Art School: A tale of two cities 

I first went to Art School at Bower Ashton in Bristol. I applied there as when I went on a visit I was impressed with the fact that, at that time, they still did metal casting. I hoped to combine learning traditional methods with my own creative ideas. However, as it turned out their methods, at that time, were too traditional for me and I didn’t get along well with the course or the lecturers. I struggled through the first year and 1st term of the 2nd year, but by the end my attendance was terrible and I was kicked out. I had also struggled on a personal level; discovering how ‘disadvantaged’ I was being from a relatively poor, working class background; being a female doing art and wanting to be taken seriously; 2 attempted sexual assaults, one by a fellow student and the other by a shopkeeper; all of which rattled my confidence significantly. Instead of feeling that I had support from the college, I just couldn’t communicate with the lecturers. One example –  at the end of 1st year tutorial, with my personal tutor, he said to me that “women doing art was just frustrated maternal instinct”. Gobsmacking.

Back in Nuneaton I went to see the Geoff Yoemans, one of the main lecturers on my previous course. He suggested I try Liverpool as he thought it would suit me better and he’d heard they were short of students. So I did. I got an interview with the Head of the Art College, Mike Knowles and dragged all the art I had made that I could carry on the train to show him. He liked what he saw and offered me a place and I was ecstatic.

Sefton Park, Liverpool. Watercolour 1985

The course in Liverpool was completely different to Bristol and although I still found things tough, I knew I had support from the Lecturers. My personal tutor was a woman called Jagjit Chuhan, who still teaches there and is now a Professor. I remember her being a sympathetic person and insightful as a lecturer.

Liverpool in the 1980’s was certainly a lively and interesting place. Geoff was right, it did suit me better than Bristol. (As a side note, my husband is from Liverpool, but we didn’t meet until many years later). I didn’t make friends with the art students, but instead got involved with the student magazine and student politics. It was a very intense time and I still didn’t do as well with my course as I hoped for. However, I managed to pass with Honours, I was the first member of my family ever to get a Degree (there have been others since!).

Looking back, I wonder if I should have waited until I was a little older and more mature before doing a Degree course, maybe I would have handled it all a bit better. But, what’s done is done. I did learn a huge amount and had many great experiences navigating the slippy stepping stones of life.