College Green is my favourite place at Goldsmiths. This grassy quadrant of open land sits between The Richard Hoggart building – a former Victorian Naval school – and the modern media hub of the new Professor Stuart Hall building. I think lots of campuses have places like this, where the public culture of the institution comes to life. I bump into colleagues and friends walking back and forth along the paths at its edges and catch up on news and gossip. College Green has become Goldsmiths’ green beating heart.
It’s where graduation is celebrated and twice a year students drink champagne with their loved ones in the marquees erected especially for the occasion. Also, weather permitting, students sit on the grass and celebrate messily the end of something important with cold beers. At lunch in the summer, administrative staff sun themselves on College Green while eating their sandwiches. It wasn’t always this way. In the 1980s the area was known as the ‘backfield’ and students wouldn’t venture there much except for football training. After the Stuart Hall building was finished it seemed as if the social centre of gravity of the whole university moved beyond the Richard Hoggart building to the College Green.
Today it was the memorial ceremony celebrating the life of Stuart Hall. I saw Dick Hebdige, author of the classic study Subculture: The Meaning of Style, at the memorial. Dick was a student of both Hoggart and Hall. He told me that Richard Hoggart had interviewed him at the University of Birmingham where he applied to study English as an undergraduate. ‘I did a bloody awful interview’, he said. ‘Embarrassing.’ But Hoggart saw something in the awkward young Londoner and offered him a place. Dick then stayed on in Birmingham and worked closely with Stuart Hall during the heyday of the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies.
On this sad afternoon 900 people gathered at the Quaker House in central London to remember Stuart Hall’s life. As we waited to go in for the ceremony, Dick said how right it was that Goldsmiths’ main teaching buildings are named after his former teachers. ‘Not quite under one roof’ as he put it but their names capture symbolically so much of the spirit of the place. He then turned and said with a wry chuckle, ‘perhaps they should bury us on College Green’. We laughed. It was the kind of laugh that you share to puncture deep sadness. ‘Perhaps they should’, I replied. ‘Perhaps they should.’