Friday, December 18, 2015

The Founders of the Umbrella

Bill Berrett has identified that -

"The real movers in early Umbrella Club were Terry Watson, Neil Stair (an English teacher who did the White Devil by Webster) Geoffrey Saunders (I can't recall what his work was, but he made a great contribution to the early building decor), Rex Chell and Stanley Sellers, Architects from the City Department. All these did most of the work and negotiation."

I don't have a lot of information about them but I do know, is here. I have already created a post about Terrence Watson (Chair and Vice chair and editor of Umbrella Magazine) and a page for his new poetry book.

Neil was an English teacher who did the White Devil - a play by Webster at St. Mary's Hall, Coventry, for Umbrella Club in the 50's.

White Devil on Youtube.

Geoff Sauders was a founding member of the Umbrella Club, a writer, artist and who wrote for the Umbrella magazine as Geoffrey Demdike.  He was also a founding member of the magaine and wrote an article called Smedley's Hydro, Smedley's Hydropathic Instituition in Matlock, in the magazine here page 17 of the pdf of Umbrella Vol1 1958.

Geoff also designed the cover of this issue of Umbrella - here - 

Geoff Saunders is mentioned here
Peter Eugene Ball
  is a prolific British sculptor, whose work can be found in over 60 churches. Born in 1943, Ball attended Coventry school of Art where he met Geoffrey Saunders, an art history tutor, with whom he made a photographic survey of Romanesque carvings and prehistoric monuments throughout the United Kingdom.

Rex was still a Coventry Archtect in the 1970's and designed the link between the new and old Council house in Coventry, along with other projects.

A Coventry Architect and founding member of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club.

An obituary December 1933 — 5 April 2013 Honorary Vice-President (2008); Friends of Birmingham Museums &Art Gallery
Stanley was born in Bordesley Green and educated in Birmingham. At 17, he enrolled in the Birmingham School of Architecture, after graduating in 1955, he joined Coventry City Council, moving 4 years
later to join James A Roberts Associates; who were the designers of the Rotunda and had their offices
on the top floor. He stayed with them for 21 years subsequently moving to the ISH Partnership for a further 11 years up to his retirement. Stanley’s list of major architectural projects is large and varied; and includes Mander Centre in Wolverhampton with, at the time, a controversial Barbara Hepworth bronze which won a Civic Trust Award; the Solihull Library and Arts Centre which won a Civic Trust Commendation; The Loft Theatre in Leamington Spa; Wrexham Library and Arts Centre, as well as a whole range of buildings in Solihull and Birmingham City Centre.

He was also a talented and respected potter in his own right, a passionate connoisseur, collector of the visual and applied arts, and an incredibly well informed music lover. In his 20s Stanley was a frequent visitor to St Ives and was a close friend of Barbara Hepworth, as well as socialising with Bernard Leach and many others from within the St Ives ‘School’. He was a member of  the Friends for many years, later serving as Treasurer; he was created Honorary Vice-President in 2008. Stanley continued to support and advised on the Friends events and activities until earlier this year. He was a passionate supporter of the Museum and its work.

Stanley had a supportive 44 year partnership with Richard Butt, a respected Radio3 Producer and long
term Conductor of the Birmingham Bach Choir. Their home in Solihull was a happy and welcoming environment to their many and varied friendships. They were great supporters of CBSO and Birmingham Royal Ballet and Sir Peter and Lady Knight were friends as were Benjamin Britten, Peter Pears and Imogen Holst. He was extraordinarily knowledgeable and interesting to talk to on a host of subjects, never losing his enthusiasm and interest in the world about him, he will be sadly missed by many. A week before he died he told one of his cousin’s he had had a wonderful life, had met many great, good and famous people and that, ’that’s not bad for a boy from the back streets of Birmingham’.

Stanley has made a very generous and significant bequest to Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery that is both a testament to his commitment to the Museum and also to his extraordinary life, his excellent ‘eye’, his intelligence and incredible knowledge. It is hoped that next year there will be an exhibition based on his bequest. At Stanley’s request his family sold his pottery collection and the proceeds from this sale were split between Solihull Association for the Blind and the Friends of Birmingham Museums. He also included the Friends as one of only two beneficiaries of donations in his memory.
Graham Allen, A Friend as well as a Trustee of Birmingham Museums Trust

Sunday, December 13, 2015


The Coventry Arts Umbrella Club has published a selection of  Terrence Watson's poems under the editorial direction of Bob Wright and this book is now available at all major booksellers (including Amazon). The publisher is Earlsdon-based Takahe Publishing Ltd. Terry was a leading light in the Coventry Umbrella Club that was formally established in 1955 and continues to this day.

You can find out more about Terry and a link to his new book of poetry here

Terry Watson was born Terence Charles Watson in 1920. He was educated at the Stationers' Company School in London studied at Magdalen College Oxford under the tutorial guidance of C S Lewis. His studies were interrupted by service in the RAF in the Second World War and he finally graduated in 1947. He taught for five years at Cottesmore School and came to Coventry in 1955 to take up a post teaching English and Art at King Henry VIII School in Coventry. He became a leading light in the Coventry Umbrella Club that was formally established in 1955 and continues to this day. One of Terry's earliest role at the Umbrella was as editor of the club's well respected literary magazine Umbrella, which boasted work by likes of Philip Larkin and E.M. Forster. Terry shared his wide ranging skills with the Umbrella,as literary editor, poet, theatre director, painter and exhibition curator and promoter as well as heading up the Umbrella Club organisation.  Above all he was passionate about encouraging artistic creativity in others,especially those who seemed to lack confidence in their own potential. In later years he taught Creative Writing at Tile Hill College and in his 70's became interested in yoga and practised to the degree that he qualified as a teacher of Yoga (Sironami Tejas) in Florida USA.He was proud to be made Freeman of the City of London and a member of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and newspaper Makers.Terry passed away in 2009 at the age of 89. This volume was edited by Bob Wright and includes a range of Terry's poetical works including of his war poems written in active service.

Sample poems -


of the sea
fell sheer

So her hair
glittering shines and falls

Waves of her hair
shimmer and fall
away and fall

fall swaying

and shine

and fall

of the sea
fall sheer

So her hair
glittering shines
and falls

Terence Watson 1968

Terry Watson's War Poems are brave, heartfelt and observant and some are included in this anthology - here's an example.

Infantryman (1939 - 1945)

Now the time has come for the heavy artillery
Loud-voiced, and to swing high over my head,
Fierce herald of the attack, ribbing the sky.
The planes above are creeping over the earth's ceiling.
Light feels towards the grey, unknown antagonist.
Now the mountainous iron tanks, inhuman, unfeeling
Throb with the surge of their powerful, harsh-tongued engines.
Grind forward,splintering stones with steel feet.
Now is the time to slide back the silver bolt
And press the austere round up the rifle's spout,
To run a sensitive finger along the cool bayonet,
To ease the web straps straining the shoulder blades,
To crush the last cigarette under the boot heel.
For we are near the end of our journey
And the setting down of burdens.
Like children from school we shall burst
Into this playground, and the choice
Of two freedoms shall be decided for us.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Citizen Advice Bureau and The Umbrella Club at 97, Little Park Street.

Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau shared the 97, Little Park Street, premises between 1955 and 1957 according to Mark Cook, who is working on a research project telling the story of 75 years of the Citizens Advice Bureau in Coventry. If you have any information or memories of the CAB and especially if you remember them at 97, Little Park Street, Coventry 1955 - 7, you can contact mark Cook at email or via their Facebook page -

Mark Cook wrote us thus -

I've just been reading your website about the Umbrella Club, fascinating stuff!
I’m running a history project for Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau, we’re celebrating 75 years of the bureau in 2015, and we occupied 97 Little Park Street from 1955-57, obviously at the same time as the Umbrella Club. I’ve tracked down Richard Sadler to talk to him and talk about his photos of the opening, but I’m also intrigued by the following comment taken from the website:

Recent Comment
This received from Jean Jennings (neé Gough) April 13, 2013 at 7:13 AM

"Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories of the Umbrella Club. I was a very keen member in the 50's, assisting Terry Watson with the secretarial jobs and publicity. I remember him bringing to the club the first electric typewriter - a scary monster. He was truly an inspired person and brought such enthusiasm to the club.

One problem that I have is with the given date of the inception of the club. I distinctly remember going there in 1953 - and it had been active a while before then. Can anybody confirm this?
Jean Jennings (neé Gough)

Mark Cook wrote -
"We have some dates and references to when we occupied the building, so happy to share these. I’m wondering if Jean has any memories of us sharing the building? Could you ask her if I can contact her?"

I don't have a direct cont for Jean but if Jean see this or if anyone can throw any light on an earlier occupation of 97, Little Park Street than the official opening of 1955, then please get in contact.

Meanwhile Mark Cook posted these two photos on their Facebook page. The latter is already on this site but i hadn't seen the photo with the Citizens Advice header on before - 

The Lord Mayor's car, a Humber Super Snipe MkIII, outside the CAB offices for the opening
of  The Umbrella Club.

The Goons opening the Umbrella Club 1955

Mark Cook on the BBC Coventry - Bob Brolly show talking about the CAB Project.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Umbrella Club Planning Permissions

This pdf file was downloaded from the Coventry Planning Department's site. I tried to link to it but somehow there was an error message, so have uploaded it here to the Umbrella Club site. It forms a interesting paper trail of planning permissions and renewals of the Queen Victoria Road premises from the early to mid 1960's and hopefully will facilitate anyone researching the arts in Coventry or the Umbrella Club itself.

To enlarge, click Pop out - top right


Barbara Russon - Visual Artist. Exhibition for the Umbrella Club 1995.

Barbara Russon
Barbara Russon was a visual artist, who sadly passed away in 2007. Among her many exhibitions, she Coventry Arts Umbrella Club in 1995, which I think was at the Coventry Evening Telegraph offices and Coventry Cathedral. I wasn't living in Coventry at that stage so wasn't able to see it but she was a fascinating artist who, as it states on her website -
held one for the
"was born in Wednesbury in the heart of the English Black Country. Her inspiration has greatly been drawn from areas such as Ironbridge, and the Midland Canals, with a special interest in Bridges, Iron, Brick, Stone and Concrete.

Barbara studied at Wolverhampton College of Art, taught Art in Sri Lanka, has illustrated the West Sussex Gazette, has designed silk screen for decorative glassware, has illustrated and designed for Iliffe Publications, has worked as a scenic artist at Pitlochry Festival Theatre, and has painted six pantomimes, at the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, and the Belgrade Theatre, Coventry.

But Barbara is best known for her explorative and prolific artwork, for the strength of her canvasses, and for her imaginative interpretation of romantic and feminine themes."

1995Umbrella Club, Spon End, Coventry;
Coventry Evening Telegraph; Coventry Cathedral.

A visit to her website will reveal more about her work and exhibitions, which encompasses Canals and Bridges - Places and Romances, Ironbridge and Coalbrookdale, William Shakespeare Plays - illustrations, Kenilworth castle and family and Friends.

Barbara Russon's Website

A Couple of Examples of her work.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bill Berrett - Architect, Writer, poet, designer and Coventry Umbrella Club Member

Bill Berrett, born in Birmingham in 1933, was an architect. Town Planner, Writer, poet, book designer and
Bill Berrett
Lecturer and worked  in Coventry for the City of Coventry, Dept of Architecture & Planning. 1955 1961. He was an early member of the Coventry Arts Umbrella Club which was opened in 1955 in Little Park Street by the Goons, who were appearing in Coventry at that time. The Umbrella was largely founded largely by the Coventry Architects department and, looking at Bill's interesting website, he clearly has a substantial interest in the arts and while architecture may be thought of as a technical skill set, looking at his work, there is a great deal of art in his work.

I had just started primary school when the Umbrella Club opened in 1955 and so my knowledge of that period is second hand, so it's good to learn more about some of the fascinating people that were involved during that early period.

Radburn Housing Development
It was interesting too to learn that Bill lived on a Coventry estate based on the ‘Radburn’ housing development designed by Mat Wallace using ‘No-Fines’ construction. That would be Willenhall Wood,_New_Jersey and also here
which built and complete c 1958 / 9 and at that stage in it's history was a beautiful estate and a great place to be brought up. More recent visits show it have decline somewhat - and what a shame. The Radburn design began in Radburn New Jersey in 1929 aimed to incorporate modern planning principles, which were then being introduced into England's Garden Cities, following ideas advocated by urban planners Ebenezer Howard, Sir Patrick Geddes and Clarence Perry. Radburn was explicitly designed to separate traffic by mode, with a pedestrian path system that does not cross any major roads at grade. Radburn introduced the largely residential "superblock" and is credited with incorporating some of the earliest culs-de-sac in the United States. More can be read here

The 'Radburn' design is typified by the backyards of homes facing the street and the fronts of homes facing
each other over common yards. Willenhall Wood was just like that, with the tradesman's entrance at the back and open space with trees and lawn out of the front and french windows at the rear. It was a very aesthetic estate to grow up on. I grew up in Laneside and the front can be seen above.

I grew up on the other side of this picture but the house behind the lady was the home of Drummer Steve Harrison, who frequented the Umbrella Club c 1970 / 71 and played with The Mick Green Blues band and many others, including L'homme de Terre, c 1981, filmed at the Memorial Park in Coventry where Bill did some of his Coventry work.

Bill Berrett tells his own story very well on his own website  - Here

His career spans from Birmingham to Coventry to Milton Keynes and many places in between. in Coventry he worked with Arthur Ling and began work on urban design of central areas at Hertford Street, Bull Yard, Union Street, Unity Way, St John’s and areas affected by the Ring Road then being planned. Also I worked on street furniture for the cross precinct and Shelton Square. I worked ‘across the board’ with Ray Spaxman, and more. It's evident from his site that many of the coventry architects went on to share their influence on so many innovative and prestigious projects around the country, and Bill traces this. the site is full of interesting illustrations of designs and also some his many book illustrations. About 1981, Bill took up a post as senior lecturer at Leeds University and was there during the period I taught for Leeds University on the Creative Writing programme for their Middlesbrough base.

It's well worth a look through Bill's site and here's the one or two illustrations to hopefully lead the way to his website -

Part of his work for Coventry's Memorial Park -
From Bill Berrett's website

An example Bill Berrett's Book design

Writing collection by an Architect and Environment Designer - Bill Berrett - who has worked on Cities, taught in Universities and designed for Poets and Writers. The creative process is similar whatever the medium, words are the current tools. Interest in men's current role in the world.
His book of poetry and other are avaiable on Lulu here  for men at Work - Poems

And for his other books and Lulu profile

Gentlefolk - Norman Wheatley's Folk Podcast.

Norman Wheatley contributed to the Umbrella poetry extravaganza - Knotted Sheets - at the Belgrade Theatre, 1971 and organised by poet Geoff Pegg. Norman also took part, playing at various Umbrella Club folk sessions in the early 70's.

Moreover he ran the folk programme Gentlefolk on BBC Radio Birmingham, later on Radio Mercia and now as a monthly podcast on the internet. It's still an excellent program covering both the Midland's folk scene and more national acts with music, interviews and information. The beauty of the podcast is that you can listen to it whenever you want - you're not tied down to be near a radio at a certain time and can catch up with past shows too. Do give it a listen - Norman is an excellent and professional presenter, every word crystal clear and entertaining.

Listen here -        

Norman Wheatley in the 70's 

The Umbrella Club - Who Gives a Jot?

Jot do! Jot is blogger site to "A place to record information. Facts, Data,Trivia, Ephemera, Knowledge from any source - Letters, Diaries, Manuscripts, Journals, Notebooks, Recipes, Anecdotes, Reports, Art, Files, Snapshots, Documents, Formulas, Catalogues, Press cuttings, Memoirs, Tales, Eyewitness accounts ('I was there'), 'I once met...', Quotations, Found Objects & Total Trivia" and can be found here with this link going specifically to their post on the Umbrella Club.

Nice that Jot have given space to the Umbrella Club. The article focuses on an issue of Umbrella Magazine, the pdf of which can be found on this site (along with some other issues of the Umbrella's Literary magazine from the late 50's / early 60's. 

It describes the early incarnation of the Umbrella Club at Little Park Street in the 50's as -
 In 1960 it described itself as:

‘an independent, non-political, non profitmaking organisation for encouraging interest in art music, music, literature, the theatre and kindred subjects. It arranges lectures, recitals, dramatic performances and many related activities’ 

and the editorial policy of the magazine as stated in the magazine as requesting material that ‘paints a portrait of life in the Midlands, and which reflect or interpret: such problems as labour relations, race relations, the world of the teenager, the changing patterns of family life in a mobile society and the attitudes of the citizen of today to the established institutions of the past’.

Interesting article in itself and interesting and potentially useful site in general for researchers or anyone who is just curious about all manner of things!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Umbrella Magazine Volume 1 No1 October 1958

Thanks go to Coventry musician Cliff  Wagstaff for purchasing and donating his copy of the 1st Umbrella Literary magazine for this site. An excellent production and i've made it available as a PDF file. If anybody has any other copies of Umbrella Magazine that are not on this site and are willing to scan them for the sight or loan them to us to scan and share on the site, please get in contact.

Contents are - 

And the pdf of the Magazine to view or download free,