The cream of the UK’s design community, along with family and friends, gathered in the beautiful Gloucestershire village of Chipping Campden to say goodbye to Roy Axe. It was a suitably sombre occasion but, following the church service, where both Richard Woolley and David Saddington led the tributes (with brilliant speeches), the gathering retired to a local hostelry, where tales of the life and times of the Design Office at Austin Rover soon began to flow out…
Some nice moments: Harold Musgrove attended the service, which few of us expected. It was great to see the former AR boss – Roy certainly respected and liked the often-abrasive bigwig – and also interesting to see just how much presence he had even after all these years.
Richard Hamblin, Geoff Upex and Gordon Sked were all there, too – and it was particularly pleasurable for me to hear, from more than one person there on the day, that AROnline is seen as an invaluable resource within their community. One Designer said: ‘It’s fantastic and I keep referring back to it to remind me of what I’ve done…’
However, what was especially satisfying was that Roy’s family were pleased that I had managed to publish his memoirs. Roy was so keen to get his story in print and, although the process was laboured – mostly at my end, we got there in the end. It soon became apparent that there were many people at the service who had yet to see the book and who really should have – but I have collected the names and details of those who need complimentary copies.
The gathering also served to remind me that there are still so many tales that have yet to surface and that need to be told. Here’s a vignette: in 1981 all management level staff at Austin Rover were required to take psychometric tests on Michael Edwardes’ behest. The results of these tests – alone – were enough to see people moved from department to department, after years of sterling service. Most would say that they were a disaster – and, as for the one person who didn’t take a test and who received his P45 as a consequence… it was more than that.
Back to Roy: one thing was clear, my belief that he was a genunely nice guy, but one who strove for perfection, was backed up by the people who worked for and with him. He’ll be missed…