Posted: Friday, 23rd September 2011
LEAVING home for University can be as daunting as it is exciting.
So to make their Freshers feel at home, staff in the Faculty of Art and Design took a trip down memory lane to recall their own hopes and fears at the start at art school – all those years ago!
The retrospective exhibition, bearing the tongue-in-cheek title In the Beginning, is witty and entertaining, and showed at the Holden Gallery all this week.
Around 30 staff exposed their college day trials and tribulations including the Dean, Heads, researchers and lecturers.
'Up to no good!'
John Walsh, from graphic design, admits to not remembering his Fresher Week but comically exhibits a letter from his mum: “John was generally up to no good” she writes. “Multicoloured zebra-crossings started appearing around Blackburn and very similar paint splashes mysteriously turned up in my washing basket at weekends.”
And she advises students: “John has never liked being told what to do, he’s always done his own thing. I hope you take a leaf out of his book and know what you want and go for it.”
Alex Russell, textiles in practice, recalls he applied to Manchester Poly “partly because the course sounded great” and partly because he “really liked the Smiths and New Order.”
Tony Ratcliffe, programme leader for Foundation, who also came to MMU, enthuses: “I had emigrated from the pit heaps of South Yorkshire and was fascinated by the upper-class backgrounds of some of my fellow students. However, we had a common language – Pop Art – and a desire to succeed.”
Three-dimensional design tutor Sharon Blakey, who arrived in Manchester from Newcastle, recalls: “The first month was tough, I was so homesick I didn’t dare go back home for fear I would never return!”
Lifelong friends were made, tears shed, and fashion faux pas committed in abundance: “A new friend on my course wore two tampons as earrings,”, writes Steve Hawley, adding: “That was the high point of punk in 1978 Bradford!”
Mike Gorman, who has coordinated the show explained: “We asked colleagues for three things: a photograph of themselves back in the day, a drawing or sketch from their first year and some musings on their feelings and experience at starting out in University.
“We recognise how potentially traumatic the first few weeks can be for new students so this helps them realise they’re not alone in their feelings – these are the same feelings their tutors had.
“Lots of students came along and hopefully made some connections. They could see us at their own age, and we, the staff, could put ourselves in their shoes by recalling how we felt when we were starting out.”
The final word goes to principal lecturer Jane McFadyen who remembers holding back the dam when saying goodbye to mum and dad: “My most vivid memory is arriving at Halls. I got into the lift with two other girls who both collapsed in tears. I invited them to my room for tea, sympathy and Coronation Street and we remained friends for years after.
“Week one was tough – making sense of masses of information whilst trying not to get lost. I remember thinking I just had to get through it somehow … it would be fine … and it was.”
The exhibition would not have been possible without the help of Martin Dexter, Kevin Hindle, Steve Gartside, Laura Donnelly, Paul McGrath, Anthony Hennigan, Moyth Campbell, Frank Kong, Sue Merrill and John Boniface.