Friday, December 18, 2015

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club - An Overview


Coventry Arts Umbrella Club - 1st base Little Park Street 1955
Welcome to the new Coventry Arts Umbrella Club archive site, as part of the Hobo (Coventry Music and Arts Magazine) Archive site, documenting the Coventry Music Scene in the 70's (and before and beyond). Coventry is noted for it's contribution to popular music via Two Tone, Pete Waterman, The Sorrows, Frank Ifield, Vince Hill, King, The Primitives, Indian Summer, Dando Shaft and more.

These musicians didn't develop in a vacuum and the were many more who didn't make it. Neither was the Cov Scene just about music. Literature, art and politics feature in it it as well.

This blog is part of a wider documentation of the Coventry music - which is still in re-development from the former Hobo Vox site - Links


An A to Z of Coventry Bands (on Google sites) Which is a comprehensive A to Z of Coventry Bands and Artists from the 50's to present. Still a work in progress and contributions of information welcome. Although not finished, it holds a great deal of information, You Tube and audio links.

The rest of the material is on this suite of Blogspots -

Hobo Coventry Music Archives ( The main blog) 
Hobo magazine archives, Coventry music features, other alternative Coventry mags and much more. (In development). Although this is a main part of the Hobo blogs, it's one that still requires a lot more input. Slowly getting it all put on!

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club  
That's this blog!!

Coventry Music Articles by Pete ClemonsHouses Peter Clemon's Rock of Ages columns and Coventry music articles for the Coventry Telegraph which charts gigs in Coventry (local bands and famous bands) from 1960 onwards. In addition I'm adding, Coventry Hits, Pete Waterman archives to this section and my 1971 diary of Coventry gigs as a resource.

This blog with house copies of Pete Willow's Folks Magazine from c 1978 and articles from it. My archive of material from the Coventry Folk Scene in the 1970s and other relevant articles, You Tube and links.

Coventry Discos, DJ's, Venues, Recording studios, Music Shops, Music Agencies in the 70's
As it says on the tin, articles on the other aspects of the Coventry music scene, including Silk Disco, Sunshine  Music agency, Q Artistes, Pete Chambers and his initiatives and much more.

Lanchester Arts Festival and Gigs in the 1970's 
Now Coventry University. Do you remember all those bands and artists who played the Lanch. This site tracks a lot of them with youtube footage and more.

A comprehensive Who's Who of Coventry Musicians - still a work in progress. More to be added when the A to Z of  Coventry bands and artists has been completed.Meanwhile if you should be on the list of the info is wrong or incomplete and if your friends are not on here and should be - let use know at hobozine@googlemail.com.

IT (International Times) had a section of Arts labs and Centres and in 1969, the Umbrella Club got a mention -




'Umbrella' Coventry's Literary Magazine  1959
Coventry Arts Umbrella (or the Umbrella Club) as we all knew it, played an important role in that development, so much so it deserves it's own focus - this blog.

Opened in Little Park Street, Coventry in 1955 by some of the Goons (who were performing at Coventry's Belgrade Theatre), it had associations with Phillip Larkin, Two Tone and housed Coventry's first folk club.

More of The Umbrella's seminal role in the Coventry music and arts scene will be revealed in these pages, which I shall start uploading very soon. Bookmark and revisit and watch it grow.

Note also, that although the Umbrella is not the force it once was in 50's, 60's and 70's, the club has survived in some form and small group of early members still meet at members houses and recently published a pamphlet of poetry, (Visit their site Here http://www.umbrellaclub.org.uk/index.php )
and we shall mention their activities on here as well celebrating the work of the Umbrella in its primary years. Actually this link is not working now - will check if that's permanent!

'Umbrella', the clubs respected literary journal from 1959 - 61 gets a mention in Phillip Larkin's biography (albeit a footnote). The journal might be 'obscure' as it says in the Larkin bio, but we bring it back to life on this blog with two pdf versions and Larkin's essay on his poem about Coventry - Not the Place's Fault.

Special mention must be made of Terry Watson, an English teacher at King Henry V111 school, poet, editor of Umbrella magazine and whose unstinting dedication to the Umbrella ensured it's continuation through the decades.

The Umbrella's story begins in 1955 with the opening of the premises in Little Park Street (next post), through the publication of Umbrella Literary magazine, through the move to premises at Queen Victoria road in 1961 - hosting Coventry's first folk club, through to the hippy era with the Transcendental Cauldron - a Underground arts fest in 1969 (which was my first experience of the Umbrella) through their explusion from Queen Victoria Road owing to a redevelopment programme and a new base in the Charterhouse. (Umbrella was on the corner where the white dot is - now British Chamber of Commerce.)

ABOUT UMBRELLA CLUB - Umbrella information sheets from the early 1970's on a pdf file here
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B86kZ7RP6OWKMjk0NmZhODgtNGJhOS00NmI0LWFmM2QtMzI2M2FhYmJkMWQy&hl=en_US

Photos and Memories
The material on this site is from my own archives, collected when I was a member and running the Live Music nights etc. If anyone has any photos of the Umbrella they are willing to share with us - either at Little Park Street (from inside) or from Queen Victoria Road (inside or out) or any documents that would be of interest - please let us know at hobozine@googlemail.com
Also share your share your memories with us in the comments.


Coventry Archives
For research - you can find further and more extensive material in Coventry Archives, Herbert Museum - Here - http://www.coventrycollections.org/DServe/dserve.exe?dsqIni=Dserve.ini&dsqApp=Archive&dsqCmd=overview.tcl&dsqDb=Catalog&dsqSearch=(RefNo='PA1939') including copies of Umbrella Magazine, Programmes, press cuttings and features and more.
Visit TWO TONE CENTRAL MUSEUM http://www.2tonecentral.co.uk/

Birth of the Umbrella Club - Opened by the Goons

Coventry Arts Umbrella Club played an important role in Coventry's music history, for bands, folk, literature and more. Larkin wrote for Umbrella magazine and two Two Tone members played in early bands there.


Coventry Arts Umbrella Club opened in Little Park Street, Coventry  (seen in the photo) in 1955 by The Goons and financed by West Midlands Arts. After demolition it re-opened in Queen Victoria Rd in the early 60's - again with it's premises being demolished and moved to the Charterhouse on London Rd. It's hey days were the 50's / 60's and early 70's but a small group of poets still keep something going, albeit they now meet at someone's house and activities have been scaled right down.

"The Umbrella Club was founded in 1955 largely on the initiative of members of the City Architect's Department in association with members of the Midland Theatre Company, the forerunner of the Belgrade Theatre. The Club opened on 10 Oct 1955 at 97 Little Park Street with the purpose of encouraging the enjoyment of the arts by providing facilities for members to take part in a wide range of activities and to sponsor and promote artistic and related events of various kinds. When 97 Little Park Street was demolished in 1961, it moved to 18 Queen Victoria Road and membership grew, reaching over 400 by 1964. The Club operated at Queen Victoria Road until these premises were also demolished in the early 1970s. For a time activities continued in The Charterhouse but the lack of suitable premises led to declining membership."

According to architect and early member Bill BerrettThe real movers were Terry Watson, Neil Stair (an English teacher who did the White Devil by Webster) Geoffrey Saunders (I can't recall what his work was, but he made a great contribution to the early building decor), Rex Chell and Stanley Sellers, Architects from the City Department. All these did most of the work and negotiation."

Birth of the Umbrella Club
The Coventry Arts Umbrella (known to its members as The Umbrella Club or The Brolly) opened October 10th 1955 at 97, Little Park Street (as seen in the picture above). This I think was in front of what became the Education Offices after the redevelopment of Little Park Street.

It was initiated largely by the Coventry City Architects department and members of the Midland Theatre Company.
The Aims of the Umbrella were to -
"To provide a congenial meeting place for those interested in artistic and cultural activities and in pursuance of this it promotes lectures, discussions, exhibitions, recitals and similar. The name 'Umbrella' is intended to suggest the wide range of activities covered by the club"


Outline of the functions and Structure of Coventry Arts Umbrella Ltd.
"The Association is established to promote, maintain, improve and advance education and assist in the promotion, maintenance, improvement therein. Shall be of charitable nature and in particular, so far as such objectives may be charitable, to raise the artistic taste of Coventry and to promote, encourage and increase the appreciation and understanding of the arts generally and Dramatic Art, Musical Art, Literary Arts and Visual Arts in particular."


The Umbrella Club was opened by The Goons - Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Peter Sellers. Coventry photographer, Richard Sadler explains in The Journal of London Independant - Winter 2002/3, (pdf file with more photos) why, in those formal times, the Umbrella club chose the Goons to not only to open the club in 1955 but join in their party later on c 1959

" The occasion (of the photos) was the the first time our heroes appeared on stage (Coventry Hippodrome I think)  to delight us with their wit and wisdom. It was a flop of course, though not for us, due in the main to having a public who
enjoyed them, till then, only through the radio. The theatre too was controlled at that time, not only by the management, but by the Lord Chamberlain. All theatre performances had to be approved by him and any deviation from the script, at each performance, had to be recorded and forwarded to his office. The anarchic wit and humour of our heroes, to whom the art of the ad lib was essential was fundamental, suffered from this bureaucratic machinery; they had in truth been sent to Coventry."

Sadler goes on to explain -
"We at the Umbrella would have none of that, they would come to our party and celebrate that which we would create together with them, a
future of peace, prosperity and fun...they put up an umbrella, embraced the girls and assumed a pose that would remind us of their personalities, wit and wisdom, that changed, though no one realised it at the time, English humour forever."

An article appears on the Goons in one of the editions of Umbrella.

Bill Berrett offered - "A small anecdote about the opening by the Goons. It was a very informal and crowded do. The Goons mixed in with everybody and had a great time. That is until a young woman asked for an autograph and the Goons swiftly departed! (they did take away 'Spon' from Coventry as in '' I been Sponned'!)"

The Advisory Committee in the early days consisted of The Right Rev - the Lord Bishop of Coventry. Alderman Mrs Pearl Hyde. Mr A.G. Ling FRIBA Coventry City Architect. Lord Leigh. Sir Stanley Harley (Coventry Gauge and Tool Ltd. Mr P.S. Randell (Courtalds)


The club initially had 200 members comprising of students, secretaries, engineers, technologists, Clerks,nurses, Civil Servants, architects, journalists, artists, shop assistants, housewives.

97, Little Park St. Comprised a Lounge (used for lectures and recitals) A Foyer - Exhibition room, music room, cloak room, office and kitchen. The building was demolished to allow for redevelopment.

The first Chair of the Umbrella was Anthony John - later of the BBC - later Dr A,. (H) Marshall and Terry Watson was Vice Chair at this stage later to be Chair.


Reply to Criticism
"We can offer a reply to the criticism which tends to be levelled at an expanding industrial town like Coventry - that it's heartless and that there is nothing to do and that it is a 'Cultural desert' . Our reply, based on observation and the deep satisfaction which many intelligent young people have found in using the club and how newcomers to Coventry have said how they have not felt at home in the city until they began to use Umbrella club."


COMPULSORY PURCHASE ORDER
On 3rd April 1961 the Coventry Arts Umbrella received a Compulsory Purchase Order with notice to quit their premises at 97, Little Park St. by the 30th June 196 after 5 years of residence at that address. The Umbrella claimed, in response, that  the Umbrella had established a "unique position as a cultural and social centre, especially for young people who are over youth club age and for whom we provide a service of a kind not to be found elsewhere in the city. It's cultural magazine is subscribed to by the Library of Congress USA and New York Public Library etc."

The Umbrella was rehoused at 18, Queen Victoria Rd. until once again in 1972 they had to move after a 10 year residency this time.

In terms of programme the Umbrella while at Little Park St. organised a series of Cultural Weeks each year as follows -
American Week - 1957
Russian Week   - 1958
Norwegian Week -1959

In May 1958 they hosted a production of Webster's White Devil in St. Mary's Hall.

Some of the distinguished speakers included -
EM Forster, Sir Stuart Wilson, Prof. Marvin Felheim, Prof. Nevil Coghill, Aaron Copland, Richard Arnell, Brian Priestman, Sir Eugene Goossens.

The Umbrella magazine is covered in another post on here with some new additions.

The early programme on the move to Queen Victoria Rd. included (up to 1968) Jazz, music , Bridge, art and design and Drama. jazz was particularly strong at the umbrella.

And, from the Umbrella Website http://www.umbrellaclub.org.uk/index.php
A potted history of the club -
History of the Club
The seeds of the Umbrella Club were sown when a group of people enthusiastic about the arts were meeting socially in the Geisha Cafe in Hertford Street, Coventry.
Geisha Cafe Right opposite Greens Chemist
Hertford street


The Club opened on 10 October 1955 at 97, Little Park Street, with the purpose of encouraging the enjoyment of the arts by providing facilities for members to take part in a wide range of activities and to sponsor and promote artistic and related events of various kinds.
The official opening took place on 2nd November 1955 and was attended by none other than The Goons, Harry Secombe, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan.

The club had a sub-committee for each section of the arts and these ran a full programme of events. Notable speakers included Kenneth Tynan, Maurice Edelman, Graham Whettam.

The Club also published a series of magazines, featuring new writing from new and established writers, eg. E. M. Forster, Susan Hill, Philip Larkin. A particularly memorable event was a production of 'The White Devil' in St. Mary's Hall, in the late 50s.

In 1961, Little Park Street was redeveloped and the Club obtained a three storey house in Queen Victoria Road. Here the Club went from strenght to strength. An outbuilding was converted and extended into a theatre/ cinema and the programme included Jazz on a Summer's Day, The Cranes are Flying, The Seventh Seal. The film group experimented with film making and we have a video copy of Under the Umbrella, a film about the club's activities made in 1965 as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations .

Some events were open to the public, including films, plays,, art exhibitions.

In 1970, the area was due for redevelopment and compulsory purchase left the Club with insufficient resourses for premises. Until 1974, members met at The Charterhouse, a historic building on the London Road which had been left to the city for public use. Meetings were held once a week with the film group sometimes meeting separately on an additional night. Unfortunately it proved difficult to maintain the Club under these conditions and though the club was never closed down, activity became minimal.

In the 1990s, there was a reunion and relaunch at the Koko building in Spon End. After an initial busy programme, activities were toned down to the present level. Times have changed and people have many more opportunities and demands on their time than was the case in the 50s and 60s, however there is still a desire for people interested in the arts to meet together in order to participate in and discuss the various media."

Recent Comment

This received from  Jean Jennings (neé Gough) April 13, 2013 at 7:13 AM
If anyone can confirm (or otherwise) Jean's memory of the Umbrella being open before 1955 - please get in touch hobozine@googlemail.com

"Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories of the Umbrella Club. I was a very keen member in the 50's, assisting Terry Watson with the secretarial jobs and publicity. I remember him bringing to the club the first electric typewriter - a scary monster. He was truly an inspired person and brought such enthusiasm to the club.
One problem that I have is with the given date of the inception of the club. I distinctly remember going there in 1953 - and it had been active a while before then. Can anybody confirm this?"

The Founders of the Umbrella

Bill Berrett has identified that -

"The real movers in early Umbrella Club were Terry Watson, Neil Stair (an English teacher who did the White Devil by Webster) Geoffrey Saunders (I can't recall what his work was, but he made a great contribution to the early building decor), Rex Chell and Stanley Sellers, Architects from the City Department. All these did most of the work and negotiation."

I don't have a lot of information about them but I do know, is here. I have already created a post about Terrence Watson (Chair and Vice chair and editor of Umbrella Magazine) and a page for his new poetry book.

NEIL STAIR
Neil was an English teacher who did the White Devil - a play by Webster at St. Mary's Hall, Coventry, for Umbrella Club in the 50's. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_White_Devil


White Devil on Youtube.

GEOFF SAUNDERS
Geoff Sauders was a founding member of the Umbrella Club, a writer, artist and who wrote for the Umbrella magazine as Geoffrey Demdike.  He was also a founding member of the magaine and wrote an article called Smedley's Hydro, Smedley's Hydropathic Instituition in Matlock, in the magazine here page 17 of the pdf of Umbrella Vol1 1958. http://coventryartsumbrella.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/umbrella-magazine-volume-1-no1-october.html

Geoff also designed the cover of this issue of Umbrella - here - 

Geoff Saunders is mentioned here http://acetrust.org/ecclesiart/artists/peter-ball
Peter Eugene Ball
  is a prolific British sculptor, whose work can be found in over 60 churches. Born in 1943, Ball attended Coventry school of Art where he met Geoffrey Saunders, an art history tutor, with whom he made a photographic survey of Romanesque carvings and prehistoric monuments throughout the United Kingdom.

REX CHELL
Rex was still a Coventry Archtect in the 1970's and designed the link between the new and old Council house in Coventry, along with other projects.


STANLEY SELLERS
A Coventry Architect and founding member of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club.

An obituary http://www.20thcenturyforum.com/t13062-stanley-sellers31 December 1933 — 5 April 2013 Honorary Vice-President (2008); Friends of Birmingham Museums &Art Gallery
Stanley was born in Bordesley Green and educated in Birmingham. At 17, he enrolled in the Birmingham School of Architecture, after graduating in 1955, he joined Coventry City Council, moving 4 years
later to join James A Roberts Associates; who were the designers of the Rotunda and had their offices
on the top floor. He stayed with them for 21 years subsequently moving to the ISH Partnership for a further 11 years up to his retirement. Stanley’s list of major architectural projects is large and varied; and includes Mander Centre in Wolverhampton with, at the time, a controversial Barbara Hepworth bronze which won a Civic Trust Award; the Solihull Library and Arts Centre which won a Civic Trust Commendation; The Loft Theatre in Leamington Spa; Wrexham Library and Arts Centre, as well as a whole range of buildings in Solihull and Birmingham City Centre.

He was also a talented and respected potter in his own right, a passionate connoisseur, collector of the visual and applied arts, and an incredibly well informed music lover. In his 20s Stanley was a frequent visitor to St Ives and was a close friend of Barbara Hepworth, as well as socialising with Bernard Leach and many others from within the St Ives ‘School’. He was a member of  the Friends for many years, later serving as Treasurer; he was created Honorary Vice-President in 2008. Stanley continued to support and advised on the Friends events and activities until earlier this year. He was a passionate supporter of the Museum and its work.

Stanley had a supportive 44 year partnership with Richard Butt, a respected Radio3 Producer and long
term Conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir. Their home in Solihull was a happy and welcoming environment to their many and varied friendships. They were great supporters of CBSO and Birmingham Royal Ballet and Sir Peter and Lady Knight were friends as were Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Imogen Holst. He was extraordinarily knowledgeable and interesting to talk to on a host of subjects, never losing his enthusiasm and interest in the world about him, he will be sadly missed by many. A week before he died he told one of his cousin’s he had had a wonderful life, had met many great, good and famous people and that, ’that’s not bad for a boy from the back streets of Birmingham’.

Stanley has made a very generous and significant bequest to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery that is both a testament to his commitment to the Museum and also to his extraordinary life, his excellent ‘eye’, his intelligence and incredible knowledge. It is hoped that next year there will be an exhibition based on his bequest. At Stanley’s request his family sold his pottery collection and the proceeds from this sale were split between Solihull Association for the Blind and the Friends of Birmingham Museums. He also included the Friends as one of only two beneficiaries of donations in his memory.
Graham Allen, A Friend as well as a Trustee of Birmingham Museums Trust
SUMMER 2013 ARTEFACTS 13 From http://www.20thcenturyforum.com/t13062-stanley-sellers








Sunday, December 13, 2015

TERRY WATSON - SELECTED POEMS AND WEBSITE


The Coventry Arts Umbrella Club has published a selection of  Terrence Watson's poems under the editorial direction of Bob Wright and this book is now available at all major booksellers (including Amazon). The publisher is Earlsdon-based Takahe Publishing Ltd. Terry was a leading light in the Coventry Umbrella Club that was formally established in 1955 and continues to this day.

You can find out more about Terry and a link to his new book of poetry here http://www.terencewatson.uk/

Terry Watson was born Terence Charles Watson in 1920. He was educated at the Stationers' Company School in London studied at Magdalen College Oxford under the tutorial guidance of C S Lewis. His studies were interrupted by service in the RAF in the Second World War and he finally graduated in 1947. He taught for five years at Cottesmore School and came to Coventry in 1955 to take up a post teaching English and Art at King Henry VIII School in Coventry. He became a leading light in the Coventry Umbrella Club that was formally established in 1955 and continues to this day. One of Terry's earliest role at the Umbrella was as editor of the club's well respected literary magazine Umbrella, which boasted work by likes of Phillip Larkin and E.M. Forster. Terry shared his wide ranging skills with the Umbrella,as literary editor,poet,theatre director, painter and exhibition curator and promoter as well as heading up the Umbrella Club organisation.  Above all he was passionate about encouraging artistic creativity in others,especially those who seemed to lack confidence in their own potential. In later years he taught Creative Writing at Tile Hill College and in his 70's became interested in yoga and practised to the degree that he qualified as a teacher of Yoga (Sironami Tejas) in Florida USA.He was proud to be made Freeman of the City of London and a member of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and newspaper Makers.Terry passed away in 2009 at the age of 89. This volume was edited by Bob Wright and includes a range of Terry's poeticalworks including of his war poems written in active service.

Sample poem -

HOW HER HAIR FALLS

Waves
of the sea
fell sheer

So her hair
glittering shines and falls

Waves of her hair
shimmer and fall
away and fall

fall swaying

glitter
fall
and shine

Shimmer
Sway
and fall

Waves
of the sea
fall sheer

So her hair
glittering shines
and falls

Terence Watson 1968







Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Citizen Advice Bureau and The Umbrella Club at 97, Little Park Street.

Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau shared the 97, Little Park Street, premises between 1955 and 1957 according to Mark Cook, who is working on a research project telling the story of 75 years of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Coventry. If you have any information or memories of the CAB and especially if you remember them at 97, Little Park Street, Coventry 1955 - 7, you can contact mark Cook at email history@coventrycab.org.uk or via their Facebook page -

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Coventry-CAB-History/820305284670953?sk=timeline

Mark Cook wrote us thus -
"Hi

I've just been reading your website about the Umbrella Club, fascinating stuff!
I’m running a history project for Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau, we’re celebrating 75 years of the bureau in 2015, and we occupied 97 Little Park Street from 1955-57, obviously at the same time as the Umbrella Club. I’ve tracked down Richard Sadler to talk to him and talk about his photos of the opening, but I’m also intrigued by the following comment taken from the website:

Recent Comment
This received from Jean Jennings (neé Gough) April 13, 2013 at 7:13 AM

"Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories of the Umbrella Club. I was a very keen member in the 50's, assisting Terry Watson with the secretarial jobs and publicity. I remember him bringing to the club the first electric typewriter - a scary monster. He was truly an inspired person and brought such enthusiasm to the club.

One problem that I have is with the given date of the inception of the club. I distinctly remember going there in 1953 - and it had been active a while before then. Can anybody confirm this?
Jean Jennings (neé Gough)

Mark Cook wrote -
"We have some dates and references to when we occupied the building, so happy to share these. I’m wondering if Jean has any memories of us sharing the building? Could you ask her if I can contact her?"
...................

I don't have a direct cont for Jean but if Jean see this or if anyone can throw any light on an earlier occupation of 97, Little Park Street than the official opening of 1955, then please get in contact.

Meanwhile Mark Cook posted these two photos on their Facebook page. The latter is already on this site but i hadn't seen the photo with the Citizens Advice header on before - 


The Lord Mayor's car, a Humber Super Snipe MkIII, outside the CAB offices for the opening
of  The Umbrella Club.

The Goons opening the Umbrella Club 1955

Mark Cook on the BBC Coventry - Bob Brolly show talking about the CAB Project.




Sunday, March 15, 2015

Umbrella Club Planning Permissions

This pdf file was downloaded from the Coventry Planning Department's site. I tried to link to it but somehow there was an error message, so have uploaded it here to the Umbrella Club site. It forms a interesting paper trail of planning permissions and renewals of the Queen Victoria Road premises from the early to mid 1960's and hopefully will facilitate anyone researching the arts in Coventry or the Umbrella Club itself.

To enlarge, click Pop out - top right


Examples





Barbara Russon - Visual Artist. Exhibition for the Umbrella Club 1995.

Barbara Russon
Barbara Russon was a visual artist, who sadly passed away in 2007. Among her many exhibitions, she Coventry Arts Umbrella Club in 1995, which I think was at the Coventry Evening Telegraph offices and Coventry Cathedral. I wasn't living in Coventry at that stage so wasn't able to see it but she was a fascinating artist who, as it states on her website -
held one for the
"was born in Wednesbury in the heart of the English Black Country. Her inspiration has greatly been drawn from areas such as Ironbridge, and the Midland Canals, with a special interest in Bridges, Iron, Brick, Stone and Concrete.

Barbara studied at Wolverhampton College of Art, taught Art in Sri Lanka, has illustrated the West Sussex Gazette, has designed silk screen for decorative glassware, has illustrated and designed for Iliffe Publications, has worked as a scenic artist at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, and has painted six pantomimes, at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, and the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.

But Barbara is best known for her explorative and prolific artwork, for the strength of her canvasses, and for her imaginative interpretation of romantic and feminine themes."


1995Umbrella Club, Spon End, Coventry;
Coventry Evening Telegraph; Coventry Cathedral.

A visit to her website will reveal more about her work and exhibitions, which encompasses Canals and Bridges - Places and Romances, Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale, William Shakespeare Plays - illustrations, Kenilworth castle and family and Friends.

Barbara Russon's Website


A Couple of Examples of her work.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bill Berrett - Architect, Writer, poet, designer and Coventry Umbrella Club Member

Bill Berrett, born in Birmingham in 1933, was an architect. Town Planner, Writer, poet, book designer and
Bill Berrett
Lecturer and worked  in Coventry for the City of Coventry, Dept of Architecture & Planning. 1955 1961. He was an early member of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club which was opened in 1955 in Little Park Street by the Goons, who were appearing in Coventry at that time. The Umbrella was largely founded largely by the Coventry Architects department and, looking at Bill's interesting website, he clearly has a substantial interest in the arts and while architecture may be thought of as a technical skill set, looking at his work, there is a great deal of art in his work.

I had just started primary school when the Umbrella Club opened in 1955 and so my knowledge of that period is second hand, so it's good to learn more about some of the fascinating people that were involved during that early period.

Radburn Housing Development
It was interesting too to learn that Bill lived on a Coventry estate based on the ‘Radburn’ housing development designed by Mat Wallace using ‘No-Fines’ construction. That would be Willenhall Wood http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radburn,_New_Jersey and also here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radburn_design_housing.
which built and complete c 1958 / 9 and at that stage in it's history was a beautiful estate and a great place to be brought up. More recent visits show it have decline somewhat - and what a shame. The Radburn design began in Radburn New Jersey in 1929 aimed to incorporate modern planning principles, which were then being introduced into England's Garden Cities, following ideas advocated by urban planners Ebenezer Howard, Sir Patrick Geddes and Clarence Perry. Radburn was explicitly designed to separate traffic by mode, with a pedestrian path system that does not cross any major roads at grade. Radburn introduced the largely residential "superblock" and is credited with incorporating some of the earliest culs-de-sac in the United States. More can be read here

The 'Radburn' design is typified by the backyards of homes facing the street and the fronts of homes facing
each other over common yards. Willenhall Wood was just like that, with the tradesman's entrance at the back and open space with trees and lawn out of the front and french windows at the rear. It was a very aesthetic estate to grow up on. I grew up in Laneside and the front can be seen above.

I grew up on the other side of this picture but the house behind the lady was the home of Drummer Steve Harrison, who frequented the Umbrella Club c 1970 / 71 and played with The Mick Green Blues band and many others, including L'homme de Terre, c 1981, filmed at the Memorial Park in Coventry where Bill did some of his Coventry work.


Bill Berrett tells his own story very well on his own website  - Here

His career spans from Birmingham to Coventry to Milton Keynes and many places in between. in Coventry he worked with Arthur Ling and began work on urban design of central areas at Hertford Street, Bull Yard, Union Street, Unity Way, St John’s and areas affected by the Ring Road then being planned. Also I worked on street furniture for the cross precinct and Shelton Square. I worked ‘across the board’ with Ray Spaxman, and more. It's evident from his site that many of the coventry architects went on to share their influence on so many innovative and prestigious projects around the country, and Bill traces this. the site is full of interesting illustrations of designs and also some his many book illustrations. About 1981, Bill took up a post as senior lecturer at Leeds University and was there during the period I taught for Leeds University on the Creative Writing programme for their Middlesbrough base.

It's well worth a look through Bill's site and here's the one or two illustrations to hopefully lead the way to his website -

Part of his work for Coventry's Memorial Park -
From Bill Berrett's website http://billberrett.info/coventry/

An example Bill Berrett's Book design


Writing collection by an Architect and Environment Designer - Bill Berrett - who has worked on Cities, taught in Universities and designed for Poets and Writers. The creative process is similar whatever the medium, words are the current tools. Interest in men's current role in the world.
His book of poetry and other are avaiable on Lulu here http://www.lulu.com/shop/bill-berrett/a-man-at-work/paperback/product-16690012.html?ppn=1  for men at Work - Poems

And for his other books and Lulu profile http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/brianberrett








Gentlefolk - Norman Wheatley's Folk Podcast.

Norman Wheatley contributed to the Umbrella poetry extravaganza - Knotted Sheets - at the Belgrade Theatre, 1971 and organised by poet Geoff Pegg. Norman also took part, playing at various Umbrella Club folk sessions in the early 70's.

Moreover he ran the folk programme Gentlefolk on BBC Radio Birmingham, later on Radio Mercia and now as a monthly podcast on the internet. It's still an excellent program covering both the Midland's folk scene and more national acts with music, interviews and information. The beauty of the podcast is that you can listen to it whenever you want - you're not tied down to be near a radio at a certain time and can catch up with past shows too. Do give it a listen - Norman is an excellent and professional presenter, every word crystal clear and entertaining.

Listen here -                  http://www.gentlefolk2.co.uk/

Norman Wheatley in the 70's 


The Umbrella Club - Who Gives a Jot?

Jot do! Jot is blogger site to "A place to record information. Facts, Data,Trivia, Ephemera, Knowledge from any source - Letters, Diaries, Manuscripts, Journals, Notebooks, Recipes, Anecdotes, Reports, Art, Files, Snapshots, Documents, Formulas, Catalogues, Press cuttings, Memoirs, Tales, Eyewitness accounts ('I was there'), 'I once met...', Quotations, Found Objects & Total Trivia" and can be found here http://www.jot101.com/2014/07/the-umbrella-club.html with this link going specifically to their post on the Umbrella Club.


Nice that Jot have given space to the Umbrella Club. The article focuses on an issue of Umbrella Magazine, the pdf of which can be found on this site (along with some other issues of the Umbrella's Literary magazine from the late 50's / early 60's. 

It describes the early incarnation of the Umbrella Club at Little Park Street in the 50's as -
 In 1960 it described itself as:

‘an independent, non-political, non profitmaking organisation for encouraging interest in art music, music, literature, the theatre and kindred subjects. It arranges lectures, recitals, dramatic performances and many related activities’ 

and the editorial policy of the magazine as stated in the magazine as requesting material that ‘paints a portrait of life in the Midlands, and which reflect or interpret: such problems as labour relations, race relations, the world of the teenager, the changing patterns of family life in a mobile society and the attitudes of the citizen of today to the established institutions of the past’.

Interesting article in itself and interesting and potentially useful site in general for researchers or anyone who is just curious about all manner of things!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Umbrella Magazine Volume 1 No1 October 1958

Thanks go to Coventry musician Cliff  Wagstaff for purchasing and donating his copy of the 1st Umbrella Literary magazine for this site. An excellent production and i've made it available as a PDF file. If anybody has any other copies of Umbrella Magazine that are not on this site and are willing to scan them for the sight or loan them to us to scan and share on the site, please get in contact.


Contents are - 

And the pdf of the Magazine to view or download free,