The Dapper Side – End of an art college?

This month has seen the start of a new term.  Pencils sharpened and new bags purchased in excitement and anticipation for the start of a new academic year.

But this year there is a tinge of sadness in the air in Blackpool for some of the creative community, as Park Road campus of Blackpool and The Fylde College is no more a school of art.Art

A once thriving creative hub of activity, it’s a place where I had the pleasure of undertaking art courses twice in the last few decades, a place with a reputation for producing many talented creatives who have gone on to have very successful careers and a place that appears to have become victim to the pen pushers employed by the college who’ve spent years downsizing the creative spaces once on offer at the institution1..

The Further Education courses that once filled the building with an ambiance of imagination and limitless possibilities has been pushed, sorry I mean squeezed, no, let’s try again, have been jammed into the Higher Education facilities at Palatine Road2.Anyone who has studied at the latter campus in recent years will understand what a tight squeeze this is.

I was lucky enough to study at both campuses in the past, undertaking two foundation degree level qualifications, but when I returned to study for my BA Hons. in 2010 I was shocked by the lack of space. A studio that I had shared with three other artists now had double figures using it3.  Even during my degree the bean counters would come round to see if they could downsize further4, which it seems they eventually have with the merging of FE and HE into one building.Gateway Campus

No doubt the merging of FE and HE into one building will work when it comes to creating a stronger and more dynamic creative hub at Palatine building, but I worry that the space on offer will be a lot more limited, especially for the more traditional artists who like to paint and sculpt.

What is amazing and certainly worth noting is that currently the town is riding on a creative crest of a wave with the Creative People and Places funding so it makes no sense that the college should cut back on resources and facilities in their Art departments5, especially when there’s an opportunity to actively encourage and nurture a generation of local talent who could go on to create a very different and much needed new industry in Blackpool.


Nigel Brown, Head of School of Creative Arts and Digital Industries at Blackpool and the Fylde College wished to make the following responses to Brendan’s article this week.

1During the summer we have moved the Further Education creative arts provision from our Park Road campus to the University Centre Campus where both FE and HE students will study. This was not an economic decision but an academic and pedagogic one.

2Shared creative space akin to that found in creative hubs is found in most art school environments and brings the benefit of a more thriving full range of creative arts sharing practice. The footprint of our creative arts provision remains unchanged for FE and HE students alike.

3The way in which studio space is used has evolved in the last few years, with the increasing use of digital technologies prompting us to incorporate a new dedicated digital drawing lab within our studio facilities.

4In 2010/11 room utilisation surveys were undertaken as part of the planning process to merge two schools into one, this happened in 2012. All teaching spaces are planned and scheduled to a timetable dependant on cohort size and requirements.

5There have not been cut backs, we have expanded our curriculum offer and continue to engage with industry and economic modelling data to plan for future labour market requirements.


Brendan has been invited to visit the college to see their refurbished arts space and will report back on this next week. What do you think?  Have you studied art at Blackpool and the Fylde College and agree with Brendan?  Maybe you’re a current student and you couldn’t be happier with the new arrangements?  Let us know by commenting below.



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  • Show Comments (11)

  • Ailsa Rhiannon

    Feeling lucky to have completed my degree when i did. Personally i felt that what was on offer to us as students when we began our creative courses was decreased dramatically over the three years that we were there. I don’t believe for a second that the decision to push FE and HE together was nothing to do with cost and cut backs when there was such retaliation from students , reps and tutors. Studio space and tutor time was limited as it was in my final year and i can’t imagine being in a year of almost double the numbers, with half the space, paying a considerable amount more than years before for something that I didn’t sign up for. Cut backs and down sizing the arts in a place that once had such a good reputation for producing creatives is jeopardising the future of this establishment. It is both sad and unfortunate that these decisions have been made. Students paying for higher education should not be feeling such pressure and such a squeeze on the quality of their education. With the state of the economic climate, it is actually a good time to make use of and encourage creative minds and talents in the hope of building a sustainable, creative community. These courses, when ran properly and to their full potential, teach self employment skills and help build confidence around what graduates can do with their skills after their course has ended. I personally felt the moral of my fellow students drop across all creative courses towards the end of the second year of my degree when it became apparent that the degree that we signed up for was being compromised. I think that this put a lot of students off reaching their full potential as they didn’t know what resources were available to them. There was even a course without a tutor for their final year which everybody found outrageous. As for the tutors running my particular course, I haven’t got a bad thing to say about them. I think that they did their very best considering the circumstances. I don’t know who was involved with making the decision to downsize the art department but it has been ongoing and very sneakily done. It is such a shame to compromise resources and the education being provided to people that are paying to learn.

  • Wibble

    They’ve already diminished my English degree, if it’s still running at all I think it’s part time only now. I believe it’s a tactic to rid the college of academic studies. They make far more from business related studies and degrees that can be funded by business institutions. I also studied a Foundation degree in Communication at Work which was populated by students funded by the workplace including the police force and civil service. Much more profitable for the college and it can be easier for them to recruit students. It’s all about profit.

  • B

    I am glad to have only a year left , as I think the pursuit for a “better higher education experience” hasn’t been achieved ! The merging of fe and he is not a good decision but is more a money saving one. I am lucky to have supportive tutors and a vast amount of them. I know previously certain courses have been affected with not much action to rectify these problems during dissertation time.I think the arts sector has many talented staff but higher ranked members of staff are pushing the college to the brink not realising that this is affecting the accessibility and practicality for students and their overall experience.

  • Harpo Marx

    This article worries me in so many ways. In English the hours shrank because a staff member took voluntary reduncancy after hours were chopped and they are now short staffed – despite the minimum living wage, it appears the college is moving toward low hour contracts for staff. There have been mass redundancies of support staff all over the show. Government funding has been cut in so many areas it is causing severe hardship – especially for local students who don’t have enough money to get their education anymore. But instead we are focussing on a square foot for square foot exchange about building space. We get that artists need space and creative time etc, but for all the spaces counted by Estate Staff (“bean counters” – great way to insult someone just doing a job!) spaces that weren’t being used last year there were classes with disabled students unable to find suitable locations, there were large classes crammed into smaller rooms and there are students struggling for resources while the investment is high in the arts are of the college. Where does that balance come in – at the University Centre, it is taken by the student body as given that art students are more important than any other student on that campus. This is something echoed all over social media by the arts students themselves and it’s something that is quite upsetting to other students when they feel like second class citizens in their own campus. If you are going back and writing a second article, please can it look at the whole college and not just a portion of it. The world still needs doctors, scientists, teachers, historians etc who in the future can potentially be any one of the students that study at that site and when there are scarier and bigger cuts on the horizon, it’s important to view the bigger picture and not just the one that makes a good scary article to incite an arts community and ignore the rest of the community at the college, although we are all used to it by now – however hard we shout.

  • Vicky

    Hi Harpo,

    Thank you for your comments. AltBlackpool’s remit is to report on creative and cultural activity and Brendan’s Dapper Side articles are opinion pieces which are written from the perspective of an artist who lives and works in Blackpool. This is why the piece focuses specifically on his experiences of art provision at the college.

    Kind regards.

  • Trombone

    In the late 90s I was lucky enough to do both my Fine Art foundation and my A levels at the college. The level of tuition was excellent as were the facilities. I returned to the college in 2008 to begin a 2 year art course aimed at adults. The level of tuition was again excellent and the facilities were pretty good, although a definite step down as the workshops were less well equipped. Sadly the course was cancelled during the 1st year. Fortunately, our tutor fought hard for us to be allowed to complete the 1st year, thus ensuring we received our results. The tutors (all superb) who led the course are now employed outside the college. As I understand it they were cut along with adult education.

  • S

    I graduated Blackpool and the Fylde college in July within Graphic Design. Throughout the three years I was their we lost four tutors. One being the head of our course. (Which they didn’t bother to replace in our final, and most important year). We were left with horrid working conditions such as out dated macs. Printers that constantly broke down. One technician for the whole building!! and our Graphics photography studio was taken away from us and turned into a class room.

    We had to share a studio with the photographers, which they were a wonderful bunch but it was horrible when we all had conflicting deadlines (something that wasn’t thought about apparently.) And the print room that graphics used was frequently overrun with fine art lessons (which again a wonderful bunch but not so good when looming deadlines approach)

    Since the year I started Blackpool and The Fylde College everything revolved around broken promises and ‘oh theres not enough money to do that’

    I 100% regret going to B&FC. And I strongly advise against anyone going their, as I heard similar complaints from all art courses including photography, illustration and fine art.

  • ed

    I’m Currently in final year of Graphic design degree and all i’ve learnt coming here is that I would be far better off without it.
    Lack of programme leader for entire academic year, poor and late refurbishments, massive tutor absences, (mostly un-explained).
    Little of no tutor feedback. I have just returned after summer to find many resources and machines out of action or removed.
    Have complained to all possible departments and have recently received a 4-pages response from the colleges’ ‘Quality & Standards’ dept. basically repeating the poor excuses I have been hearing from staff all year, claiming my complaints are un-justified and offering no re-imbursment or solutions to the problems.

  • Stu Watson

    Not like me to post on websites but can’t keep quiet. I am currently looking at Unis and have been to Open Days at Leeds, Chelsea, Edin and Lancaster. I was at Blackpool today. You have no idea what is happening at other places. I am doing it NOW not 4 or 5 Years ago. The studios at Blackpool are amazing the light and space is better than anywhere else I have seen. Honestly you need to get out more. Interesting that whoever wrote the articulate hasn’t actually been into the building. The world has moved on so get out and see what’s happening beyond your narrow horizons ….. Rant over.

  • E. Smith

    I can not believe what I am reading……. A guy that has an opinion based on years ago and has not set foot into the new building with all the new resources! Anybody knows that the Arts is ever changing, it is evolving all the time …..what was once “in” years ago is not necessarily ‘in” now. I get that this is opinion but surely if your opinion is from years ago and you are unable to base that opinion on any facts that are current or relevant its pretty much void and not worth listening to.
    We all have opinions on things such as “Should we go to war” does not mean are opinions are right especially when they are built on grievances from many a year ago!
    All I can say is there is such a buzz around the place at the moment coming from many pleased and excited students ….me included.

  • Brendan Bunting

    Thanks for the responses and comments to the article, it’s great that it has generated such an open debate.

    Just to respond to the last two post my article centres around the closure of a building as an art college,and the courses moving to Palatine building,questioning lost space.
    What ever the facilities are now like at Palatine Road it can not be denied that there are more students now in that building (possibly in there hundreds) using a space that has shrunk over the last decade.
    I was last in the college just over 6months ago so my opinion is based not only on the years I had the pleasure of studying there.
    It’s great that the college have spent so much money on new equipment and lighting, but art students will always need plenty of space to carry out there practise no matter what is “in” now or years ago.

    I look forward to going to the college to do a follow up to this article and seeing the new facilities.
    I’d just like to add this article does not dilute my past and ongoing support for the college nor my admiration for its excellent tutors and enthusiastic students.

    Brendan Bunting

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