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Teaching at the Royal College of Art (Part 2)

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Teaching at the Royal College of Art (Part 1)
Quentin Blake Artist
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Starting to teach at the Royal College of Art was a rather strange experience because I trained as a teacher but as a teacher of English… not as a teacher of art and, in fact, although I'd been to an art school… as a part-time student, which was Chelsea… I had no art qualifications, as such. And properly… I still haven't actually but… but… I kept up… contact with Brian Robb who had been teaching at Chelsea and I knew their… or rather he kept contact with me when, once or twice a year, he'd ring up. And then, after a while, he moved to the Royal College of Art and one day he rang me up and said would I like to go and set a project for the students, for the illustration and graphics students. And… so I went and did that and I set a project about… I seem… it was actually about book jackets, I think, a thing which I'd almost never done but it seemed that it was a sort of portable subject. And… a fortnight later I went back and did a crit, you know, and talked about what they'd done, which was interesting to me, and… and then afterwards Brian said well come down to my little office and we went down there. And he said… and he said, ‘Would you like to have a part-time job here?’ So I thought about it for about five seconds and said, ‘Yes, that would be nice’, not knowing what I was saying yes to, at all. And then… until the beginning of the next academic year, of course I was just… waiting to find out what this really meant. I'd no idea. And when I got there, in a sense it was rather frustrating to begin with, because you can't do that kind of job unless you know the people who teach there and you know the students and so on. So, it's very slow to start and also I didn't really know how to do it. I had to learn how to do it after I… after I got there. What was… what the other thing that was unexpected about it which was on the positive side was that… I was there as a part-time tutor, I think that was two days a week. And I'd assumed that I was a sort of humble person who would come in for those two days and do a little bit of something and go home again and the… the great machine would move on. In fact when I got there I discovered that… there were only three people teaching in that little department – there was only 30 students – but Brian ran it on a part-time basis, Sheila Robinson was a… was a tutor there… and I was a tutor there. We were the regular people so, in fact, I… almost immediately moved into the position of being, as it were, Brian's lieutenant because Sheila came from… came in from Suffolk when she came, whereas I was just down the road so I was… I was usually on the premises. That was a problem about… it was a great advantage to live near work because, sometimes on a day when I wasn't teaching, and I could go in, as it were, for half an hour… to fix some little problem, and you'd find that you were there for the morning because there were lots of people who seemed to be waiting for you… with their questions and you would leave after three hours, not having done the original problem at all. But… but anyway, it… it was wonderful being so near, I was within 20 minutes walk and the… the department was in the… was part of Graphic Design and was in the back regions of the Victoria and Albert Museum. So I could walk along there and… change my mode of thought to RCA as I was going there… and that's all I ever did, was… was to walk there. So it was… that was very convenient.

Quentin Blake, well loved British writer and illustrator, is perhaps best known for bringing Roald Dahl's characters to life with his vibrant illustrations, and for becoming the first ever UK Children's Laureate. He has also written and illustrated his own books including Mr Magnolia which won the Kate Greenaway Medal.

Listeners: Ghislaine Kenyon

Ghislaine Kenyon is a freelance arts education consultant. She previously worked in gallery education including as Head of Learning at the Joint Education Department at Somerset House and Deputy Head of Education at the National Gallery’s Education Department. As well as directing the programme for schools there, she curated exhibitions such as the highly successful Tell Me a Picture with Quentin Blake, with whom she also co-curated an exhibition at the Petit Palais in Paris in 2005. At the National Gallery she was responsible for many initiatives such as Take Art, a programme working with 14 London hospitals, and the national Take One Picture scheme with primary schools. She has also put on several series of exhibition-related concerts. Ghislaine writes, broadcasts and lectures on the arts, arts education and the movement for arts in health. She is also a Board Member of the Museum of Illustration, the Handel House Museum and the Britten-Pears Foundation.

Tags: the Royal College of Art, Chelsea, Suffolk, Victoria and Albert Museum, Brian Robb

Duration: 4 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008