Holland Park: what's school got to do with it?: We were the guinea-pig generation: Student - Seventies

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Gary Mayall, son of the blues guitarist John Mayall, went to Holland Park in 1969. He left when he was 15 and spent the next five years 'wheeling and dealing' in antiques in Wales. He runs the London club, Gaz's Rockin' Blues.

I ARRIVED a few months after the school had been on television for having riots. There were broken windows and hundreds of kids on the rampage. I thought, God, what kind of school am I going to?

They were definitely revolutionary times, with strikes going on all over the place. It wasn't so much that the school was political, it seemed like the whole country was political.

Within a few months of getting to Holland Park, there was a big demonstration of schoolkids in Trafalgar Square - I was totally up for that, it was fantastic, such a buzz.

Most people went on the demo for a day off, for a voice, a sense of power. I can't even remember what it was about.

My parents were typical of the Sixties generation in that they wanted their kids to go to the right school. We were the guinea-pig generation - part of the wave of enthusiasm and optimism for bringing all the different people together in the comprehensive system. I'm the eldest of six and my twin brothers, who are 18, are at Westminster.

I had friends right across the board. My parents were more on the hippie side, but about two-thirds of my mates were skinheads. And I used to hang out with a lot of black kids.

There are drugs in all schools but at Holland Park it was rife. It wasn't how you imagine - some dodgy geezer standing on a corner trying to sell little kids drugs.

There was this Australian freak who had this van called the Fuck Truck. People liked going round to his house because he was always showing porno or telling travelling stories and giving them dope. It was all titillating and fascinating and totally different. Some people became junkies; it's very sad. But I don't know if the school was to blame for that.

It was quite a free-thinking, liberal school. But that just played into the hands of people like me - there was going to be absolutely no chance of an academic education. After a year, the only lessons I attended with any regularity were art and drama.

My attitude was school stinks, but it does anyway, whatever school you go to. But here they leave the gates open and there's a beautiful park next door.

Practically none of my contemporaries managed to stick it to the end of their school careers. The ones that did ended up having to move to other schools or their parents dragged them away to another school or crammer to force them through their exams.

The main education I got was the people. What I'll always be grateful to Holland Park for was that I learnt to get on with people from a wide array of backgrounds, which I never would have got at a regular school. It gave me a preparation for all sorts of things - for just walking down the street and feeling freer. You had to take into account other people's experiences and views. In a lot of other schools, they don't know enough about the rest of the world.

(Photograph omitted)

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