Tag Archives: Southampton

Colin van Geffen ~ Historian, artist and public speaker

Today I’m going to interview Colin van Geffen who has been a wonderful support to me Headerlogocolinthroughout writing Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home, not only in points of local aviation history in the Solent area but in designing the covers of my first two novels from the Riduna Series. If you need an artist or public speaker he’s your man! (details at the end of the post)

BACKGROUND

After spending thirty years working in industry Colin became a self employed Illustrator / Artist, covering a wide range of subjects from Animals and Aviation, to Maritime, Landscapes, Portraits – in fact most subjects in a variety of styles from cartoon to formal, and in a choice of media from pencil, pen & ink, or painted in either watercolour or acrylics. As well as commissioned paintings (eg forRE Regiment to paint the unveiling by The Lady Soames of D-Day Memorial (Arromanches)) Colin  has designed many series of Christmas Cards for local organisations.

In the last decade Colin has worked at Solent Sky Aviation Museum, Southampton and at Calshot Castle but he has also always taken an active part in various community projects including the Fawley Historians, Bournemouth Red Arrows Association, Solent Aviation Art Society and the Poole Flying Boats Celebration. You can the results of one of his contributions where he researched, collected & created visual displays of aviation history (sea planes & flying boats) for permanent display at the former RAF Station Calshot. 

Welcome to my blog Colin. Thank you for joining us!

Have you always been interested in flying boats? Was it living at Calshot that inspired you and why?

>> I’ve has a lifelong interest in aviation & developed a special interest in flying boats after I had the rare opportunity to fly on one in 1976 (my first ever flight) when it arrived at Calshot – a former RAF flying boat station, which is only a few miles from my home in the New Forest. I didn’t know what to expect (& couldn’t be called a good sailor) but the experience was unlike anything I had ever done before. I never imagined that I would still be talking & writing about it over 35 years later.

What a wonderful memory and since you now give many talks about The Schneider Trophy. Why do you think it is so important that we remember it?

>> I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the 50th anniversary celebrations of the last Schneider Trophy Contest, as it took place close to my home. The more I learned about it – the evolution of the aircraft & their designers, the developments of new materials to produce better engines & strong airframes, the technical & political obstacles that had to be overcome, inspired me with a renewed interest in aviation as a specific subject plus the lack of reality that in school-day history lessons, that focussed only on names, dates, wars and laws.  I discovered the genius of those pioneer aviators – designers, engineers and pilots, and the contributions that their commitment to advancing the new discovery of aviation offered to the world. It is true to say that without the perception of Jacques Schneider in wishing to develop stronger, more capable seaplanes and flying boats, for the purposes of expanding business and travel around the world, our country could never have had the Hawker Hunter, or the Supermarine Spitfire, or the Rolls Royce engines that powered them. We can learn a great deal from studying our history and applying the lessons learned in a positive way; the Schneider Trophy story and its legacy are outstanding examples of what can be achieved from lessons learned.

Yes I agree. If history is relevant and interesting then it can begin a lifelong desire to learn, a very current topic of interest in the news!

I think in a way you’ve answered this question but since the whole of the area around the Solent is seeped in aviation history, do you have a particular interest in Supermarine and RJ Mitchel and why they should be remembered?

>> My interest in RJ Mitchell & his achievements at the Supermarine Aviation Company (& later Vickers Supermarine) are inevitably linked to my interest in the Schneider Trophy and both are sources of great interest for several of my Illustrated Talks, which I have researched, written & presented to audiences of wide interest groups, across the country and further afield, for many years. I do not consider myself to be an expert on Mitchell or Supermarine, but I have accumulated some specialist knowledge, along with other designers & manufacturers. I believe that it is essential not to perpetuate the fiction and myths, but to set them in context & to pass on the facts and the magic. I am not an engineer but have worked ‘on the periphery’ of the aviation industry, for some well-known & internationally respected companies. In passing on my acquired knowledge I aim to make it as interesting to my non-specialist audiences as it is to me and I always keep in mind the possibility that there could well be someone in the audience who knows more about the subject than I do – so I don’t attempt to baffle or bluff my way through, for the sake of expedience.

I must get down to one of your talks one day. I imagine, what with your passion for the subject and your sense of humour you must have audiences spellbound. Now returning to your artistic life and interests how long have you been painting? I know you paint all sorts of subjects but why do you think art is such a good way to represent the history of flight in the Solent?

>> I have been drawing and painting for as long as I can remember – since I was first able to hold a pencil, I think (certainly my parents reminded me on several occasions of my early attempts to be creative on my newly-papered bedroom wall. I do have a vague memory of trying to find, or make, shapes within the random patterns on the paper. I won a couple of art competitions at school, in the days when manufacturers of household products or foods would encourage schools to participate in national competitions. I was also ‘invited’ to paint the scenery for the school play, at a time when I was unable to participate in sports lessons due to a long-term injury. Sitting in the playground helping classmates with their art homework was another pleasure, as was helping during art classes, when the art master was absent through illness. 
I found my art was commercially acceptable and having an interest in most things around me from landscapes, wildlife (and pets) people & portraits, marine & other transport subjects, I was and still am happy to cover most types of subjects, in a variety of styles and media (some samples of which can be seen on my websitewww.colinvangeffen.co.uk). I am proud to have examples of my work presented or on permanent display at several official sites including RAF Scampton, the home of the Red Arrows; in the HQ of 101 Squadron at RAF Brize Norton and in Portcullis House, London as well as aboard a number of Royal navy ships. 

But aviation is what inspires me most as it offers the challenges of such a variety of shapes, textures, colours, backgrounds and reflections and an essential understanding of each individual subject in detail. The aviation history of the Solent, so close to my home, offers a wide variety of choices in subject matter encompassing any and all of these criteria.

What a wonderful life you lead Colin inspiring and rewarding I should think. Many thanks for joining us today. I know that you would be very pleased to hear from any group who would like a talk or anyone interested in your artwork.

All the best to you and yours.

Colin van Geffen can be contacted on 023 8089 7793      or     cvg@hotmail.co.uk

His website it well worth browsing! www.colinvangeffen.co.uk

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancasta, Early Flight, Schneider Trophy

John Shelton ~ Author of ‘Schneider Trophy to Spitfire’

Today I’m thrilled to have been in contact with John Shelton, the author of’Schneider Trophy to Spitfire,’ an excellent book I reviewed on an earlier post last year. In fact John got in touch with me following that post and has agreed to share with us some background information about his life and how he became interested in Supermarine. John writes:

Schneider Trophy to Spitfire by John Shelton

Schneider Trophy to Spitfire by John Shelton

‘I got as far as a Ph.D in Literature but began to tire of writing or talking about fiction. Renovating an Elizabethan manor house began to consume most of my time and energy and the solving of practical problems became more interesting – real things rather than imagined people. Like R.J., I had a

schoolboy interest in flying model aeroplanes and was soon drawing my own constructional plans (hence my 3-view drawings of Mitchell’s aircraft in my book).

On a chance visit to the Stoke Museum, I discovered that their Spitfire was to be re-housed, accompanied by a display. I volunteered to write the text for this display and was surprised to discover that Mitchell had begun designing aeroplanes for Supermarine as early as the 1920’s.

So, on retirement, I decided to write a full account of his aircraft as, again to my surprise, I found that there was only one book which related directly to his work and this was a sketchy and a rather amateur affair.

The above display activity had been given considerable help by the Solent-Sky Museum at Southampton and I was also encouraged in my later efforts by its Director, Sqn. Ldr. Alan Jones: “the book we’ve all been waiting for”.

I too felt that Mitchell deserved a dedicated account of his work, if only to show how the Spitfire came about – there are countless books about his famous fighter but no apparent interest in the man and how he had reached this design peak. There was also the surprising fact (to me as to most everyone else) that a man from the landlocked Midlands should design almost exclusively flying-boats, was virtually self-taught, and achieved success in his field at a very early age.

Being no stranger to writing extended studies, I felt I could do a reasonable job of collecting material (see my Bibliography) and of putting it together; and as I had also taught Communication as well as Industrial Archaeology, I hoped that I would be able to make a relatively technical story readable. Also, by this time, I had soloed in gliders and powered aircraft and so felt that I might have an insight into what the pioneers of flying had learned and were still learning about exploiting their new element.

Fortunately there were quite a number of books which had things to say about Mitchell’s aircraft and not a few by pilots who had flown them. These, and items scattered throughout other aviation literature, also provided many anecdotes about Mitchell which deserved collecting together as they became out of print or forgotten on dusty shelves. It was therefore very good news when Haynes Publishers accepted my MS, which – it has to be said – concentrated more on the machines than on the man: after all, they were the primary reason for an interest in the man and, as his reputation was only widely known after his death, no-one had thought beforehand to leave detailed information about  his life-story for future biographers.

Given the lack of any full accounts of Mitchell’s life, but also needing to correct his portrayal in the First of the Few film, I tried to steer a course between the known facts about his life and his designs; and, true to my early career, my book had a thesis – which was to trace the vital influence of the Schneider Trophy competitions upon the eventual production of the Spitfire.

Since the publication of Schneider Trophy to Spitfire, I have continued my interest in most things Mitchell and hope therefore that  an extended second edition might be eventually published. Meanwhile, my Blogs are a useful outlet for mature thoughts about the man and his designs as well as a device to keep his name before the general public.’

I would like to thank John for sharing the background to his writing. It’s fascinating looking back at the course of our lives and where it has taken us. John continues to write detailed and interesting posts about R.J.Mitchell and his designs on his own blog:

johnshelton.blogspot.co.uk

I wish him the best of luck with future projects. John’s book helped me enormously when researching for Ancasta and I still use it as a reference to check facts whilst researching for the next in my series.

Leave a comment

Filed under Early Flight, Flying Boats and Sea Planes, Southampton, Supermarine, Woolston

Ancasta, a review of the novel by Diana Jackson

The Friends of Weston Shore, Southampton have written this review of Ancasta Guide me Swiftly Home. I’ll be down at West Quay Waterstones Southampton this Saturday 12th between 11am and 1 pm. Please come and say hello and many thanks for this wonderful review!

Friends of Weston Shore

It is widely believed that when the Roman Empire ruled these lands, an area near or on what is now known as Bitterne Manor was a settlement called Clausentum.  Whilst this belief about Clausentum and its location is not universally upheld, what is clear is that there was a Roman settlement in this area. One of the priceless treasures that reveals this truth is an inscription from those times, a dedication to the goddess Ancasta, the deity associated with the River Itchen.

The derivation of the name Ancasta, it is speculated, maybe from an older word for swift.  With the name of the goddess as the title for her new novel, Diana Jackson continues chronicling the lives of some of her characters from her previous book Riduna.  With the hand of time moving on relentlessly in her narrative, she takes us along for the ride in seeing…

View original post 375 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Ancasta, Book reviews, Events, Southampton