The Venice Pre-University Course began in 1965. Vital to the enterprise was the fortunate chance fact that in 1964, the Oxford and Cambridge colleges had simplified their entrances examination dates so that, instead of options at the various colleges in December, January or March, all candidates sat the same exams in November. Known as the Seventh Term Entrances, as candidates had already taken A levels in the summer, it lead to an intellectual elite doing an extra ‘Oxbridge’ term and then leaving school in the middle of the school year, after the Christmas term: this was the origin of the Gap Year. Twenty -two of the thirty-two who came on the first Venice course were going on to Oxford or Cambridge, and our numbers rose steadily into the eighties. Around 1988, the November Oxbridge exams were abandoned, causing a considerable fall in our numbers. However the Venice Course continued to stick to its January to March dates, which has the great advantage of being in Venice out of the tourist season: and in many ways reducing from 80 students to 30 has advantages.
A browse through the register shows the changes in the Course -from 12 weeks, (cost £194) to 10 to 8 and recently to 7 (cost around £9000), plus the Florence and Rome options, shortening always for reasons of cost. There have been variations in the content, and in the number of students and in our hotels and lecture venues – mostly in Dorsoduro but for several years at the Hotel Atlantico in Castello with lectures for 19 years in the Arsenale.
Our Venice Re-Unions show that what all alumni have in common is the Venice experience , a kaleidoscope of challenging intellectual, aesthetic and social revelations and the uniquely civilized dolcezza of life in Venice, summed up in a letter from one of the over ninety alumni who attended a Venice Course re-union in 2017: It was such fun to see so many of the 1976 group, to re-live many happy memories, and to re-kindle many friendships. What an impact those glorious weeks in Venice had on all of us. It was a carefree, fascinating and incredibly happy time for us all, having recently left the rigours of endless exams at school, and before the more demanding rigours of university life.
"No-one who has gone on one of your courses has left not feeling refreshed, interested in things that they had not known about before, and with their minds expanded".
A VENICE RECORD - THE BOOK
Published to celebrate the first 50 years, and now updated to 2020, A VENICE RECORD captures the spirit of the course with contributions from students, art historians, artists, musicians, theatre and film people, scientists, historians, astrophysicists, philosophers and even vintners – all who have shared these ephemeral Venetian moments. The book is also a record of names of all alumni, and everyone who has taught on the course year by year. The book is now available at Blurb in Hardcover and Softcover or as an E-Book (iPad iBooks format).
John Hall, the founder, top photo in 1965 and below, more recently in Venice
GONDOLAS & GRAPES
By John Hall "Gondolas & Grapes" is a personal story. As founder of The John Hall Venice Pre-University Course, John Hall has lived and worked in Italy for half a lifetime. Few know Italy better or love it more wisely. He describes with self-depreciating charm and wit a life of lasting achievement.
It is a deeply civilised and humane man's insight into a unique country, it's art, culture and way of life - that the author has made it his life's work to introduce to others.
Lord Nicholas True
(Lecturer on the Pre-University Course in Venice)
Available to buy on Blurb Bookstore Here in hardback and PDF version
By John Hall. Memories and Writings England 1932 -1964.
Postscript, Later Writings Italy.
As the title Curriculum Vitae suggests, this is not primarily a family affair, joys and sorrows being recorded elsewhere in photo albums, letters and living memories. Our life and activities, from leaving the job in the Kings’ School in 1964 and starting the Pre-University Course in Venice, and moving from living in London to living in Italy, are already recorded in the two books Gondolas and Grapes and A Venice Record 1965 – 2015. Here follows the remaining earlier period, from before school in World War Two to National Service in the Cold War, then University and then teaching in a Public School, showing the way we lived then - an entirely different world.
Available to buy on the Blurb Bookstore in paperback