Michael Burke's Fond Memories of the BSoA 1959-1961

I have been following the Beckenham web-site for sometime and have decided to contribute as the school had such a fundamental role in the development of my career.

My name is Michael Burke better known to my contemporaries by my nickname ‘sunblest’ I believe I was in the last but one group to study at Beckenham 1959-1961. Although it is well over forty years ago I remember the first day vividly, entering the building with distant sounds of Modern Jazz (probably Mingus or MJQ).

One was entering a new world after the school system and this required re-adjustment. There were something like ten or eleven of us in our group, something like an extended family a utopian figure in comparison with todays design schools where there are sometimes as many as seventy in a group.

I remember the particularly intensive drawing programme. Although I was not destined to be an illustrator but a typographer however this drawing programme has held me in good stead,the ability to analyse being primary (not looking but seeing).

I think we had something like three days and evenings a week with short breaks for donuts at the swimming baths cafe dispensed by Mrs Epps, and occasional visits to the exotic Fiesta cafe with its period props such as bull-fight posters and fishing nets etc.

I remember Doc Weissenborn and his elaborate still-life sets in his highly disciplined drawing programme strictly no talking, something that would be very difficult if not impossible to impose today.

Other members of staff I remember with affection and respect include Don Buley, Fred Packer Miriam Stribly, Peter Pearce, Peter Midgley, Peter Werner, Ron Wildman and History of Art and European cinema with George Fry. The programme was definitely culturally led and not training as it is today.

Life after Beckenham:
My subsequent career having continued my education at Ravensbourne has found me working for designer or in design groups and architectural practices and as a freelance designer both in London and Germany including a member of the design team for the 1972 Olympics Games and a design associate of the design group 8vo and designer editor of Octavo magazine.

My teaching experience has had me teaching on the MA Central School and Venice plus schools in Canada and the USA and as a senior lecturer at Ravensbourne and over 22 years as prof at the Fachhochshule Schwäbisch Gmünd.

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