University of Sussex

Modernism and rock 'n' roll

By Philip Burnard

 
Photo:University of Sussex: Arts A building

University of Sussex: Arts A building

From the personal collection of Jennifer Drury

Fabulous modernism

When I worked in the university in its early days, it was generally thought that its modernism was fabulous. Now, with its concrete pillars and flat roofs, it is probably thought of as an example of 1960s brutalism. It was, however, one of the most exciting of the new universities with a range of courses that were refreshing and new. One example is that arts students had to spend their first year doing science and science students, arts.

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Learning to play jazz

At lunchtime, I would eat my sandwiches in the Junior Common Room, a meeting place for students. Most days, an undergraduate would play blues and jazz and I was bowled over by this. Although a bit star struck, I asked him to teach me a few jazz chords. After that, twice a week, he would sit with me at the piano and walk me through some essential chords. I had had some classical lessons when I was younger and could already play blues. Jazz was an eye opener though.  I still play the chords, daily, that the young man taught me, fifty years later, here at home.

Student's Union events

On many weekends, the Student’s Union would organise events in the Junior Common Room at which many bands were present. We saw Pink Floyd, along with their psychedelic light show and we also saw Chuck Berry. The latter excited almost everyone. Here was the King of Blues and Rock & Roll, playing in front of us!  But that was Sussex University, in the 1960s : pure Rock 'n' Roll.

This page was added on 26/05/2015.

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