It might now be known as Brighton University, but to thousands of former students it will always be remembered fondly as the Brighton Poly.

Since the mid-19th century, it helped thousands of young people take their first steps into the world of work.

The Faculty of Art and Design started life in 1858 as the Brighton School of Art in the great kitchen of the Royal Pavilion.

In 1874 it became the School of Art and Science, and two years later moved to a new building by John Gibbins in Grand Parade which was opened by Princess Louise.

In 1947 the Municipal School of Art became the College of Arts and Crafts, and in 1965 the whole college was rebuilt in a four-storey design by Percy Billington.

Brighton Polytechnic was established in April 1970 by a merger of the Colleges of Art and Technology and became a university in 1992.

During the 1980s, its students became known for radical activism and clashes were frequent.

Future meetings of a left wing society were cancelled in March 1981 after problems arose during a meeting at the Polytechnic’s Grand Parade building, organised by the students’ Socialist Society.

Around a dozen National Front supporters, mostly skinheads, gathered outside the building to protest at the meeting, called to discuss the problems of Ireland.

Representatives from the Brighton Campaign for the Withdrawal of Troops from Ireland were invited to speak to the audience – but the meeting soon turned ugly.

One of the NF supporters later admitted a charge of assaulting a student with a placard, causing a three-inch gash on his forehead.

The ‘troops out’ meeting was switched to the Poly at the last minute after the previous venue, a Brighton pub, had received bomb threats.

Poly spokesman Alan Morris said: “As far as we were aware, it was just a normal, regular meeting of the Socialist Society.

The Argus:

The Brighton Polytechnic choir in 1983

“In future we will be seeking more detailed information when applications are made from organisations and groups wanting to use our facilities.”

Mr Ali Wasti, president of the Students’ Union, said the decision by the authorities was “a shambles”.

He said: “This decision to cancel our meetings only means that it is the Nazi hooligans who decide whether there is free speech or not.”

But it wasn’t all protests and politics at the Poly – and it wasn’t just for young people either.

In August that same year, The Argus spoke to self-employed craftsman Barry Murphy, who was terrified of using the telephone.

The Argus:

Guy Moberly with his wooden sculpture in 1984

Mr Murphy was a chronic stammerer who had just begun an intensive twoweek course at Brighton Poly to help overcome his problem.

Mr Murphy, who worked at home in Herstmonceux making reproduction antique chairs, had stammered since he was a child.

He said: “I don’t have to meet the public often, but everybody assumes you can use the phone. I avoid that at all costs, and when I order supplies I always write or get my wife to ring.”

The Argus:

Suzanne Gryneyer celebrates her graduation on Brighton seafront in 1992

All the students on the Brighton course had tried various forms of treatment, but without success.

Another unusual course on offer at the Poly was taught by tech geek Richard Fletcher, who was obsessed with robots. He spent the summer of 1982 playing with weird and wonderful machines in the depths of the engineering department. In August that year, his latest toy was a £35,000 Link Man robot.

The machine, which bore an uncanny resemblance to an emu, could be used to weld car parts, pack goods, or simply as a grinding tool.

“You can make this thing do exactly as you like,” said an excited Mr Fletcher.

He added: “The good thing about it is it will keep on doing it till the cows come home – or until you switch it off.”




1863: American Civil War: the Battle of Gettysburg begins.

1908: SOS is adopted as the international distress signal.

1916: World War I: On the first day of the Battle of the Somme 19,000 soldiers of the British Army are killed and 40,000 wounded.

1963: The British Government admits that former diplomat Kim Philby had worked as a Soviet agent.

1979: Sony introduces the Walkman.

1997: China resumes sovereignty over the city-state of Hong Kong, ending 156 years of British colonial rule.

2007: Smoking in England is banned in all public indoor spaces.