Another artist talks out about the closures of traditional workshops in Portmouth University

Bouke de Vries 'War and pieces'
Bouke de Vries ‘War and pieces’

Ceramic artist Bouke de Vries held a lecture in Porstmouth Aspex gallery where he said it was very short sight of the University to close down the ceramics workshop. I strongly agree with this and being that I hadn’t written anything on this blog to do with my experiences on the matter I thought now would be a good time to document a few things.

I studied at Portsmouth University. I done my foundation year there and then follwed on to do the BA Fine Art degree. I found myself working with clay half way through my second year and really taking advantage of the ceramic workshop. Without this facility I feel I would have been loosing out and potentially not having the passion for art I do now. When I graduated I continued on to do a voluntary internship within the ceramics workshop along side the head technician. Within this time I got wind of plans to cut the ceramics workshop, small metals/ jewelry workshop, BA 3d design degree, Foundation year alongside all the job losses which would accompany this. Obviously I was very upset by this and felt it only right that people should know this secretive and destructive information.

Me with my degree show piece 'ceramic totem pole, brand baby nation'
Me with my degree show piece ‘ceramic totem pole, brand baby nation’
front of eldon
Front of Eldon building, Portsmouth University

I began by informing the students within the University of these planned closures and cuts. To my surprise not many people had a clue about the closures which seemed very sneaky to me. The meetings I held among students began to make some impact so it was agreed a peaceful protest would be held outside of Eldon building on Wednesday 26th October 2011. We held banner making workshops, students designed anti cuts prints and stickers the whole thing was very peaceful and pleasant. A few days before the protest I was told I was to loose my voluntary internship due to a facebook group I had created to invite and inform people of the cuts within the uni apparently it was a conflict of interest to my internship. This was quite a distressing time for myself and many of the lecturers within the uni, everyone was on edge of loosing their jobs and I think after seeing how easily I was dismissed this made people even more nervous. I had much support from the lecturers union and outside support from socialist workers and other union members. My past tutor John Molynuex supported myself and lecturers through out this period who I am very grateful with his kind words and efforts to attempt tp prevail these closures.

John Molynuex mask I wore to speak out his statement out one of the demo’s
Made by Rachal Victoria Wisniak student on the Fine Art degree

save tradit

Follow the links to some articles written by local newspapers and student newspapers.

Below taken from Portsmouth student newspaper. A photography student writes in complaining of cuts and closures.


Below taken from Portsmouth student newspaper. An article to inform people of the protest to take place over the cuts and closures to the arts..


Below taken from Portsmouth student newspaper ‘The Galleon’. Describing the protest and also the sacking of me from my internship.

Below taken from Portsmouth local newspaper covering our first peaceful protest outside of Eldon building.

speaking out about the cuts!
speaking out about the cuts!

Below taken from the second protest rallied outside Eldon. Written by Portsmouth local newspaper.

Breaking new

Below is taken from the supposed to be ‘glam’ photo shoot of Sheila Hancock,Vice Councillor John Craven and Dean of Eldon building Simon Claridge breaking the ground outside of the university to show the beginning of the new build but no mention of loss of jobs and closures of workshop in order to make this new build. Myself and a group of other activists sabotaged the shoot with a great interview from student and comrade Sam Bogg.

Sheila Hancock ‘breaking ground’

Also a video was recorded on the day of the shoot putting the vice Councillor John Craven and Dean Simon Claridge on the spot to ask some questions over the cuts, job losses and my unfair dismissal. Thanks again to Sam Bogg.

Continuing the no cuts to eldon campaign 

Myself and some friends from the university including Johnny Haymer organised a music and art evening to get people together to discuss tactics on keeping the workshops from being axed. We walked along side 3000 people in Portsmouth on the 30th November 2011 for a national day of action in protest against government plans to change public sector pensions where I stood up and expressed my concern with Portsmouth Universities politics and how it treats its staff and students.

3000 strong in Portsmouth guildhall
3000 strong in Portsmouth guildhall


music and awareness night
music and awareness night
me and mo the best ceramic technician EVER
me and mo the best ceramic technician EVER
Bouke_mask1 copy 2
bouke de vries

Bouke de Vries Speaking out along side Grayson Perry

I find it quite ironic that a University who has dismissed its ceramics is then to invite a ceramic artist to talk to its students. I took the below quote from the ticket purchasing site

‘Commissioned as part of artSOUTH : collaborations by the University of Portsmouth Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries in collaboration with Portsmouth City Museums, Archives and Visitor Services and aspex, Bouke de Vries has selected a single 19th century glass from the collection to create a ‘ghost’ vessel on exhibition ataspex.’

See the artist Bouke de Vries here

Grayson Perry with one of his pots
Grayson Perry with one of his pots

After artist Bouke de Vries had finished the lecture I had a friend ask his opinion of the workshop closures to which he replied ‘I think it was very short sighted of the university to close the workshops as ceramics is becoming popular again’. This was a similar response to what his friend Grayson Perry replied when doing an interview with ‘The times higher education’. As Grayson Perry attended Portsmouth University when it was a polytechnic receiving his BA in Fine Art saying “To make good objects you need to have a relationship with the material. When I was a student we were allowed to use any department – woodwork, ceramics, painting”. Read here the article with Grayson Perry –

Another article by Artlyst and Grayson Perry speaking out about the cuts.

Article by Portsmouth News over Grayson Perry talking out about the cuts.

Time to let go

Although the ‘no cuts to eldon campaign’ was becoming strong, I was becoming weak. I had moved back to my hometown of Southampton where I found myself a nice spot in a pottery studio. I had begun making art again which I loved and I was loosing my fight. The decision to close the workshops had been made and the motions were going forward. It was sad to let go of the campaign but it was starting to bring me down, I had been treated very badly by certain staff at Portsmouth University and for that I will always remember. I am unsure of how the University is now and what progress has been made I only feel bad for the students within it who have not the luxury of these great workshops which once were. As student fees go up it seems the quality of the education is coming down, what a backwards thing that is.


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