News - 10 December 2014

Diamond celebrations bring together staff and students from across the decades

People that studied and worked at West Nottinghamshire College’s Derby Road campus in Mansfield, from its opening in 1954 to the present day, have celebrated its 60th anniversary.

The college brought together students and staff from the last seven decades for a special evening celebration to commemorate the diamond anniversary of its main campus.

They included Roy Broadley, 88, who studied at the former Mansfield Technical College on Chesterfield Road in the early 1940s before going on to teach engineering at the newly-built Derby Road site when it opened in 1954; and former apprentice electrician Malcolm Brown, 76, who was one of its first students and helped set up the college football team.

Others included former colleagues Wendy Wragg, Eileen Matthews, Valerie Ward and Gill Kirk – who became life-long friends – and former principals Don Mackenzie and Jim Aleander, who led the college from 1974-1994, and 1994-2001 respectively.

Their fascinating stories are amongst more than 30 to be captured in a new limited-edition book, ‘Celebrating Sixty Years’, published by the college to celebrate the landmark birthday, which coincides with the completion of a £40 million redevelopment of its buildings and facilities across Mansfield and Ashfield.

The book tells the story of the evolution of the Derby Road campus as seen through the eyes of current and former staff, students and governors, who share their unique accounts of their time there.

Their anecdotes and recollections also serve as a social commentary of the college throughout the decades; from the rise of apprenticeships in the 1950s and appearances by popular bands The Who and The Small Faces – complete with instrument-smashing! – in the 1960s, to the boom in mining-related courses in the 1970s, before the miners’ strike of the 1980s led to the industry’s eventual decline.

The book also tells how the college was re-shaped in the 1990s after being freed from local authority-control, while the 2000s heralded a dynamic new era following the arrival of pioneering principal Dame Asha Khemka, who instigated the largest-ever building programme in the college’s history, completed last month – 60 years after Derby Road first opened its doors to students.

Many of these stories are replicated on an eye-catching exhibition tracing the college’s modest roots as a solitary, two-storey building that specialised in mining and engineering to becoming one of the largest and most successful further education colleges in the country.

Both the book and exhibition were unveiled at a special commemorative evening event (on Friday 5 December) at the Derby Road campus boasting live music by 1950s-style singer Jeanie Barton and her band; an address by Roy Broadley, making his first visit to the college since re-locating to Worthing, West Sussex, in December 1959; and extracts from the book read by present day performing arts students Connor Talbot, Drew Scott Purkis, Frances Savage and Lorna Gribbin, dressed in 1950s costume.

The exhibition is currently on display at Derby Road and the commemorative book, priced £5, on sale at its main reception.

Mr Broadley enjoyed a guided tour of the new-look campus upon returning for the first time in 55 years.

He said: “I had a lump in my throat the size of a duck egg. I was that overwhelmed. It was as though I had never been away – and yet the building looked totally different.

“It was very emotional and the celebrations could not have been any better. This was always a good college – but it’s a superb college now.”

Principal and chief executive, Dame Asha Khemka, said: “It has been wonderful to capture the colourful stories and memories of some of the characters who have been part of the West Notts family from 1954 to the present day.

“There is certainly something highly symbolic about the college celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Derby Road campus in the same year that we completed our £40 million building programme across Mansfield and Ashfield; and this book illustrates perfectly how the college – and society – has changed over the years.

“I’m delighted we could bring together so many of the book’s contributors for this fantastic celebration and it was a particular privilege to welcome our guest of honour, Roy Broadley.”

The college’s Derby Road campus opened as West Nottinghamshire Technical College in 1954 after expanding out of the former Mansfield Technical College in Chesterfield Road, which opened in 1928. Its name changed to West Nottinghamshire College of Further Education in 1976 when it merged with the former Mansfield College of Arts to form one institution.

The college became known by its present name in 1993 following ‘incorporation’, which saw colleges leave local authority control and become independent organisations in their own right.

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