“On the road up to the University, the gleaming new purpose-built Leeds Polytechnic awaited the arrival of the students and staff of the art college. All the latest facilities were in place. The only thing missing was any concept of what to expect.”
Creative License describes what happened next and the continuum leading up to this moment. In this ground-breaking study, James Charnley reveals the personalities and events that ignited an explosion of radical creativity such that a contemporary observer, Patrick Heron, could describe Leeds College of Art as “an unprecedented inventive powerhouse on the national scene”. Between 1963 and 1973, Leeds College of Art and Leeds Polytechnic were at the forefront of an experiment in art and education where “all that was forbidden was to be dull”. With Jeff Nuttall, Robin Page, George Brecht, Patrick Hughes and John Fox on the staff, students pushed the freedom and facilities offered further than anything before or since.
Creative License captures the rebellious trajectory of the 1960s, the emergence of the counter-culture, dissent and later disillusionment. This is a case study of an era when art colleges were well funded and well free and, at Leeds, had a mission to progress the avant-garde project to the next level. Perhaps only now can the consequences of this experiment be assessed and its achievements recognised, and James Charnley sets out to do just that.