Out of the frying pan into the fire?
– A tale of two 1960’s halls of residence –
I arrived at Bennett Park, Blackheath, as a very green Goldsmiths’ fresher in the late 1960’s, having never lived away from home, let alone having experienced the delights of the Big Smoke. At the time Bennett Park was a single-sex hall of residence vying with the likes of Loring, Granville and Grove. Today, Bennett Park has disappeared into the mists of time, as has Grove.
In those halcyon days, Goldsmiths still had its apostrophe at the end of its name and that famed era, the 60’s was coming to an end. Bennett Park’s hall of residence was also at the end; at the end of a nondescript street called Bennett Park, a sombre gothic structure resembling a Victorian workhouse. Its rooms were basic, with ceilings twenty feet high which were handy for posters but not particularly good for keeping warm in the winter.
What struck me immediately when I arrived was the diversity of the residents. The accents were from all over Britain, one from Africa. I was the only Welshman. Although the preponderance seemed to be from grammar schools there were public schoolboys as well as a few products of comprehensives.
Our hall was a small but an interesting mix. I shared my room with Graham, a super Hull guy whose quiet unassuming nature hid many talents; he held a Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award, belonged to the University Flying Squadron and was a dab hand at electronics and darts.
Neil was an aspiring DJ who regularly performed his music at college. Both Graham and Neil became secondary teachers, as did I for a while. Ian, from Coventry, became a teacher also and then went on to obtain a PhD. Student Head of Hall was Michael, a Liverpudlian, who went on to become a professional actor and who has appeared in many films, and on TV. Mervyn Ainsworth was another super cool resident always ready with smile and quip. Unsurprisingly he’s now an OBE (Services to Industry).
Another bespeckled guy, whose name escapes me, was a super smooth public schoolboy who happened to be Chairman of the College’s Debating Society. He was very eloquent, often using words I barely understood.
Among us were several aspiring Eric Claptons endlessly practising our riffs. Perhaps it was just as well for noise pollution there were no Ringo hopefuls among us. Saturday night was Match of the Day and we’d put ancient armchairs on the giant, worn snooker table and watch it on TV!
After a year we were moved to a brand new, purpose-built fourteen-storey hall called Warmington Tower. It was within falling-out-of-bed distance of the College, with bright single rooms, comfortable beds, a fine kitchen on each floor as well as a small rest area. At the time it was considered quite unorthodox; controversial even. Why? Simply because it housed males and females. Granted they were on alternate floors, but this was 1969! Today I note the Tower is part of the Sociology department and doesn’t appear to be included as one of the halls. The end of an era.
What did I study at Goldsmiths?
Although I qualified as a secondary school science teacher in 1971… and taught for a few years, including two in Colombia, I eventually entered the Civil Service. My science was not forgotten however as I subsequently published a book on teaching science in primary schools.
“Dr Kwarku’s Science” was first published by First and Best. Later I adapted it to “DR KWARKU’S SCIENCE SORCERY”, and it was a new way (I think) of teaching basic science using short fairytale stories with the scientist Dr. Kwarku.
I first got the idea while at Goldsmiths. Goldsmiths also helped me in my second career, the Civil Service. I helped train and mentor many young, and not so young administrators and I’m sure that my teaching background helped me. I am also sure that the diversity I experienced generally at Goldsmiths helped when I taught in Bogota’s English School, which is still in existence and boasts over a dozen nationalities.
What did I enjoy most?
Without a doubt, Goldsmiths social life was my highlight. Not just the discos – which I loved and at which I helped out – but folk nights, the film nights, group meals, debates and dances, but it was the people I met, whether it was at hall, tutorial, lecture or the college bar or local. It had some very clever people who you could tell would go places.
The guest post was written by Andy Jaroszkiewicz (Teacher Training (Secondary Science), 1972). After graduating, Andy taught a few years, then entered the Civil Service. He got his BA in English locally as writing is a passion. Some achievements include Civil Service Writer of the Year, publishing a book and becoming editor of a newsletter. His books are available on Amazon and Wattpad under his pen-name Andy JA Ross.