Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Britain is no longer a country for, nor Kent a county and say "Farewell" to a 'scarce old' Schools History Advisor called Ian Coulson

Ian, who has died at the age of 60, packed much into a 38 year career in education in which he began as a classroom teacher, progressed to County Teacher Advisor and found time along the way to act as series editor for John Murray for History at Key Stage 3 and 4, drive forward the Kent History Project, write on aspects of Kent local history, contribute to the National Archives 'Learning Curve' website, play a major role in the Kent Archaeological Trust, serve on the Lord Chancellor's Advisory Council for Public Records and latterly, lead multi-media projects with schools using History and ICT to improve standards in literacy.

I first met Ian professionally almost thirty years ago when he was the newly appointed Kent Schools' History Advisor working as Paul Hasting's junior and on a number of subsequent occasions over the following years. I was always impressed by his ability to use that sharp intelligence and seductive, Sunderland accent to get Kent teachers to travel down curriculum roads, myself included, we otherwise might not have considered.

Ian was born in Durham in the Summer of 1955. His Father was a secondary school teacher and he remembered in a 2009 FlashMeeting with pupils at Newlands Primary School, Ramsgate who had visited Richborough Castle, that when he was about seven : "one of my Father's fiends took me round a castle in Northumberland and he was a history teacher and I just found what he was telling me, absolutely fascinating. He was a really interesting man and I suppose from then on in I was interested in all the things I could see around me. I lived in a place where there were lots of Roman forts, the great Hadrian's Wall. There were lots of castles and I was interested in archaeology and archaeological mysteries. So I think from about your age, I really got the history and archaeology bug and I have to admit, it hasn't left me."


Having passed the 11+ in 1966, Ian took his place at Bede Collegiate Grammar School for Boys with its 900 boys which stood next door to the Bede Grammar School for Girls with its 500 girls, run by the County Borough of Sunderland Education Committee. No doubt, like most of the lads, he was delighted when he returned to start his second year in September 1957, to find his classes graced with the presence of girls when the two schools were amalgamated as Bede School or 'The Bede'.

Not unsurprisingly, Ian was the tallest member of his sixth form group and the school basketball team in 1971 and was placed at the apex in photos.


Also, not unsurprisingly, he was using his organisational skills as joint editor of the school magazine alongside Janet Brown, when in the Upper Sixth in 1972. Then the following year he was off to University of Wales, Cardiff to study for his B.A. in 'History and Archaeology' and when he was in his second year in 1974 his Father moved the family to Kent, when he took up a headship at a secondary high school in Ashford who told Ian that he had "a staffroom revolt when he suggested they introduce O levels." 

Having decided that teaching was the career for him, Ian undertook his year's PGCE at Cardiff and started teaching in 1977 in a grammar school ain Kent and in his interview 
remembered : "specifically asking : "When do you start getting the kids to write essays?" because it was one of the questions I’d prepared for the end of the interview and the Head of Department said : "At O Level" "

He began his career with ten years in the classroom in Kent both the grammar school and in a girls high school and it didn't take him long to conclude that "many parts of Kent in the mid eighties were frighteningly backward, particularly in terms of the high schools." In his school, he remembered talking to the Head and saying : "You know, what are the kids doing, what’s the breadth of their curriculum ?" and he said : "Well, when I came here in ’85, ’86 the only science girls did was domestic science, they didn’t even have the option to do others." He enjoyed the latitude he was given in these early years and recalled : "One of the great things about teaching is that when you get into a classroom when you’re starting teaching and particularly in the seventies, you wrote your own curriculum, give or take, and certainly with the two heads of department I had, I wrote whatever I wanted to do with the children barring the exam courses.  And that meant I could do archive, use archive material, I could use museums, I did archaeology as well as the various types of and approaches to history."

We can catch a glimpse of Ian's probable classroom style in these years from the teaching he undertook with 10-year-olds at Lady Joanna Thornhill School in Wye in 2006, with the class learning to be historical house detectives with the aim to : "Draw them into a fundamental understanding of how things have changed in Wye, not trying to make them into experts in terms of baroque and rococo architecture. Beginning with a simple understanding of old and new. Drawing that out into a bigger context and hopefully, by the end of the day, they will be budding architectural experts fully understanding how Wye has changed." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-DRFJfT4WQ&t=9m30s
and was aided by the distinctive Coulson cartoons on the board and his box of archival material with : "Now let's look at the clues I've brought with me, some from the Middle Ages " : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-DRFJfT4WQ&t=1m39s
A creative use of toilet paper on the floor of the school hall served for the layout of the town and the placement of houses, colour coded for age :
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-DRFJfT4WQ&t=5m28s
Then in field work, probing them with questions and providing explanations : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-DRFJfT4WQ&t=11m38s

In 1987 at the age of 32, Ian's career went off in a new direction when he became a 'Teacher Adviser for History' and  "took over from somebody who was actually a local, a teacher of local history in the archives and that person was relieved of her post and the inspector at the time was very keen to use me with secondary schools because he was a long time out of the classroom." The inspector in question was Paul Hastings or 'Doc Hastings' as he was known to history teaching community in Kent, a Birmingham man who, after extensive experience in the classroom and before his appointment as History Inspector for Kent, had been Principal Lecturer in History and Head of Department at Middleton St George College of Education in Co Durham.

In these early years Paul gave Ian a, more or less, free hand : "I came in, I could almost pick and choose one or two of the aspects of the job quite legitimately, clear it with him." At the same time "There was far less pressure from outside to do things, except of course through the exam boards where their requirements were pretty much cut and dried."

Ian had been taken on with a mainly secondary focus and dealing with "failing schools, failing departments, general support for those people who were new into the profession and helping out those who were developing the curriculum.  So it was a very varied job." At the same time he found that Paul "had a very clear idea about what he wanted to do and where we were going as a team of two amongst 800 schools, because that was the patch" and "I wouldn’t say that we were initiative free, but you could count them on one hand per year."

He was quick to see the potential of ICT and data analysis in the history classroom and recalled : "A guy said : "We’ve got these BBCBs, we’re not too sure what to do with them, but we’d like to do something with data."  So I said : "Oh well that’s okay. How about the Armada ? We take the data for the Armada for the English fleet and the Spanish fleet and we ask the question, you know : "Which of the fleets had the largest ships ? Could we prove or disprove the myth or the story that it was the brave little English ships that, you know, basically sat off from the Armada and used their guns rather than boarding ?"  And what we did there was to take the data and manipulate it on the computer.  Now that was, I think, probably the first of the projects that I was involved with because we had children who were saying : "Ah, they’ve got the same number of soldiers in each fleet, so they’re anticipating probably boarding."  So that was where really I felt : "Ah, this is working, this is going to work reasonably well."

He recalled that in 1987 "when I came out into the advisory service, there seemed to me to be a gaping hole in terms of archival materials getting out to schools, so I set up a History Centre.  My boss was very keen on this and it was a sort of one-stop shop for history and local history for teachers around the county." Ian "spent eighteen months actually sorting out materials from the Archives Office, old photocopies and what have you, thousands and thousands of these things, and organised them into themes and parishes.  So somebody could come in and in half an hour they could leave with twelve maps, three sets of directory entries, sometimes some census material and half a dozen odd bits of archive material and two or three pages of guidance as to perhaps how to use that."

Although the Centre was moved five times, it was well-resourced and "by the time we got through into the early nineties it was seen as sort of 'Ian’s Empire'." When the Centre was closed, Ian transferred it materials online and with £200,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund created "what’s now 'Here’s History, Kent,' which is a website which has sort of taken over the local history resourcing side of things" and will remain one of his lasting legacies. http://www.hereshistorykent.org.uk/

The first big Government-inspired change came in 1989 which Ian remembered as : "If you look at the sort of raspberry ripple HMI Report and the green one that came out in, I think about ’89, they were saying there was little history of any consequence taking place in primary schools." In fact, it questioned the value of subsuming History and Geography with general topic work and made the case that : 'there was a clear understanding of the distinctive curriculum that History and Geography can make to children's understanding' and two years later the first National Curriculum Orders for them we introduced. It meant that Ian was increasingly involved in developing History in schools in the primary sector.
Ian got involved the Schools History Project GCSE course because it was one of Paul's enthusiasms who : "used to tempt people into doing it by giving them sets of books and a little bit of support, which in the event was mainly me." By the early 1990s he became increasingly involved in the 'History of Medicine' module within what was "was a sort of Braudelian course at GCSE.  In other words we were doing the Ladurie over time and I mean there weren’t many university courses, certainly my university course never even broached this sort of issue of different ways of looking at the past and that’s why Schools History Project was always going to be my nesting place, because we have development studies, depth studies, contemporary history and local history. If you’re looking at medicine over time, you’re looking at the issue of change and you’re looking at factors and the manipulation thereof in very broad and diverse contexts.  Now that’s heavy stuff, but that’s great stuff." The work culminated in 1996 when his 'Health & Medicine Through Time', co-authored with Ian Dawson, was published by John Murray.

In the 1990s Ian found the terms of his contract were changed and he started working in the advisory service on a consultancy basis : "So there was me as the history adviser and I would be purchased by schools for whatever the schools wanted and that stood for four or five years"  because "you had the schools who were under pressure from the inspection system who thought : 'Ooh whoops, we need some support here and we’ve got to see that we’ve asked for support'. So you get bought in."

With Paul's retirement, Ian took responsibility as the sole History Advisor and the new millennium brought further changes to his role. From 2004 "we’ve had an increasing emphasis on the Business Plan for the Authority and we have this huge, forty page business plan of which we, you know, me as a history adviser, I sit in a particular couple of boxes so to speak" and by 2009 with the advent of School Improvement Plans "now invariably history and geography fall off the bottom of that list because it’s not a major priority for somebody who’s looking at everything that a school does." As a consequence he only had six or seven commissions for that year. 

From 2006 Ian found himself working increasingly on projects with the ICT teams. He found that they had the money but "their problem was that they hadn’t got the projects that were getting children and teachers motivated" and "they have the networks, they have the equipment, and I have the death, sex and toilets" exemplified by his 'The Strange Death of Ludicrous Cantiacus' at Lullingstone Villa and 'What Happened to the 2.38 Tidal Express?' which came off the rails at Headcorn and on which Charles Dickens was travelling with his mistress, Miss Ternan in 1865. Ian enjoyed relating an anecdote where the unit was being used with a Year 5 group as part of their Literacy Programme and one of the pupils  asked the student, Ian had dressed as Dickens, : "Now Mr Dickens, can you tell me who you were travelling with?"  Mr Dickens said, "Miss Ternan".  "Ah Mr Dickens, now, can you tell me your relationship with Miss Ternan?"

In this work he was at odds with his employer : "So Uncle Ian as the loose cannon has been working with the ICT, despite his boss, and we are now at a point where we’ve got a refined model which is going to be incredibly useful for the primary schools who are changing the way that they’re teaching their history in the next few years."

In 2009 Ian reflected on his career at that point : "when it comes to this business of standards and what children are being entered for and what their expectations are, then over the span of my career, plus a little bit, things really have changed considerably, although the job, the advisory job of course has always been focussed - if you’re sensible and doing your job properly - it’s always focussed on children at desks and supporting the teachers.  So really in many respects the priorities have not altered for me at all."

In September 2010, after 23 years and one month, Ian's work for the Kent Authority came to an end and he made himself available as a freelance consultant specialising in history, archaeology and heritage education.

He was now free to express his views and in 2011, the year he became the President of the Kent Archaeological Society, he added his name to an open letter in the Independent entitled : 'History, not Prapaganda' which stated :
'In defiance of these legal obligations, the government’s attitude to the teaching of history is underpinned by an unbalanced promotion of partisan political views. The Education Secretary has gone on record stating that the purpose of the changes which he proposes is to make history teaching 'celebrate the distinguished role of these islands in the history of the world' and to portray Britain as 'a beacon of liberty for others to emulate.' He spoke in Parliament of history lessons which focussed on 'British heroes and herioines' and the Prime Minister has referred to the teaching of 'our island story in all its glory."

This was anathema to Ian and he said so as 'Ian Coulson, teacher and author'
'If the Secretary of State read the OFSTED subject reports for the last twenty years he would see history is probably the best taught subject in the curriculum. In the OFSTED Subject Report of 2011 inspectors reported from a survey of 166 schools that… ‘There was much that was good and outstanding in the history seen for this survey: achievement was good or outstanding in 63 of the 83 primary schools and 59 of the 83 secondary schools visited.’
In my view the Gove curriculum, if it is passed, will be a national disgrace, dangerous and unworthy.'


Six years ago when asked by a pupil at Newlands school : "If you could travel back in time, what would be your favourite time to visit ?"  Ian had answered :
"I think I would like to go back to the invasion of Claudius, 43 AD. I'd like to be on the beach at Richborough to see Claudius arrive with his elephants and with Aulus Plautius, who was his General. I'd like to see what it was like in that part of Kent and in particular, perhaps, to meet some of the locals."

A fond image of Ian and so 'Ian' : Waiting for the Emperor, but grabbing the opportunity to have a chat with the local tribespeople.

Ian's wife, Elizabeth, has published this appeal :
Ian Coulson tragically died this December of a brain tumour. Marie Curie provided fantastic support during this time, we wish to thank them for their help and kindness by donating through this page.
Many thanks,
Elizabeth Coulson
https://www.justgiving.com/Ian-Coulson-Donations


I make grateful acknowledgement to Dr Nicola Sheldon. This small tribute would not have been possible without reference to her 2009 interview with Ian for the Institute of Historical Research.

http://www.history.ac.uk/history-in-education/browse/interviews/interview-ian-coulson-3-july-2009.html

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Goodbye" to its most celebrated writer of children's stories, Peter Dickinson

Peter Dickinson celebrated author, who published almost 60 books and has been translated into 53 languages, won both the prestigious 'Carnegie Medal and the 'Crime Writer’s Golden Dagger' twice and was awarded the O.B.E in 2009 for 'Services to Literature' has died on his birthday at the age of 88.

Early years in Africa in the 1930s, followed by boyhood and adolescence in Second World War Britain and a diet of reading which shaped his imagination and left gave him the certainty of knowing that : "I had always been a writer in my own mind since I was five. This is what I was. I could never imagine being anything else."

He was born just before the Christmas of 1927 in Livingstone, Northern Rhodesia and christened 'Peter Malcolm de Brissac Dickinson', the second of the four sons of  May Lovemore, 'Nancy', the daughter of a South African ostrich farmer at Mount Melsetter, Middelburg, Eastern Cape and the Honourable Richard Sebastian Willoughby Dickinson who was in turn the son of 1st Baron Dickinson.
 
With the First World War only nine years over when he was born, as a boy, he must have known his father served in the Royal Naval Air Service and possibly that he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his 'meritorious or distinguished service as an officer', had been mentioned in dispatches in 1916 and from the French had been awarded 'Croix de Guerre' and for a year after the War served in the RAF and rose to the rank of Lieutenant, before transferring to the Colonial Diplomatic Service in the 1920s as Assistant Chief Secretary to the Government of Northern Rhodesia.

Peter recalled that he had wanted to be a writer from the age of five and his favourite childhood reading had been Rudyard Kipling : "We had this immense shelf of little, red, leather-bound Kiplings, which I read through uncomprehendingly from beginning to end. I think he's had more influence on the actual way my prose fits together" and of course, The Jungle Books "I read the lot. A truly great writer, despite his hideous opinions" and "I wouldn’t write the way I do if it weren’t for him."

In addition, he also read a copy of Pollard's 1917 version of Malory's 'Morte d'Arthur' with its tales of King Arthur, Sir Launcelot, Gareth and Tristram because he later recalled : "When I wrote 'The Weathermonger' I was aware of Malory's Merlin, Tennyson's Merlin, and the Merlin of the kind of retelling one was given for Christmas when I was a child, with all the Rackham illustrations, and so on "

These were idyllic early years :  born in the middle of Africa, within earshot of the Victoria Falls; baboons sometimes in the school playground; swimming in the Zambezi  in a big wooden cage let down into the water, so that the crocs couldn’t get at them; in hot weather, the family move south to his Grandfather Lovelace's ostrich farm in South Africa. It was not to last. When he was 7 in the Spring of 1935 the family moved to Britain. A strange land for him, his bothers Richard aged 9, Hugh 6 and little David 2 months and their Mother not yet 32 and then just four months later on July 27, their father and her husband died from complications caused by an undiagnosed strangulated gut. He was 38 years old.
 
Of Africa Peter would later say : "It matters to me that I was born there, though I haven't been back." Now in straightened circumstances he lived in a world where : 'My mother had to bring up four children with very little money of her own, but with rich relations in the background. So we had a curious childhood, with a good deal of pinching and scraping, but with the atmosphere of affluence around.' Application for financial help was no doubt made to Grandfather Willoughby Dickinson, who had been a distinguished Liberal politician and Member of Parliament and advocate of female suffrage and elevated to the peerage as 'Baron Dickinson of Painswick' in recognition of his work for 'Peace and International Understanding', four years before Peter was born. Either way, the fees for a boarding and prep school, later remembered in his adult novel 'Hindsight', were paid and in 1938 at the age of 11 he joined for his Father's old public school, Eton, where he recorded that he had the distinction of being "the bottom scholar in the worst year on record. A record previously held by my father!"

In school holidays he remembered how much he enjoyed sailing boats with his brothers in John Masefield's stream at Boars Hill, near Oxford. It was a love which never left him along with that of his novel, 'The Bird of Dawning' :  "A wonderful account of a tea-clipper on its way home from China. Terrific stuff. The final race up the Channel - terrific!"

On the reading front it was now 'St George for England' by G.A. Henty, which, when he came across a copy many years later he was "astonished to find how bad it is, mostly undigested chunks of history about the Hundred Years’ War, with our hero popping up from time to time to have an adventure. Early on he rescues the girl who becomes his childhood sweetheart. You don’t hear about her again till near the end, when you find he’s married to her, and gets to rescue her again. None of this mattered, because I was really into knights in armour. I read it every school holidays, which didn’t take long because I knew which bits to skip." In addition it was also 'Ivanhoe' by Walter Scott, which was a "Ditto, really, except that it’s a much better book, and you only need to skip the first fifty pages. You get Robin Hood as well as the knights in armour."

Peter wrote from experience when he said many years later : "Children have a very varying need of security, but almost all children feel the need of security and reassurance some time. For instance, in those families where boys are sent away to boarding school it is often very noticeable that, in the first week of the holidays, the boys do not read just the books they read last holidays, but books off their younger brothers’ bookshelves. One can often tell how happy or insecure a child is feeling simply by what she is reading. And sometimes she may need to reread something well known but which makes absolutely no intellectual or emotional demand. Rubbish has this negative virtue, and I would be very chary of interfering with a child who felt an obvious need of rubbish" and "Nobody who has not spent a whole sunny afternoon under his bed rereading a pile of comics left over from the previous holidays has any real idea of the meaning of intellectual freedom."

When he visited Grandmother Minnie and Grandfather Willoughby in Washwell House in Painswick Gloucester, up to the age of 16 when the old man died at the age of 84 in 1943 and Peter's brother Richard became the 'Baron', he sought out, along with his brothers, 'The Radium Seekers' by Fenton Ash  published in 1905 by Putnam which "must have been one of my father’s books. I read it whenever we stayed with my grandparents." When he was given a copy many years later "it all came back. Early science fiction, a cult classic, wildly racist, but enjoyable tosh. Our hero and his friends go to South America to look for radium, which has anti-gravity properties, and battle with a race of cruel Inca-type people who use the radium to fly, and disguise themselves as giant birds and terrorise the locals."

He also enjoyed 'King Solomon’s Mines' by Rider Haggard : "Same sort of thing, but in Africa and with diamonds instead of radium, but one of the great myth-making books, which still affects the way we think about Africa, I’m afraid. The witch Gagool was one of my regular nightmares."

Many years later he reflected on his own experience :
 "I am convinced of the importance of children discovering things for themselves. However tactfully an adult may push them towards discoveries in literature, these do not have quite the treasure trove value of the books picked up wholly by accident. This can only be done by random sampling on the part of the children."
  
At the age of 18 in 1945 was enlisted into the Amy for two years National Service and then completed his education at  King's College, Cambridge, where he read Classics for a while 'until they told me to stop it. I still have nightmares sometimes about being asked to put a passage into Greek.' before changing to English, a decision he lived to regret : "I enjoyed it, but it's such a soft option. I would much rather have done something with a few hard edges to it, like Anthropology. Something with a lot of facts for me to master would have been good for me. I'm not very good with facts."

In final exams he didn't get the 'first' he'd hoped for, but to his liking King's was 'a very civilised place' where 'they had various sorts of awards which they made to failed young gentlemen they rather approved of to enable them to stay up for another year and do research. They gave me one of these, but I turned out to be hopeless at it and two thirds of the way through it I was offered a job on 'Punch', simply because the youngest member of staff had recently celebrated his fortieth birthday.' In his own eyes he was a late developer who : "At 23, despite having been in the army, I was still a very moony teenager."

He spent the next 17 years maturing on the editorial staff at Punch, reviewing mainly detective fiction and writing occasional verse, but sometimes slipping in a round-up of children's books and in a 1953 issue he recalled his own childhood favourite 'The Radium Seekers.'

Into his thirties in the 1960s, 'in the course of reviewing all those thrillers I had an idea for one of my own, and I sort of toyed with it in my mind for a couple of years. Then one evening I sat down in the kitchen and started to write it. never really thinking I was going to get very far. I started on page one, and that's what I still do, go from page one to the end all at once.'  Then, three quarters of the way through this, his first novel, he got stuck until he had a nightmare which effectively became the first chapter of 'The Weathermonger'. 'I wrote that book to unblock the first one, and then I started at the beginning of the other book, took a great run up to it and got it done. So effectively I became a children's writer and an adult writer all at the same time, unlike some adult book writers who have gone into children's books thinking, as it were.' He had started writing the two books in 1966 and they were completed and published in 1968. He was 41 years old.

His young family with Philippa, Dorothy and John, now came in handy in that he would entertain them with his stories in the car which carried through to his books : "My purpose in writing a children’s book is to tell a story, and everything is secondary to that; but when secondary considerations arise they have to be properly dealt with. Apart from that I like my stories exciting and as different as possible from the one I wrote last time.”
 
In this, his first book he thought : 'The Weathermonger is written in very good English, old-fashioned, almost 'teacher's' English. And I think that's very important in children's books' and as for his style ? : He liked it 'very much' 'I think its very flexible.' and said : 'I don't think about language level or an audience at all' although on another occasion "I have an audience of one, who is the hypothetical me at the age of twelve or thirteen."
 
After this he "had no conception that I was going to wrote any more in this series. People liked The Weathermonger, however, and I enjoyed writing it. Because machines are wicked, it is a wonderful world for children to have adventures in. It's not just that guns are out. Since society has fragmented, there is space for freedom of action that is not there in the modern world. You run away from home, and there aren't any police to come looking for you. Danger is somehow nearer. In my books, despite the fantasy element, I like the danger to be as real as I can make it. When people get hurt, they get hurt."

He followed 'The Weathermonger' in 1968 with 'Heartsease' during the writing of which he was : "fortunate enough to know somebody who could take me out on a tug on the Thames, and talk to me about old- fashioned tugs" and 'The Devil’s Children' in the two subsequent years which were dramatised as 'The Changes' by BBC TV and broadcast in 1975  : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjVqHVo0nq0&t=0m08s He set them in a contemporary England that had mysteriously reverted to the Middle Ages, where magic was seen as part of everyday life.
So Peter, imbued with the gift of putting himself into the shoes of his youthful protagonists created at the age of 45, in 'The Dancing Bear' in 1972, a Byzantine slave boy, fleeing rampaging Huns in the company of a tame bear, at 52 in 'Tulku', a missionary’s son, orphaned in the Boxer Rebellion and lost in the mountains of Tibet, at 62 in 'Eva' a 13-year-old girl in an over-populated future dystopia, whose memory has been transplanted to the brain of a chimp and the following year, a child guerrilla in a fictional African country in 'AK.'
.
He said of his work : "I like to write a story, not to get at my readers. I like to deal with any subject which comes up as honestly as it can be dealt with, whatever it is. If you're telling a story, you may raise questions about sin, betrayal, incest, whatever it might be, and if they come up, you have somehow or other got to cope with them; you can't just pretend they don't exist."

 Encapsulated his love of writing :
'When you're on form you just sit there having a controlled dream and it comes out at the tips of your fingers. There's nothing else like it.'

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Britain is no longer a country for and says "Farewell" to an old landscape painter and son of Yorkshire called Derek Hyatt

Derek, who was born the son of Dorothy and Albert, a turf accountant in 1931 in Ilkley, Yorkshire and whose paintings and drawings feature in the public and corporate collections at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Contemporary Art Society, London, the Universities of Leeds, Oxford, Harvard and Yale and the Nuffield Foundation, has died at the age of 84.

As a boy it was up on Ilkley Moor, on walks with his Grandfather that he learned to use his eyes, nose and ears and watch with concentration both animal life and death and the passing of the seasons and it was at Ilkley Gammar School during the Second World War that his talent was recognised and nurtured. He himself said that it was a large reproduction of Bruegel’s 'Hunters in the Snow' on display which aroused his interest. However, It wasn't landscape alone which inspired him, with one memorable sketching trip where he found a live grenade, caked in mud and missing its pin, and “cycled all the way back down from Langbar Moor with the grenade bouncing about in the basket on the front of my bike”; it was also a boy's interest in and accurate drawing of a Spitfire Mk IX which was rewarded by Dad with a sixpence.

At the age of 17 in 1948, he left home and took himself off to the Leeds College of Art, where he studied for four years and where he said Ruskin became and remained 'a star in his sky', followed by two years National Service in the RAF based in Norwich where he managed to take a part-time course at the School of Art. It was in Norwich that he discovered and admired the watercolours of John Sell Cotman in the Castle Museum.

In 1954, at the age of 23, London and the
Royal College of Art beckoned and supported by a 'J Andrew Lloyd Scholarship for Landscape Painting' he initially studied printmaking and although he soon moved to painting, the precision of line required of an etcher remained with him and central to his subsequent practice.

It was now that he was influenced by the colour-blocked landscapes of John Nash who had used the phrase genius loci – spirit of place – to describe the inherent energies of particular locations. Having graduated in 1957 he obtained a postgraduate fellowship for a year which saw him employed him as editor for three issues of the RCA's Journal 'ARK' which was making a significant contribution to postwar British art.

At the age of 26 he was already veering away from the mainstream and like Peter Lanyon, who he admired, favoured the abstract expressionists over the emerging American popular culture. In 1959 he started his teaching career at  Kingston School of Art 1959 and married Rosamond Rockey the following year and became a father to Sally two years after that and in 1964, leapt at the opportunity to take the family to his beloved Yorkshire when a teaching post came up at Leeds Polytechnic.

In the years that followed at Leeds hundreds of students benefited from his generous, quietly spoken advice and from the connections he wove with other art forms, especially dance. It was here that he collaborated with the mime artist Lindsay Kemp and with the poet Ted Hughes. Although he settled with the family in Collingham, near Wetherby, it was moors which he had known and loved in his youth which drew and inspired him and in 1975 at the age of 44, he bought a 17th-century farmhouse called 'Barker' in Bishopdale. It could only be reached by a precipitous and deeply rutted track and clung to the moor edge. From the window of his makeshift studio  he could see curlews and swallows passing at eye level and was thrilled by the sudden appearance of RAF jets from the nearby airbase, which reminded him of his 1940s wartime planespotting. It was here that he later recalled he "tasted another life, another time and history.”


"A delight is when I am sitting at my window and something clicks – a wall shape and a cloud shadow – and with a felt-tip pen and pad I can work through twenty or thirty variations. The idea comes and goes. It's really a mental exercise; you test how far your mind can discover yet another variation. Into the unknown. A game for one."

He thus proceeded to paint : the surrounding hills, the dry stone walls, the eerie moorland and the curlews and owls passing his window. For him, Andrew Lambirth in the 'The Spectator' noted, painting was 'not a record of appearances, but an investigation into the mysterious heart of things'.

"This is where I used to work in Bishopdale. A farmouse on a thousand foot contour and you look down into Bishopdale. This is Bishopdale Beck and this is the whorls, steep side, whorls going down. Curlews passing my window. Marvellous interactions. Movements."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybQYu4X3FlU&t=1m07s

Grey Rain and Signs (Malham)

"This is a painting of something that happened to me in Malham. It began to rain and I sheltered under a rock, an overhanging rock. And a wire came down from the rock and there was a big raindrop hanging on the wire, glistening like a jewel. That was the centre of the universe for now. That was special and unexpected. And all these other things came off it. Oh, what a moment. What a moment. This is just a moment when there's a wire fence, when there's this and this floating, and this and there's just a moment. And then there's a figure. Strange figure. One legged figure. A figure balancing on top of this creature. The limestone landscape is full of incredible shapes - the clints and the gripes where the limestone is worn away. So you're living in a landscape where things are worn away and little clues are wedged in the cracks and the crevices."
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybQYu4X3FlU&t=1m34s

Owls over Reva Cross

"Reva Cross is a big carved cross set into a drystone wall on Rombald's Way which is the packhorse route across the Pennines and I used to go there every wednesday at 11 o'clock and always something was happening around : the day of the Red Bull; the day of the Snowstorm; the day of the multiple rainbows. From a distance I'd seen two shapes circling round the cross. and realised there were two short eared owls doing their mating display round each other. Round each other. And I thought : 'Oh. never see that again. What an event. What a marvellous event and I think the best thing to do to remember it is the mime it with my hands. To play it out. To mime it like Lyndsay Kemp might do.' These owls were circling round each other. The male under the female. Circling round underneath almost touching. I'd never see that again. The owl. The nest. The egg. The bird. The entrance. Suggestions. The bracken. Another shape. And the shape balancing, just about to fall over. The shapes of the birds. The sun. The moon. The planets. Death. The threat. Whatever this is."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybQYu4X3FlU&t=3m08s

Lunar Eclipse, Reva Cross

"I've suggested a figure on it. That position, which is a strong traditional image of a figure on a cross. I'm not religious, it's just the idea of a figure at the mercy of the elements. 'I am at the mercy of what happens'. Above it I've got spheres and these are suggesting an eclipse and I imagine it's a special time. There was an eclipse. If you were a magician or a shaman you could foretell there was an elipse coming. If you could say : "Tomorrow I will darken the moon" or "tomorrow I will darken the sun." What power that would give you over the tribe or group of people you were with. So there's something of that in it. There's something of bracken in it. There's something of a man hiding in the bottom. There's something of the green man. The green man is an image which we see in churches and it is a man looking out though vegetation. It is a man with vegetation growing out of his mouth. And this must have been a key image for these small tribes in prehistoric times, seeing a man in the undergrowth.  "A Friend or foe ? 'Is it a foe who will steal my women and steal my crops, steal my goods ?' Is it a threat or is it a friend ? Do I recognise it as someone who will help me through a bad day ?" A face looking at him is part of the image."
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybQYu4X3FlU&t=5m17s

"I think paintings should be touched. I think you should look at them and I think you should talk about them and you should dream about them and tell youself stories. And there no right answer. My answer isn't any better than yours.".
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ybQYu4X3FlU&t=8m35s

Derek had his work presented on a 'BBC Your Paintings' slide show :
http://www.bbc.co.uk/arts/yourpaintings/artists/derek-james-hyatt/paintings/slideshow#/9

                "The landscape enters our bodies
                           ....we dance its life"

                      What better epitaph for an old shaman-artist ?

Bishopdale