Cyril, students union and children

Cyril Mount, my head of dept was an interesting man. He was born in Liverpool. When the war was declared he was called up and spent a lot of the war in the desert. I discovered later that he had been made a Captain. He never talked about the war but one of the places that we used to take the students to, was the tank museum in Bovington, Dorset.. In one of the display cases there was an old radio, it made him quite emotional as he had been a radio operator in communications and he began to talk to me about the awful battles. Men were often trapped and burned in their tanks. He had kept sketch books all through the war. He was a fine painter in a fairly illustrative style commenting on society. When he was demobbed he went to Liverpool art school, he was a great friend of Adrian Henri and through him the Liverpool Poets and the Scaffold. This photo is from his obit in the Guardian.

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Cyril was a great seeker after alternative society and always trying to get us along to meetings and weekends. At one time it was the Bhagwan he was following but there were other guru’s along the way. The only one I tried, at his insistence, was the co-counselling movement. I went on a few intensive weekends, there were a lot of tears and raw emotion and I did find some sense in what they were doing but I didn’t feel that I wanted to be a follower. I’m not a natural follower, I have a touch of the loner in me I think.

CyrilMount1.painting                                                       Painting by Cyril Mount.

The student union collected money all the year to give local deprived children a really good day out, they asked me to join in as the staff rep. (strangely I did the same thing at Christchurch) They hired inflatable play structures (before they became ubiquitous) and other play things covering the college playing field. They were a series of pods with tunnels, they were huge fun and I felt so proud of the students in the way that they cared for and interacted with the children. These photos were originally colour slides that I have converted so that they are not very good but they do remind me of those happy hippy times. You may see that the students are wearing flares! The time of pyschodelia(sp?) and  listening to The Incredible String Band on my car radio on my homeward journeys.

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                                                  Children climbing into a podoct30studhoc7

                                              Students helping to erect the structure.

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                                            Student drumming with the children.

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                                                         In an activity space.

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                                               College chaplain in the dark shirt

                                                                Teaching Practice.

We covered a huge area because there were three training colleges quite close to each other, the other two were Saffron Walden, only a short distance away, and Homerton College in Cambridge. We had to be careful not to cause bad feeling by poaching a school from another area. Because of this our area extended to Aldeburgh and the coastal ares of Suffolk and Essex. If you were visiting students in those areas you had to stay in a B and B.

It wasn’t always easy training the students to teach, some were natural teachers, others could be given advice and helped to improve, but there were always a few that would fail. There were all sorts of reasons why they failed a) they didn’t prepare their work  (lazy) b) they didn’t use their imagination to find interesting ways of engaging the children (boring) c) they couldn’t keep discipline, again you could give advice, eg don’t raise your voice, it’s a path to diminishing return. If the children finish their work early make sure there is always something else to do etc. etc. The problem is that a lot of it is to do with a person’s personality. I know what I would do in the situation but maybe my method wouldn’t suit you. One of the common mistakes was to try to make friends with the children thinking that if you are friends and on the same level with them they will love to do what you want them to do. It doesn’t work; of course you can be friendly but you have to remember that you are the responsible adult and keep a slight distance. There is nothing more heartbreaking than seeing a student in total chaos with the children running riot. Having said that there were some secondary schools in Harlow where I know I would have had difficulty let alone a raw student.

Children working in my studio.

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Movement and Dance.

Another joy for me at Hockerill was that I had the chance to do dance again. There was a brilliant dance teacher Meryl (sadly she died quite young) She ran a very keen dance group both men and women, (these men didn’t mind wearing leotard and tights, times had changed since Corsham)  I joined in and cooperated with the group especially in creating choreography. I was entranced by electronic music and used it as a starting point for new pieces.

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