In my first year on the degree course at Manchester we assembled in the former lost property offices of the Manchester Corporation( we still got little old ladies popping in complaining of lost umbrellas, even though it had been closed for years) We were a motley group of individuals from all over the country. Myself from not far away, but we had others from as far away as Walthamstow, which to us was really the dark side of the moon. A bloke addressed us with a cigarette in hand and told us his name was Williams, he had more spots than the rest of us poor chap. I don’t fully recall what he said but he did try his best to make us feel welcome.
In the days that followed we got to know the rest of the staff, slowly. My own tutor was the children’s book illustrator Tony Ross, who’s sense of relief when I was given a free transfer to another team, was palpable. In retrospect I don’t blame him, I suspect that I talked too much and worked too little. The guy who took us for life drawing was a man addicted to his pipe and looked like a retired major from the lancers. The advertising bloke had the demeanor of a frantic market trader that went well with his name: Driver.The typography/design bloke was a little more intense.
We had visiting ‘celebs’ too, probably as a result of the wily ways of our head of department, who seemed to know these people. Brian Redhead came to see us, he was pretty major at the time, and presented the news on the BBC. The equivalent of John Humphries today. Unlike his perceived friendly persona on the radio I found him to be a quite an unpleasant character, or perhaps he was having a bad day. Ronnie Kirkwood, an advertising guru of the time who turned up in a very grey and dark Manchester in a gold suit. We could not believe it!
All the memories of the time will be coming back on Thursday when our little exhibition in Manchester kicks off. Open to the public from the Friday, come along and see the sort of things that a few of us have been doing for the past 50 years after this Manchester start.