In the late spring of 1969 four members of the teaching staff in the Sculpture Department at St. Martins School of Art in London began work on a project for students who would be entering the new three-year degree programme in the autumn. Their unique pedagogic experiment, which came to be known as the ‘A’ Course, was an extraordinary and inventive teaching programme that had a significant impact on what was taking place in British art education at the time. Because of its highly unorthodox nature the ‘A’ Course was widely known and largely misunderstood; it would not be unfair to say it was notorious.
As part of a process of re-activating the past and involving original participants, MayDay Rooms has been in contact with former ‘A’ Course tutors/staff Garth Evans, Gareth Jones and Peter Kardia and students who have kindly participated, donated and loaned material. This ongoing ‘A’ Course Collection also opens onto other, less well known avenues taken by ‘A’ Course students in the 1970s including the Manydeed Group and the Poster Film Collective.
‘A’ Course tutor/staff Peter Harvey interviewed by Christopher Burstall for Omnibus; A Question of Feeling. First broadcast on the BBC September 9, 1973.
‘A’ Course Collections spreadsheet. Showing historical material held, identified or ‘in process’ at MayDay Rooms as of March 2013.
‘Locker Project’ 1970. Poster contribution to ‘A’ Course: An Inquiry, March 26-27, 2010. Former ‘A’ Course student, Ted Walters.
Andy Darley Course ‘A’ Stuff. Blue Folder. Andrew Darley Collection deposited at MayDay Rooms, August 2012.
‘A’ Course/Locked Room Course group photograph. First 1st Year intake September 1969. Back row: Richard Deacon, Andrew Rice?, Ted Walters, Ian Kirkwood. Middle row: Gareth Jones (p/t staff), Peter Atkins (f/t staff), Peter Harvey (p/t staff), Garth Evans (p/t staff), Front row: Tim Jones, Andrzej Klimowski, Deirdre McArdle, David Millidge. Photo courtesy Deirdre McArdle, March 2010
Peter Kardia (ne Atkins) and Ken Adams in conversation with current CSM staff and students linked the 10th Floor during ‘In Exchange’, a five week process of recovering and activating histories linked to St. Martins School of Art (1962-1980). February – March 2011 ‘A’ Course Mask Project. Still 1972. Reconstruction for Omnibus: A Question of Feeling. Christopher Burstall. First broadcast September 9th 1973
Donated and Loaned Collections include:Ken Adams Collection Staff/tutor at St. Martins School of Art Sculpture Department 1962-1996
‘A’ Course/Locked Room Course sketch showing chronology and structure of the course 1969-1977. Ken Adams Collection deposited with MayDay Rooms, September 2010. Adam’s diagram pinpoints “A before A” and the precise moment when the ‘A’ Course first appears as a title. It also references how the Head Of Sculpture Frank Martin’s “unease about stringency of Locked Room led to notion of one-to-one tutorial encounters” in 1970 and how the following year his “…unease about how tutorials worked out led to notion of diagnostic first years”.
John Burke Collection ’A’ Course/Locked Room Course student 1970-1973.
Boxing Programme. Student initiated event “Eddy Hemsley Promotions Present”. ‘A’ Course Project 1971? John Burke Collection deposited with 10th Floor March 2010 – September 2011.
Andrew Darley Collection ’A’ Course/Locked Room Course student 1970-1973.
‘A’ Course/Locked Room Course 1969-1973. ‘Correspondence Project’. L. “Do not communicate verbally…..” 3.23. January 7th, 1972. R. “Your are required to be absent…” Documents from the Andrew Darley Collection deposited with MayDay Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London. August 2012.
Tony Hill Collection ‘A’ Course/Locked Room Course student 1969-1972. First student intake.
‘A’ Course/Locked Room Course 1969-1973. ‘Independent Mondays’? student initiated projects: T.H. Sensory Deprivation. Date unknown 1970-1972. Photo from the Tony Hill Collection.
David Millidge Collection ’A’ Course/Locked Room Course student 1969-1972. First intake.
A’ Course/Locked Room Course 1969-1973. Mask Project (final assessment) with two hooded members of A Course Staff ‘interrogating’ student David Millidge. 1972.Photo from the David Millidge Collection, held at Mayday Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4. “I prepared the room by covering the floor with white paper. Anyone entering the room was given a felt tip pen that hung by string from their clothes. This traced a line recording where anyone walked. You can see the pens in the pictures. At random I would turn a tape recorder on and off and take photographs on time delay. I would record by writing on the floor the position of the camera and the time of the photo. I also said aloud what I was doing for the benefit of the tape recording. The transcript is punctuated by me stating that I am taking a photo. I am submitting all of this as a historic record. [[....]] I am not endorsing it as being significant. I am not passing judgment on it as being good or accomplished. I am not suggesting that I am proud of the work or that I think that the course was a good idea. I was there, and these were the records that I have kept for 40 years.” David Millidge email to Anthony Davies, March 12, 2010
Peter Venn Collection ‘A’ Course/Locked Room Course student 1970-1973
The Locked Room 1971. ‘A’ Course Sitting Project. St. Martins School of Art, Sculpture department. Photo from the Peter Venn Collection. “[[....]] For me what’s missing is the powerful experience of being productive in conditions of uncertainty and over an extended period of time, and by placing the events of that time so clearly within a political/educational perspective [[....]] ignores the radical nature of experiential/educational ie. of learning over time in the conditions that we worked in. Experience itself being forced back onto itself. This forcing back of experience onto itself – outside the support of assumptions and conventions of accepted practice and understanding – speaks to me of that possibility for “meaning-making”. For me at least, the sense of “political” grew hand in glove … as part and parcel … of such experiential engagement.” Peter Venn email with MDR (a), July 27th, 2010
The ‘A’ Course: An Inquiry.
26th-27th March, 2010
The ‘A’ Course: An Inquiry Invite. March 2010 ’A’ Course An Inquiry. Preparation and seminar set-up in Studio A2, the site of the Locked Room in 1969-1970. CSM Charing Cross Road site (Adam from the 10th Floor). March 2010
‘A’ Course An Inquiry. Preparation and seminar set-up in Studio A2, the site of the Locked Room in 1969-1970. CSM Charing Cross Road site (background former staff: Gareth Jones). March 2010 ‘A’ Course An Inquiry. Preparation and seminar set-up in Studio A2, the site of the Locked Room in 1969-1970. CSM Charing Cross Road site. March 2010
’A’ Course: An Inquiry. Schedule. March 26th – 27th, 2010
‘A’ Course An Inquiry. Panel from Day 1. Foreground: Anthony Davies. Table L-R: Gareth Jones, Joy Sleeman, Peter Kardia, Garth Evans. Studio A2, the site of the Locked Room in 1969-1970. CSM Charing Cross Road site. March 26th, 2010 see: http://newsevents.arts.ac.uk/event/the-a-course-an-inquiry/