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August 2015 - Student and staff arts

Students and staff have been creating, showcasing and managing music, performance and art, whether independently, or through SU clubs or societies, since the University’s inception. Here are some excerpts from nine Voices of the University interviews.

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Spanish teacher and translator Salvador Ortiz-Carboneres used singing in his teaching, and was a member of the chamber choir, played the guitar in concerts and travelled on tour with the choir during his 34 years at Warwick. He was also a member of the Drama Society. “Well, I have always liked theatre and there was an Italian lecturer at Warwick who translated ‘The Mandrake’ into English, and she thought I could play the part of the monk. And, really, I enjoyed it. Another play I took part in was ‘’Tis Pity She’s a Whore’. They asked me to audition for the servant, Vasques, and it was so difficult because there were so many words I didn’t know! But they liked the way I read, so I was in the play. And I was playing the wicked man, who pulls out the eyes of a woman, and we used pigs’ eyes because they are the most similar, and I had some blood already in the handkerchief, things like that. And I must have done it well because a woman on the first floor fainted and the Red Cross people had to come to get her out because she thought I had actually done it. The review they wrote said, ‘Although sometimes he was difficult to understand, he was spellbinding’.”

As a student in the early 2000s, Gordon Freeman had piano lessons at the university and later on, composition lessons. As a member of staff, he now uses the Westwood and Arts Centre practice rooms during lunch hours. “This was really where being a composer took off for me. I’ve written four piano sonatas so far; the last one I wrote almost entirely in the Westwood practice rooms. The music rooms have quite a place in my heart. I finished the first version of the fourth sonata in those practice rooms just before an operation to remove a tumour from my brain. My dad’s got it on video because he was down for the operation, so that’s quite a key moment as I look back over time.”

Margaret Birch worked and studied at Warwick from 1965-7 and 1975-2013. “I have been a member of the university chorus for, gosh, how many years? 30 odd years I think, and I love that; I’m still a member. I was on the Music Advisory Panel in the Arts Centre for some years and I was on the appointment panel for the Director of Music last time around. I have been on the committee when there has been a tour overseas by the chorus and the orchestra.”

Warwick offers no music degrees, but The Coull Quartet has been our quartet in residence since 1977, and gives an annual series of concerts at Warwick Arts Centre. Its members act as ambassadors for the University at home and abroad and encourage musical activity around the campus alongside the University’s Music Centre. Nick Roberts says, “I love working with Warwick students because we’re used to teaching music students, and it’s a very different process somehow, partly because the pressure is greater with students studying for a career in music.” Roger Coull says, “I’m amazed because some of my students, who aren’t looking to enter the profession, are doing music four or five days a week in the evenings, which is a big commitment what with studying.” Nick Roberts again: “What I like about Warwick students is that they’re so alive and interested and have a much broader outlook, an alertness and a sparkle which sometimes you don’t get with music students because they’re so enclosed and wrapped up in their instruments.” Philip Galloway says, “Non-music students can feel excluded at universities with music departments – there’s a bit of a divide – but we don’t have that here, which is very refreshing for us.”

Sylvia Pinches studied French and Renaissance Studies in 1973, joining the amateur dramatics society in her first year where she had a small part in a revue put on in the Rootes Social Building, also helping out with props and set design. “When the Arts Centre opened in the beginning of my second year I actually directed the first production that went on in the studio. It was a French production of Ionesco…pretentious, moi? I got through a lot of gin and cigarettes putting on that performance! What I like about dramatic performances is what I like about some of the jobs I’ve had since – you’re creating a project together and you’re going all out for it. And there’s a great sense of camaraderie and joint purpose, and because I was the director of it, a great sense of responsibility.”

David Jones creates and lectures in Applied Arts at the University of Wolverhampton. In his first year of studying Philosophy and Literature at Warwick, he became friends with a postgrad student, Ron, who wanted to set up a pottery society. “I’d not been allowed to do art at school and pottery sounded a good idea. We set up in Cryfield Farm outbuildings and were given £2,000 from the Lord Rootes Memorial Fund, which was enough money to buy all the kit. We were having lots of fun making a bad pot or two when Ron got a letter asking him to fight in the Vietnam War. So being another long-haired hippie, he got on a plane and stayed in Sweden for the rest of the war. So I got in a teacher and learned some basic pottery skills, and after my degree I thought I’d continue with this pottery stuff, and I was good enough to make some little brown mugs and sell a few of them.”

Kim Eccleston studied Maths from 2002-2005 and now works in the Warwick Admissions team. “I joined the tap society, it was something I’d always wanted as a kid, but never had the chance to do. And when I realised there was a society, I thought, I’m going to learn how to tap dance. And we’d been to see a tap show in first term. They were just so friendly and welcoming and tapping was so much fun!”

Flo Swann was involved with a band during her time studying Theatre Studies between 1988 and 1991. “There was my ex-boyfriend who was the guitarist and singer, my now husband who was the singer, and there was a drummer and a bass player - somebody that my now husband had known from school who lived in the area. We spent the third year doing a lot of gigs. If you’ve ever seen Spinal Tap, I used to be referred to as Janine a lot, because not only was I the lead singer’s girlfriend, I had ideas for the band. I can remember we played in Newcastle, then went down to London for another gig on the day my results came out. I remember coming onto campus, finding my results pinned on the board, the band giving me a bottle of champagne and drinking a bottle of champagne out of the bottle on the way to London.”

Alan Philips tells the story of some unorthodox artwork painted during his time as a Physics student between 1966 and 1970. “The main path between Rootes Hall and the Arts building was about 200 yards long and was the main thoroughfare where everybody walked. And one night a group of students painted a Winnie the Pooh story on the paving, which went on for about fifty yards, which you could only read it by walking backwards. Everybody was delighted and thought it was very witty that somebody should have done that. However, the university was not amused and sent in a team of contractors who turned all the slabs over! Well, two days later, the story reappeared and then groups of people were even more interested in walking backwards. And there were quite often spoofs like that.”

Listen to the IAS podcast here to hear more about the Warwick Arts Centre, and stay tuned for September’s instalments.

Click here to listen to the full interviews featured in the blog (and podcast). Browse the page by searching for a particular participant in the search bar, or scrolling through the alphabetical list.