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The Guardian

Jeff NuttallJeff Nuttall, artist, actor, poet, jazz musician, one-time lecturer and mentor at Leeds Polytechnic, died in Abergavenny, on 4th January 2004 aged 70.

Famed for his 1968 book 'Bomb Culture'. Jeff was one of those larger than life celebrities to emerge from the hippy era. His abrasive wit and sexual metaphors informed much of my early creative writing when I was an impressionable art student at Leeds. He would typically enter the studio like some outlandish country squire. On a good day he'd have a couple of pints inside him and make grand pronouncements like 'How billowlike and boysterously grey' - One of my favourites, upon seeing a terrible canvas by my friend Mark Hardman.

Jeff loved jazz music and was an accomplished trumpeter (In more ways than one). I have another memory of him storming through the Fine Art block shouting above the sound of Leeds saxophonist Zero Slingsby who was rehearsing in John Darling's Fine Art Sound Studio. I was custodian of the studio at the time and Jeff turns to me and booms. 'If I hear another person in that f***ing studio blowing his bollocks off like that, I shall wrap that f***ing saxophone ''round his f***ing neck!'

I loved his directness and I'm not afraid to admit that he once sat on my lap whilst I read my own creative writing to him like he was some oversized child (which to some extent he was!).

Jeff Nuttall always defied convention and appeared to relish the stuffy reactions of his peers. Riff's memory of him (after Jeff became Head of Fine Art at Liverpool Polytechnic) is typical:

'His mate was doing this mime performance, and we were all watching, along with the Head of Graphics, Roy Sharp. Sharpy had his suit on and looked really smart. Jeff just sat on the floor, in paint covered overalls, chewing a pencil, which he sharpened with a flick-knife, occasionally gobbing bits of wood onto the floor. He looked like a caretaker, not a Head of Department. Brilliant!'

It was difficult to know where Jeff would end up after the CNAA started to investigate the sordid practices of the country's art schools. But years after we left college, Jeff started to make appearences on TV, usually cockney villains (Minder) or mad farmers (Men Behaving Badly) and even a mad chef (Chef). His rotund frame, jovial disposition and love of drink and women also made him a natural choice for the role of Friar Tuck (Robin Hood Prince of Thieves).

Now, listening to the few readings that I have on record, Jeff Nuttall sounds like a man from another time, when raw emotions were acceptable, unrestrained by the overbearing pressure of political correctness that threatens to stiffle our creative spirit.

Give him a spin and wait for the utterly brilliant rendition of a Yorkshire child asking his Mother for 'another ice cream'.

[I'll get off my soapbox now - Paul Fillingham]




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