What was the longest student sit-in of that turbulent summer of revolt: 1968? Well, you've probably guessed that it was at the Guildford School of Art. The students - supported by many of the faculty - stayed in for eight weeks.
The Guildford occupation began a few days after the better-known sit-in at Hornsey College of Art. As at Hornsey, it was sparked mainly by local grievances: concerns about a proposed amalgamation; the rigidity of divisions between different departments; an old-fashioned and over-bearing college management which didn't see any need to consult with or involve its students (or its teaching staff).
There was also a fevered debate about the structure, and purpose, of art education. And of course, there was also - to quote Thunderclap Newman - 'something in the air'. Students in Berlin and Paris had shown the way; they were impatient for change and demanded to be heard.
The story of the Guildford sit-in is well told in this new book by two students involved in the protest. Claire Grey kept a diary through the sit-in and also has many of the leaflets which are reproduced along with wonderful photos by John Walmsley.
The book is wonderfully well produced on high quality paper. It's the sort of publishing venture that deserves support. Here's where you can order a copy:
I came across the Guildford story while researching the British New Left. For the students, the sit-in was exciting and empowering. But it ended on a sour notes, with the victimisation of those lecturers who had backed the students and supported their demands.
The photos of the sit-in have been posted here with the permission of John Walmsley. There's many more in the book!
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