Leeds College of Art: The Rock and Roll Years

03 August 2016

Vivienne Ellenport studied at Leeds College of art from 1953 – 1958. She went on to have a long and varied career; designing, making and teaching fashion in London and Tel Aviv. Here she shares her memories of a time when the college was well and truly under the influence of Rock and Roll.

“I started at the college in 1953 having been awarded an Art Scholarship at the age of 17, with only three O levels. This was a two year Intermediate course leading to two more years for the National Diploma in Design. These were memorable years. They marked the beginning of huge changes at Leeds College of art with the introduction of Basic Design led by Harry Thubron and Maurice De Saumarez. Our tutors were Terry Frost (then Gregory Fello at Leeds University), Tom Hudson, Nibs Dalwood, Laurie Bert, Norbert Linton (art History), Tommy Watt, Gavin Stuart and Rikki Atkinson.

As Rock and Roll had taken hold of our generation out social life in the common room was throbbing with music; there was Eddy and the Eagles and lots of dancing! We worked hard as well and I eventually went on to do fashion (Dress Design in those days) for my NDD. Dorothea Pugh who ran the fashion course motivated us to work hard and tolerate our addiction to The Goon Show. Our studio was in an old annexe over a smoky café where we could buy 5 cigarettes at a time. We could smoke in the studio, where we also had an open fire!

If Mr E M Pullee, the principal of the college, had not given me the chance at 17 I would not have been able to follow my vocation in such breadth and diversity.”

Vivienne Ellenport on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall

Vivienne Ellenport on the steps of Leeds Civic Hall in 1958, wearing an outfit designed for her NDD final. Photograph by Peter Grey.