First let me say I was never truely a punk, the revolution was arguably already over by the time I cottoned onto it all in 1978. Although the Sex Pistols played a secret gig in Walsall as the Spots, just a few miles from my house, I was blissfully unaware, and wouldn't have been able to go anyway even if I'd heard of the Pistols, which I hadn't. I glided gormlessly through '76 and '77 more interested in folklore than phlem, my badge of honour was a sketchbook, not safety pins. When the Pistols were in the headlines I was 16, a quiet mouse in suburban Sutton Coldfield, with dreams of following in the footsteps of Golden Age illustrators of 100 years before. No interest in the hippy/heavy metal bars in Birmingham (unlike brother and sister), I spent my spare time miniature wargaming and drawing.
The illustration course at Manchester was a curious experience. 11 students, all of widely differing styles and interests, meandered through experiments and projects overseen by tutors under the overall leadership of Tony Ross, but we were never really taught a great deal. It was an oasis from the urban world around us where we could nurture our craft, but to me the energy of Manchester at that time was in music, John Peel became more important than anything within the walls of the Poly. I saw as many gigs as I could afford on my meagre budget, while in the studio my sense of direction and enthusiasm for illustration became sapped as I was told to forget about the long-dead artists that inspired me, "nobody works like that anymore, those kind of conditions don't exist today". It was a hard learning curve, though necessary. As I fumbled through graphic experiments looking for new inspiration I began questioning whether I really wanted to be an artist or join a band. I bought my first guitar for £45 on Oxford Road, a cheap but functional Gibson Les Paul copy. By the end of the course in 1981 I almost felt had a stronger bond to music than I did to illustration.
|Members of the illustration course 1978-1981. Jean Yarwood, Lorraine Formstone, Heather Farr, John Goodwin, myself, Bob Wood, Tammy Wong, Lynn Wakefield.|
Three years studying illustration at Manchester Poly were a very powerful experience, I treasure every moment of it. I found my voice, I came out of my shell, and it sparked an attitude of cavalier optimism (some would say stupidity), a disregard for disaster, a determination to give things a go. Nomatter how much or how little support the course tutors were, it was largely the Manchester music scene, my mates (Bob, John and Andy) and experiences outside the course that really made the biggest difference.
|The infamous Sans Culottes|
But there was no record, no gigs, in fact no band.
My sense of direction may have meandered, especially in the final year, but there was always a purpose to it all, the energy was there, it just needed some serious focus.
On the last day of the course, 27th July 1981, in a gesture indicative of the time (or my state of mind perhaps) I gathered all my student artwork and threw the lot out of the 6th Floor window, to be scattered like confetti over the streets of Manchester.
|the first pile...|
|....cast to the wind....|