BOOT AND SHOE
The fixed nature of the academic term, and the Undergraduate degree do not encourage the longer perspective of the Art School. The unique selling proposition offered to young recruits is the raw immediacy of the Moderne. Nostalgia and Camp can be usefully restricted to Open House and Summer Shows in a tent. There are however several entertaining histories of colleges, Manchester, Norwich and Brighton spring to mind.
Marjorie Althorpe-Guyton's chronicle of Norwich is an exemplar. A.J.Stevens' culminating chapter associating the current principal's name, with the secondary title "An end to Dirigeism" is a masterstroke of the Oblique in suggesting a loss of organisation.
That Art should be but a part of a range of training courses available to the Young seems to me to be quite natural rather than the Institution making claims to be an Internationally recognised hub of Art Practice and Cosmic Significance.
Soon after joining the staff as a Visiting Lecturer I felt free to explore the labyrinthine corridors and storerooms. In the main studio of the Vocational group was a raised room lit by a panel of frosted glass, sealed to the world and only approached with the use of a ladder.
I made it a project to explore and graphically describe this hidden chamber, if only to satisfy my curiosity. Before the Art School gave itself airs, it supported a Boot and Shoe Department, the largest outside Northampton. Glowering Mechanicals faced the the Aesthetic shock troops of Painting, across the same Edwardian quadrangles and canteens. Inside the sealed room were over thirty giant heavy duty sewing machines whose function was to attach pink plastic edging to Continental Sandals. I have preserved a role of this edging to prove the accuracy of my memory.
It all fell into place. If you were on the top floor of the Building, in pursuit of a less sordid Gentleman's Lavatory, you had to pass a simlar number of mysterious viewing devices which the Art School authorities believed were the forerunners of the Grant Projector, devices for tracing on to the sketchbook. Each was shrouded in a hood and had a dangled wire. I found one mains lead with plug still attached and in a quiet moment plugging it in. The machine hummed and crackled with an unearthly green light.
Sure enough you could manoever the feet under the viewer and see your toe bones waving back at you. That these monsters contained sources of radiation had not seemed to bother any one. They remained lining the corridor for several years before being sold for scrap. David Maw, seen beneath at the Fairground Art show curated by David Jolley told me he had taught European History to the Boot and Shoes, and it was a huge challenge.
BOOT AND SHOE'S DAVID MAW, centre
with Ann Maw left and a pensive C Mullen