I blame Charles Trenet and Roger Gerhardt for the unhappiest seven years of my life. It was either to be St Christopher’s, Letchworth where my brothers had gone, or Wennington, Stephanie my sister was still there. My parents took me to a Wennington open day. It was a hot. In the courtyard the doors of the classrooms were open and out of the French room came La Mer. My heart melted as it still does. I said I wanted to go to Wennington and never saw St Chris.. The power of cheap music. Seven years later I emerged but only just. I had been expelled for smoking but the expulsion was rescinded. (They did not know about the other things.) My memory is of something like two expulsions a term.

I went to art schools for the next eight years, St Martins, the Royal Academy Schools and then the Royal College of Art to do a thesis. I got married to Catherine, had two sons. Son number one teaches politics at Birkbeck, number two is a cognitive scientist at the Max Planck Institute in Berlin. (Her genes I think.) I taught art practice and/or art history at various art schools/universities until 1992 when I went to the Tate Gallery to run the program of lectures, conferences and films. I moved to Tate Modern to do the same thing at the end of 1999 and took early retirement at the end of 2002. Great job but high anxiety.

Since leaving the Royal College of Art in 1972 I have written art criticism and curated a few exhibitions. My short book on and entitled Francis Bacon is still available.

Two teachers stand out for me, Roger Gerhardt and Brian Hill. Roger nurtured and shared my enthusiasm for jazz. Even though I was crap at French and pretty well everything else, Roger seemed interested and he took me, Richard Jones and others to hear Ellington, Armstrong and Basie when they came to Leeds. Wennington seemed to regard adolescence as a disease to grow out of whereas Roger seemed to enjoy our pretentious efforts towards identity. Brian has often come to mind recently. I’ve been writing about art and the nonconformist conscience and in particular FR Leavis. Brian was some kind of Leavis man but I remember his moralism as un-censorious. It was cultural and sophisticated rather than a means of humiliating children. But I do remember him scowling at me when I dressed up as Oscar Wilde for a fancy dress party. Since 1999 I have written attacks on New Labour and its cultural policies. One motive is that I have already lived in moral dictatorship; for those seven years.

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