J

James KIm

Kim James

Born in the 1920s, Kim James was a modern renaissance man all to himself.  He served in the 3rd Royal Tank Regiment during the Second World War when he joined the Communist Party. He joined the YCL in (he thinks!) 1942 at a meeting in the Labour Hall, Wellingborough, Northants, addressed by Harry Pollit and Betty Matthews. He kept up membership of first the YCL in Southwark when in the army and then the Party in Peckham and Battersea when he became an art student on demob in 1948. 
 
He also joined the French Youth organisation, UJRF, when he married a French girl in 1950 and divided his time fairly equally between Paris and London for the next twenty years. During the fifties and sixties he was a successful sculptor. He taught at Camberwell Art school, later becoming principal lecturer of art therapy in St Albans.  His work was sold to private collections all over the world. His public work can still be seen, among which is the Mammoth sculpture in front of the Darwin Science building at Nottingham Trent University and a very large relief sculpture on the staircase in St Matthews Church in Bethnal Green in London. He was a member of the group around Henry Moore. (An example of Kim's work is pictured.)
 
Along the way, he acquired an MA in the psychology of Art from the Royal College in London, on the role of drawing in child development, an MSc in brain science, and a Doctorate in Cybernetics from BrunelUniversity. For ten years he was Principal lecturer in Art Therapy. From 1987 to 1996 he ran a training course in art therapy for Psychiatric Nurses at the French National Institute and renewed contact with French Communist Party. .

 
It was whilst working in the hospital in Rouen that he came across the graves of the British soldiers, one of whom was his uncle. His research into the lives and deaths of all the soldiers led to the eventual discovery of the true circumstances of the battle in Criquebeuf – the last before the fall of France. The story of which can be read in “A Greater Share of Honor”.  This is a romantic and moving biography of seven men, three British, three French and a Senegalese. Born hundreds, and in one case thousands, of miles apart, separated by nationality, race, religion and class they have a unity at their death in the same moment, time and space. It was only by chance that Kim discovered that the dates on their graves in the British military cemetery in Rouen and the Necropolis in Fleury les Aubreys are not only wrong in all cases bar one, but totally impossible. Through England and France to a village in the Senegalese brush, painstaking research has tracked the immediate families of all the men including widows, sons and a daughter.

The story describes the lives and personalities of the men from birth to the outbreak of the second world war. It shows their loves, their hopes and despair and their optimism in the face of the greatest danger.

 
 
 
Both he and his wife, Carole Mackenzie, who had been one of his students, remained committed Marxists of enormous talent. Carol herself has a doctorate in Electronics and is very well versed in all the Marxist classics, and speaks Chinese and French.
 
Kim never actually left the Communist Party, preferring the definition that it left him! His party branch in Dulwich faded away sometime in the late seventies or early eighties and he never heard any more.
 
He spent ten years at the School of Art in St Albans. He and his wife also, for some 15 years, ran a consultancy specialising in “changing attitudes and building very unified teams based on an ability to tolerate dissension within the group”.
 
 

Kim James passed away on Saturday 16th July 2011 at 7.15am after a long illness.

 

 

 

Source: information from Kim James, thanks also to Dick Maunders

 

Additional resource –

 

Kim James: 1928 - 2011

 

Morning Star Thursday 21 July 2011

 

by Richard Maunders

 

Kim James, a noted sculptor, teacher, scientist, and author died on Saturday July 16 at the age of 82.

 

It is an impossible task to summarise the incredible career and life of this remarkable man, such are the many achievements and eventful moments during his life.

 

During the '50s and '60s Kim was a successful sculptor, with his work being sold to private collections across the world.

 

He had a one-man exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in London and with Henry Moore at the Middelheim Biennale in Belgium.

 

Some of his public work can still be seen, which until recently included the largest free-standing sculpture in Britain, that of a mammoth standing outside the Darwin Centre at Nottingham University.

 

Another impressive work is a relief which surrounds the edge of the staircase at St Matthew's church in Bethnal Green.

 

Kim taught sculpture at Camberwell Art School where I first met him as a student.

 

I was informed by someone in the Communist party that he was a member and duly made my introduction.

 

He was a great support when I was president of the union, although I did not always follow his advice. On one occasion when we were in dispute with the principal he suggested I turn in a few expletives to settle the issue, which I will not repeat.

 

Kim turned from being a successful artist to follow a career in science. The reason, he explained, was because "the theories of complexity seemed to me to be the closest to Marxism."

 

He started by gaining an MA at the Royal College of Art with a thesis on the psychology of art in the development of the infant brain. This was followed by an MSc in brain studies and a doctorate in Cybernetics at Brunel University.

 

Throughout this period he embraced a Marxist approach as the best way to comprehend the human knowing system and became a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

 

After finishing his doctorate he worked in Dijon in France where he set up the first major art therapy training programme for the French national health training service.

 

It was such a success and attracted so many students - including psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses - that he ran it for fifteen years, and the course is still running.

 

Kim and his wife Carole also set up PSI International consultancy to promote new thinking in management, using art as a vehicle.

 

They became much sought after by top companies including BA, Oracle and Bull Benelux.

 

Kim told me that he gave away a lot of what they earned to support unemployed youngsters.

 

Kim joined the YCL in 1942 after hearing Harry Pollitt and Betty Matthews speak in Northampton.

 

After a period in the Royal Tank regiment he went to Paris where he met and married his first wife Madeline.

 

She hid with her Jewish family during the war from the nazis and acted as a messenger in and out of Paris for her family and brothers who were partisans.

 

In the '50s Kim was a member of the cultural committee of the Communist party, travelling extensively across socialist Europe, the Soviet Union and China, where he amusingly told me that "not everyone can say they had a pee next to Chou En Lai and other Chinese leaders in the urinal."

 

Kim acted as a translator at numerous conferences for the World Council for Peace and the International Women's Democratic Federation.

 

During the time of the struggle for Algerian independence from French colonialism Kim travelled to Paris to paint the portrait of D'Astier de la Vigerie, editor of Liberation and friend of president De Gaulle.

 

Kim was asked to carry a letter to Paris on behalf of the ANLF but this was changed at the last minute. He was stunned to learn two years later from a KGB officer that he had had a lucky escape - had he been found carrying a letter supporting Algerian nationalism it would have been disastrous.

 

Kim also meticulously researched and wrote a book about a little-known battle that occurred in Criquebeuf.

 

In A Greater Share of Honour he tells the story of a few brave British and French soldiers who held off the Germans at a vital crossing for a number of days. One of those soldiers was his uncle.

 

Kim remained a Communist all his life. He remarked to me that what kept him a communist "has been the superb philosophy of Marxism and the romance of the sparkling sort of persons who have been the heroes and heroines of the movement".

 

He was fiercely critical of the top-down approach that happened in the Soviet Union in the later years, which he blamed for its eventual collapse.

 

He was equally critical of the Eurocommunists who took over the British party, although he thought the Morning Star had improved enormously.

 

On the collapse of the CPGB he said: "I never left the party - it left me whilst I wasn't looking."

 

I corresponded regularly and visited Kim and his wife Carole numerous times over the last few years. Listening to him was like a fresh breath of air blowing away the cobwebs of political stagnancy.

 

His deep understanding of Marxism and dialectics ignited long discussions and debates well into the evening.

 

The world is a much poorer place without his incisive thought, wit and humanity.

 

 

Source: information from Kim James, thanks also to Dick Maunders