It all began with a wrong turn at Calais. Over 17 years ago, Lance Hattatt’s journey from England to Italy ended unexpectedly in Budapest. He fall in love with the Hungarian capital and settled down in the city together with his wife Jane, with whom they quite recently joined Milestone and shortly become emblematic figures of our faculty and community. Discover the story of Milestone’s Englishman by reading our interview in which the Institute’s Division Head of Arts, Literature and Humanities not only gives insight into his professional and personal experiences with British education and contemporary art, but reveals and exposes the aims and objectives of the ‘arts @ milestone’ programme due for launch at the beginning of October.
As a teacher you worked for many different educational establishments, from a Preparatory School in Warwickshire to a leading Comprehensive School in Hampshire. What was so appealing about Milestone that made you decide to join us as the Division Head of Arts and Humanities?
I totally embrace Milestone’s philosophy and vision, which is completely unique and different from anything existing in British schools and those establishments where I have worked so far. I really enjoy teaching bright young students who are preparing for their studies in the best universities in the world. Furthermore, I totally endorse the idea that these talented individuals with great prospects for the future will come back and make a huge difference for the good of their home country.
What makes Milestone different from those many other educational institutions that you worked for?
Milestone’s educational philosophy and mission is visionary. What renders it different is the unique educational concept and method of enriching young talent. Milestone offers students something special that is outside their normal high school experiences where the teaching is predominantly didactic. In an ideal world there would be no need for Milestone, but as of now I am fairly sure this is not the world that we live in.
What is the most challenging part about being the Division Head of Arts, Literature and Humanities?
Definitely promoting these areas at Milestone. I believe the curriculum is already very strong but, on balance, the Institute attracts far more people from the Numerical, Natural and Social Sciences. As a result I feel that Arts, Literature and Humanities is somewhat lagging behind the other Divisions. I should like to think that it is possible to establish a really strong Arts, Literature and Humanities Division here with the hope that, in the future, it would attract more arts-orientated students.
In what particular way are you planning to contribute to the further development and refinement of Milestone Institute’s educational programme?
In the very short term, my aim is simply to introduce more arts-based courses, whose success depends upon finding the qualified people to teach these subjects at the highest level. In addition, of course, we need to attract ambitious, keen and committed students to sign up for these courses.
In addition to your role as a Division Head at Milestone, you also teach Academic Writing. How would you describe your teaching method?
My teaching method is very simply and best defined as interactive eccentricity. I consider it absolutely important that teachers develop their own individual style, keeping in mind that teaching is more than standing up and conveying knowledge. It is more like a performance. I regard the classroom as a kind of theatre where teachers need to make interactions with the pupils and where each individual shares the stage. Self-integrity is also important: copying others never works; every teacher must have his or her own style, which harmonises with his or her own personality.
You insisted that your ‘own education was a product of the British Public School system’. What’s the story behind that?
I was sent to a boarding school first at the age of 8 and then, subsequently, apart from holiday times, I was away from home during the whole period of my education. This means that I became institutionalised from a very early age, so home and family played only a small role in my education and upbringing.
Before the start of your academic career you worked at the Pallas Gallery in London. How do you recall those times?
The Pallas Gallery was a progressive, yet small, art publishing company linked with the New York Graphic Society. Its owner and director, Andrew Revai, had Hungarian origins and was a great art collector. He had acquired a substantial collection of fine British contemporary art and had established good relations with notable British artists of our time, many of whom I had the chance to meet during the three years which I spent at the Gallery. For instance, one of the most emblematic figures regularly showing up at the Gallery was Graham Sutherland who became famous for painting a portrait of Winston Churchill, later destroyed by Churchill himself, who was not pleased with Sutherland’s work. When I was at the Gallery, Sutherland was working on the tapestry of ‘Christ in Glory’ for the new Coventry Cathedral and I had the chance to become involved with his artwork in progress for the project. Subsequently, and by coincidence, my first teaching post was in a Comprehensive School of 2000 students in Coventry. Another interesting fact that I did not know at the time I was working for the Pallas Gallery is that Andrew Revai was a Soviet spy and the Gallery may well have been a cover for his activities. I have very recently come to know this information from Andrew Lownie who wrote a book entitled ‘Stalin’s Englishman – The Lives of Guy Burgess’ and contacted me because he knew my connection with Revai.
Why did you decide to move on from the London art scene and switch to education?
I always thought of becoming a teacher, but I also wanted to make a career in the Civil Service, particularly in the Diplomatic Service. However, it would have been a complete disaster. The thing that made my mind up was that I felt that I had a terribly privileged upbringing myself and therefore I wanted to do something for the benefit of young people, especially for those who are disadvantaged, so I took a teaching position at Coundon Court School in Coventry, in a city seriously socially deprived, and I found it hugely challenging, but equally incredibly rewarding. From there I continued in teaching for 20 years and whenever I obtained a more challenging or better post, I moved. When Jane, my wife, was appointed Head of Lordswood School and Sixth Form Centre at a very young age in Birmingham, I actually stopped teaching. Then, at that time, together with Jane, I designed and developed a garden in Herefordshire, near the Welsh border called The Arrow Cottage. The garden gained national recognition with the result that we had thousands and thousands of visitors per year, many of the openings, together with other events, helped to raise funds for Cancer Research. Subsequently, I was asked to write garden books and in total I wrote more than 12 or 13. These books were translated to most languages, including Japanese, French, German, Dutch and Hungarian. Imagine my surprise when I saw one of my gardening books in a shop window in Váci utca on our very first visit to Hungary!
You held posts as Head of Pastoral Care and Head of English and Drama, you were appointed as a National Moderator in English for an examination board and you wrote Drama text books for use in schools. This is just to mention a few highlights from your academic career. What do you consider to have been your greatest achievement related to education?
When I was teaching in a comprehensive school in Hampshire, I organised a large scale event called ‘Poetry Carnival’. It ran for 3 days with workshops, book signings, performances and poetry readings involving 10-15 thousand schoolchildren. It took almost two years to plan it and it attracted a great deal of prestigious contemporary British poets like Michael Rosen, Gavin Ewart and Kevin Crossley-Holland who came to perform at the event.
What is ‘arts @ milestone’ all about?
‘Arts @ milestone’ represents a major, innovative and exciting development at the Milestone Institute. The programme seeks not only to promote the Arts in the widest sense possible, drawing together a diverse range of disciplines, but also sees itself as far reaching, bringing together students, staff, parents and alumni as well as the wider community both within Hungary and Internationally. It aims to establish a centre of excellence for the Arts at the Milestone Institute which will ignite the imaginations of the student body, provide a catalyst for creativity and attract the contributions of leading Arts professionals from home and abroad.
What will be some of the highlights of the ‘arts @ milestone’ programme?
Art Market Budapest, from 12th -15th October in the Millenaris Centre, will be the first exciting event in the ‘arts @ milestone’ programme. The Milestone Institute will have a stand at the fair and the artworks of a number of prestigious British contemporary artists will be shown. One of the artists, whose work will be exhibited on the Milestone stand, Thomas Lamprell, will have a month long residency at the Milestone Institute throughout January. He will produce his own work in addition to giving workshops, tutorials and advice to students who are interested in the Visual Arts. The formal VIP launch of the ‘arts @ milestone’ programme will take place in mid November when details of all the events for 2017-2018 will be announced. It promises to be lively and fun with a fashion show, Arts workshops, talks, performances, musical events and ‘Meet the Artist’ evenings to look forward to.
What are your hopes and expectations for the ‘arts @ milestone’ project?
It is my sincere wish that ‘arts @ milestone’ will bring fresh energies and a revitalised creative spirit to the heart of the Milestone Institute. The Division of Arts, Literature and Humanities will be the driving force behind the initiative and the student body will, I hope, be enthused, inspired and challenged by the diverse range of artistic and creative events that are planned.