Said Henry’s cat.

Just down the road from Camberwell green is the London Institute’s Camberwell campus. I knew it as Camberwell College of Art, before it became amalgamated with the other Art colleges across London to become the London Institute.

Of the three buildings owned by the College it was the one I frequented the least. As my colleagues and myself were on the foundation course we only visited this venue for lectures. The rest of the time it was reserved for under and post-graduates.

I was based in the main building on Peckham High Street a five minute walk away, and some of my peers were based a further ten minutes down the road in the prefab units that passed for the Sumner Road campus. It was probably a good job that the majority of foundation level students were based down there. A building out of the way, of little value that could be burnt to the ground each year and replaced at very little cost.

I say burnt to the ground, as, on several occasions, I witnessed students taking a jerry can full of petrol to pieces of artwork and then igniting it without any warning. Much to the horror of the lecturers, but I think they became used to it in the end.

Along from the siege tower I saw go up in smoke, I witnessed large piles of wobbly fired eggs, wobbling on what I could only define as a home made waterbed, dolls nailed to the floor, walls and ceiling of studios and students attempting to hold up a newsagents with a shotgun made from lard.

The building I was located in was more sedate. Apart from the foul odours emanating from the basement which passed as the textiles department it was an average art school. 80 year old lecturers rocking out on an electrified banjo whilst a student played accompaniment on a child’s toy piano, were part of the norm. I still have the sound recording somewhere.

Lectures were scheduled for Wednesday nights. Film studies took place on a Friday morning at the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton. The only cinema I have ever been to that had a dance floor at the back so you can get up and dance if you like the movies soundtrack.

As a student lectures were the least favourite part of our education. Some old fogy standing in front of a bored group of students. Talking at us about things we really didn’t really care about. However these lectures turned out to be more interesting. Practicing artists telling it as it was. They were all skint. Struggled to get exhibitions, and drugs were the only solution to the mundane life they now inhabited. The exciting life they were promised never materialised and they eventually accepted the fact that they would never make a living from selling art.

I remember one woman. Well I say remember her, I don’t, but I can still picture her artwork. She was a printmaker. All her prints were of the same subject. Namely, her boyfriends erect cock with a butterfly delicately positioned on the head. I don’t remember if she produced these pieces from her imagination or got her boyfriend to hide in the undergrowth waiting for some unsuspecting butterfly to land, expecting some sweet nectar, but instead fluttering away feeling violated and abused.

Did she take a photograph or quickly make a sketch? I don’t remember. But if the former she may have had some explaining to do at Boots.

She had loads of them. They were all slightly unsettling and as I’ve never seen them since I’m guessing she never made it.

Lectures were not usually well attended. As I said, they were on a Wednesday night and students had better things to do, such as going to the pub. Our local haunt was the Stirling Castle. I believe it closed many years ago. It was a large unfriendly looking building, but the beer was cheap. It was frequented by old age pensioners and art students in equal numbers. Dust hung in the air and it was grubby, but it suited the dispositions of its clientele.

However, one Wednesday night the lecture hall was packed. The guest speaker was Bob Godfrey. The creator of Rhubarb and Custard, Henry’s Cat and Canned Sex.

Canned Sex was an animation created as the B movie for A Clockwork Orange. When Kubrick pulled A Clockwork Orange, Canned Sex went with it. On this night we were privileged to have a screening.
Bob outlined his production methods. Magic markers and A5 pieces of paper, hence Rhubarb and Custard’s wobbly exploits.

We were enthralled. Here was a bona fide living legend of the animation world. Creating television programmes form nothing more than a few pence worth of paper and day glo pens. And the best thing about the whole evening, Bob sounded exactly like Henry’s cat!


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