Monthly Archives: May 2014

Our Valuable Volunteers and their Various Ventures: Alasdair

Photo0230Meet Alasdair, the archive wizard with mad skills. He is a man of patience and attention to detail, but most of all, he has something that none of our motley crew has: a real life archive job experience. He used to work for a record office and enjoyed it greatly. He even got himself into Masters programme in Archiving, but unfortunately it was not meant to be.

He said that he chose Marjon archives for the scope and variety of the collection. ‘There is so much learn and I enjoy learning’- that’s something we all feel.

Right now he is working with the official documents concerning the move that Marjon made from London to Plymouth. The timeframe for those is the 70’s and 80’s. I have seen the scope of the work that lies ahead of Alasdair and I can say that he have his work cut out for him. Right now he is extremely busy with cataloguing and arranging them in order, so they can easily be accessed when needed. This is going to take some time, that’s why Alasdair has no definite plans for his next project. However, there is a possibility that he will work with the digitization of the archives, because of his computing experience.

Alasdair appearance is good news, because If there is one thing we have, it’s the abundance of old dusty papers. And now we have somebody who knows what order they should go and is not afraid of dust mites:-)

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Marjon and fiction

Don’t you just love when you read a book and something familiar jumps out of a page. It can be a name, a place, a familiar setting. You think:’ Hey! I know this guy/ this place!’ The fiction changes; it crosses the border between real and unreal. It crosses into your reality and you can’t help but smile.
There are couple of books that reference Marjon in one way or another. The archive keeps them, their pages with Marjon references lovingly bookmarked. Let me introduce you to some of them.

In the book ‘Mmurderurder Being Once Done’ Ruth Rendell writes: ‘They were at school together and Verity went to train as a teacher at St Mark and St John…Its quite near where you’re staying, in King’s Road’. At the time she wrote this, the College was still at Chelsea. I wonder, did Ruth walked past it once upon a time and thought: ‘This looks like an interesting place, let’s put it in the book for some authenticity.’ That’s what I’d do.

Ohigh hopesther references might not be so clear. One of our former students, Billy Hopkins became quite a successful author. He wrote many semi-biographical books and in one of them, the protagonist goes off to London to train as a teacher. What else could he based this premise, but on his own experiences at Marjon? This book is kind of an exception as we don’t have it in the archives. That’s something I plan to change. As soon as I’m done with it, that is:-)

the-last-pleasure-garden-lee-jackson-123x200 If you never heard of Cremorne Gardens, then let’s say it was a pleasure garden in Chelsea. In the 17th century it was famous for its quite large population of ‘ladies of negotiable affection’ as would Terry Pratchett say. The principal of St Mark back then, John G. Cromwell, was involved in a campaign to close the gardens for the security’s sake. What did he get for his good intentions? He became one of the characters in the book ‘The Last Pleasure Garden’ by Lee Jackson…too bad it’s a serial killer. That proves once for all that no good deed goes unpunished:-)
There is many more examples like these, but if I was to list them all we’d all go grey before then. I might return to the subject though and maybe one day I will be able to put Marjon on the pages of a book too.
Hopkins, B. (2001) High Hopes. London: Headline Publishing Group.

Jackson, L. (unknown) Victorian London – Entertainment and Recreation – Gardens and Spas – Cremorne Gardens. [Online] Available from: [accessed 12 May 2014]

Jackson, L. (2007) The Last Pleasure Garden. London: Arrow Books.

Rendell, R. (1972) Murder Being Once Done. London: Arrow Books.

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Mark speaks at Mental Health Awareness Week event and also some shameless bragging


A small sample of Mark’s work outside of MSU

Remember Mark and his project? Some of his work is being displayed in the corridor opposite the MSU offices, so if you have minute check them out. But today he was presenting his work and the ways he copes with anxiety at a walk-in session at the private dining room at Marjon. He was showing and talking about his best work, but also explained how he uses his hobby to calms himself down in a stressful situation. Sometimes just the assuring weight of his camera is enough to reassure him, and in extreme cases he takes it out and removes himself by zooming the lens on a distant object. This way he created some beautiful artwork and became a master of macrophotography. It is not easy for some people to be in crowds and talk to a large number of unknown people, but Mark handled it like a champ and created a substantial interest in his work and techniques. Well done! And if the topic of mental health is very important to you or you want to know more about facts and myths about mental health, check out You’ll find it interesting.
20140514_190420As for shameless bragging, yesterday I attended the Inspiring Student and Led Teachings Awards ceremony where yours truly was an nominee for the Outstanding Contribution category. I got the nomination for this very blog. I didn’t win the award, but it is still nice to be recognized for the work I do with a cretificate. I had a good time, the reception was an exclusive, closed door affair, with a Sinatra-singing performer to entertain us. It was fun and I was especially happy to see some of my lecturers winning the awards as they were well deserved. Right, I’m done bragging now:-)Award

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Beyond genius loci

I have always felt comfortable around the campus. I’d say the place has a very positive feel about it. It feels youthful and full of energy, but not frantic overly busy. But there is something else beyond the spirit of the place; it’s the attitude of the people around here. Here is a prime example of what I’m talking about:

26This is the picture taken soon after the colleges of St Mark’s and St John merged. Those boys are the first mixed soccer team. The two colleges used to have teams that fought against each on the sport’s battlefield, each defending their goal posts to the last man. And now they are standing together, without proper kit’s, each wearing a different jersey, but determined to be the best team for their newly merged school.

46And on this one, forty years has gone by and here they meet again, not one of them missing. I find it amusing how the fashion made them uniformly clothed while the school could not. Also note the war memorial on the wall behind them, like a shadow of those who can never return to visit their old school.

group photoAnd finally here are we- the archive’s volunteers. We are team of people equipped with different ideas and skills, with different projects and reasons , but we all sacrifice our time and effort for the archives.
I guess that the whole Marjon is like that: a rag-tag bunch, not always perfectly organized, with mismatched equipment and chairs that wouldn’t slide underneath the tables. But would we ever let that down? Never!:-)

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Fishing in the sea of faces

Ok, my dissertation is handed in so I can now concentrate on what’s importantJ Onwards to the archives!

I must admit, I never found looking at group pictures all that exciting. My gaze would just wander among the unfamiliar faces. I thought that those would be interesting only to those captured on them and maybe their families. That’s how I felt when looking at the Battersea school’s group photos from 1893-1900. I already knew that those can be invaluable when identifying people; some even have names on them. But can they tell us something more than which dead guy was which? Maybe so.

Pictured- a hidden history

Pictured- a hidden history

They say that a picture speaks a thousand words and I know a picture that says just that about the times it was taken in. For some reason, the photographer left some more space at the top than usually, so the first floor windows can be seen. In the corner window, four women are clearly visible. Here they are, most probably the servants of the school, standing in for all those who history used to ignore. Did they know they got captured in the photo? What did they think about at that moment? Did they envy the men in the foreground? I wish I knew.


A mystery or a trick of the eye?

There is this one person in the picture from 1893-94- a stark white suit among the blackness of the others. Am I seeing things or is he Chinese? I wanted to find out, so I dug through registers and club books. Wouldn’t it be great to discover the first Asian teacher in England? No such luck though, either he was adopted under an English name, or my eyes just deceive me. But it was important to me to try anyway.

While looking at those I’ve noticed that after these months of digging through the archives I am slowly starting to recognize those people, some by name and some by face. Then, a sudden realization came to me: I am related to those people, the continuity of the school made me their distant kin. What an extraordinary thought to have.

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