Ian Noble Tribute
  • Cactus Network
  • To add a few more stories which sum up Ian's influence and character;

    Portsmouth show

    We both first met Ian properly at our final show at Portsmouth College of Art and Design (or Nobby's College of Knowledge as it was also know to those who passed through). We were leaving back to London to the world of magazine design, whilst he was returning and taking over the BA course. Apart from getting on from the go, we were all now all part of the Pompie mafia, a disparate group of designers who had similar anarchic tendencies and a belief that design could and should have an effect on the world around us. These were the dark years of Thatcherism.

    Susan, Glenn and Ian at Webster's Wedding

    Always excited about new ideas, encouraged experimentation and subverting the system we found Ian very supportive whilst building the Cactus Network, he participated, wrote challenging texts, came out drinking and kept an eye out for possible exhibitions and opportunities. He also wrote texts in the 'Feeding Squirrels to the Nuts' publication (title) and is seen here giving feedback to the Carrion Culture poster set a collaboration between Portsmouth students and tutors.

    Murray McMahon, Sarah Clever, Ian Noble and Joe Hetzel

    Ian was a regular visitor to symposiums at the Jan van Eyck Akademie in Holland, after it had been changed from a Fine Art academie to one mixing art, design and theory, by Jan van Toorn. Ian came over for the 'Design Beyond Design' conference where his and Russ' project 'We Interrupt the Programme' was exhibited along side that of Ne Pas Plier, 2x4, Sheila Levrant de Bretteville and Cees Hamelink.

    One evening while enjoying the night life of the small town, he was thrilled to join both Jan van Toorn and Wim Crouwel for dinner, two of the pillars of Dutch Design, this made his day and it was a story he told for years to come, where he had tried to get them to revisit their debates of the 1970's, but they weren't taking the bait.

    Simon Clarke, Russ Bestley, Alice Twemlow, Ian Noble outside the Jan van Eyck Akademie

    As well as some fine professional moments we shared with Ian, here's a quick anecdote of one of the funniest evenings we ever spent in the company of the big fella.

    It had been a long day, somewhere towards the end of summer 1990. We’d helped Paul (Webster) move out of his studio, lugging drawing boards, spray booths, weights from grant enlargers, and if I remember correctly a heavy red safe, downstairs from his fourth-floor studio into a waiting van. Andy was the allotted driver, though not a very good one because as he set off with purpose down the narrow street, he jammed the nose of van between a wall and a large metal bollard.

    Heave-ho. Between the four of us, Ian, Paul, Tony and myself, took about half an hour of pondering damage limitation before restraining the bollard as best we could to push the van arse first back to freedom. Andy set off into the night with the stuffed van leaving us to fend for ourselves in north London. We had a snifter near the scene, then headed south to the celebrated tap rooms of Brixton.

    On home turf, we ventured back via the wonderful Effra Tavern and George Canning (once described as the closest you’ll get to Chalmun’s Cantina) to the now defunct Two Woodcocks, where you might witness octogenarians boxing over a beer mat. Nicely relaxed and with a curry from Khans and extra provisions from the offy we made it back to the flat: 29 Birch House, Tulse Hill Estate.

    We sat about discussing the day’s graft and Andy’s inept driving over a few cans and a soundtrack of African Head Charge. The tape finished, the music changed, New Order’s World In Motion escalated the party on to a new level, the conversation moving on to Euro ’90. None of us were football aficionados, but the hooliganism had left the terraces, England were on an up, and the nation had got behind them. Then England lost, and had Gazza cried – no harm in that.

    The reserves finished we approached the home brew, it was like a nostalgic throw back from the Seventies, this spurred us on to attempt (collectively) to name the England 1966 First XI:
    ‘Banks in goal.’
    ‘He lost an eye y’ know.’
    ‘German baast-ards…’
    ‘Not in the game… in a car crash.’
    ‘Banks in goal, Bobby, two Charltons… Jack and another Bobby…’ says Ian
    ‘Hurst, Peters and Moore… he’s another Bobby.’
    ‘No he’s the first Bobby.’
    ‘Bobby, Bobby, Jackie…’ Ian is on a roll.
    ‘… if it weren’t for West Ham, y’ know…’
    ‘Give over…’
    ‘… a Nobby,’ adds Ian. ‘Bobby, Nobby, Bobby, Jackie…’
    ‘Geoff Hurst and Hunt up front,’
    ‘… got Hurst…’
    Ian pulls the team together, counting on his large fingers. ‘So we have Banksy, Bobby, Nobby, Bobby, Jackie and… Hurst and Hunt up front… Peters…’
    ‘…Ball, there was a ball,’ someone shouts.
    ‘Yep, Colin Ball…’
    ‘Alan Ball…’
    ‘That's the one.’
    Chunky Noble (as Paul referred to Ian), recounted: ‘So we have a Ball, a Bobby, Nobby, Bobby, a Banksy and a Ball… Jackie… Hunt and Hurst, a Peters and…er… that’s nine…
    The pickling was keeping our spirits up but needless to say hindering the train of thought.
    ‘Flobby? Hee-hee.’
    ‘WILSON!… Ray Wilson. He was one of ’em, he was there.’
    ‘Bobby, Nobby, Bobby… a Banksy a Ball… Jackie, Wilson, hee-hee… Hurst and Hunt up front, a Peters… er…’
    Ian had now created a bit of a rhythm with this. ‘Ten… one more.’
    We all took turns in reciting the rap in the vain hope the elusive eleventh would spring to mind.
    ‘Bobby, Nobby, Bobby… a Banksy, a Ball…’
    Moving away from the home brew and on to vodka, the sounds had gone up a notch and Tackhead was thumping.
    ‘We’ve got some dry ice in the fridge.’
    ‘From the photo shoot.’

    Ian and Paul were working on a job for Michele-Anne, it was a science client and they’d been taking pictures of petri dishes or something and using the dry ice as a prop.
    ‘Any good with vodka?’
    ‘Top of the Pops, Legs and Co, that stuff, no good for vodka though.’
    ‘BRILLIANT! Lets have a go.’

    In the middle of the four-by-four-yard room, we placed a brick-size lump of the stuff in a washing up bowl, poured on some hot water, and sat back.

    Ooops. Within minutes we were sitting up to our noses in thick fog and wetting our selves with laughter. You couldn’t see your hands, let alone your feet.

    Then with his head and shoulders above the cloud and as cool as a cucumber, the big fella said, ‘Bobby, Nobby, Bobby…’

    I guess it was a case of being there. With Ian gone we’ve all lost something. And as Gazza had demonstrated earlier, crying can be good.

    Dry ice fog

    Glenn Orton and Tony Credland – Cactus Network