Marriage and taking art on the road.
I only spent a year at St. Margarets. In the summer of 1955 Robin and I got married in Bognor. It had to be very simple as neither of us had any money. Fortunately the church was only a few doors down so everyone could walk, no cars or taxis. We only invited close family. My mother and I did the catering and she made my wedding dress. All was going well until the day before when she broke her arm so I ended up doing the food myself. Rosemary and my small cousin Gillian were my bridesmaids and my grandfather gave me away. My dearly loved ex neighbour Auntie Andrews and her family came as my special guests, I was so happy that she could be there. She had been my rock in my last two years at school.
Below in the garden of the house in Ellasdale Road. From a very tiny photo. I’m not in any of them as I am the photographer. On the left Vivian Jesson, Robin’s teenage brother. Fourth from the left my mother with her broken arm. Arthur Kerry, my grandfather in the middle back row. Aunty Andrews the little lady fourth from right. Rosemary Jesson., Robin’s sister on the right
Below Grandad Kerry, my cousin Gillian and my mother, you can see how elegant and beautiful she was, There is a sad side to this Gillian who turned out to be an outstandingly clever woman, died when she was 42 and my mother when she was fifty. What a waste of two beautiful lives.
Back in Letchworth I moved in to Robins upstairs bed sit. Our landlady was a lovely Irish lady (and her husband) She wanted to spoil us all the time and was always inviting us to come downstairs and eat cake, it almost became a problem. I had got the job of peripatetic art teacher travelling round nine different village schools. I learnt how to drive and got my car, a Ford Popular…me a car owner!
Hertfordshire had a wonderful support system for the visual arts in schools. There was a full time art adviser, Joan Culver who did everything in her power to help us. The county was part of the extraordinary national Pictures for Schools organisation. They had a collection of high quality original paintings, prints and drawings. An art teacher could borrow a chosen piece for a term to hang in their school. I could borrow them to take with me the in the car to my village schools… One of the schools in Stevenage had a huge Henry Moore Sculpture outside at the entrance. The museum service encouraged teachers to take pieces from their stock out to schools. The objects were always put into sacks or boxes. The children got used to the excitement of guessing what was in the sack. They waited at the school gates ‘What we got this week Miss?) I maybe had a stuffed fox, or an owl,a case of butterflies, a helmet, old dolls,all sorts of things. There was a county supply store with art materials…no more whitewashed newsprint. It was mainly two dimensional but I did puppets with them too. There was a genuine belief at the top that the arts were transformative. The children produced such beautiful work that it sometimes took my breath away. I did a lot of observational work asking the questions that would help them to really look. Let’s say a rabbit ‘Now look closely, do you think his ears are as long as his head? His eyes, are they half way down his head? Where then? Would you say that he is hard or soft? How are you going to show that? Can you see his claws? How many? etc etc Later in my career I made a film with two children, one aged five and the other seven to show that though both children could answer the questions, the youngest still drew her rabbit in a deliciously conceptual way whilst the seven year old was putting down what she saw. Unfortunately the film was made on Betamax and that format lost out to JVC. I threw the many films I had made away. How stupid because later you could get a technician to enable them to be played again. I looked up the schools I used to visit on Google, most have closed or amalgamated.
Holwell. It was in this school that I was doing a lesson on tones and colour (at their level of course) We were going to make a frieze of decorative elephants around the wall. Each elephant had to have a howdah and draperies made up from Marion Richardson writing patterns, they could make up their own. Then they had to choose one colour, say red and paint their patterns with different tones and shades of red. They were quite magnificent. We pinned them around the top of the wall like a great procession. Then it was the end of the afternoon and the parents came to collect their children. One man came in and loved the frieze immediately, I thought he was an interesting man, he turned out to be Peter Benenson the founder of Amnesty International.
Hexton Hexton was on a piece of land that penetrated into Bedfordshire. There was a huge hill with ancient earthworks very close by. It was on the ancient Icknield Way. I thought of it as a very feudal village. There was a large manor house and everyone spoke in reverential tones of the lord and lady of the manor, half their parents worked on the estate. As I was rather left wing it used to annoy me. The lord of the manor was usually away in Canada as he was a director of the Hudson Bay Co. One Christmas there was huge excitement as he and his wife were making a visit to the school. There were presents for each child and they were brand new wellington boots from Canada, he must have secretly got their sizes. My opinion of him went up a notch! From the art point of view all I remember is that they had no water in the classroom, to get water you had to cross the school yard to the outdoor unheated toilets, it was freezing in the winter.
Footnote. I looked Hexton up on Google, the school doesn’t seem to be there any more. Whilst I was looking , I saw that the manor and all the huge estate was being sold. Asking price 19 million, but it could be broken down into smaller lots!!!! Will it be a footballer, a pop star or a Russian oligarch. I will continue with tale of the other villages tomorrow.