on the promenade.

Sometimes from school we played hockey on the beach between rolls of barbed wire.

Evacuees poured into the town and the landladies had a busy time.’

Marjorie had vivid and evocative memories of the student celebrations for Victory in Europe and Victory over Japan (V-J) days during 1945:

I was still a student when the end of the war with Japan was announced. Goldsmiths’ students celebrated by joining all the people thronged into Nottingham to watch the fireworks, and as I learned afterwards, to paint the stone lions in Nottingham’s Old Market Square. I shall never forget it. There was so much noise and people were dancing and singing.

Marjorie James passed away on Friday 31st May 2019. Her son-in-law wrote:

She was at the hairdressers having just had a colour and set, put on her lipstick and dropped like a stone. If we all had a choice as to how to go, I cannot think of a better one!
She did so enjoy picking up her degree last December, albeit 73 years late.

Marjorie was one of the most enchanting Goldsmiths’ College alumni collecting her degree at Christmas 2018.

Her poise, concentration and precision of conversation left a deep impression on all people in the current Goldsmiths world who had the privilege of meeting her.

Goldsmiths is proud to have her wonderful book on Blackpool in its library and her memories of life as a student between 1944 and 1946 in its archives.


Coming soon: That’s So Goldsmiths: A History of Goldsmiths, University of London by Professor Tim Crook.


The Goldsmiths Cicero whose political career has served the college for nearly 60 years

David Rogers at the entrance to Goldsmiths, University of London Richard Hoggart Main Building- named after a Warden he knew, liked and worked for. Image: Tim Crook.

It cannot be said that David Rogers has everything in common with Marcus Tullius Cicero, the Roman statesman, orator, lawyer and philosopher who lived from 106 BC to 43 BC, and was a consul of the Roman Republic.

But it certainly can be said he has something in common.

He has not been a lawyer. He may not have been a statesman in the foreground. But such people equally depend on their shadow researchers, speech-writers and political advisors- in other words statesmen in the background.

David made his mark at Goldsmiths’ College between 1958 and 1960 leading the College’s debating team to win the University of London debating cup for the first time in ten years and beating la crème de la crème of the top notch University of London colleges.

It was the underdog beating the favourites.  A Football League Division Two side from South London- the University of London federation’s then only satellite College South of the River, beating the Champions of the Premiership.

So Cicero has gone down as Antiquity’s Orator supreme, celebrated and heralded through the Renaissance and Enlightenment and a centre of gravity for the academic discipline of rhetoric.

And David Rogers can truly be accorded the title of Goldsmiths’ Cicero.

The debating champion

His Goldsmiths team included Roger Mackay, Malcolm Laycock and Anne Castledine, and they beat in order the mighty UCL of Bloomsbury, Westfield, Royal Holloway, and then Westminster Medical School in the final.

The debating propositions won and fought over were on nuclear disarmament and hunting. Malcolm Laycock went on to become one of this country’s cherished and respected radio broadcasters.

Press cutting from 1960 of David Rogers being presented the trophy for the University of London Inter-Collegiate Debating Tournament.

In the 1959 General Election David was Chair of the College’s Conservative Association and he shared a flat with his debating team-mate Roger Mackay, who happened to be Chair of the College’s Labour Society.

David asks: ‘Would that happen today with the fashion for vitriol and not wanting to find and share what we have most in common rather than what divides us?’

Roger would be elected a Labour Councillor for the old Deptford Borough Council serving on the committee responsible for bathhouses and swimming pools.

David remembered that the Goldsmiths victory in the debating cup made big waves in the university world:

At the time I had no idea of the impact this victory would have. The then Warden, Ross Chesterman, later told me that the effect on staff morale was electric – Here was our College struggling to become a full part of the University and looked down upon by the major Colleges, gaining accolades in the education press for the debating achievement, which in those days was considered an essential part of the prestigious activities of universities.

The cultural importance of debating was such that through the 1940s and 1950s, BBC Radio’s Third Programme (the precursor to BBC Radio Three) would often broadcast the final live.

The headline on Goldsmiths’ victory in 1960 was ‘Machine-gun’ Smiths lay Westminster Medics low in the talk-battle.’

Westminster Medical School had to speak to the motion that ‘Blood Sports are good, clean fun.’

The press reported:

Opposing the motion was the Goldsmiths’ team, who ruthlessly dissected each word of the motion. Their leader, Dave Rogers, was nominated as the outstanding speaker of the evening for the perfection of his “machine-gun” technique, and their second speaker, Malcolm Laycock, also earned special praise. Together with Anne Castledine and Roger Mackay, the whole team spoke as a cohesive unit.

In fact it was a thrashing. The motion was defeated by 163 votes to 48, and the judges declared a unanimous win for the College in New Cross, South of the River.

After completing the two year teaching certificate course, the last before it became a three year qualification, David Rogers began a distinguished career in politics.

Political researcher, advisor and writer

He helped the four minute mile pace-maker and Olympic athlete Chris Chataway gain election as MP for North Lewisham,  and he became an advisor and researcher for leading Conservative politician Iain Macleod.

David’s allegiance to Conservative politics contradicts the myth that progressive ideas and activism is the preserve only of the left.

When working for another Tory MP Humphrey Berkeley, he helped draft a private members’ bill  that inspired others eventually leading  to the decriminalisation of homosexuality from 1967.

Berkeley’s 1965 bill sought to legalise male homosexual relations along the lines of the Wolfenden report.

His Bill was given a second reading by 164 to 107 on 11th February 1966, but fell when Parliament was dissolved soon after.

Unexpectedly, Berkeley lost his seat in the 1966 general election, and blamed his defeat on homophobia.

He believed the unpopularity and deep-seated prejudice directed against the purpose of his bill lost him thousands of voters in what should have been a safe Tory constituency.

History of the Privy Council

Another reason why David Rogers merits the comparison with Cicero is that he has written two significant books on politics and constitution that are influential and important.

David Rogers’ highly regarded history and analysis of the Privy Council, published by Biteback in 2016.

His most recent By Royal Appointment: Tales from the Privy Council – the Unknown Arm of Government published by Biteback in 2016 drew plaudits from politicians, journalists and academics.

Professor of Government, Anthony King at Essex University explained:

‘Once the highway of the British state, the Privy Council is now one of its byways. David Rogers explores its exalted past and humble present with enthusiasm, charm and more than a faint whiff of nostalgia.’

David became the media’s ‘go to’ expert on the history and operation of the Privy Council; particularly when the newly elected Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, was embroiled in the controversy of whether he would have to kneel and/or kiss the hand of the Monarch on his appointment as a member of the Privy Council.

My own view is that By Royal Appointment is one of the best books I have ever read on politics and constitution. David writes with the economy and window pane precision of George Orwell and the wit of Oscar Wilde.

One of the biggest challenges of understanding and analysing British politics is grasping the nature of the writ and cultural phenomenon of the UK’s unwritten constitution.

The next is understanding and appreciating the differences between democratically elected and executively appointed politicians and the Civil Service.

Another vital contextualisation is history, class and culture.

The book will continue to be a major talking point in the history of British politics; something former Home Secretary The Right Honourable Jacqui Smith fully appreciated in her review:

The overriding theme of this book is the way in which the privy council has evolved and adapted over the years. It is a fascinating read. However, what it has not done is to convince me that the privy council should not and could not evolve itself out of existence in the future.

David Rogers returning to Goldsmiths for a Goldsmiths History project interview. Image: Tim Crook.

Between 1968 and 1982 David returned to Goldsmiths’ College as a Lecturer and then Senior Lecturer on the Art Teachers Certificate Course.

Goldsmiths sponsored his enrolment in 1974 for a Masters degree at Essex University in Political Behaviour for which he gained a distinction for his thesis on parliamentary secretaries.  This unique intertwining of politics, art and culture most likely informs his perspective.

He can even make an appendix exquisite reading.

Such is the case with Appendix C: Order of Precedence where he explains that when looking back from the second decade of the 21st century it is:

…amazing to realise how important the question of social status and precedence was only a short time ago. In living memory, young girls from the upper classes “came out” – a phrase meaning something quite different now.

They were presented at court, curtsied to the Queen, and officially became debutantes, being warned by their mothers about young men who were NSIT (not safe in taxis).

He observes mischievously that ‘Presenters and interviewees on Start the Week or Question Time disdain with a shrug their membership of the House of Lords but are only too happy to embrace their titles when they go into the bars at the Palace of Westminster or use their position to vote on future legislation.’

Warden Sir Ross Chesterman 1953-1974

Sir Ross Chesterman was a more than coincidental figure in the life of David Rogers.

Sir Ross had taught at the same school in Gloucester as David’s mother.  So he explains, rather self-effacingly, that after ‘messing up my A levels’ the connection was rather helpful when he applied for the two year teacher training course at Goldsmiths to start in 1958- five years after Sir Ross had been appointed Warden.

He was still Warden, when David was appointed lecturer in 1968.

He has a vivid recollection of Sir Ross Chesterman’s style and character. He remembered that on retirement ‘he was asked what was the greatest change he’d seen and replied: “When I came to the college in 1953, I had almost unlimited power. Now I am leaving, the Warden’s role has been reduced to that of limited influence!”‘

Ross Chesterman was popular with his students and they even gave him prime editorial space in the Goldsmiths Student Union Handbook for 1969-70. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archives.

He remembered how Sir Ross provided leadership that was caring and tolerant of the huge social, political and cultural changes in education and society across the 1950s, 60s, and early 70s.

He had wit, charm and a guile that sought solutions to problems that generated the least pain, suffering, embarrassment and consternation.

The development of a youth culture market in entertainment and social recreation meant that it would be safer for students to drink and party on the campus. So he organised the first licensing of a student bar in a British University.

He regaled David Rogers with the story:

When I come into College each day by the front entrance a monument to a previous Warden Arthur Edis Dean declares how he took the College to Nottingham in 1939, and brought it back to New Cross and shepherded its resurrection like a Phoenix from the ashes after seven years of destruction through the Blitz and the terrors of the Second World War. And then I reach the entrance and find my name on a sign above the entrance…’Ross Chesterman, licensed purveyor of wines, beers, spirits and liquors…’

Sir Ross was a distinguished academic with a doctorate in science and certainly a respecter of the research dimension of academic culture. But as David wrote in his first very well received book Politics, Prayer and Parliament published by Continuum in 2000:

Many years ago, when universities were somewhat different in character, the late Warden of Goldsmiths, Sir Ross Chesterman, used gently to tease the College Research Committee with Danny Kaye’s remark, “Pinch one person’s piece of work and it’s called plagiarism; pinch a hundred and it’s called research.

The affectionate cheekiness extended to making a play on principles and principals when attending a meeting of university Vice-Chancellors and Chief Executives.

The deployment of laterally minded solutions to seemingly awkward and intractable challenges depended on a close relationship between Sir Ross and the College Superintendent, Len Lusted, who had had a distinguished Second World War record as an army officer.

In a letter from Sir Ross to David in 1998, he said of Mr Lusted: ‘He is a wonderful man and I doubt whether I could have survived at Goldsmiths without his help.’

The front of Goldsmiths’ College during the 1960s. It was an open car park and more first come first served than the present day of restrictions and permits. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archives.

David recalled one situation in the 1960s when the College Superintendent came to the rescue of the Warden with some strategic sprinkling:

When the College delegacy came to hold their meetings in the Whitehead building, they would meet in a room overlooking what used to be called the Back Field (now the College Green) and in the height of summer Ross would be very worried because they would see the students indulging in what used to be described in the gentle turn of phrase ‘canoodling.’

He asked Len Lusted “What can we do about it?’ And Len said ‘Don’t worry. I’ll make sure it’s being watered from 12 o’clock to 2 o’clock. And so the concentration of the delegacy was on the business of the day instead of being diverted by the summer passions of our students.

Journalist, Fellow and Friend of the College

In 1983, David resumed his career as an advisor in the world of politics. He provided invaluable consultative work for Goldsmiths and ‘watched its back’ during the long periods of Conservative governments.

He has been an education columnist for the Spectator and Sunday Times.

This liaison role ensured that there was always a channel of communication and understanding between the unique and complex culture of Goldsmiths, the ambitions and activism of its staff and students, and the centre of political and administrative government.

As a political advisor to Lord Whitelaw it was to the College’s advantage when such a leading Cabinet minister and politician visited New Cross to meet staff and students including those protesting loudly and disruptively against Conservative education policy.

David has always had a keen sense of the paradoxes in everyday politics when ideological mythologies simply do not square with reality:

It was Margaret Thatcher (a Conservative Prime Minister elected into power in three General Elections) who was responsible for shutting down most of the country’s Grammar Schools and it was Harold Wilson (a Labour Prime Minister elected into power in two General Elections) who was responsible for shutting down most of the coal mines.

David Rogers was responsible for Goldsmiths’ alumna, Mary Quant, receiving her Honorary Fellowship.

Politics, Prayer and Parliament- a new meaning for PPP? The book on religion and politics by David Rogers published by Continuum in 2000.

He was formally appointed a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Politics. Politics, Prayer and Parliament was the key research output of his Fellowship period and offers a lively and personal view by an insider both to Parliament and the Church of England about the ways religion and politics are linked and politicians and priests function through communication.

The former Prime Minister Sir John Major said it was ‘a compelling analysis of the inter-relationship of Church and State, and a shrewd guide for anyone concerned with public policy- especially if their advocacy requires speaking in public…’

David took great delight in recommending Matthew Parris’s Great Parliamentary Scandals as very high up in anyone’s reading list. Anyone harbouring ambitions for the clergy or politics should have it by their bedside so that should they ‘wake up worried in the dark watches of the night’ they could read the first paragraph:

Many of the people in this book went to Oxford, and a large number of them were hanged. Nearly all were ordained priests or ministers, many were bishops, some were Archbishops, and one may have been the Pope. Some were formally unfrocked by Church authorities, others less ceremoniously disgraced. Most died ignominiously, or in the Rev. Harold Davidson’s case, savaged by a lion in Skegness.

David remains an honorary Visiting Fellow of Goldsmiths and over the last three years has provided invaluable advice and assistance to the History research project.

His reserves of memory and experience have informed the research into the experience of Goldsmiths’ College students and artists who became POWs of the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in February 1942:

When I was a lecturer on the Art Teachers Certificate course two of the longstanding art tutors Derek Cooper and Rob Brazil had been prisoners of war with the Japanese during World War Two. They would sometimes describe how they would conceal their art materials in buried tins and hide their drawings and paintings rolled up into the inside of bamboo sticks. Another former Japanese POW artist Jack Chalker was an external examiner. He had been an art student at Goldsmiths in the 1930s.

David remains active in politics. More recently he has been working with Sir John Major to help build and catalyse the political consensus that remaining in the European Union is in the British national interest.

College bookshop during 1960s. Image: Goldsmiths, University of London archives.

David remains forever grateful for what Goldsmiths did for him as a student and lecturer:

For the record I would really like to say that I really enjoyed my time at Goldsmiths. I got so much out of it. I made so many friends both staff and students, and in the Marquess of Granby, and I count myself extremely fortunate. Goldsmiths, I think, has a better record than most Colleges, in looking after and nurturing their former students. I know people come back and seek advice and it’s always generously given and gratefully received.

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

Find out about Goldsmiths’ College student culture in the late 1960s by visiting the Golddream Exhibition in the Kingsway corridor of the Richard Hoggart Building 4th March to 14th April 2019.



‘it wont rain roses’- 1963 and the pursuit for justice in education

Tug of war on the Goldsmiths’ College back field in 1961 for Rag Day. ‘it wont rain roses’ editor and author David Elliott is in the woolly jumper centre and looking backwards. But the pamphlet was looking forwards to building a better education system.

A common theme of the history of Goldsmiths is the recurrence of students and staff politically campaigning to make the world a better place.

It’s possible to select any decade of the 20th century and find evidence of lobbying and what could be described as political activism, or  ‘political education.’

It does not mean all or even most of the students and staff were involved at any one time.

Or indeed that there was necessarily consensus and agreement.

Award winning and leading UK publisher, David Elliott, was an undergraduate student between 1961 and 1964 and he believes there was a ‘progressive atmosphere’  and ‘radical spirit’ at the college when he was there.

The then Warden of the College, Ross Chesterman, later knighted for services to higher education, had a reputation for being tolerant of protest and student activism while at the same time encouraging constructive and reasoned debate.

This may account for Goldsmiths’ College winning the University of London debating cup two times in the early 1960s and David Elliott was in one of victorious teams knocking the big London Colleges off their perch.

Around thirty years earlier in 1932, a delegation of students had marched on Parliament and lobbied their MPs against massive cuts in funding for schools and teachers. The school leaving age then was only 14.

This was a time when no more than 12 per cent of children received a secondary education and half of those had to pay for it.

When one of the Goldsmiths’ students asked an MP why so much more money was being spent on arms instead of educating the poor he was accused of being a Bolshevik and directed to go and stand on the other side of the lobby hall as though he had been a naughty boy deserving of detention.

In 1962 a later post Second World War generation of Goldsmiths students were taking their message to Parliament again to continue the struggle- this time to raise the school-leaving age to 16, achieve more participation in higher education and expand equality of opportunity.

The Goldsmiths’ student union newspaper Smith News, which sold weekly for three old pence, reported on June 1st 1962 that in a grand lobby of Parliament over 50 MPs had been briefed by a delegation of 450 students.

David Elliott recalls: ‘the mass picket on Westminster was organised as almost a military operation with hired buses shuttling students every hour to the House of Commons- with Marshals and stewards controlling the flow. I wore an armband with CHIEF STEWARD which, alas, got lost.’

The paper was asking the questions ‘What did we achieve?’  and ‘Where do we go from here?

It acknowledged: ‘We have given a lead to other Training Colleges, and already seven colleges have sent petitions to the Ministry.  Others are asking our advice; letters from Goldsmiths’ students are appearing in local newspapers, questions are to be asked in the Commons, and MPs are busy writing replies or fixing appointments.’

Many students and staff were committed to a national ‘Campaign for Education’ which drew support from all the political parties.

In 1963 one of the major contributions of the Goldsmiths dimension was a research pamphlet titled: ‘it wont rain roses.’ The lack of an apostrophe in ‘wont’ was a deliberate design and campaigning decision.

David Elliott remembers that students and Smith News ‘mostly contributed sections and my job was to curate and edit the pamphlet as it developed. I ended up writing most of it.’

David Elliott, pamphlet editor, writer and undergraduate on the right. ‘It was a Goldsmiths/University of London ball event as Barbara Spencer (my ‘date’) was women’s Vice-President so I had to hire a Dinner Jacket and borrow a bow tie. It was in the Great Hall and I was in my second year in 1962.’

He was given ‘amazing support’ from an education lecturer, Charity James, who was ‘in effect the main copy editor and supplied the title. We printed 1,000 copies I think, which the National Union of Teachers distributed. All I can remember was it was quoted in Parliament and The Times called it ‘shrill but necessary.’

David has held onto one of the few surviving copies.

Only Warwick University’s library appears to have a copy available for researchers.

The title ‘it wont rain roses’ was inspired by the George Elliot quotation: ‘It will never rain roses: when we want to have more roses, we must plant more roses.’

The original cover of ‘it won’t rain roses’ ‘A booklet written and published by Goldsmiths’ College, Campaign for Education.’

Charity James would become a legend in education. She would be a founder and Director of the Goldsmiths’ ‘Curriculum Laboratory’ and authored the seminal publication in 1968 ‘Young Lives at Stake: A Reappraisal of Secondary Schools’.

In his 1996 memoir ‘Golden Sunrise: The Story of Goldsmiths’ College 1953-1974′ Sir Ross Chesterman wrote: ‘There were, on the staff of the College, many really distinguished people, some with original ideas and the enthusiasm and energy to bring them to action and fruition. Mrs Charity James was a very good example of what I mean […] She had a group of some twenty comprehensive Heads and senior teachers seconded to work on her course. Her vigour, her imagination and her confidence quite won the hearts of the London Heads and their staffs and, as I could see, literally made them new people […] The Curriculum Laboratory greatly increased its impact and its influence by regularly producing a publication called Ideas, published by the College.’

“it wont rain roses’ began by saying that the pamphlet was committed:

…it is written by people who are intimately concerned with education in this country, by people who are training to become teachers. In a year’s time most of us will be dealing with children – perhaps your children. We shall be attempting to give them an education. Therefore we are committed. We believe that the education many children receive today is shoddy and a disgrace; an insult to the word Education. And this we hope to show you in the pamphlet.

Its theme is a simple one. At the present time Education is not being given the priority that it deserves. In 1963 more money is spent on Advertising and expense accounts than on Education.

The Government is not prepared to provide enough money for expansion and development; the teachers do not possess a professional attitude to their role in Society; and many parents tend to regard the Eleven Plus as the be all and end all of the system.  [The Eleven Plus was an exam children took at primary school when 11 years old. A minority would be selected for grammar schools with many remaining in secondary education until 18 when they would take A’levels and were encouraged to go to university. The majority would go to what were generally regarded as less academic secondary and technical schools with most leaving school at 15.]

We live in an age of great industrial wealth, yet 55% of Primary Schools still in use today were built in an age of gaslight. If this is the legacy offered to so many young children today then we believe that something is drastically wrong.

Front cover of the weekly student newspaper ‘Smith News’. David Elliott writes: ‘The three students in the photo are (left to right) Malcolm Laycock (Goldsmiths’ Student Union President) John Harvey, Editor of Smith News, and a first year student I believe was called Chris Prior. The photograph was taken outside the St Stephen’s Hall entrance to the Palace of Westminster. The caption is a ‘joke’ which you might have gotten- it was an advertising slogan for a tablet which dealt with bad breath and used with images of people up close…’ John Harvey would go on to become a leading award winning scriptwriter and crime novelist. Malcolm Laycock became an award-winning national broadcaster for the BBC.

In its concluding section the pamphlet said:

Education is not a luxury that only rich countries can afford. It is a vital necessity. Because of our persistent apathy, thousands of young minds are being wasted, and we risk national decline. Our suicidal values must change. It is not a question of can we afford it. It is a question of can we afford not to do it. And the answer is that we cannot.

It can certainly be argued that Parliament did, eventually, answer the call in ‘it wont rain roses.’

By the late 1960s there was massive public investment in education.

University education expanded exponentially.

Comprehensive education was introduced and most grammar schools phased out.

The Eleven Plus examination was officially abolished, though many local education authorities continued to organise similar examination and testing at eleven which resulted in secondary school selection.

David’s generation of student teachers undoubtedly made a contribution to the national Education debate.

And although he and his fellow campaigning activists were a minority of the students at Goldsmiths, it can certainly be argued that their impact and contribution have been memorable and significant.

A photograph taken by David Elliott of Christmas Dinner at Aberdeen Hall in 1961. The Hall of Residence no longer exists. Goldsmiths’ College students usually spent their first year in one of a number of Halls of Residence scattered around South East London and Kent. In the second and third year, students became known as ‘Homers and Diggers’ meaning they either lived at home or in rented ‘Digs’.


Find out about Goldsmiths’ College student culture in the late 1960s by visiting the Golddream Exhibition in the Kingsway corridor of the Richard Hoggart Building 4th March to 14th April 2019.

For more on the history of Goldsmiths sign up for Professor Tim Crook’s inaugural lecture Monday 11th March 2019 6 p.m. Ian Gulland Lecture Theatre, Goldsmiths, University of London.

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