Twickenham Art School

Note: If old Twickensian art students read this, please go on line to the oldtimes.com.

Many of us would enjoy your rems and they would add to the lore and language of art-school students. In the USA we have alumni orgs, ‘twould be good to round up a few of us ancients from Twickenham to create a similar construction around our old school.

Further note: Remembering details from fifty years ago, it is much easier to recall what happened to me than others, so forgive me if I veer off focus occasionally when aiming to pin down Barney.

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Conceived in Camberly during the Battle of Britain, I was born as the Blitz began, two days after Pearl Harbor, on the tenth of December 1941. I was raised just down the road from Stonehenge, in a ration-book England red-brick home on a pre-Roman hill fort, next-door to an Iron Age well at the Rye’s. We were equidistant from both Mrs Purvis’ at Gallows corner and Mrs. Monday’s house of ill fame.

Mum was a school-teacher, dad a civil servant aeronautical engineer up at the aerodrome. After moving to Teddington in south-west London, and having attended a number of schools with not much to show for it, I was at the tag end of 13 years old when I went first went to Twickenham junior art school in south west London, in September 1955 and graduated in May of 1961. Colin Fulcher (aka Barney Bubbles) was in the year below me, arrived in September 1958, took an extra year and graduated in May of 1963.

Twickenham art school, now Richmond upon Thames College, had a good reputation for its practical printing connections back in the day, and most years it won the competition for lead in the parade entering the Albert Hall in the Royal College of Art (RCA) Grand Ball at the end of year. This was a parade of all the art schools from around London, all dressed up in their fanciest imaginings. That was until1958, when they closed down the Ball for a while as out of control – a girl on a parade float with all-over gold body-paint died as a result of her clogged skin. This was the origin of Ian Fleming’s, Goldfinger story.

Twickenham college on Edgerton Road, opened in 1937, was built in that thirties British Moderne style, with institutionally regular classrooms and corridors, all painted green and cream, with a dividing tan stripe at chest height. Concrete floors. There was a ring of about a dozen of these government funded art schools all round London, in Kingston, Ealing, Highgate and elsewhere, with the RCA and the private Slade, Central and others in the center. Twickenham, in South-west London, as well as all the other art schools of the time, and maybe now too, were inspired by the arts and crafts movement of William Morris that stressed pride in your tools and nature as truth. As a result, in addition to life and documentary drawing, we learned painting in gouache, watercolor, and oil; illustration, photography, TV and movie production, screen printing, lithography on stone and metal, hand-set letterpress, wood-engraving, lino- and woodcuts.

There were no biggie exams to get into art school then, no GCE’s, no nothing except a simple drawing test – which meant that they were, intentionally, a catch-all grab-bag for those oddballs, like myself, with no other way to escape the ghastly Sec Mod scene ­– or in Barney’s case Grammar school. As a result, the art schools of the time had a very wide range of intelligence and ability. For me, and many others, art school meant liberation from fifties semi-detached convention. Because of the simple requirements to get into art school, I was able to leave the rigors of St. Mark’s Secondary Modern School in all its monolithic, brown brick austerity, with no qualifications gained – or required. As a result there was a right regular mixed crew of talent in the classes at Twickenham.

My youngest daughter, Alessandra Bolger, age 15 (in 2007), is now studying Theatre Tech at School of the Arts here in San Francisco – she went when she was 14 – so I’m happy to say young artists can still start early here too.

There were many art students from that system, such as the mysterious illustrator Chris Higson, stepson of the British film director Karel Reisz (sp?), class of ’60 (nobody seems to be able to find detail on him or know his fate of late), who recurs often in this story, or the art director, John Simioni, who left college early and later hired Barney for a beer job. They all had great talent and skills – but seem to have wafted away unheard of by me in the sticks, except maybe for the designer of Time Out, Pearce Marshbank. Please correct me if I’m wrong… Well, David ‘Chas’ Chedgey did, for one – he’s now deservedly a famous sculptor. But many art students became serious musicians and they were most definitely heard. ‘Mac’ McClaglan, a Twickenham rocker, was a good Fulcher (and Bubbles) friend, and who, after a start with the Muleskinners became a Small Face and a Rolling Stone, he’s lived the life and is still kicking yet.

I don’t think many Junior art students made it all way through senior art. Den Jolly – his dad was an undertaker, Den dug it; good ol’ bad boy Gingel went off to work in automotive in Teddington; Bob Poole went into Hounslow based serigraphy – they all left. Wendy Mulvaney was a tough girl who could out draw the fastest, was a friend of Illustrator, Chris Higson; she dropped out later. June Woodhams, she left early too, there were rumors. Reuben Archer, he had an uncle who had work for him, and he left. Chris Archer, no, tell a lie, it was Chris Williams, went to Yosemite one summer, smoked dope there, so he said in a letter, never came back to school, was a good friend of Fulcher for a while. But Dave Palmer, Chris Terry, and others from the juniors studied for the full four years in senior art school, along with newbies Dianne Hillier (who married Mick Jackson), Elaine Channing (married Eddie) and Fulcher, who stayed an extra year. So, as he he said, “I can do anything I want.”

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