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BBC Arts Editor, Will Gompertz, visits Didcot Sixth Form

Posted on: 12/11/2018
WillStudents in Years 12 and 13 were delighted to welcome Will Gompertz to speak at St Birinus School as part of the Wednesday Enrichment programme. Gompertz joined the BBC in 2009 as Arts Editor, a newly created role, and on TV, radio, and online, you will find him reviewing everything from Stormzy and Mamma Mia 2 to the Turner Prize and the V&A.  Previously, he had worked as a director of Tate for seven years, where he was responsible for Tate Online, the UK’s most popular art website, and also helped launch Tate Etc, the UK’s highest-circulation art magazine. He has written for both The Guardian and The Telegraph on a variety of subjects, and has even performed a sell-out show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Yet despite all that, he considers himself to be completely talentless!
The focus of the talk, in a word, was ‘creativity’. Gompertz began by looking ahead to the future: a future where technology will have completely transformed our world and made many of our jobs redundant. In a world where our smartphones can Google anything, what do humans have to offer? Answer: ‘an amazing facility to have ideas and realise them,’ and in the same way that the Industrial Revolution created a new middle class, the Information Revolution, Gompertz argued, will create a new creative class. ‘We all have the potential to be artists,’ he said: ‘we mainly just don’t think we do.’
Art can be an intimidating subject for some, but Gompertz structured his talk around a series of case studies and made them extremely accessible for the audience, covering ground from Titian’s Venus of Urbino and Édouard Manet’s Olympia, to Duchamp’s Fountain, Cezanne, Mondrian, Banksy, and the radical performance art of Marina Abramovic. Each piece served as an anchor for a key lesson about creativity, whether it was the importance of breaking rules and stealing ideas, or the need to ask the right questions, be enterprising, and learn from failure. It was great to hear to a talk that was both so academically rigorous yet at the same time so relevant to the students in the Sixth Form.
It really was a superb presentation, and Gompertz was an absolute privilege to listen to: not only funny (frequently so) and highly informative, but also genuinely thought-provoking, and, ultimately, inspiring. We are enormously grateful for Will’s time and message, and we thank him warmly for his visit. 
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