Portsmouth College of Art graduate visits Eldon Building 50 years on

Doug Smith, a graduate of the Fine Art Degree at Portsmouth College of Art, returned to Portsmouth this March to visit the city.

Every year a group of alumni from the Fine Art degree meet up in Portsmouth to catch up and reminisce. This year, Doug and his fellow visitors happened across the University of Portsmouth Open Day, and the 20 visitors received a tour of the Eldon Building.

“Every year there’s a group of us – this year there were about 22 people – who get together. Old friends, from being at UoP at the end of the 60s. We get together and have a jolly good time.” – Doug Smith

Doug started studying at the Portsmouth College of Art College 50 years ago. His course was based in Eldon Building, which now hosts the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries, and Doug has commented on how much the institution has changed.

Doug explains that while his main studies were in Fine Art, he also elected to study film as a minor module on his course. By the time he graduated, he says, film had become more important to him.

“Right from its early days, what they had at Portsmouth was very simple – it was before video had emerged,” he explains, comparing the film facilities available now to those 50 years ago.

View one of Doug’s experimental documentary films created whilst studying at Portsmouth School of Art and Design, called Er …there are organs and there are organs aren’t there.

Doug reveals “Before I went to study in Portsmouth I had played the organ in a blues band and through this I became interested in the instrument in all its forms. I was fascinated by the hugely different variations of the organ as well as the wide range of musical styles tackled by the instrument.

Filmed in 1969, this is a light hearted look at some of the ways in which the organ was being employed to make music locally in Portsmouth & Southsea.  At the time it was an instrument that seemed to span the whole of the musical spectrum – from café to cathedral, from Pentecostal pulpit to the ‘end of the pier’”.

After leaving Portsmouth he moved to London to work in film. He went on to study a 3-year postgraduate in MA Film and Television at the Royal College of Art and ultimately went into the film business as a freelancer.

Doug began his work as a film editor and worked with documentaries and the music industry. He has since worked across the industry – focusing on non-broadcast work, TV commercials and training/educational films.

“It is interesting to look back in Portsmouth,” Doug says. “Especially because of the dramatic difference in technology now and then. I’ve lived through the emergence of all of these technological changes that there have been to film making.

“When I look back, and I’m sure it’s the same from anybody, it’s a pretty dramatic move – dramatic change, moving away, living by yourself and discovering your chosen subject – so it was a pretty significant moment in our lives.”

A more recent film produced by Doug Smith and Finbar Lillis is The Cinderella Syndrome.


Photos courtesy of Doug Smith

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