Kelly, Rod (1 of 5) National Life Stories Collection: Crafts' Lives

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  • Subjects

    Metal work

  • Recording date

    2011-09-07, 2011-10-05, 2011-10-27, 2012-07-19, 2012-10-12

  • Interviewees

    Kelly, Rod (speaker, male)

  • Interviewers

    Wright, Elizabeth (speaker, female)

  • Abstract

    Part 1: Rod Kelly [RK], born in Reading, Berkshire. Father's origins in Newcastle; mention that grandfather was a miner; father's grammar school education; father's move from Newcastle to Reading to work as an engineer at the Atomic Weapons Research Establishment [AWRA] at Aldermaston. Memory of blue plastic badge worn by father to detect radiation; checking this for him. Mention of two brothers, the youngest of whom was twelve years older than RK, born in 1956; growing up like an only child because of this age difference; feeling of respect for parents who, from a background in mining, sent three sons to university. Older brother Russ's career as a university lecturer in Sociology; relationship with him; memories of him returning from university. Home on the outskirts of Reading near Theale; rivers and farmland nearby; fond memories of childhood in this environment; long summers. Father's name George Amos Kelly; his birth to a sergeant in the London police whose surname was Amos; grandmother's death during childbirth leading to father's adoption by a distant relative; secrecy surrounding this; love and kindness given to him as a child. Mention that mother is now 86 and father died four years ago; RK's closeness to his father; doing things together with him; building things from Meccano. [0:08:27] Family's move from Reading to Lancashire after RK had passed the Eleven Plus exam; feelings about this change; entering the comprehensive system rather than going to grammar school. Studying History, Economics and Sociology for A-level; mention of not studying Art at O-level or A-level; brothers' careers as Biology and Sociology lecturers. Feelings about studying Economics and Sociology. Interview at Norwich University; three day journey by train; mention of sleeping at Crewe station; realisation that a Sociology degree might not be right for RK; taking a drawing of a Doc Marten boot to show a tutor at the Art school in Preston; starting the Foundation course there in 1975. Mother's feeling about this; change in RK after starting Art school; preference for living in the countryside rather than in Preston. [0:14:18] Primary school in Reading; head teacher, Miss Snell; feelings about this time; weather in Berkshire; fishing in River Kennett with father; pike caught by father; story about breaking the Thermos flask; importance of tea drinking to RK and his family; occasions when RK drinks tea; preference for "builder's tea". Motorways and roads yet to be built in Berkshire during RK's childhood; freedom to go off with friends and play in the countryside. [0:18:57] Father's enthusiasm as a gardener; fruit and vegetables grown by him; apple trees belonging to RK and his brothers; garage with cricket stumps painted onto the back of it; playing football; eating fresh rhubarb. Tame jackdaw and squirrel that lived with the family; father's skill at taming animals; other pets; comparison of childhood experiences to the films of Dennis Potter. Influence of father on RK; closeness of relationship; mention that father found it difficult to show emotion, possibly due to his background; father’s memories of a man from London who visited him as a child and on one occasion bought him a piano; other ways that father showed his feelings for RK; learning skills from him. [0:25:22] Visiting grandma, known as "Mama" in Consett; mention that she had two daughters after adopting RK's father; her special fondness for RK; sleeping in her bed during visits. Mention of not knowing grandfather, Percy Kelly; his job as a pit foreman; local respect for him because of his fair and just attitude; spending time at the blacksmith near to grandmother's house; story about melting the sole of school shoes there; working in his workshop; meeting local men who had respect for grandfather; pit ponies that were shod by the blacksmith. Contrast between Reading, Lancashire and Newcastle; feelings of wanting to return to Reading; making good friends through playing football during sixth form. [0:31:26] Mention that grandmother's name was Lizzie or Liz Kelly; not knowing father's biological family; mention of brother who was killed in the war; father's lack of interest in biological family; stigma associated with this; father's lack of a birth certificate; help from AWRE to resolve this. [0:33:38] Mention that parents moved back to Durham after retirement; father's Alzheimer's Disease; returning to the blacksmith in Consett during a trip to visit parents; speculation about influence of early experiences of forging hot metal. Tutor on foundation course, Sandy Lang [SL], a recent graduate of the Royal College of Art [RCA]; feeling of being behind other students; story about painting in primary colours; lack of colour sense; not knowing about perspective, scale and proportion; eagerness to learn; feeling that colour is still a weakness for RK; use of two colours: silver and gold. Honing graphic skills; staging happenings at art school. Description of a sculpture made from a pair of Levi jeans; reactions to the piece. Acceptance onto a mixed materials course in Birmingham, one of four available places; mention of beginning to work with metal here. Silversmithing tutor, Derek Birch [DB]; story about project to raise a bowl along with other students; RK's instinctive approach to working with metal. Speculation about the life RK might have had if he hadn't gone to art school. [0:43:38] Further comments about not studying Art at school; taking technical drawing classes; effects of joining the class a year late; RK's academic abilities; feelings of being behind others at art school; visit from ex-student of Birmingham, Michael Lloyd [ML]; feeling inspired by the quality of his hammers. Story about DB telling RK that he would get a first class degree; guidance and encouragement from him. Decision to apply to the RCA; story about going to London for the interview wearing a suit; interview panel including Gerald Benney [GB], Philip Popham [PP], Michael Rowe [MR], all wearing suits. Compulsory year off before RCA; working for a builder in Shropshire during this time; two weeks spent working with Malcolm Appleby [MA].

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