Former Students return to Blackburn College after 40 Years


Two former students have returned to visit Blackburn College after 40 years away. James Whitaker and Christine Marsden were students at what was then known as Blackburn College of Technology and Design, where they studied the Foundation Art programme during the 1970s.

Since leaving the College, Christine founded The House of Laidlaw Marsden with fellow photographer and partner of 37 years – Alastair Laidlaw. Together, their clientele comprises some of the world’s biggest brands – including Vanity Fair, Harpers Bazaar, Bulgari and Swarovski.

James’s career has seen him work in the Far East for over 25 years, where he is the main fashion designer for international underwear manufacturer Triumph International – which currently has over 2,000 stores in 50 countries.

Together, their return to Blackburn College coincides with a long awaited collaboration between the two former classmates – resulting in a book titled Dreams Of Diamonds. The 160-page work of art took 6 years to complete and features photographs of diamonds juxtaposed against a myriad of dreamscapes.

The collaboration saw Christine and partner Alastair responsible for photography – with James as author. Graciously, the three have donated two copies of the publication to the College – one of which is a rare Archival Edition that will be available to view by appointment only and has specific care, handling and storage instructions. The non-Archival Edition of the book is valued at $10,000.  James said:

“I consider the work I did in Dreams Of Diamonds to be some of the finest produced in my career and I am absolutely delighted to be gifting two limited edition copies to the libraries at Blackburn College.”

The reunion saw Christine and James spend the afternoon at Blackburn College, where they enjoyed a warm welcome from Gill Rutherford, and a visit to the PRISM Gallery and Victoria Building – courtesy of Jamie Holman, John Harrison, Stephen Malone and BA (Hons) Fine Art students. The Victoria Building is the only building still in existence from when Christine and James were students and is where the art and design provision was housed at the time. Gill added:

“Thank you very much to Christine, James and Alastair for donating such a magnificent work of art to the University Centre and Beacon Centre libraries. We hope you enjoyed your visit back to Blackburn College after 40 years away – it was lovely having you.”

The continued career success of Christine and James is testament to the longstanding reputation of Blackburn College’s Creative Arts provision and its ability to produce talented artists and makers who go on to fulfil the needs of the local and national creative industries.

8 Nov 2018, 12:46 PM

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