Cat on Tour, Saturday 10th October 2009
UWE Bristol. “Can you smell fish?”
A three hour motorway drive, during which I only fell asleep once (no, of course not), got us to the leafy Bower Ashton campus of the UWE School of Creative Arts by midday. The immediate difference between this campus and yesterday at Birmingham came even before we were out of the car: we were immediately directed to a convenient parking area, and found plenty of people in red T-shirts happy and willing to help. All through the day, in fact, we were looked after well, and kept informed of what was available to see and when to see it. It was a bright sunny day, which showed the green and rural nature of the campus off well. Forested hills cosy around the campus, which itself is dotted with trees and plenty of greensward. And the occasional giant letter.
I attended a Welcome Talk, while Cat waited in the sun to meet her Bristol-based friend, Vay, who was popping in to see her. The number of attendees meant that the talk had to be handled across two rooms with a common slideshow, but it was extremely competently done. As we were told – “Art & Design doesn’t need a large lecture theatre, so we don’t have one”.
Bower Ashton is in the grounds of Ashton Court Estate, and the house can be seen up the hill across the deer park (oh yes, there’s a deer park alright. Right next to the campus, and open for students to wander in, and presumably draw some deer). Although extremely rural, it is just ten minutes from the city centre. Many of the buildings are new. The School of Creative Arts has, in fact, four sites – the three others are used by the various disciplines. Students studying Illustration, Cat’s particular interest, also have a space in the historical Bush House, which is by the river in the centre of Bristol.
Resources are open to the whole faculty, so there are no confines to how students want to develop their work. Resources include an Art Shop, library, SU shop & bar – the faculty has strong links with Tate Modern, Aardman Animations, and the V&A among many others. Their deadline date for UCAS applications is January 15th, although interviews will be much later to give applicants several weeks to complete their portfolio.
Cat and Vay (for she had arrived while I was being impressed by the man with the disembodied voice) sat in on the following Welcome Talk while I poked about – everything was clean and orderly, with informative signage, including where to wait for coaches to see other sites, and what times they left. There were many bicycle racks – a student we chatted to told us that cycling was the best way to travel between the various sites, as there were dedicated cycle paths throughout Bristol.
We ate a tasty meal in the Refectory (where the food was rated with a traffic-light system according to how ‘healthy’ it was), before the time came for the Illustration talk. Now, Vay eats at the speed of a tiny bird. A dead one. She therefore had a whole fish yet to consume when the time came for us to move. We persuaded her to wrap it in napkins and eat it on the move, like a, well, wrap.
The talk was a little dry in its delivery, but the information we got was interesting and useful, although I did not feel inspired to take photographs during the talk. I shall therefore jazz up the information with a couple of pictures I took at other times in the day. The talk particularly lent itself to being presented in a blog via bullet points:
Animation kicks in at level 2, and could be an added option.
Working illustrators and agents visit often.
A degree consists of 360 credits. Students have to get 120 a year.
The year runs over two semesters: SEP to JAN and FEB to JUN. There is an additional two week break between the semesters. Extra hols, yay!
Year 1: Skills & Idea Development (printmaking, painting based on a theme, life drawing, location-based reporting, narrative, visual culture (a written module)
Year 2: Professional Working (how image gets to the page, text-based illustration both fiction and non-fiction, option modules)
Year 3: Students negotiate their own programme of study, receive live briefs and enter competitions, production of one major work or a number of short pieces, degree show in London, tutorial based: tutor assigned depending on choice of specialism.
At this point, several people (OK, me) began asking “Can you smell fish?” However, our presenter soldiered on, telling us that at interview, the chappie said, be prepared to tell them why you are applying; what is driving you. You should show an interest and knowledge of Illustration, and of the world in general (display that you have read widely, for example, watched films, know some current news etc). Your portfolio should include plenty of drawing (showing enquiring interest in ideas). Portfolio bullets:
USE A RANGE OF MATERIALS
SHOW THE PROCESS AND DEVELOPMENT OF IDEAS
SKETCHBOOKS AND PREP WORK ARE REALLY IMPORTANT
Applicants do not need to have done a Foundation year, as they feel it achieves not-much-at-all.
After saying farewell to Vay, who sadly had to go to work, we were taken on an Illustration-centric tour of the campus by two chatty and knowledgeable Illustration students. Damned attractive gels, too. The picture on the left is Attractive Gel Emily enthusing to us about the library, which was a very-large-indeed library. It stretched around three sides of the building. I immediately found a book I wanted to read, and cannot resist sticking a photo of it here. There it is, look, on the right. Look where I’m pointing. We were shown, as well, various print shops with gorgeous views over the deer park, photographic and animation studios, and several fabrication workshops. Oh, and also where the new life-drawing studio will be situated.
Next, a trip on a charabanc! The attractive gels gathered with us to board a coach which took us into Bristol to see Bush House. The journey took us past SS Great Britain, the suspension bridge, and all-in-all served to show us what a beautiful city Bristol is. Fountains and art everywhere.
Bush House is a historical building by the river in the centre of Bristol, the fourth floor of which is for the sole use of Illustration students. First Years are given a desk and a locker, and by the third year students have their own work room. The rooms felt inspiringly artistic, the semi-circular windows giving fascinating views on all sides. According to attractive gel Emily, the best way to travel between the sites is on the ferry across the river, followed by a ten minute walk, although the cycle path is along the river and also very pleasant.
Finally, we were taken to an accommodation block, which was fairly average. We did not get to see any en-suite rooms, as these were all on a different site.
All in all, UWE was a resounding success with Cat, who rates it highly – perhaps on a par with Loughborough. Bit far, mind.