The teaching of art and design began in Kingston in the 1870s, to meet a growing national concern to improve British design, following the Great Exhibition in 1851.
Kingston Technical Institute was later founded in 1899 offering courses across both art and science directed towards providing graduates with skills for industry. The two disciplines were divided in 1930 ,with Kingston School of Art establishing its own building on the current Knights Park site in 1939 and fostering a subsequent, luminous art scene, with alumni including June Duprez, Glenda Bailey, Hamish Mackie and Gavin Turk going on to great acclaim in the worlds of art, design, media and film.
Design and fashion were added to the curriculum in the 1930s, followed by architecture in the 1940s. In 1970, Science and Art were reunited into Kingston Polytechnic; an institution that would prove to be pivotal to the flourishing of British art, music and pop fashion during the decades 1960-1990.
‘The Poly’, as it was known, became Kingston University in 1992, yet in 2017, the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture was renamed as Kingston School of Art, reclaiming its long-established heritage and identity as one of the centres of creative, cultural expression of post-war Britain.
From the 1950’s onwards, the Kingston Art School student population provided a keen and captive audience for live music in the area, as new genres and sounds drifted over from the Atlantic and emerged from other parts of the UK.
In the late 60s, Kingston School of Art Fashion students won first-prize at the International Youth Fashion Design contest in St. Gall, Switzerland, signalling the emergence of the ‘London Look’ as the signature style of the decade.
Hear clips from interviews about the role of Kingston Polytechnic as a gig venue and the cultural role of the School of Art in Kingston's thriving creative heritage.