This weekend has been a trip down memory lane for me and several others who had the privilege of studying at one of the finest art colleges of its time (if not THE finest). Bath Academy of Art, Corsham, Wiltshire, was unique.
For many years Bath Academy of Art was a facilitator of experimental creative activity allowing and encouraging it’s students to explore without boundaries. Everything was possible! Unlike many universities of today, with targets and limited funds, nobody ever said ‘no’ to me and allowed me to pursue my passion.
The Academy continued to be ‘different’ and fought against the system for as long as it could to keep its individuality until gradually in the late 70’s & 80’s it had to conform in order to survive, as it would never really fit in.
Professor Michael Pennie was one of the lecturers who taught sculpture whilst I was there in the 70’s and he still continues to work there in one capacity or another at the age of 78! That’s how it is, people never want to leave!
According to Professor Pennie, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes what happened at Corsham as ‘a great experiment’! I consider myself fortunate to have played my part in this and appreciate that it paved the way for my career and continued drive to experiment in my art.
I was delighted to meet Michael again and honoured that he took the time to give us a guided tour of Corsham Court where students had such privileges as the use of the lending and references libraries, freedom to wander around the beautiful Capability Brown gardens and the court’s state rooms, watching weekly films in the barn, and in the summer, splashing about in Lord Methuen’s swimming pool!
I have taken some pictures of some of the views I saw every day and perhaps as a young student, took for granted—but since leaving in ’79 have never forgotten the wonderful experience of being a part of this amazing institution.
In the 80’s, due to issues to do with local councils, Bath Academy of Art moved into the centre of Bath and eventually became a part of Bath Spa University, but in a small part has since returned to deliver MA courses in Creative Writing, Music and Film.
Many of the art world greats studied at Corsham and whilst there, were taught by the best visiting artists one could wish to work with including Howard Hodgkin, James Tower, Henry Cliffe, Sir Kenneth Clark and Jim Dine to name but a few.
Whilst at Corsham this weekend I was delighted to meet others who had studied there over several decades including one 81-year-old student who had travelled back from Australia. All had stories to tell and shared happy memories.
Thanks to the team at Bath Spa who arranged this weekend, including the tours of the Court and Newton Park and not to forget the catering staff who provided us with amazing food at Newton Park! It was most appreciated!
Last but not least—lovely to meet fellow alumna, Mary Berry who gave us an insight into her college days in conversation with Jenni Hills. (Managed to get her autograph for Imogen!) Hope Mary enjoyed the cakes as much as I did!!