Sunday, 20 March 2011

Valediction for John Jones

Richard Wilcocks writes:
John Jones died in December aged eighty-four. He was a long-term resident of Headingley and a strong supporter of the LitFest from the moment it started. His interests and areas of expertise were many and various: he lectured for many years in the Fine Art department at Leeds University, where he was in overall charge of studio instruction and where he created and ran a course in the history of film, an artist who thought deeply about life drawing and a brilliant conversationalist.

He was very knowledgeable about literature in general, and was especially interested in the works of James Joyce. He had an impressive collection of Joyce’s work, and exhibited a series of his own illustrations to Ulysses.

He collected Victorian optical toys and magic lantern slides, and was the founder of the International Magic Lantern Society. Last autumn I was suggesting to him that one of his magic lantern shows, on the damage done by the demon drink, could be performed as part of this year’s LitFest. I am sure it would have been greatly appreciated.

In 2009 he took part in what has become an annual short story evening in Café Lento: his contribution was part of his autobiography, which he had recorded on a number of audiotape cassettes shortly before he suffered a stroke. He spoke about the year in the States in 1965 during which he interviewed artists including Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, Louise Bourgeois and Yoko Ono. His interesting account of Yoko Ono’s stay with him (with her then partner and her daughter) in Rochester Terrace, and of the happening which she organised at Leeds College of Art in which she was tied up in a large black bag, was written up in local newspapers in 2009, then picked up by media around the world.

A year ago, for the third Headingley LitFest, he contributed with Gaby Jones to one of the first house events, in his front room in Hollin Lane. Gaby and John are pictured below at this event, which was called Déja-Vu. Gaby spoke of her return to the villa by Lake Como which she had known as a small child, and John spoke (again, on tape) about when he was a young soldier in 1945, who had been conscripted into the Royal Engineers and sent to recently-liberated Ostend in Belgium.

His obituary, written by one of his devoted ex-students, the cartoonist Steve Bell, can be found in the Guardian online.

So, farewell to an old friend.


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