Colin Fulcher at School
- Aten Skinner Says:
September 4, 2008 at 8:04 am eHey David! What a great article – my girlfriend’s friend found the link and send it to us last night. I’ve been looking for info on Barney for YEARS, this is the most interesting stuff I’ve found because it’s his early life and that’s what I really wanted to know more about.
I should introduce myself as Barney’s son, Aten, born 1972 and promptly moved down to Devon with my mum and not really to see a lot of Barney from that point onwards. However throughout my life I wrote to him a lot and also visited him occasionally when the parents managed to sort it out between themselves.
I have a pitiful amount of photos of him so finding these ones (where he’s not entirely covered in hair) was a treat I haven’t actually read the article yet but I’m so excited by just seeing it that I just wanted to mail you first and let you know that. If you have any more photos I’d love to see them as well.
I’ll be in touch again after I’ve read though this lot at lunch today
It’s 4AM, I woke up and just had to see what I’d got in the way of mail!
Oh my godliness me, that’s fantastic, You make my effort so worth while!
Do you have any letters to share?
I guess in a way, it is you I’ve been writing for. It’ll make writing the rest of it that much easier, you
“Turn words to life and give to airy nothing
A smiling face and a name.”
to mangle Willi Shakespeare again.
Lots more to see and do. About 60 pictures. (Master calligrapher and type designer Edward Johnstone referred to all ‘paintings,’ as “pictures,” so i imitate him here. He designed the original for the type I’m using here in this letter to you, adapted by Gill [but not in my log]).
This makes me so excited I want to wake up my fifteen year old daughter and tell her. I won’t do that tho’, school calls.
Yowser in bundles!
Your Uncle Sid.
Photograph Copyright David Wills 2008
No pictures of Fulcher at school, but here’s one four years after he left. Fulcher, center, fards-up for the Alexandra Palace all night gig, 1967, with Lorry, left, and Muggeridge, right.
John Gorham, meticulously researching his book, ‘Reasons to be Cheerful,’ asked me when I first met Fulcher. It would have been about 8:45 AM, before the half hour later than usual, first day, on Monday, 6th September 1958, in the art school tower of Twickenham College. Any description of Fulcher or Bubbles that tries to show his appearance, is going to have to change radically with years, but the basics were constant, at that time he was about 125 pounds, five foot seven, blue eyes, thin as can be, with a big nose, and goggle eyes and regulation short-back-and-sides brown hair, and wearing a blue jean, hand sewn artist’s smock. He was good at getting you laughing. He also had a righteous temper, with interesting ways to retaliate if provoked, so I found.
It was the first day of the new school year and we were milling around in the hubbub up in the tower, as the new 1st year students, including Fulcher, mixed with the students in the ‘display’ course, who knew the ropes. Some of us were former junior art-school students. I was a 2nd year senior, a year above Fulcher. I liked the, low-key (at that time) subversive – an aware proto-Barney in rumpled grey and the ridiculous blue serge smocks we all wore. Unlike others, ours were homemade by our mums, from a pattern provided by the school. Fulcher acted self-conscious in his smock, I said we were, “mocking our smocking.” He goes off on a riff on that, something like, “We’re shocking in our stockings.”
Later, at lunch I was munching on some forgettable school food, sitting down with the lads, sharp Chris Terry, dangerous Dave Palmer, and the great lettering artist, Bob Poole. Diane Hillier and Elaine ‘Spon’ Channing who married Eddy, hang out with Tink Taylor. There’s a long queue for the Wagon Wheels and a school lunch, when Fulcher comes up and asks “What’s the plan?” I say “Oh, that’s ok, just go the front and say ‘Wills said so.’ ”He did, but got sent the back of the line. He could take a joke, was smart. We were friends.
Roots of Rock
Tech College turf wars: In my first year at the senior-art school, the 1920’s RCA trained stained-glass artist, Osmund Caine, was elevated to senior lecturer, with a re-arranged school curriculum. From the way I heard it, it was the previous head, Coulston-Davis, and teachers John Kirby and Wentworth-Shields, who had engineered the new order, with the separation of Printing and Graphic design and closed down millinery, hats and the silversmithy as courses. They got Caine in to please the traditionalists. This was in the same year as Fulcher arrived. Us Graphic Design and Display students had little to do with Osmund, who hit big on the girls, and I avoided him. He taught illustration, was an honest, back-to-the-roots William Morris man – but he wasn’t hot on the Bauhaus aesthetic that us designers pined for.
We studied the making of things, including a class in hand-sewn bookbinding to make sketchbooks, but a major skill, especially, was working with cardboard. Fulcher, who came to Twickenham when he was seventeen, from Isleworth Grammar, and I, both ‘display’ students, disparagingly referred to ourselves as ‘cardboarders’.
Mr ‘Ironspine’ Gould was our course teacher in three-dimensional design called ‘display’ and lived on Tranmere Road just up the road from Fulcher. He was in the year below me, but we often shared clases. On Saturdays I’d cycle from Teddington over to Whitton, and Fulcher and I would ride in Gould’s car to his silversmithing class in Ealing, with a spinsterly Mrs. Thayer in class on the third floor overlooking the endless wen. I made a clasp for some ancient Pope’s medal; Colin made a ring for his mum. Mr. Gould gave Fulcher a ride to school everyday, was a big influence. So too were Mr. Mathews and, especially, Mary Caine, who taught him to whistle in space – where Kirby and Shields had taught a good hum.
Barrel of Laughs
In junior art I had learnt to use coal (natural) gas to braze the metal – for fun we’d fill a cardboard tube with gas, blow it out with a lighted match at the end – and watch a ball of flame barrel across the room. Mr Gould had been the metal and silversmith teacher then, and became our ‘display’ teacher when they closed the metal work classes.
One reason Twickenham felt superior was because we felt our Rock and Roll music and venue was better than the other schools. It may also have been established longer than others too – it had roots in a pair of old sisters’ long established private art school, and when I was first there, we still had their original, much derided, Victorian classic volumes of the Decorative Arts, now worth a few grand apiece, then used as collage material.
In later times Colin/Barney would use one of these discarded school volumes, which he’d appropriated, to choose colours for jobs. Similar in concept to a modern book of color swatches in effect, but were Victorian hand drawn stone litho examples of historic designs. Printed with something like 35 different color inks, both analine and vegetable colours with bendane type dots too I think, “They’re really cool, lots of different colours to choose from.” With colour combinations according to classical precedent.
The school had a passing nod of acquaintance with the 18th century author, Alexander Pope. ‘Pope’s Grotto,’ was a tunnel of stuccoed shells and bric-a-brac, beneath the road at Thames Eyot, that I’d cycle over on my way to and from school. Twiggy the model lived near there too. I also rode past that inspiration for all Victorian Gothick-revival, Pope’s correspondent, the 4th Earl of Oxford, Alexander Walpole’sStrawberry Hill building.
It was Pope who coined the word ‘Serendipity’ in a letter to Walpole, a word used now for the coincidences that appear from astute awareness. Partly because Pope’s example of his own word is not very apt, we were given this it as an exercise for designers to riff on, by our graphics teachers, Wentworth Shields and John Kirby. Both were 1930’s RCA graduates, and were quite a lively pair with their genial tweed-suited, sarcastically tinged learning. The word ‘serendipity’ would be a recurring theme and a constant in our lives. It was from them that we learned the gentle arts of visual thinking; primed to be aware, to become designers of ideas.
The Peace Symbol is upside down
Incidental fact: Twickenham, the town, has graphic credibility – the classic peace symbol was designed in or on Richmond Road, Twickenham, in 1958 by an RCA graduate, the graphic designer Gerald Holtom, a student of calligrapher and type designer Edward Johnstone who designed the London Underground logo.
Holltom’s classic original is the design with the curved ‘serifs’ where the lines join the circle. The symbol has multiple references: It is designed, nicely proportioned, as a ‘letter’ of an otherwise non-existant alphabet, in a ‘sans-serif-with-serifs’ type. The design incorporates the semaphore letters ‘ND,’ for Nuclear Disarmament enclosed in a circle; and is based on Holtom’s gesture of despair with hands thrust down and out; it is also inadvertently similar to a Nordic rune for growth and an inverted Assyrian A. Commissioned for the Committee for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and first used in the peace march to Aldermaston Nuclear research station from Westminster
The symbol was cleverly designed to be used either way up, giving us both downward negative despair with the roots of change, as it is used generaly now, and alternatively with an upward image of positive, hopeful growth to be used when required – by turning the symbol topsy-turvey. We could use a bit of positive reinforcement for peace right now – it’s time to turn the peace sign 180 degrees.