English, Rose (2 of 13).  National Life Stories: Artists' Lives

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  • Recording date

    2005-12-08, 2006-02-03, 2006-04-11, 2006-05-08, 2006-06-05,

  • Recording locations

    Interviewee's home/studio, London

  • Interviewees

    English, Rose, 1950- (speaker, female)

  • Interviewers

    Dyke, Anna, (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 2: [Session Two: 3 February 2006] [2:57:13] RE summarises events since last recording: in Liverpool finding venue for first part of work-in-progress ‘Lost in Music’, called ‘Ornamental Happiness’; Lewis Biggs [LB] of Liverpool Biennale. Giving talks; at Toynbee Hall to performance group run by Gary Stevens; and at Gasworks gallery re-‘Ornamental Happiness’ to British and Chinese artists from Artist Links scheme. Extemporising; 1980s improvised performances, before moved into writing. Teaching one-to-one; also asks feedback from colleagues re-work-in-development. Process of mentoring young artists; taking own advice; example. Outlines ideas behind ‘Lost in Music’/ ‘Synaptic Circus’; breath, flying, fire. Expensive to produce/fundraise for, so will be made in incremental parts; describes process. LB; Liverpool Capital of Culture. ‘Ornamental Happiness’; inspired by Chinese acrobatics; saw troupes in 1980s; ‘libretto’; photograph of female contortionist. Feedback from Matthew Hawkins [MH], choreographer; led to trip to China to work with Chinese dance company. Simon Kirby of Artist Links scheme. Collaboration with Chinese acrobats. January 2004 trip to China; Guangzhou; couple who collaborate, Chinese artists Lu Dan and Ji Maoling; October 2004 acrobatics contest. Jeremy Goldstein, producer; proposal; October 2005 trip; meeting troupe. Tradition of contortionist act in China; state funding. Describes ‘Rolling Cups’ act. Spending free time in China, near Guilin, Guangxi province; bicycle tour; invited as ‘lucky strangers’ to funeral in rural village. Brought back paper objects/funerary items; Chinese opera CDs; collected graphics, tickets, lucky money; took photographs and video. [26:34] Returned to England age 9; TE’s army posting; large family - 5 children, plus IC. Gloucestershire village Western Subedge; rural; primary school; learnt country dancing; picking rosehips; sewing. House called Latimers; moved into Valmar Guesthouse. In Gibraltar moved home often; eg. lived in Bristol Hotel; the Casemates barracks; houses in Gowlands Ramp and Engineers Lane; could hear singing from synagogue. Itinerant upbringing until age 21; shared bedroom until age 12. Describes Latimers; ticket office game with bed covers; belongings in storage; playroom toys; climbing tree to watch television; sweetshop. Barracks house in Hounslow; Beavers Lodge; corridor bedroom. Dolls. Dressing up in EG’s clothes; details. Plain décor in Hounslow house. Difference between light in Spain and England; journey by troop ship to Tilbury Docks; cold and grey; London late 1950s; buses in fog. School in Hounslow; reaction to RE’s flamenco dress and painting of palm tree. Meeting extended family; EG’s sister Olyffe [OG] and her husband Angus; cousins; welcoming atmosphere. Hounslow barracks; families with children; playing in parade ground; friends; social life; the NAAFI. Town cinema - saw ‘Pollyanna’; tube to London; heath; church; comics - ‘Judy’ or ‘Bunty’; drawing and making things; stories. Recalls reading the lesson in Gibraltar cathedral. Parents bought house in Crowthorne near Wokingham; description; EG’s decoration; furniture out of storage; garden. Wallpaper in dining room, toilet, RE’s bedroom. Paintings on walls; describes Grace English [GE] painting; Elizabeth English illustrations; [Ethel Walker] portrait of GE. Rembrandt and Canaletto-style pictures from TE’s family. Violet Carson prints of horses in television room. Interest in horses from young age; collection of white china horses; horse culture in Spain. China ornaments; cockerel and hen; candlesticks for special occasions. RE enjoyed decorating dinner table for guests, including china horses. TE’s study; envelopes; mechanical toys; magnifying glass. RE’s bedroom in barracks; screen decorated with felt-tip drawings of RE riding horses; self-image. Made picture books for sisters. [Pause in recording] Describes bedroom in Crowthorne house; curtains; dressing table; photographs. EG kept pug dogs. RE was tom boy; outdoor games; plus dressing up for parties. Short hairstyle until teenage; trying out different looks. Outgoing, but also shy; making grocery orders over the phone for EG; social interaction. Domestic chores. Describes layout of house. Finnish au pairs. Kitchen; EG’s cooking; colour supplements; Robert Carrier, 1960s. EG’s friend Sonia Stevenson became well-known chef, who started ‘Horn of Plenty’ restaurant in Devon. EG’s meals. Au pairs; cleaning lady; gardener. RE learnt to cook. Organised household. Television programmes. Excitement of SE returning for holidays; parents’ reasons for SE going to private school. RE sent to private school from age 12; going to different schools. Relationship with sisters before going to boarding school; details of sisters’ doll games. Describes experience of different schools and teaching. Luckley private school in Wokingham, as day girl. Teacher’s interest in astronomy; mathematics; ‘beauty’ lesson. Dancing. School fete. RE loved mathematics and geometry; thrilled by formal abstraction; notebooks, geometry set; the word ‘algebra’; age 11 and 12. School building. Headmistress’ interest in mathematics. Classical teaching method; drawing diagrams; later wrote song about it; formal way of thinking; language of algebra; writing numbers. Moving to new school (age 13), St Marys, Wantage, private (boarding) school; run by nuns; mathematics disappeared; at different stage of curriculum; mathematics teacher; RE’s reaction to getting 0%. Window into universe of mathematics; has explored other universes since. ‘Beauty’ lesson. EG interested in grooming, personal appearance. RE’s interest in hair, make-up; age 16, 1960s painted eye makeup, hair in curlers etc. Always conscious as female, of being looked at; sometimes felt disturbed at being looked at - other times loved it; details. Age 15, 16; spent a long time choosing outfits; made own clothes at school; 1960s teenage fashions. Felt happy with own appearance; experience of puberty; Twiggy was icon. RE’s appearance, face; make-up; hair. Domestic science; ‘O’ level cookery. Smoking. EG’s family; OG 10 years younger than EG. Maternal grandmother Margaret Vincentia Money-Kyrle [MM]. Grandfather Humphrey Adam Gilbert [HG]; Bishopstone House. MM in smaller house; EG’s brother Ernle lived there also. MM’s sister Joan [JM]; kindly characters. Cousins. Getting to know extended family; weddings were big affairs; meeting numerous relatives. Grandparents had visited RE’s family in Gibraltar; bird watching. MM’s personality; appearance; wrinkles; always wore black or grey after HG’s death. MM’s laugh; interest in all grandchildren; letters; amateur photographer; smoked Balkan cigarettes, smell. HG’s personality; RE accompanied him to library. HG born in India - father had been barrister in Bombay; educated in England; private income; wrote books on fishing and ornithology; collaborated with Arthur Brook, wildlife photographer; first people to film a golden eagle on nest in Britain - now in film archive; travelled whole of Britain. Story of HG in Home Guard in War; volunteered to exterminate red kites, so that he could guarantee none were killed. Travelled to Hungary, Spain, visiting bird sanctuaries; Budapest uprising - friend Laci Studenka, given job as warden of game reserve. MM played violin; followed passions. MM’s conversations with RE and siblings; horded things in shed; details; EG’s different nature. RE read MM’s library of ballet books; lives of great dancers; Nijinsky etc; window onto world of stage. Objects in MM’s home. Treasures in MM’s shed; shoe buckles, ribbons, 78 records, eg. ‘Begin the Beguine’. Talking to MM; JM’s parties; social sphere; RE’s different experience of parties. Attempted to keep diary; Rhodesia trip. Drawing on loose paper. Ballet books - elaborates on attraction to this world; grandeur of stage space; dedication, daily practise; photographs; descriptions of décor; spiritual secular domain. Lives of the dancers; Eduardo the dance teacher; not an easy life. [Pause in recording] EG’s childhood in Bishopston; older brothers John [JG] and Earnley; younger sister OG. Photographs of EG as child. JG was killed in War. EG’s urban interests; cousins; education; nanny Minnie Cooper; Miss Preece dressmaker. EG moved to London, took course in dressmaking; pre-War worked in Chelsea hat shop; sharing apartment with friend Wendy Campbell; allowance from parents. EG’s friendship with TE’s brother PE and sister Patience; before meeting TE; social life; Café de Paris during War time; bandleader Snake Hips Johnson, killed when club was bombed. EG’s memories of War time: story of EG buying perfume when War was announced; worked for welfare organisation for sailors, in Portsmouth; lived with Baulcomb family. EG’s relationship with MM. MM’s eightieth birthday. RE at art school in Leeds when MM died. EG by then had been widowed. Photograph of MM vaulting a gate. EG now age 88; lives on own; gardening and walking. RE in school swimming team; in twenties took up ballet. Going to shows age 13, with TE; Frankie Howerd revue; Royal Ballet ‘Swan Lake’; pantomime. Going to the Yvonne Arnaud theatre with EG to see Joyce Grenfell. How RE felt being in audience; laughter; TE. Feeling moved by apotheosis moments, eg. boat in ‘Swan Lake’; wanting to be in that space. [2:57:13]

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