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Two Halves // Viv Albertine and William Raban

Two Halves Viv William
Two Halves Viv William

Written by
Helen Carney
Published date
16 February 2015

Two Halves is a regular feature spotlighting two people connected by London College of Communication.

Our aim is to showcase the conceptual intentions, deeper thinking and personal insights that come with the creative process.


“Apparently mature students always try and over-achieve, we know this may be our last chance.”

  • Last year I slept a lot, rehearsed my band and played lots of gigs.  The year before that I finished my book and was the lead in a feature film. Every year is different for me and amongst all that I bring up my daughter, which is very improvisational and creative.
  • I write prose every day, not sure what it’s going to turn into. I make notes for songs, I’ve done some drawings but mostly I travel Britain and Europe promoting my book with readings at literary festivals. I want to communicate to as many people as possible, it took three years to write and I am proud of it.
  • I went to LCC 1984-87 and I did BA (Hons) Film. It took me a few years to get a portfolio together after being the guitarist in the Slits. I was a mature student and working, teaching aerobics at the same time. As I’d been in the music industry for seven years, I found the essay writing part of the course very difficult at first, but by the second year I was ok and became a bit of a swot.  Apparently mature students always try and over-achieve, we know this may be our last chance. I was grateful to be there.
  • I am a great believer in exposing myself to other disciplines, different to the one I’m working in, it’s much more inspiring and your work is less derivative.
  • I found collaboration in film very difficult because it watered down the idea.  It was very difficult to keep it strong and stay close to your vision, each department diffused the initial idea, misinterpreted it or there wasn’t the money.
  • If you make work that is honest and faithful to yourself, it will never date. It is scary and painful to do and it may not be recognised as good work for many years but you have to choose if you want to be an artist or an entertainer.
  • I was embarrassingly honest and I had a nervous breakdown after I handed (my memoir) to the publisher.  I had no hopes for it at all. I thought I would be a pariah once people read it. That’s how you should always feel when you make work in my opinion. Like you’ve gone too far.
  • I’ve only done four things, three albums and a book (I could count the way I used to dress in the seventies as it was groundbreaking, political and creative) and they have all transcended who I am.
  • I’m a great believer in the ‘fallow field’, lying dormant until an idea becomes so compelling that you can’t keep it in anymore.  That’s my way of working.  I’d rather do a couple of good things in my life than churn out a load of mediocre work. I’m not a careerist.
  • We had no TV, no books, no social life and no telephone when I was growing up – all I could do was draw.  I was often bored so both drawing and fantasising were my escape and they stood me in good stead.  I never run out of ideas, but sometimes, I concentrate on other things like love.

Viv Albertine’s memoir is Clothes, Clothes, Clothes, Music, Music, Music, Boys, Boys, Boys.


“Dream space is crucially important to any creative process.”

  • I am William Raban, Professor of Film at LCC and most of my time is committed to research both in terms of making films, supervising research students and doing all I can to develop an active college-based research community.
  • I have just finished a 60-minute film (72-82) on the first ten years of Acme Studios that includes pioneering installation and performance works shown at the Acme Gallery (1976–1981).
  • Acme Studios commissioned the film and they approached me because I had been a part of their history in the 1970s and I had documented on film some of the installations and performances shown in the Acme Gallery.
  • When I made Thames Film (1986) I began by being inspired by TS Eliot’s Four Quartets and his view of the river as a ‘strong brown god’.  Later, I discovered the Brueghel painting Triumph of Death in the Prado, which became the means for holding the film together.  It came to me in a dream where I saw the painting to the slowed down sound of Bach’s Matthew’s Passion, which is featured on the soundtrack. And of course, 72-82 is largely informed by artists who worked in painting, sculpture, installation and performance art.
  • The way I started making films in the early 70s invariably was a solitary process but I now depend upon help with specialist areas such as editing and sound.  I have collaborated with David Cunningham for the last 18 years on my soundtracks and he is brilliant to work with.  He is often quite critical of my ideas and I like that degree of resistance in the collaborative process.
  • The films about London and the River Thames have all been inspired either by being out on the river in a small boat or by walking the streets of London and just observing what goes on.  I find life on the streets so fascinating that I am not really interested in the artifice of a film studio.
  • LCC constantly surprises me. I have been here since 1996 but today I discovered the Heidelberg press in the printing department.  Whilst I have a pretty good idea about what goes on in the School of Media, I look forward to discovering more treasures in the Design School.
  • [On his first piece of art] I would say it was a large oil painting that I made when I was 17 – a view of the River Test in Southampton looking towards the distant Fawley oil refinery.  I got the paint to do what I wanted at the time but as I became older, I rejected its mimetic representation of a landscape and I am pleased to say it no longer exists – the paint having gradually fallen off through having been placed over the rising heat from my parents’ fireplace.
  • Island Race (1996), which was incredibly hard to finish because of its focus on the rise of the BNP.  I nearly gave up and am glad I didn’t because I think it remains a valuable document of that febrile time in east London.
  • Dream space is crucially important to any creative process. I have several ideas about what to make next but I am in a space where I need to dream the next idea.

William Raban is Professor of Film at London College of Communication.