CREATIVE classmates who attended Harrow School of Art during the Swinging Sixties met to relive their studies at the weekend.
Saturday’s reunion was organised by former pupil Patricia Whorwood and more than 40 alumni of the Station Road institution – a technical school where students joined as young as 13 – turned up to reminisce.
Mrs Whorwood, 66, of Pinner Park Avenue, Harrow, joined from what is now Nower Hill High School after passing a general examination, a drawing test and an interview.
She said: “My parents were upset because artists were ‘wild’ and everyone else was well behaved.
“It was the best of times. It was fantastic, absolutely fantastic.
“We were given the freedom of expression and we were allowed to develop our skills at an age before we were too restricted.
“There was no uniform and there were students up to the age of 20 and you couldn’t tell the difference between the tutors and the students.
“We even had a common room where people would stomp around listening to jazz.
“I just remember the smell of Gauloise cigarettes and turpentine.”
Students had general studies and took GCEs in history and English but were taught more specialist techniques in subjects such as commercial art, which is know known as graphical design, illustration, painting and even silverwork, between 9am and 6pm, with the older students staying behind the for evening classes.
The art GCE was considered too easy, or even patronising, for the students to sit so they tackled A-level art instead.
Teachers included Peter Blake, who later designed the famous cover art for The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album, Ken Howard, the Royal Academy painter, and architect Sir Hugh Casson, who in the 1970s became president of the Royal Academy of Arts.
Cartoonist and comic illustrator Martin Newman, 66, of Burnham, near Windsor in Berkshire, travelled from Uxbridge each day to attend the school alongside teenagers from all over north-west London.
“I was there from 1959 to 1964. You can imagine the explosion of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, all the girls wearing mini skirts and tottering around in high heels.
“We went to art school when we were 13 years old. There was about two years of junior art school, to get people used to the idea, and those who wanted to make art a career choice, stayed on.
“The general education was pretty naff but we were very fortunate that we got the opportunity to study sculpture, 3D design, illustration and photography.
“I have to say it was great time to be there in the 1960s and a great time for expression and ideas and, of course, being an art school you got to experiment with fashion and design.
“It was the era of Peter Blake and David Hockney and most of us went into art or music.”
The school had less liberal and more humble beginnings: it was founded in 1887 by Marion Hewlett, the youngest daughter of Dr Thomas Hewlett, the medical officer at Harrow School, and she ran art and crafts classes from a room at the YMCA at 102 High Street, Harrow on the Hill.
In 1894 Middlesex County Council’s technical education committee took over the administration and subjects at the time included clay modelling, metalwork, burnt wood engraving, needlework and shadow painting.
Eight years later, after lobbying from the school, the county council agreed to fund two-thirds of the £3,000 cost to construct purpose-built premises in Station Road, Harrow, with the remainder coming from the district councils and private donations.
It was completed in 1907, when it boasted 457 students, and the first floor was reserved for art classes encompassing still life, technical drawing, perspective, photography and design.
Art pupils such as Mrs Whorwood and Mr Newman attended the school here until September 1970, when it relocated to another new building at the Harrow College of Technology in Watford Road, Harrow, that later became part of the University of Westminster.
The science and engineering departments had decamped some 11 years before allowing the art school to expand into every corner.
It was the memories of the free-spiriting life at the now demolished school premises – a spot now occupied by the ex-Burger King restaurant – that dominated the reunion at the Best Western Cumberland Hotel in St John’s Road, Harrow.
“It was an excellent reunion,” said Mr Newman. “It was great to find out what people are doing now.
“Some of them have become quite famous. It was fascinating.”
Mrs Whorwood said: “It was brilliant. There were 40 people that came from all of the place, and lots from London.
“When people came in, we heard screaming: ‘Oh my God, the last I saw you was 50 years ago’.
“Although some had changed a lot, you could still knew who they were.
“It was hilarious but sad at the same time as some had died.
“The school was an amazing place and even though I didn’t take art up myself, it was an education that you keep with you for the rest of your life.”