Aspex Portsmouth

Week 14, Front Line Africa, 40 Stories

Les Buckingham, Director 1984-1999

The great curator, Harold Szeemann, helped define the new roles of the curator beyond that of preservation and guardianship. ‘Press attaché’ was one of the new areas he defined and now it is second nature for a gallery director to be ready for any chance to get the name of the gallery into the media. 

What better than to have a towering parliamentarian, one time MP for Portsmouth, director of humanitarian organisations, someone honoured by many universities, and a great internationalist, to open a fundraising event for Oxfam. This is what happened in 1990 with the great Frank Judd, who died on 17 April 2021, age 86.

For the 10th anniversary of Art Space Portsmouth we organised a series of events, culminating in a special fundraising bonanza for Oxfam’s work in Africa, a cause close to the heart of founder member John Thomson. In his position in the sculpture department of the Polytechnic, he put his metalwork skills and his inimitable teaching style to good use to organise students to design and make a lottery machine. A huge wheel was turned which pushed a number of smaller wheels causing them to circulate and eventually spit out numbered ping pong balls. Each number corresponded to the number on a ticket bought for £10 by the 160 people who attended the big party that ensued. The numbers for artworks donated by ASP members and artists from all over the country, hung from bulldog clips so that they could be taken away as soon as the holder of the ticket located the work. The ping pong balls turned out to be no match for the power of the machine so  pandemonium very quickly took hold in the gallery as it whirred and spat balls out with force and people began to search for their allocated work. It became a scramble as people found their numbers and their precious artwork. We raised over £2000 for Oxfam’s work in Africa.

John Thomson had also had the brilliant idea to ask Frank Judd to open the show. Frank was about to stand down as director of Oxfam but he was a perfect choice as he had been MP under a Labour government for Portsmouth West and subsequently for Portsmouth North from 1966 to 1979. 

He not only opened the show but, on a sweltering evening at Brougham Road, he took off his shirt and got stuck into the job of working the lottery machine, turning the wheels for art. Many politicians have visited Aspex over the years but none have made such an impression as Baron Judd of Portsea. RIP.