My memories of Corsham
start at Dartington Hall really. I had gone there from Dartington School
in 1960, because my Mother read Tagore, and believed in educational
freedom of expression. There were only 6 art students : of those 6 - me,
Linden Turner and Steve Collingbourne all went on to Corsham, and George Pasmore went on to become one of the duo Gilbert & George, at
St Martin's. At Dartington we mixed with the music students, and all
our tutors were from Corsham, so we were well prepared for the privileged
lifestyle we moved on to. Ivor & Maureen Weekes, Bobbie Cox, Donn
Evans, Albert Helloco, Riette Sturge-Moore, Susan Bosence and the great Roger Mayne,
are names to conjure with from that period.
I loved making the painting of the half a cabbage
and the self portrait for my entrance exam - was it one and the same? In my first weeks, I had the familiar faces of Josh Partridge, who had gone on a year or two ahead of me,
Linden and Steven, and so I wasn't too scared. And Tim Threlfall and Jeremy Jessel were also
very welcoming. I remember standing outside the staffroom where our noticeboard was,
and hearing gales of laughter from within. Later, I discovered that on the reverse of the door to that room, the photos of all the first year were pinned,
and it was from here the male staff selected their "girls" from the notice
board. It was a cattle market - as most art schools were at this time - where the
"droit de seigneur" reigned supreme. I remember the extra curricular studies at Monks Park. Most especially the visit of the darkly handsome Ted Hughes - still married to Sylvia Plath - his poetry reading remains as haunting now to me, as it did at the time.
Life was hard. Very hard. I have never worked so hard in all my life, as I did that first year. We were popping "Purple hearts"
and "Black bombers" or "uppers" to keep ourselves awake : lessons all day, supper, more lessons till 8, then cycling miles back to Monks Park, where we had to prime canvases for the perfectionist Howard
Hodgkin, complete a sewing for Helen Binyon, dye a textile for Stephen Russ or complete a drawing for Andrew Wilson,
and so it went on.
Apparently, two thirds of our year either dropped out, or were expelled. I was very nearly expelled for hitching to London without permission. I didn't mind:
I was in love with Bill Crozier, and used to go to Muriel's Club in Soho, where I would meet
him with Frances Bacon, Lucien Freud and other luminaries of the
art world : I was 18 and very impressionable. I was saved expulsion by my tenacious mother, plus the good auspices of Helen
My strongest memory was of Domenico Mancini in the sculpture school on our first day there. He unrolled a leather pouch containing a set of gleaming tools. It was the gentle
and reverential way he unrolled that
pouch....... then he spoke. "I have had this pouch, since I was a student of your age. Take care of your
tools and they will last you a lifetime" I was filled with awe. Another memory was of the quiet Stephen Russ, saying to me (remember this was 1961, pre-punk) "Dye your hair green, Fiona, it will look amazing!" Well I WAS amazed. That this particular man had chosen to say such a shocking thing to me. But he was right,
and years later I did dye it : bright red, when it was
commonplace to do so...... I was very fond of Stephen and worked my hardest for him. He was a kind
and thoughtful man.
In contrast, Howard Hodgkin inspired fear
and dread. This strange, little fat man, whose work I admire now, was a tyrant. My main memory, is of him lurching
into the studio, where our tiny group was working at White Still Lives. He marched right up to my friend, Diana Dean,
and grabbing one of her brushes, he
plunged it into a pot of crimson paint which he slashed across her
picture, "Don't you think that's an improvement?" Diana was a strong woman. She threw down her brushes
and palette saying "Damn you, Howard" and stormed out. I would surely have collapsed in her place. He knew who to
pick; but to this day, I fail to see what point he was making. Of the two of us, Diana is the painter now. And I don't give him credit for that. I, on the other
hand, also harboured an unrequited dream of being a singer. One night, I climbed the barbed wire at Monk's Park, & hitched to Bristol for a late night audition. I sang Ray Charles, "Georgia,"
and then hitched back home to bed.
I loved my teaching practise at Colston Girls' school in Bristol, but it never prepared me for the violent boys
and girls I worked with
years later in London. However, the
skills I learned to be a teacher, were life enhancing. After a successful
25 years in teaching at all levels from Primary to F.E., my career culminated in the post of
Divisional Coordinator for support services in 1990. Here I managed a staff of 50 Special Needs teachers in Southwark, working from 14 sites, to all the Primary
and Secondary schools in the Borough, with children who had Emotional
and Behavioural difficulties. I even encountered Maureen Aune, one of my year at Corsham : a Head Teacher in the same
Borough. That was good.
I am still in touch with my dear Corsham friends : Linden, Diana,
and Katharine Crozier.
Fiona Green 2007
Crozier died July 12,
2011 aged 81