John’s return to Hospitalfield

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ARTIST and author John Byrne is set to make a sentimental return to Arbroath tonight (Friday) for the first time in 50 years.

The creator of ‘Tutti Frutti’ and ‘The Slab Boys’ spent a 12-week placement at Hospitalfield House in the summer of 1961 while he was a second year student at the Glasgow School of Art.

And now John is to become a honorary patron of Hospitalfield in a special ceremony tonight, which will also celebrate the first anniversary of the Friends of Hospitalfield.

The historic house provided early inspiration for a 21-year-old John who, since completing his placement 50 years ago, has never been back to Arbroath.

But he told the Herald that he hopes to be a more regular visitor in the future to the place that holds a lot of memories for him.

He said: “I had such a wonderful and lovely time in the hot summer of 1961 at Hospitalfield and there are a lot of people who I haven’t seen since then, so hopefully I will get a chance to catch up with them.

“I was only a second year student but I managed to get a placement over the summer because I didn’t want a job to ruin my way of life at the time and I much rather preferred to do a placement.

“One of the things that sticks in my mind is how special the old house was and the atmosphere around the place.

“I was taken by surprise when they asked me to be honorary patron but it is lovely to be asked and I am delighted to do it.

“It will be really a sentimental journey returning there and I look forward to going back.”

John’s new role will see him as a more regular visitor over the coming year at Hospitalfield where he hopes to provide masterclasses for today’s students.

And he knows just how important a placement at Hospitalfield can be for an art student.

“It is very inspiring, especially the house itself and I’m sure it remains in much the same way as it did when I was there,” he added.

“The architecture and artefacts along with the other things they have on display there are very special.

“I have been told about the new printing facilities at Hospitalfield and that is definitely something I want to do because I find it enjoyable.

“I have heard they have upgraded the bedrooms as they now have en-suite facilities, which is something we didn’t have in my time.

“But I’m sure they are made as comfortable as we were and one thing I do remember is how well fed we were.

After finishing his placement at Hospitalfield in 1961 then completing his studies at the Glasgow School of Art, John became well known for writing the play, ‘The Slab Boys’ and TV series ‘Tutti Frutti’.

He has also designed album covers for musicians such as The Beatles and Gerry Rafferty and has a collection of work on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

But despite being 71 now, he still has several projects on the go including his role at Hospitalfield.

He said: “I’m painting for a show at the Edinburgh festival and I am also working on a couple of books, one which is a in the life of style book.

“So I am always busy but that’s how I like to be.”