Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Saturday, 21 November 2015
Arriving at the string of huts which housed the Foundation Course of Guildford Art School, the first thing I had to get used to was calling the teachers by their first name. I had just left school. The second was sitting very close to naked women and being instructed to look at them very closely - stare at them relentlessly - rather than being told to turn my head.
Certain smells bring those days back vividly to me - wet plaster, hot resin, oil paint, etc.
Our first painting class with two lecturers teaching us technique: One leaves the room briefly and the other says, "The first thing to deal with is brushes. Don't waste money on expensive brushes - the cheap ones are just as good."
The second lecturer returns to the room and says, "Right, Brushes. Don't economise by buying cheap brushes. Always get the best ones available."
We all laugh, and it it is decided that - as with most things - we will make our own minds up after accumulating a little experience.
There always seemed to be the latest Beatles album playing somewhere in every studio. A couple of the male lecturers were real perverts. One day, a young and pretty model arrived and was made to stand directly over a mirror with her legs outstretched. It is next to impossible to get a young student to concentrate on drawing under these circumstances, but they didn't care about that. They were on a colossal salary for their day.
Another day, a new model turned up and was put into a pose which involved going on her hands and knees with her bare arse facing us, while the lecturer gawped in obvious distraction, trying to spot what she had for breakfast, no doubt.
The door suddenly burst open and her husband stormed in, shouting. He dragged her to her feet, got her to put her clothes back on, then dragged her out. We never saw her again. Right the way through my school education, I have been blessed with bad teachers.
Our guest lecturers were a lot of fun, and included people like Yoko Ono, David Hockney and Bruce Lacey - all barking mad except for Hockney, of course.
As the Spring turned into Summer, posters began to appear on walls and trees, inviting students to attend union meetings in the cafe, and after about two of these meetings, I finally went down to attend one myself. I had, after all, paid my mandatory dues.
The S.U. had discovered that the cafe and the building which housed it was funded solely from student union dues, but had also heard that the Principal and Vice Principal (Tom Arnold and Leonard Stopani) were due to arrive in a minute to disband the meeting and evict the students from their own premises. Even they didn't know who funded the place.
So they turned up and Tom Arnold began shouting at everyone to get out, until he was told that he would not be welcome there himself without written permission from the Student Union. He went very red in the face, then turned on his heel and left, followed by the scuttling Stopani.
The next day, a college notice was posted around the place stating that any teacher seen talking to a student outside of the studios would be sacked for misconduct. 'Misconduct' usually meant something like rape, so being sacked for this would mean you would never teach again.
Several very brave teachers - who had not even cared about our meetings up until that notice - actually made a point of openly fraternising with us in full view of Stopani, who duly took down their names in his notebook.
A couple of days later, these teachers received their formal letters of dismissal, and despite protestations from people like John Lennon, they would never teach again.
That was when it all kicked-off. Our sit-in began as a simple plea to reinstate the sacked lecturers, and was supported by all manner of people including barristers and pop-stars. It was only the media who portrayed us as a bunch of free-loading layabouts, and the people who believed them began to send us death-threats from that point on.
It became dangerous to leave the building on your own after dark, and we had to shutter the windows because someone took pot-shots at us with an air-rifle every night until we did.
Even in the daylight, we went out in groups of twos and threes. The stress would eventually take its toll.