The London Group in 1981

There are now over 100 members in the Group which is a record. London Group archivist David Redfern looks back at 1981, a year which saw a bumper crop of new members.

The following is an extract from “The London Group: a history 1913-2013” for the year 1981.

“…The Group held its AGM at the Morley Gallery on the 15th January whilst the two shows were installed. (There were two exhibitions currently on show, “London Group in Southwark Exhibition” at the South London Gallery and Morley Gallery) Twenty-three members attended with four apologies. Most of the discussion centred on some members not paying their annual subscriptions. Surprisingly, or perhaps because of the low income from subscriptions, the meeting proposed to raise the annual subscription from £5 to £10 per year in 1982! Under ‘New Membership’, “Stan Smith (President) reported that selection for new membership had taken place on the second afternoon of the selection for the exhibition, but for a variety of reasons not all prospective members had been voted on”. (Whatever that might mean!) This year saw a huge intake of new members injecting fresh blood into the Group. Twenty-two artists became new members of The London Group. They were Martin Ball, Evelyn Ballantine, Adrian Bartlett, Lindsay Davidson, Ken Draper, John Epstein, Keith Grant, Mel Gordon, Jane Humphrey, Michael Heindorff, Gillian Ingham, Jane Joseph, Roger Kite, Robin Klassnik, Victor Kuell, William Mills, Mike Pope, Peter Richmond, John Roberts, Elma Thubron, Harry Thubron and S. Torrents. It would appear that this was how the huge intake of twenty-two new members was accomplished, by electing new members straight from those artists who had been successful in the open submission. This was probably not according to the rules laid out in The London Group constitution, Stan Smith was known for his cavalier attitude to rules and procedures. (Vice President at the time was John Bellany, another artist well known for his lust for life.) At least the Group now had twenty-two more annual subscriptions coming in.”

If you’re wondering what was happening in the rest of the world, here’s another extract from “The History”. “Greece joins the European Economic Community. The Social Democrat Party is launched in the UK splintering from Labour and eventually merging with the Liberal party. Prince Charles marries Lady Diana Spencer. First reports of AIDS. There is inner-city unrest in Brixton (London) and Toxteth (Liverpool). Salman Rushdie writes “Midnight’s Children”, the film “Chariots of Fire” is released and Bob Marley dies.” Some interesting parallels.

Before the twenty-two were elected, membership had stood at sixty-nine which would have brought in very little subscription income. The Working Committee organising these two shows included our good friend Arthur Wilson who sadly passed away recently. Working with him on the committee were legend Albert “Bert” Irvin RA and current member Anthony Whishaw RA elected in 1978 and one of our longest serving members. Jane Humphrey is also still an active member of the Group fulfilling the arduous task of designing the catalogues for our Open and Annual exhibitions. Adrian Bartlett was to become President in1993, Jane Joseph worked at Morley, Roger Kite worked for many years at ACME, Robin Klassnik set up Matts Gallery and Harry Thubron was a radical educationalist. Gill tells me that all twenty-two new members were accepted on the proviso that they had been exhibited in at least three previous Opens!

David Redfern, March 2020

The Working Committee in 1982 on the steps of the Camden Arts Centre. Standing front, President Stan Smith, seated, Vice President John Bellany and immediately behind him in the dark pullover Arthur Wilson.