Revolution in the air

Three years at art college would not be complete without some politics, squatting and clashes with the police. I have no idea whether any era is more or less politically charged than another – these are bigger and further reaching questions than I can answer here – but with hindsight there is no doubt that change and revolution were in the air during my years at college. The Tory government was limping along under John Major, persecuting the rave culture and traveller movement, eastern europe was collapsing, both peacefully and violently, and memories of the Poll Tax riots were still fresh in peoples’ memories. The bitter taste of Margaret Thatcher was still strong in the mouth.

It was in this climate that the art students in Brighton revolted. There was anger, debate and petitioning going on as we argued against the loss of a number of tutors and members of staff. For some reason, amongst all this anger the college decided to announce the building of a completely new and unnecessary car park for thousands and thousands of pounds, completely contradicting their claim that there was no money. Within days the whole art college in the centre of Brighton had been occupied with banners flying from the windows, picket lines and a slowly increasing police presence. It was a fantastic, powerful and electric atmosphere.

The beauty of it all for me was the productivity that came about. The course I was on had its own separate building down the road from the main college, with only one entrance. We were in there for days. Spontaneous dance, theatre and music performances were regular occurrences as were exhibitions, talks and improvised raves, chill outs and jamming sessions.

And in amongst all this I experienced my first all night session in the darkroom. I know many people have done it, but this was my first time and it has stuck with me, clear and vivid. Working in a darkroom can be a lonely experience but my abiding memory of that night is one of being so engrossed and involved in my work that I genuinely had no idea of the time. I would come out every few hours for some air and to stretch my legs, but was back in within a few minutes, until eventually I looked out of the window and saw light. Sun, slowly filling the pale grey sky with warmth and colour. There is very little more beautiful than dawn when you have been up (working) all night. It fills you with relief and joy, and when it is unexpected your emotions are amplified and exaggerated. I was drained but my soul was at peace with myself and my place in the world.

A few days later the revolution came to an abrupt end when the riot police stormed the building and dragged us out. Life resumed and, I’m guessing, somewhere in the corridors of power the authorities prepared themselves for the next batch of angry young students…assuming they were even aware of what had happened.

Latest

Swarm

It was as simple as ‘get to the top of Finland and turn left’.  At least that is

Blink and you’ll miss it

Iceland. Never has the essence of a country so closely resembled the way in which I see the

Under the Stars in Madagascar

There are times when writing about memories from as far back as my eighteenth year feels wrong. How

Viewpoints

The Rooftop Collective exhibition edition VI Tempus Fugit. So they say. Here we are again, another Rooftop Collective

Memories

Failed trips or the art of flexibility

Failure can be a strong word. It’s no big deal, and not something I am particularly hung up

Parading through a warzone

India 19-03-11: “You cannot go down there.” And who was I to argue with two uniformed policemen? This

Dancers in the mist

Step after step we climb the steep mountain path, focusing, meditating, concentrating. The rain dripping through the trees

Knee Deep in Prayer

I stood knee deep in the water and prayed. Prayed. If ever a word had connotations, it’s ‘prayed’.

Randomly Selected

Zen and the Art of Midge Maintenance

Scotland is famous for many wonderful things… Scotland is also famous for it’s midges. I had, of course,

Five Minute Windows

After driving over 7000km in nine days around Scandinavia it was the morning of my last day. I

An exhibition in London’s Carnaby Street

The new Staircase Gallery at Howies: Well I guess that makes it official then. I have just been

Bridge over the River Yamuna

India 20-03-11: We crossed a bridge. It was a railway bridge, with a small walkway to the side