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My experience of national service


Stanley Simmonds and preparing to read English at Cambridge
Quentin Blake Artist
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The other person who was important to me, who came quite late, I think when I was in the sixth form, was Stanley Simmonds, who was a painter. I mean a proper, a good painter. And he was able to kind of develop my… encourage me in the way of art in general, really, and doing paintings. And he lived in Redcliffe Square. He lives in… he’s 80 something now, but he lives in Cornwall now, but he used to live in Redcliffe Square, which is actually why I live in South Kensington, because many, many years ago I came, and I was impressed with the size of the rooms and I thought it was a good place to be.

And so he had a lot of influence on me, but in fact I didn't go to an art school, and I'm not quite sure why. I think partly because I was taught English very well, and so I was prepared to read English at university, and by Walsh, and I think I also thought I mean one remembers what one thinks I thought that if I went to an art school, I might stop reading. I don't know what the logic of this was. Whereas if I went to a university, I wouldn't stop drawing. So I wanted to get that bit of life on board, I suppose, but I couldn't go directly to Cambridge because I had to do national service. Sometimes you did it before university, and sometimes afterwards. And I got into Downing College, Cambridge, which I was particularly I mean that was the college I was directed at by Walsh. He was able to do knew the kind of English that was taught there by FR Leavis, and so I was prepared to go in for that exam, and got in, but then I had to go and do national service, which I didn't enjoy at all.

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: Cornwall, Redcliffe Square, South Kensington, Downing College, Cambridge University, national service, the British Army, Stanley Simmonds, Frank Raymond Leavis, JH Walsh

Duration: 2 minutes, 41 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2006

Date story went live: 24 January 2008