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 history@coventrycab.org.uk 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 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radburn,_New_Jersey and also here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radburn_design_housing.
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 http://billberrett.info/coventry/

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 http://www.lulu.com/shop/bill-berrett/a-man-at-work/paperback/product-16690012.html?ppn=1  for men at Work - Poems

And for his other books and Lulu profile http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/brianberrett

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 -                  http://www.gentlefolk2.co.uk/

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 http://www.jot101.com/2014/07/the-umbrella-club.html 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!