Don't Tell Me How To Run My Art School

The new book, Don't Tell Me How To Run My Art School, by CuratorSpace member, John Walmsley and Claire Grey is about the sit-in at Guildford School of Art in 1968 which, at the time, was the longest ever at an educational institution in the UK. That schools, colleges and universities in the UK now have students and staff on their Advisory Boards, is a direct result of this sit-in. The book has been acquired by the National Art Library at the V&A and is available to purchase online.

On 5th June 1968, Guildford School of Art experienced an unprecedented student revolution, the start of a sit-in about their narrow education and their desire to change it, that lasted for eight weeks. This event marked several firsts in the UK’s education system, including the involvement of parents in higher education, a local authority taking its own students to the High Court, over 40 teachers being suspended at once, and the ATTI lecturers’ union blacklisting a school.

Though not the only student occupation that year, the firing of seven full-time tutors sparked a three-year campaign for their reinstatement that reverberated throughout the country’s educational institutions. John Walmsley captured the events through photography, while Claire Grey kept a diary of the unfolding events. For those who were present, the experience was both creative and frightening, and those involved have never forgotten.

John’s photographs are remarkable, especially considering he was still a student at the time. His early work is a unique and insightful look into a student protest from an insider’s perspective. Prior to this, John had already shown his skill in covering demonstrations through his photograph of Vanessa Redgrave and Tariq Ali during an anti-Vietnam war march in London, as well as his interest in alternative education through his photographs of Summerhill, a democratic school founded by A S Neill.

Throughout this book, John’s photographs expertly combine the themes of protest and education. The foresight and dedication of Claire Grey in keeping a detailed diary, as well as collecting a vast array of typewritten notes, posters and press clippings, has resulted in the true inside story of the sit-in being told. She has captured not only the order in which events took place, but also the feelings and reasons that influenced the protest. Her diary entries transport us back to those times, making Claire the custodian of an invaluable historical record.

You can purchase the book on John's website:

You can also see his other work here:


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