Holland Park: what's school got to do with it?: It was like a party: Student - Sixties

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The Independent Online
Chris Pierre, a media resources officer, started at the school in the mid-Sixties, when streaming and uniforms were still in force. His family lived in Paddington.

A LOT of the other schools I could have gone to were either black or white. In Paddington they were ghetto schools. At Holland Park you were made to feel proud that there were were more than 50 nationalities. I don't have any English blood and it was the first time I'd been made to be proud of having immigrant parents.

There wasn't much pressure to achieve academically if you didn't want to. But people achieved many other things. It was a very arts-orientated school and our shows ended up on television - they were very ambitious and exciting.

I did much better academically than I would have done anywhere else. I came from a working-class, immigrant background and I wasn't supposed to be mixing with the kids that I did mix with.

My parents didn't push me much. It was because of my peer group that I decided to go to university - no one in my family has ever done that. I put it down to Holland Park.

Discipline was lax and the problems resulting from that were legion. But we had a great time. The school trips were great - we went to Paris in the middle of the student riots. Our hotel was right at the heart of it and we got shot at, but somehow that didn't get into the press.

Because it was a trendy place to teach we had great teachers: having a member of Roxy Music as your music teacher was wonderful. I don't know many people who had as good a time at school as I did. It was like belonging to an enormous party.

Everything that was ever in the press was based on some kind of story. Once, several hundred pupils sat in the playground when we found out that a teacher was being thrown out. The story had gone round that she'd been fired for being too nice to the kids. In fact, she was a supply teacher whose employment was over. We were offered 10 shillings by photographers from the local paper to throw stones at the buildings.

And there was cannabis growing in the school gardens; I think it was just a few plants but the press story was that we were growing it by the acre. The local paper hated the school.

It was a lot more politically aware than a lot of schools. The South African embassy building at the end of the road regularly had things thrown at it. We were active members of the National Union of School Students. Issues such as race, sexuality and gender were always being talked about. I knew which of my teachers were gay, and at the time it didn't seem that unusual. Later I found out that every school was not like Holland Park.

(Photographs omitted)