11 Things That Wouldn't Exist Without Goldsmiths

For more than 100 years, Goldsmiths, University of London has revelled in its reputation as a home for creative, challenging, and visionary people. Here are a few reminders of some of the wonderful things which wouldn't exist without Goldsmiths…

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1. The mini skirt

Style London / Via

Mary Quant described Goldsmiths as “a great place to go – for causing trouble!” And Mary caused a whole host of trouble when she popularised the miniskirt. This new look revolutionised the fashion world, and allowed women more liberating and daring ways of dressing, which chimed with the dawning of a new era.

Perhaps less well known is the fact that Quant was also the woman who introduced tights to the world. As Mary explains: “They didn’t exist you know! There were only pantomime tights for theatre. I went to theatrical tights manufacturers and got them to make them for me with the colours I wanted.”

Mary came to Goldsmiths in 1950 where she embarked on an art diploma course with a view to becoming an art teacher.

2. The Angel of the North

Acclaimed sculptor Antony Gormley, recently knighted in the 2014 New Year Honours list for services to the arts, studied BA Fine Art at Goldsmiths in the late 1970s, and since then has enjoyed a career as one of Britain’s most critically acclaimed artists.

Antony is probably best known for his ‘Angel of the North’ sculpture (pictured), one of the most talked about pieces of public art ever produced. The figure – which is the height of four double decker buses – dominates the Gateshead landscape on which it stands, and typifies his preoccupation with encouraging us to reconsider the elemental world we live in.

Gormley has recently been back to Goldsmiths to help them choose designs for a new gallery that will capitalise on the Laurie Grove Baths.

3. The MOBO Awards

Entrepreneur Kanya King MBE remortgaged her house to put on the first ever MOBO Awards in 1996. Nowadays, the awards show attracts an audience worldwide of over 250 million people. As well as the awards show, MOBO works to support undiscovered talent and provides training and mentoring opportunities for young people in music.

Kanya studied at Goldsmiths as a mature student and said: "Goldsmiths has a formidable reputation for someone who’s passionate about the creative industries. I was very proud when I was accepted."

4. Bestival

Once a year, huge crowds flock to the Isle of Wight for festival, dressed in fancy dress with crates of beer, all for Bestival. And this wouldn't happen every year if not for the hard work of DJ and record producer Rob da Bank and his wife Josie, who both met at Goldsmiths.

Rob recently spoke about his time studying French at Goldsmiths in a piece in The Guardian, where he admitted using his grant money to go "raving with my wife."

5. The Routemaster London Bus

Neil Hubbard is a project designer at Heatherwick Studios. He worked on the New Bus for London, overseeing the design from inception through to detail and manufacture.

Neil studied BA Design at Goldsmiths. He said it was “perfect for me in the sense that it was wonderfully vague, and I mean that in the most positive manner! We were taught about both the process and the thinking behind design. It helped to unconsciously steer you towards what it was that you are interested in.”

6. Mogees

View this video on YouTube

Released in stores in 2015, Mogees will make it possible to play music with any object simply using your phone. They were invented by Bruno Zamborlin while he studied his PhD in Arts and Computer Science at Goldsmiths. Mogees analyse and detect vibrations to turn any object, be it a bench, a window, a table or a balloon, into an instrument!

If you can't wait until 2015, have a look at the video above.

7. Chariots of Fire

One of the most famous scenes in film history (who can forget Mr Bean's parody during the Olympic Opening Ceremony?) may not have existed if it wasn't for Goldsmiths.

Actor and screenwriter Colin Welland won an Oscar at the 1982 Academy Awards for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) for the box office smash Chariots of Fire. His acceptance speech famously included the often-quoted phrase: “the British are coming!” He has acted alongside stars including Richard Burton, Helen Mirren and Alison Steadman, and won a BAFTA for his role in Ken Loach's Kes.

Colin studied Education at Goldsmiths in 1957, and after a career as an art teacher in Lancashire, he started pursuing his long-held passion for acting. In 1969 he made his big-screen debut as encouraging schoolteacher Mr Farthing in Ken Loach’s critically acclaimed Kes, winning a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.

8. The YBAs

Saatchi Gallery

The Young British Artists (or YBAs) is the name given to group of artists who first began to exhibit together in London, in 1988. A lot of the artists who fell into the YBA category graduated from the BA Fine Art course at Goldsmiths. Artists included Sarah Lucas, Damien Hirst, Michael Craig-Martin and Sam Taylor Johnson.

They were controversial and galvanised public opinion, but one cannot dispute that they revitalised British art. A whole new generation of contemporary galleries (like White Cube) popped up as a result of them, and their impact is still felt in the world of art to this day.

Many went on to win the Turner Prize for their work, including Grenville Davey and Damien Hirst. And even more were nominated.

9. Blur

Britpop went hand in hand with the YBAs, and no one was as Britpop as Blur.

Blur formed at Goldsmiths. Guitarist Graham Coxon studied Art, whilst bassist Alex James studied French. They played their first ever gig at the Students' Union in 1989, and, upon reforming in 2009 to do some reunion shows, went back to where it all began.

10. Hacked Off

As a founding member of the Media Reform Coalition and a director of Hacked Off (alongside Hugh Grant, pictured), Natalie Fenton from the Department of Media and Communications has been an influential voice in the debate around media reform.

Her research has been particularly influential in the run up to, during and post-Leveson inquiry. As she explains: “After extensive research with a team of colleagues revealed a crisis in the news it was an obvious next step to take that knowledge to the Leveson inquiry.

“Engaging with other campaign groups and mobilising civil society to try and maximise influence was all part of the process of trying to use our research to make a difference."

11. Punk

Upon the death of Malcolm McLaren, the Times said of his influence on pop culture: “the sudden arrival of punk, for which McLaren could claim much responsibility, marked a Year Zero for music, fashion and the popular arts.”

Malcolm's punk revolution began at a clothes shop on the King’s Road, Chelsea. Here, he encouraged his then girlfriend Vivienne Westwood (who he had met as an art student at Goldsmiths) to design and stock bondage and fetish inspired fashion, in order to tap into the emerging British punk market.

The shop became the place to hang out for aspiring punk musicians, including members of the as yet unformed Sex Pistols. It was McLaren who built the band from the ground up; assigning instruments to customers who he thought had the right look and attitude, and managing their transformation from nobodies to one of the most feared and respected punk outfits in the world.