Tales of the Presidency

“Despite many retellings, this story cannot be ignored. 1983 saw a memorable incident in the Group that still resonates and is retold around the campfires like an ancient Nordic legend.” London Group Archivist David Redfern LG  

“1981 Group photo”, Seated from the left, Stan Smith, John Bellany. Standing behind Smith is Dennis Creffield.

It began with Dennis Creffield’s election as President at the AGM on Friday, 17th June at the Royal College of Art following incumbent president Stan Smith’s indisposition. An unremarkable agenda for the AGM had been circulated on which Stan Smith was recorded as President and John Bellany as Vice President. Robert Coward remembered the following, “Stan Smith was unable to attend because of a hospital operation when Dennis Creffield was put forward for election as president in opposition to Stan. The voting was a tie and the vice-president, John Bellany, who was acting as chair of the meeting in Stan’s absence, cast a casting vote in favour of Creffield, thus appointing him as president. There was an uproar when it was discovered that Bellany had already voted for Stan in the original vote.” However, at an Extraordinary General Meeting held at Morley College on 5th November to sort the mess out and attended by twenty-two members, the following minutes were recorded:

Minutes of the last meeting:
Due to some confusion at the previous meeting there were no minutes available for the items on the agenda dealt with there.
Matters arising:
Dennis Creffield explained the events at the meeting in May (sic) at which the business was left incomplete. He had recently resigned the Presidency to which he had been elected then because he said that there were doubts in some minds as to the constitutional correctness of the whole thing.
It was agreed that a copy of the constitution should be sent to each member.

Stan Smith then assumed the position of Acting President and the meeting then confirmed his re-election, with Brian Fielding as Vice-President and Adrian Bartlett as Honorary Secretary. Dark rumblings persist to this day as to the power struggle smouldering beneath the cool objectivity of these minutes. Honorary Member Mike Liggins recounts the following story, “While invigilating with Victoria Bartlett last week (Open Exhibition 2009) she regaled me with a splendid anecdote of an encounter (at her and Adrian’s own house) between Stan Smith and Dennis Creffield, apparently in regard to the disputed outcome of a Presidential election, in which the two had descended into fisticuffs. Smith, unbeknown to Creffield, had once been a welterweight boxing champion and accordingly got much the better of the bout, which included knocking over the piano.”


Following the Second World War the Group needed a competent administrator. Ruskin Spear, president from 1948 to 1950, didn’t really fit the bill as he admitted to “not being very good with figures”. One presumes the figures he means here are sums of money and not people in pictures. The Group also needed some ‘blue-sky’ thinking to lift it out of its post-war torpor. Mindful of Bonaparte’s observation that an army marches on its stomach, newly elected president Claude Rogers hit upon the idea of an AGM with supper. The 1954 AGM was a grand affair taking place on Wednesday 31st March at Bertorelli’s Restaurant in Charlotte Street. After the AGM beginning at 6.15pm members were invited to a dinner at 8pm, a bar being available from 5.45pm. Tickets cost 8/6 per head, excluding drinks. In a circular to members, F.T. Nash, the Honorary Treasurer, wrote, “As members are aware, the names of artists of established reputation may be submitted for election to the (sic) London Group at the Annual General Meeting.” Thirty-five members attended the event, the dinner obviously attracting a larger number of members than usual at previous AGMs. Roy de Maistre and Martin Froy were elected that year and probably had a good supper to thank for that. Does our new president Amanda Loomes have a favourite restaurant?

David Redfern LG, Nov 2021

“Reading 1968-9”, Claude Rogers, Professor of Fine Art, Reading University, seated centre. Standing behind in black PVC mac, the author
“1936 Int Sur Exh”, Salvador Dali is in the diver’s helmet. To his right is Diana Brinton-Lee, to his left Rupert Lee. Dali was rescued from asphyxiation by a quick-thinking Eileen Agar.