Introduction

My grandfather Wilfred Florestan Franks (1908-2003) was a London born artist, craftsman, actor and dancer. Charismatic and eccentric, Wilf was a Marxist who held a deep belief that society could be restructured to create a new world in which all people would be free and equal.

He was the fifth of ten children born to Daniel and Florence Franks of Highgate, North London. His father Daniel was an orchestral violinist and a music teacher at Morley College. The family of twelve lived in a small three-bedroom terraced house on Holmesdale Road, near Highgate Underground Station.

Wilf is known for his close association with the composer Sir Michael Tippett, for his links to the famous Bauhaus art school in Germany and as an actor and dancer in pre-war BBC television shows, where he performed alongside notable names such as Wendy Toye, Maude Lloyd and Robert Helpmann. Wilf’s circle of friends and associates included the composer Alan Bush, dancer Margaret Barr, artists such as Sari Dienes and Laszlo Maholy-Nagy; as well as the interesting cultural and political figures Rolf Gardiner and Carl Heinrich Becker.

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Wilf and Michael Tippett together in Spain on a camping holiday in 1932. The picture was taken by their friend David Ayerst . Courtesy of Caroline Ayerst

It was Wilf’s close friendship with Rolf Gardiner in the late 1920′s that elevated him from his modest North London background and enabled him to study under famous artists and designers in Germany and later to begin a friendship with Sir Michael Tippett that was a major influence on the composer’s life.

In 1932 the East Cleveland Work Camps were established to help alleviate the desperate poverty of unemployed miners during the great depression. Wilf travelled up from London to help at the Boosbeck Camp, where he started a furniture making project, worked on music productions as well as helping with the agricultural work. It was here that he became friends with Michael Tippett.

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Wilf’s sculpture and paintings on display at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art.

 

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Introduction

  1. I remember him teaching at Leeds Polytechnic in the early 70s. He was a part time lecturer in furniture and I was a graphic design student desperate to move to the 3D design dept. He set me some projects and we used to have great conversations about the Bauhaus and Ogle Design. I was enthralled by his views on the world…although his predictions are only just about to come true I think.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wilf taught me life drawing at Leeds Polytechnic in the late 70s. His influence has lasted. I apply the things he taught me to this day every time I put pencil to paper. Even in his later years he was vital and full of insights.

    Liked by 1 person

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