John Bateson's recent tribute to Alan Ashcroft is spot on and I share John's memories of that time. John and I were both studying A level Art and, in the evenings, were members of the Art Club. I remember well the few weeks before the annual Art Exhibition when art lessons were accompanied by the sound of Alan sawing and hammering together mitred wooden sections of a frame, pieces held in his huge vice-like fist, his mouth full of nails ready in reserve. In retrospect, he must have had to make 300-400 frames for all the paintings to be shown, each one made to the same standard and with care - regardless of the painting's size or quality!
I always looked forward to double art lessons as the prolonged time allowed us to escape the art room and go plein air to sketch or paint. Often, we would wear our macs, despite hot weather, to hide our school uniforms and go incognito (not that we ever blended in!). But our adventures took us into the city to explore and record the docks and the still-remaining bomb sites. They were powerful and memorable occasions.
Like John, I too went on to Liverpool College of Art and shared the same tutors. Here I encountered my first nude female models. My parents, who had been accustomed to seeing my sketches of blazered boys from my school life class, were somewhat taken aback when I showed them my new work. Their first reaction was “Golly, when is it your turn to pose?”
My interest in art led me into a career in exhibitions and design, first in trade exhibitions for Civil Service departments, then developing exhibitions and museums at English Heritage properties, followed by 20 years as Head of Design and Interpretation at the Natural History Museum, London, responsible for its permanent galleries and temporary exhibitions, and finally as independent creative director developing new museums in Kenya, Italy, Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Tokyo, Singapore and Bangkok.
Whilst studying English, History and Art at school, I had no idea of what I wanted to do professionally. I decided to follow my interest in art, not really knowing where it might take me, but Alan had sparked the fuse!
My very great thanks to Alan for leading me towards a very enjoyable, rewarding (on so many emotional levels) and varied career.