|Volume 50 Number 10, March 25, 2020||ARCHIVE||HOME||JBCENTRE||SUBSCRIBE|
With profound sadness we inform you of the death of long-time friend and supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain (Marxist-Leninist) Carole Chant (also widely known as Carole Finer), in the early hours of Friday, March 20. She had been in hospital for four days with pneumonia and suspected COVID-19 infection, which was finally confirmed on March 19. Her passing is indeed a shock to all who knew her, not least in that the coronavirus can strike so close to home. Our heartfelt thoughts and condolences go out to her partner Michael, son Tom, daughter Tania, her grandchildren Marlowe and Minnie, her two sisters, and all her extended family, friends and colleagues. She herself was hugely loved by all her family.
Carole was 83, but had no intention of stopping any of her many activities and travels. She was a founding member of the Scratch Orchestra; an artist; a much loved art teacher for 30 years; a very fine banjo player (although she hated to admit it) playing Bluegrass, English and Irish folk music, and lots of free improvised music; A radio presenter with a weekly programme on Resonance FM, where she entertained and was entertained by all her favourite people from the worlds of experimental, improvised and folk music, and where she played her field recordings of trips she took to India, Mexico and Egypt, armed with a zoom and all she had learnt on various sound-recording courses with Chris Watson, one of the most noted sound recordists, and Jez riley French.
Carole studied fine art at the Chelsea College of Art. On leaving, she joined industry as a typographer and graphic designer. Among her designs from this time were the logo of the National Trust. Her alphabet book for children Pictures and Sounds, published by Philograph Publications, is now a collector's item.
She subsequently joined the staff of the then London College of Printing (now the London College of Communication, part of the University of the Arts) where she taught typography. She was an inspired teacher and a designer of many publications, and her fellow lecturers learned a tremendous amount from her. From January 1978, she taught on the Foundation Course in Art and Design together with Philippa Beale, now a member of the artistic group The Arborealists. In 1983, she became head of the Foundation Course and ran it until 1990, when the then London Institute closed it down. While working on the course, she and the fine arts lecturers together employed many interesting teachers, including the social commentator Jeff Nutall, the printmaker Monica Petzal, curator Kapil Jariwala, and Robin Klassnik of Matt's Gallery. They offered places to political prisoners, members of the ANC, who came from South Africa, ex-offenders from the UK and actively outreached to applicants from deprived backgrounds. Many of these students became household names.
In September 1990, Carole was apprehensive about moving to Camberwell School of Art to teach graphic design, but it turned out to be one of the most life-enhancing periods of her life. Here she was welcomed for her expertise and talent and soon joined "life classes", in which she participated until she retired and then continued life painting from her home, as well as producing notable collages and mixed media works.
A constant throughout her life was her passion for the banjo, the rudiments of which she taught to her cousin Jem Finer of The Pogues. In 1968, along with a number of kindred spirits, she joined the Experimental Music Classes given by Cornelius Cardew, whose mother Mariel had been one of her teachers in her student days, at the adult education Morley College in London. She relished the opportunity to play among professional and non-professional musicians in this milieu. When the Scratch Orchestra, arising out of this class, was formed in 1969, she became one of its most ardent stalwarts, and, along with many of the Scratch Orchestra, took up revolutionary politics as an inevitable development of the progressive and democratic nature of its ethos. She remained a friend and supporter of RCPB(ML), as well as being the prime mover in many of the Scratch Orchestra's anniversaries and subsequent incarnations. These culminated in "The Scratch Orchestra at 50" celebrations last year and the historic concert at Morley College 50 years to the day after its first concert, November 1, 1969. She best represented the theme of the celebrations: The Quality Given Rise to by the Scratch Endures!
In her retirement, Carole started a new career as a presenter for Resonance FM. Her weekly show Sound Out ran from 2007. Her last show took place on March 10, before Resonance closed its doors to live broadcasts because of the coronavirus crisis. On Monday, March 23, in tribute, Resonance played a seven-hour selection of her broadcasts. These Sound Out shows represent an outstanding treasure-house of broadcasting. Many of the shows had guests from the worlds of experimental, folk, bluegrass and American Old Time music, as well as significant figures from the contemporary classical music world, such as Gavin Bryars, Michael Chant, Michael Parsons, Hugh Shrapnel, Howard Skempton, Dave Smith and John White. A number of them trailed concerts organised by the Cornelius Cardew Concerts Trust. But many of the shows just featured Carole and her field recordings or some of her favourite music. Her preparation was always meticulous; she invariably carried out research and spoke from a script.
Her field recordings from her many trips to different parts of the world were themselves a treasure chest. She had field recordings from countries including Egypt, Iceland, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Turkey and, most often, from the many journeys she undertook to various parts of India, including Kerala, Assam, Uttar Pradesh, and other states. Her last visit to India was in January 2019 when, despite a barely two-year old aortic heart valve replacement, she participated in a trip called the "West Bengal Musical Adventure" under the auspices of Sound Travels. While there, she kept the fact that she had dislocated her shoulder on day two from her family until the day she returned home, all the while maintaining her mirth for life. The other source of recordings was the American Old Time Music and Dance camps, where she was one of the best known and most loved participants. One participant who subsequently appeared on her show was the mandolin player John Paul Jones, perhaps better known as the bassist of Led Zeppelin. But home sessions were also frequent. You can see more in the video Take it away: Carole Finer - vimeo.com/808512
Nothing stood in the way of her active and vigorous outlook and mirth for life. Her acts of kindness were legendary, as many tributes have pointed out. A family from London, Ontario, in Canada recalls how on one occasion she flew from the United States, where she was touring country music venues, to meet an old friend from her student days who was dying of cancer. She gave him extra time. The family, not sure if she knew that, wanted it said even now. She left no page unturned.
Carole was a remarkable person with a remarkable life. She had a special place in her heart for her grandchildren. As well as her nearest and dearest, she deeply loved and enjoyed people and they, in turn, dearly loved her back. She will be sorely missed.
"She took her last breaths with myself and my dad at her side. We told her how much we loved her. We had masks on, gowns on, gloves on. COVID-19 took her from us. I beg you to please keep your distance from the elderly. This is not a virus for them. Wear a mask, keep your distance, wash your hands, behave like you have the virus." - Daughter Tania
"If you're in the UK, with its weak and reckless leadership, please strongly consider self-isolation in order to control the spread of this coronavirus. London seems to be a hotspot and with the current government recommendations is only going to get worse. We've now seen first-hand how dangerous this virus is for older people, however active they might be." - Son Tom