Ackroyd, Norman (1 of 24). National Life Stories: Artists' Lives
The British Library Board acknowledges the intellectual property rights of those named as contributors to this recording and the rights of those not identified.
Legal and ethical usage »
2009-05-25, 2009-06-15, 2009-08-10, 2009-09-14, 2009-12-14, 2010-01-11, 2010-02-08, 2011-05-09, 2011-05-16, 2011-05-06
Interviewee's studio, London
Ackroyd, Norman, 1938- (speaker, male)
Courtney, Cathy, 1954- (speaker, female)
Part 1: [Session one: May 25 2009] [2:50:31] Norman Ackroyd (NA), recording 25 May 2009. Admires Betty Boothroyd, from same area of Yorkshire as NA’s parents; NA’s mother one of eleven children, worked in mill. Poet, Tony Harrison, writer, Alan Bennett, brought up in same area of Leeds as NA. NA attended House of Lords debate on asylum and immigration; Anthony Lester [Baron Lester of Herne Hill]. NA describes painting on his wall of Skelig Rock, off coast of Ireland, monastery; hung in exhibition in Philadelpia c 1985, reason for not selling it; Lester has first refusal on it. NA’s love of Jasper John’s brushmarks re language of paint and of landscape, is less influenced by Turner than people imagine. (12:41) Describes second painting on wall painted in mid-1980s, image NA has repeatedly drawn from age 8/9, view from bedroom window looking towards Headingley cricket ground, south Leeds. Colours within the two paintings described. Returns to draw view from childhood; way area of Leeds has changed since first drew there in early 1950s; drawing of same view from 1957 framed on wall; ‘the image of where I come from’. (20:18) London smog, 1961/2; Clean Air Act. (21:14) NA born in Hunstlett 1938, mother aged 40. Aged 3 moved to house on top of hill with view NA has drawn; NA fourth of five children. Younger brother, Winston. The elder siblings born in late 1920s. Mother, Clara Briggs (CA), her father a stonemason, made toys for grandchildren, died approx 1946. NA met paternal grandmother (maiden name Roberts), Scottish. Maternal grandfather; never met grandmother. CA and sisters left school at 14 worked in mills and factories; CA born 1899. NA’s father born 1895. CA keen reader of D.H. Lawrence. Blair Hughes-Stanton (BHS), illustrated The Ship of Death. D.H Lawrence a cult figure when NA at Leeds Art School. NA’s childhood reading; Lawrence’s poetry. (38:00) BHS and Lawrence. CA. (43:10) NA’s three elder siblings left school at 14; family had own butcher’s shop. NA’s generation lucky, Atlee reforms; different mindset of NA’s older siblings, their attitude to his going to art school. CA. NA only one to pass Eleven Plus. (47:49) Parents met when father came back from First World War; father began working in butcher’s shop; married 1925. Father, Albert Ackroyd (AA); NA’s paternal grandmother; paternal grandfather had been a butcher, West Riding. Ackroyd means ‘clearing in an oak forest’. AA began as a butcher in Batley Co-Op. Memories of mill towns during childhood; Saltaire; visit to mill. Parents opened butcher’s shop in Leeds, new life away from their immediate families. NA’s childhood visit to mill. (1:01:24) Industrial landscape around Leeds; changes re industry and immigration. (1:15:08) Family butcher’s shop; work ethic; first shop in Lady Pit Lane; tea dealer, Rington’s; horse manure, health and safety. AA got up at four in morning twice a week to buy meat at Leeds market; slaughterhouse; meat would be delivered by horse and cart, similarly ice before had fridge. AA’s disapproval of kosher slaughter. NA aged 13/14 had to go to market when AA ill; all children worked in shop; NA could butcher pig and lamb. AA became blind, could still cut carcass. NA’s vacation jobs butchering. Slaughtering. AA retired aged 69, had opened butcher’s shop in late 1920s aged approx 32, description of premises. Making potted meat to be sold in broken china cups. NA would make sausages; would deliver meat on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings; still makes sausages, good eye for meat. Dalton’s, suppliers to AA’s shop, eg coriander. (1:34:07) NA learning knife skills from AA; relationship to hand and eye skills as an artist; when teaching etching thought could do it without speaking, demonstrating important; imparting enjoyment in skill of hands, awareness of tactile qualities of materials. Methods used when teaching at Central School of Art. Technical skills neglected in favour of intellectual skills at art school now. Attitude to students. What students would witness when NA printing at Central; setting the press; students helping NA to make editions. Preparing paper overnight to get correct dampness and retain size; using weights; Belfast sink. Table designed by NR for studio. Etching and engraving an industrial process in past, e.g. Dickens’ illustrations, forgotten knowledge; old presses beautifully balanced. Selection of inks depending on surface of print. Anthony Gross [AG] passed to NA things he subsequently taught students. Constituents of ink mix; NA weighs some things, otherwise works by eye; makes own hard and soft grounds; explains role of grounds re acid resisting film and copper plate. (1:53:11) Central School of Arts and Crafts had best etching workshop in any art school in Britain, 1965; BHS; NA learnt how to make grounds, work with acid resisting varnishes, didn’t buy anything readymade, ‘like a great restaurant kitchen’. NA uses same pine resin, colophony, as for violin bows. Spectrum of blacks used in etchings, ‘a rainbow’, textures, mix. NA’s assistants re adapting mix when editioning, working to NA’s proof. Assistants, Neil, Jason [Hicklin] [JH], Niamh [Clancy] [NC]. Variations within an edition; rejecting prints; need for consistent quality of paper. St Cuthbert’s mill, Somerset paper. AG, French black pigment, RCA, Frankfurt black; Charbonnel ink. Plates sent back to NA after he rejected prints; BAT [bon a tirer], master prints (perfect impressions), one for NA and one for person printing edition. Copper is steel-faced to keep plate until edition is complete. (2:07:35) Further details what apprentices learn from NA re etching process. NA sometimes working in early hours of morning. NA’s northern Calvinism mixed with sybaritic qualities. (2:11:40) Further details AA’s butcher’s shop. Beauty of the coins NA remembers from working on the till; ‘Godless florin’; relationship coins and etchings, link with NA’s work with copper. NA’s two recent etchings, beauty of copper; drawing landscape on copper; mirror. James McNeil Whistler using mirror on Thames re etching. Colour of copper at various stages; reflective quality. (2:20:34) Visit to Antony House, NA’s etchings; Repton grounds; change to shadow NA wishes to make. Eyesight; etching also about touch; using eyeglasses; holding etching against light; NA has steady hand, piano helps maintain this. NA has played sport, walks, spends time on boats, working watercolour on heavy Atlantic sea teaches deftness. Period when felt arthritis in fingers; knees. Eyesight. (2:29:23) Further details family butcher’s shop; insect life before agricultural spraying. NA would go to Yorkshire dales aged 11/12; butterflies, impact spraying. Till in butcher’s shop; NA mental arithmetic; historical coinage; return from first visit to America, impact British coins. Cashing up in butcher’s shop; apprentices. AA cantankerous. NA’s elder brother became top researcher at Sainsbury’s, shareholder and researcher at Matheson’s, worked in Chicago meat machinery company, retired to Yorkshire. Second brother became government meat inspector for East Riding of Yorkshire, set up in butchery business with two sons, employs 15 butchers supplying restaurants, Ackroyd’s Restaurants Meats. Protective clothing re butchery. When NA a student at Leeds art school did Christmas jobs at Pork Farms cutting up pigs. Pork popular as Christmas dinner. Living accommodation when family lived above shop; house up the hill when family moved. [lunch break]