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With Barry Flanagan: Travels through Time and Spain by Richard McNeff

The TEFL industry attracts teachers who have more skills than teaching, and the London School of English has quite a few people like this. Among the staff, there are artists, musicians, lawyers, journalists, an actor, a story-teller, a comedian, a cake-maker, a singer, and a novelist. Today, Robert introduces one of our trainers, Richard's new book.

We’re trained professionals, of course, but that doesn’t prevent us from having other passions and interests. It’s possible to say that this makes lessons more interesting for learners.

One of my colleagues – Richard McNeff, a novelist – has just published his second book, With Barry Flanagan: Travels through Time and Spain. It came out in November 2012. An intriguing memoir, it tells - with humour, elegance and honesty - the true story of the writer’s collaboration and friendship with one of Britain’s best-known sculptors between 1987 and Flanagan’s death from motor neurone disease in 2009.

Flanagan was certainly one of the best sculptors of the 20th century in Britain. After an early career experimenting with abstract forms, he changed style and started to create sculptures of hares in different kinds of material. These sensuous, jumping hares became his global trade mark. They also made him a lot of money.

We get a behind-the-scenes look into the artist’s zany way of life on Ibiza. Flanagan lit fires in his house on boiling hot summer days; he spoke in riddles, making his meaning difficult to understand; and he was afraid of mountains because, he said, they made him feel inferior.

It was the artist’s unreliability that made McNeff’s job of curating his shows on the Spanish island rather touch-and-go. He never knew if Flanagan would appear at the opening or how he would behave. He needn’t have worried; all the exhibitions were a complete success. And so is this book: as well as being a portrait of an artist as an older man, it manages to be a romp through the dying days of peace and love, a swansong to the hippie era. 

By Robert Nurden


intriguing (adj.) - very interesting

memoir (n.) - story of events in someone's life

sensuous (adj.) – attractive to the senses

trademark (n.) - a distinctive characteristic 

behind-the-scenes (adj.) - outside the public view, in private 

zany (adj.) - unusual, eccentric 

to speak in riddles (v. phr.) - to speak in a way that is not easily understood 

touch-and-go (adj.) - uncertain as to the result

a romp (n.) - harmless fun 

a swansong (n.) - a creative artist’s last performance or composition

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