Bennetts, Rab (1 of 17) National Life Story Collection: Architects' Lives

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  • Recording locations

    British Library, London

  • Interviewees

    Bennetts, Rab, 1953- (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Dillon, Niamh (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Rab Bennetts [RB] Born in Aberdeen in 1953 to English parents – explains how his parents’ met before the Second World War and married during it. His father joined Ministry of Public Buildings and Works and was posted to Aberdeen in 1951. [00:02:48] Talks about his father’s parents' from Falmouth - his maternal grandfather who was a market gardener in Penryn, he was good at making things. [00:04:45] Remembers driving to Cornwall from Aberdeen as a child, contrasts the landscape, mentions parents’ Methodist faith (they later joined Presbyterian church). [00:06:33] Describes maternal grandfather – finding a photo of his grandfather in the Masons – time spent with his grandfather. [00:09:12] Mentions the freedom he had as a child – contrasts this with dangers to children now. [00:12:45] Talks about his parents’ life in Aberdeen – communicating with grandparents on the telephone. His father’s life before the Second World War, mentions his father had some hearing loss – his father’s service with Royal Engineers during WWII. [00:17:39] Mentions playing on building sites. Describes his childhood home in Aberdeen: making airfix kits while his mother painted plates [00:21:53] RB skating and playing with snowballs, making models of houses – talks about Architex building kit – visiting the first tower block in Aberdeen with his father. [00:24:38] RB impression of tower blocks and how they were perceived in the 1960s. Discussion on tower blocks for housing – [00:27:26] discussion on demolition of Robin Hood Gardens by the Smithsons. RB discusses the extent to which the profession understands their clients. [00:31:32] Discussion on optimum types of housing. [00:33:21] RB being interested in buildings from childhood, designing a house as a child. [00:35:29] Drawing houses as a child – remembers one of his first drawings at primary school. [00:37:37] Games played with his brother Andrew, Andrew showing him perspective, his brother later became a civil servant. RB awareness of his father’s work – going with him to visit telephone exchanges he was working on. [00:40:35] Mentions a typical day during his childhood – long daylight hours and very dark in the winter, RB enjoyment of the seasons, hill-walking. [00:42:30] Discusses his parents’ religious faith, going to Craigsbank Church in Edinburgh. [00:46:57] RB remembers the test for Aberdeen Grammar School aged 5 [00:49:31] remembers learning to read and write, discusses high standard of education and discussion on how standards have changed. [00:53:57] RB remembers doing a project on the London Docks, one on Scotland. Talks about his mother’s artistic talent. [00:56:40] Discusses mealtimes in their house, their frugality and lack of extragance, RB dislike of indulgence particularly in architecture. Treats or luxuries in their house, gifts – anecdote about his mother’s 90th birthday. [01:00:59] His mother’s appearance. Music in their house. [01:03:54] Acquiring their first television: programmes RB watched. [01:06:26] Politics: his grandfather had been mayor of Penryn: parents’ inclination towards liberalism. RB discusses his political views - anecdote about hearing about the Social Democrats for the first time, [01:12;28] joining the Social Democratic Party [SDP] at its inception – describes the situation in Islington in 1981. Talks about Islington Council becoming SDP. [01:16:52] RB gives the context to the political upheavals of the 1980s: the effect of the massive political changes in the 1980s. [01:22:21] RB talks about the reaction of the Labour Party in the 1980s, how Neil Kinnock attacked Militant tendency in the Labour Party.

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