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Childs sisters - Art & Education

Thalia Campbell

Thalia Campbell, an artist, teacher, mother and environmentalist, describes her family background as 'radical'. During the march to Greenham when the women were ignored and then vilified, Thalia and other women felt that the message needed beauty and humour. Thalia became a full-time banner maker (for love, not money), and a part-time camper. The banners were displayed on the fence.


Art was my favourite subject at Knowles Hill School. We painted one afternoon per week with powder paint mixed in jam jars.I just loved making the colours sing and enjoyed line and texture
When I took the 11 plus Exam I failed the maths and had to resit it. So in the first year I was not in the A stream but in the X stream. I was moved into the A stream in the second year.
Art at Torquay Girls Grammar School was also still a favourite subject and on reaching O levels I really enjoyed the plant drawing, figure drawing and composition. We went out painting in water colours local thatched cottages in Water Lane Shiphay. I was also involved with making the scenery for GBS's school play St Joan. I did lots of sketching and painting at home. No A level art at TGGS so I attended Newton Abbot College of Art and took A levels there. Very exciting with attractive young students a bit older than me and the scandal of staff living together not married - so shocking then together not married . Plaster casts still around, 14 colour lino prints still being produced, Lithography and Etching depts as well as life classes.
As I got near to finishing school I said I wanted to go to art school - this started an extention of the awful parental rows about having to go to secondary modern school , mother wanted Spencer to go to a private school - Dartington? awful rows with parents and between mother and father and grand mother in the earlier years. One summer morning I collected all my drawings and paintings and had a bonfire of them all near the small william pear tree in the orchard. Self portraits, plant drawings landscapes, Corbyns Head ,Widecombe, Miners cottages in the Teign Valley ....a big bonfire! It all seemed so irrational....

In the end it was agreed I could do two years teacher training and I got into Matlock Teacher Training College. I arrived painting realistic work but was forced to move towards abstraction which made me very cross. My purple red and orange still life of fruit and bottles. I really was not proud of that painting! I really liked my tutors but found this pressure depressing. Also they felt I needed little help or attention so my contact with them was mostly them asking me after a lecture how I thought it had gone. We were encouraged to paint with all kinds of materials paint from the local iron mongers and anything to hand this depressed me I wanted to paint using the time and tested techniques of the renaissances and victorian artists. I realised I was part of the larger struggle between realism and abstraction. After the war the biggest insult to realist artists was "who wants to paint healthy women tractor drivers " This was as an attack on Russia and China as well feminism as part of the push to get women back into the home after the war to free up jobs for men . Pre raphaellite paintings and victorian work was at an all time low in popularity at that time.
I would have loved to be a healthy woman tractor driver.
The story of all this has been coming out and at least 2 two books published share this story of realism verses abstraction.
The Art of Self Deception by Giles Auty -1978 Liberty Books. I met him at a conference at with an abstract painter from Canada.. Particpants at the conference were surprised at his defence of realist painting.....Watching the abstract slides of the canadian artist was so dissappointing I got little feeling of Canada.

Who Pays the Piper by Frances Stonor Saunders
These two books explain the changes in art after the second world war, any western art was unexceptable in the 1950's with a message show America and the West were worried about Russia taking the lead in the Arts.
I felt like a piece of litmus paper testing the powerful changes in the art world!
After my two years at MTTC I still felt deprived and frustrated at the thought of teaching 4 -7 year olds and there was an opprtunity to take a third year in art for talented students. My tutors persuaded my father to let me do this. I went to St Gabriels College in S London. Here the art staff a man and wife team were passionate about good drawing and realistic painting but I had been pushed into abstraction and wasted energy between these two forces.
In London I joined the AIA. Association of International Artists when they removed their political clause from their constitution they replaced it with a humanitarian clause at the time I had no idea of their history.
There had been a big row in the organisation about their constitution about their political clause.They worked with the Jarrow hunger marchers, the supporters of the Spanish Civil war and similar causes. They made banners and posters with people in village halls as well as
their own work.

Art at Matlock College

Art at Matlock College

mansands bay
Albert Houthuesen My teacher for a year at The Teacher training college, St Gabriel's in
Camberwell painted this picture of Mansands! It was in an auction in Australia in 2006 Lots of his work in National gallery of Wales and the Tate. He painted Welsh
miners.His wife Catherine taught us too. I felt how sad I did not get to know them better in my struggle in the 1950s between Abstraction and Realism

St Gabriel's remembered for article

It is important that we acknowledge our art of social activism as an important historical record. Banners have been part of our activities for decades. Thalia Campbell, a banner maker and a founder of Greenham Common Women's Peace Camp, was inspired on the initial march to Greenham to organize the creation of a banner from a sheet. After the women made the banner, it continued to be used as a bed, a shawl, a screen and a baby-changing place. Thalial integrates her political convictions and her artistic talent; she makes dozens of banners and encourages others to make them as well. At a recent workshop in Victoria, she showed slides of 100 years of UK Women's Banner Making," based on her years of searching through archives and attics to exhibit this neglected political art form. This record of unnamed women in co-operatives, suffragettes, suffragists, peace groups, international solidarity, miners' strikes and childhood sexual abuse movements is an inspiring testimony to social event largely ignored by mainstream historians. At her workshops, Campbell develops a collective process in which participants design their own banners. After her workshop I made my first banner - for Hiroshima Day. At our next banner making workshop we want to make a banner with the powerful words of U.S. novelist Alice Walker: Resistance is the Secret of Joy.

Art without content is mere decoration

Art without content is mere decoration
Arts for Labour was active from 1981 until the mid 1990s., It was Labour Party Members who supported the arts and artists who supported the Labour Party. We held quarterly meetings in London and Birmingham and had a stall at conference.
Our event at conference was very popular.There were speeches, performances and wonderful food.
we held meetings to decide the look of the conference and the slogan. This all fell apart after a period of turmoil with Peter Mandleson and others which resulted in the chilling triumphalist Sheffield Rally with the wind machine blowing flags and Neil encouraged to move from enthusiasm to triumphalism.
Our artist members were not vacuous Celebrities but talented people doing extraordinary things. Thalia

I first got the idea that Art could be propganda, a neutral word to
put your Message in other countries But a biased word here as used in
the UK, implying the use of unfair, unbalanced cunning, especially when
talking about politics..
I first saw this as a pre school child when sent to Sunday School when
living at Little Ideen. We were sent home with bright coloured
illustrated shiny embossed book markers telling the Bible stories, with
much gold and purple.I delighted in them as objects even if I rejected
the Messages. Purple and gold colours were predominant which signify
wealth and dignity.
I think I was sent off to Sunday school with a sceptical attitude with
mixed messages from the many adults of different generations in the
little 1930s house as none were believers. Being sent to Sunday school
seemed to run against the grain of life in our house! I could not make
sense of it at the time. May be it was a condition of being accepted
into the Grammar Prep School, a fore runner of todays parents having to
be faux religious to get their children into popular Schools. The Sunday
School classes took place in the premises of the Grammar Prep school.
The next use of art which charmed me were the Glorious Railway Posters,
so seductive. They always made me want to jump on the train immediately.
After that in the 1960s I was living in Scarborough when I found a book
on Cuban Posters in the library, a mix of Japanese wood cuts and
Railway posters which had the same effect as the Religious book marks
and the railway posters.They were glorious colours and wonderful
drawing. Reminded me of dad and the Torquay vegetarians and their plans
to buy the Isle of Pines!
I also always loved Cartoons. Thalia

See the Education section for more memories on schools and colleges click to view

Newton Abbot Art College

Newton Abbot Art College
Photo Spencer Childs

Susie Hancox

About Susie (from her website " Ashburton Design")

Susie Hancox first went to art classes at the Vivian Institute in Torquay aged eight. At grammar school she gained her A level art and followed this with a foundation course at Newton Abbot Art School. She then attended Newton Park College (now Bath College of Higher Education) where she specialised in Art.

Subsequently she attended courses at several art schools including Tunbridge Wells, Eastbourne and Hastings, specialising in life drawing. She studied and gained an A level in art history in 1988.

She uses pencil and wash, watercolour and mixed media for floral paintings and still life. She has held several exhibitions in Surrey and Devon.
Susan Childs

Julia Kelland

About Julia (from her website)

I have been attending art courses regularly since the mid 1980's and originally painted exclusively in oils. I met Margaret Merritt in 1998 and joined her courses first at Tongham in Surrey and then once a year at West Dean College in Sussex. She introduced me to mixed media painting and many wonderful new techniques, inspiring me to paint ‘big’ and look at art in a totally different way.

I moved back to Devon in 2000 and have continued to attend Workshops regularly with Margaret.