News, Press & Events

News From Charlie Hall – Summer 2016

The celebrations of our fiftieth anniversary and fiftieth course are firmly in the past and now we consolidate and move forward – for the next fifty years. The dust seems to have settled, kicked up by the ‘Brexit’ referendum – and we wait to see how that affects our world. In my view it only increases my desire to spread and encourage an enthusiasm for Europe – a continent that was still in the aftershocks of the Second World War when my father set out to find a home for the extraordinary course he had imagined. Dreams of a federal Europe were still in their infancy, helped by America’s fantastic intervention, The Marshall Plan, and the desire to avoid further European wars. We are still in the early days and naturally there are going to be more nursery tantrums and schoolyard scraps. My view? Let us discover more about our incredible continent by embracing it and immersing ourselves in it. Coming to Italy has been a vital part of that, since the Grand Tour of the late sixteenth century and perhaps it has become more important. Lest we forget, it was virtually heretical to visit Italy in the sixteenth century!

An element of how important or indeed, how influential the JHV experience has always been, and the networks that this programme create was brilliantly expressed to me the other day. I had offered to take somebody to the Tate Modern, a few days after the opening of the wonderful Switch House extension. My friend, who was visiting from Los Angeles, had met somebody on the flight, an eminent and lovely gentleman who was over to represent The Smithsonian Institution and we met at Tate Modern for a tour led by their Head of Displays. That excellent individual had shared a room with me when I had been a student on the John Hall Course. Our next visit was to the V&A (as the Smithsonian is working on a joint venture with The Smithsonian). The Head of Research & Collections took us to his favourite part of the museum; the Cast Courts where he raved about one of the new heroes of conservation, restoration and the reproduction of great works of art. Of course he was referring to Adam Lowe, director of Factum Arte in Madrid, who was also on the John Hall Course in my year, 1978.

What this day illustrated to me so brilliantly was that when we leave the course we are not in possession of a document that will open doors to curatorial departments or positions in museums, sale rooms or galleries but it engenders a combination of curiosity, confidence and off-grid knowledge that only comes from spending a lot of time free of syllabus in the company of like-minded individuals being spoken to by experts who are at the top of their fields, or on their way.
This stays in most of us, sometimes like a little stone in the shoe or a bug that you can never shake off and at some point in your life you find that you must attend to it. Some of us go back to study for an MA in Art History, some use their business skills in the Art World and Education and some, like Adam Lowe go into uncharted territory.

Just as in the days of The Grand Tour, this experience of being in the ‘cradle of Western Art’ (rather than the Birthplace – Greece?) throws out great and unusual thinkers and activists. It would be tedious to list them all, the John Hall Course rarely appears on CVs, but we are there, from museum directors, curators, writers, critics, and gallery owners….and still we come….

The summer of 2017 sees the re-boot of our three-week Venice course; a programme that is more focused on Contemporary Art and Architecture but still retains the rigour and wide content of the central Gap Year Course.

A Venice Record Book Launch

Were you part of The John Hall Pre-University Course in Venice between 1965 and 2015? Or planning to go in the future? Then here is the ultimate insiders’ collection of special memories and reminiscences.

Published to celebrate the first 50 years, 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 Italian Journeys 2016

March 13-19

Staying in the Bauer Hotel *****. A different programme from last year, including private gardens, lagoon experiences, art, architecture, a Literary Walk, Musica a Palazzo La Traviata, artisan fabrics and our usual meals in private villas and palaces.
£2780 per person in double room (single room supplement £630)
Cost includes: 6 nights at Hotel Bauer, transfers from the recommended BA flights from airport to hotel and back, 6 lunches /dinners, (including 3 in private palaces) Musica a Palazzo opera La Traviata in Palazzo Barbarigo-Minotto.

Further Details

May 7-13

A new tour staying in the Hotel Loggiata dei Serviti ****, Piazza SS.Annunziata, Florence. In the final decades of the nineteenth century and until the outbreak of the Second World War, Florence attracted an intriguing colony of English and American expatriates, who bought up the crumbling villas abandoned during Italy’s long struggle for unification. Though art and history formed the main interests of the community, horticulture was a close second. It is this idea of villa life, the community which subscribed to it, and the gardens they created that this tour explores, conducted by Katie Campbell, author of PARADISE OF EXILES The Anglo-American Gardens of Florence (Frances Lincoln, 2009). The tour, like the book, treats equally the gardens, the villas and their occupants, and ends with aperitivi in the Harold Acton Library of the British Institute, with a talk by the librarian on its founding in 1917 by British Florentine expatriates.
£2700 per person in double room (single room supplement £480)
Cost includes: 6 nights at Hotel Loggiata dei Serviti, 6 lunches/dinners, transfers from the recommended BA flights from Pisa airport to hotel and back

Further Details

October 13-19

Staying in the Albergo Santa Chiara ***( by the Pantheon). The ultimate insider’s view of Rome, this tour will leave you with memorable impressions of the history and culture of the Popes, with access to their collections both intimate and grand.
£2525 per person in double room (single room supplement £390)
Cost includes: 6 nights at Hotel Santa Chiara, 2 dinners, 1 lunch, transfers from the recommended BA flights from Rome Fiumicino airport to hotel and back
Further Details

>> Click here to download the John Hall Italian Journeys Booking Form

Please note that the cost of flights is not included in any of the tours. For further details please see website or contact:

John Hall Italian Journeys
Tel: +44 (0)20 8871 4747



The John Hall Venice 50th Anniversary Reunion Event
May 17, 2014 in Venice, at The Hotel Monaco and Cini Foundation, San Giorgio Maggiore

Starting with a cocktail party on Friday night at the Hotel Monaco, the event went on with a brilliant lecture from 1978 alumnus Adam Lowe about his team’s recreation of the stolen ‘Marriage at Cana’ by Veronese at The Cini Foundation. This was then followed by a tour and a wonderful drinks party in the cloisters of the monastery with a performance from Dame Emma Kirkby, alumna of 1966, who is now a world famous soprano and expert on early music singing, accompanied by the brilliant Simone Colavecci on theorbo. The acoustics on Longhena’s stone staircase were superb! Finally there was a spectacular gala dinner in Palladio’s fabulous refectory. Thanks to all who came and made it a night to remember for ever!

> Click here for photographs of the John Hall Venice 50th Anniversary reunion dinner

Comments from alumni from the first 1965 Course who came to Venice to celebrate in February 2015. They invited the current 2015 alumni to prosecco in Franco’s Osteria alla Bifora in Campo S.Margarita.

“There are in our existence spots of time
Which with distinct pre-eminence retain
A renovating virtue…”

We set off for Venice 50 years ago, none of us I suspect, able to imagine what cultural and social delights lay ahead of us in the first ever Venice Course. Nor could we possibly have foreseen that some of us would sustain the friendships made in 1965 over the course of 50 years. I for one could not have imagined when I was 18 that I would ever be this old! But when we are together I don’t feel old at all. We may all be experiencing the hazards of advancing years but the magic of Venice 1965, ‘a spot of time’ returns and our youthful selves are not far away. In fact, on this particular visit I caught fleeting glimpses of our younger selves running for vaparettos, dancing in the hugging room, discussing philosophy over cappuccinos on the Zattere, in various costumes making our films, becoming acquainted with beautiful palaces and churches, Titians and Tiepolos, meeting Peggy Guggenheim, piped aboard HMS Troubridge, getting drunk, wearing carnations….

We have all at different times returned to Venice and we have celebrated significant anniversaries together in London. Some went back last year to celebrate the 50th Course but that was with students from other years as well. This one, the 50th year since the Course began, was arranged by us for us. It felt important to celebrate our friendships which began at ‘Cici’s’ in February 1965 and to celebrate what the Venice Course did for us all. How often we have talked about how the experience was life-changing, how it has resonated throughout our lives and how much we feel we owe to John’s vision in creating the Course. He brought us all together, a group of teenage strangers and our friendships began and developed against the most beautiful backdrop imaginable. Over the years a group of us has evolved into a 1965 Venice Course ‘family’ and how exciting it was after 45 years of absence to find and reclaim Della. Within a few hours it was as if she had always been there, similarly Liz who we had found a few years before but not had a chance to spend extended time with.

Those of us who stayed at Hotel San Stefano drifted down to breakfast just as we had all those years ago at Cici’s and similarly, as in 1965, we all met up for sunny lunches on the Zattere and spent these leisurely occasions catching up on life histories, reminiscing, laughing. We all so easily fall into each other’s company and any intervening years seem quite irrelevant. There was renewed pleasure in revisiting favourite buildings now perhaps appreciated even more profoundly: the Miracoli, San Zaccaria, the Frari. And the magic of Venice never goes stale. Wandering around, over bridges, down alleyways, through empty squares and everywhere hearing the background ‘music’ of water and chugging boats remains a feast for the senses. At night everywhere still looks like the set for an opera. Indeed what better background for one of the finest renderings ever of ‘our’ song in the dark, under a lamp, memorably performed by Michael and Phillip while amused Venetians strolled by.

On our last night we were lucky enough to find a concert of music by Vivaldi being performed in Chiesa San Vidal. It was quite superb, a wonderful gift for our last night. We listened attentively, well aware of the privilege of hearing Vivaldi in his own city. But our less reverent teenage selves were still hovering around, distracting our older and wiser selves. The cellist was a dramatic performer: his arms swooped and sawed at his cello, his fluid body movements nearly took him off his seat and his head jiggled in all directions so energetically you could fear it might fly off. We briefly got the giggles!

It was wonderful to meet this year’s delightful students, our ‘descendants’, practically our relations! Indeed, Meriel’s great-niece was amongst this group, perhaps the first third generation student? There have, of course, been plenty of second generation participants; Michael probably holds the record, I would imagine, having dispatched all four daughters to Venice. I had thought the students might find it pretty boring, meeting us old fogies, as we must seem to them, but they welcomed us into their youthful midst, seemingly eager to hear stories from 1965 and we had a most convivial evening with prosecco. Cheering too to see how successfully Charlie has taken on some of the responsibilities of looking after the students with his usual flair and charm.

These 2015 students might seem to be our descendants but of course John is our remarkable and genial ‘patriarch’. Wonderful it was to end each day of our anniversary visit with dinners in various places along the Calle Lunga and John, as always, beaming benignly at each of us who were lucky enough to have had the privilege of being his very first group of students 50 years ago.

Sally on behalf of the Golden Oldies, April 2015

The Very Golden Oldies
by alumnus of 2015, Rory Fraser

Throughout our stay in Venice, there was invariably one thing which linked the events to which we were invited; this was prosecco – and plenty of it. After all, what better way to wash down a Titian, a bit of Tiepolo and a hint of Monteverdi, than with a golden glass of cordially bubbling booze?
Well, the Old John Hall drinks was no exception to this rather wonderful rule, and the mixture of the golden drink with the company of – what I have slightly cheekily referred to as – the Golden Oldies, was fabulous. As I noted in my diary early on in the course: ‘it would appear that John Hall is more of an institution than a course’, and this became apparent to us on meeting the exceptionally hospitable gang of groovy OJH’s. In fact, they made us feel old! For their enthusiasm, laughter, and spontaneous bursting into song was far beyond anything that we ‘youths’ could match.
This meeting reinforced something which we had all been feeling for some weeks: that the John Hall Course is extremely special. Whilst our contemporaries may be raving on the beaches of SEA (South East Asia), or saving the world in a Sloth Sanctuary, I somehow doubt that they will be flying out again in 50 years-time for a reunion. Furthermore, only a week after the end of the course, I am already noticing how it has changed my perception of many previously accepted things. In fact, the huge increase in my frame of reference has probably changed me permanently.
So, in 50 years time (around the John Hall centenary!!) I am fairly sure that I, God willing, will be one of the Golden Oldies, dishing out the prosecco…

John Hall Venice – dealing with the cost by Amy Bradburne

I knew from the moment that I laid eyes on the John Hall Venice leaflet it was the perfect course for me – living in Venice, learning about its history and art, and enjoying the freedom to soak up one of the most beautiful cities in the world. There was only one teeny-tiny technical point-the money. The total sum for the course is quite gulp-worthy. However, because of this you know that the course is going to make the most of every single moment, and since being here I can assure you that’s exactly what it does. If you’re thinking of applying for it and want to raise some of, if not all of the money needed, there are numerous ways you can go about this. The course doesn’t start until January, by which time you will have had a good six months since leaving school to gather some funds. Getting a job for four or five days a week during this time can make a huge difference. For example I was working on average a 36-hour week for four months and raised half of what was needed. On a typical payroll of £6 per hour that’s not bad going! All you need to do is decide what job you’d fancy. I can fully recommend working in an upbeat pub or restaurant (preferably somewhere with a good tip system!) Others on the course worked in cafes, clothes shops and department stores. If you want to combine your job with gaining some good experience / C.V points, options such as caring or working with children are always available. Some people also combine their hobbies with their job: working on a ski slope, in a hospital or even selling paintings! There are easier ways of picking up a bit of cash too such as car boot sales, eBay and websites such as If none of this appeals, internships are always brilliant. There’s also the option of smiling sweetly at parents, family and friends. Good luck!

John Hall Venice on Facebook

Did you know that you can now keep in touch with all our exciting news at John Hall Venice on facebook? There is an ever-increasing network of John Hallers out there so check out our John Hall Venice facebook page and use it for getting in touch with your friends, for showing us your iconic photographs or for letting your fellow alumni know about any reunions you might be having. We look forward to seeing you on there soon!



We’re on the second to last day and I’ve just spent the last half hour looking through all the pictures I’ve accumulated over the last 7 weeks. So many good times to reminisce about, so many lectures to reflect on, instances to laugh about and many nights never to forget. I’m one to never regret anything once I’ve taken that first step. And to think: I might have never been here, on this fabulous course, if I had made a different decision! I was one of those late ones to sign up and whilst my organisational skills meant everything was completed very quickly it wasn’t an ideal situation. However, it was very little for what I got in return. I always hoped I’d manage to persuade my parents that paying towards the equivalent of a school terms fees to send me off to Italy to learn about art was a good investment; I managed. But I’d always planned on heading off with Art History Abroad and I changed my mind last minute. It wasn’t that I didn’t know about John Hall but that I’d never looked into it properly. Then one lazy day on the computer, I read the entire website front to back, subsequently emailed John Hall to ask about a few, rather random, questions and then realised I had an awfully big decision to make. I made the right one.

That’s not to say Art History Abroad would not have been an incredible course too. However, there is no doubt that this course has given me an experience and lesson that you don’t find anywhere else . Firstly, I will leave not only with a fresh knowledge of art history in Italy, but, with a wanting to download one of Mozart’s Symphonies, the one he made at the ripe age of eight, to see the opera La Bohème on stage, to read all of Keats’ ‘’Ode’s’’, to watch the billion international non-Hollywood films that Ryan had recommended, to photograph every aspect of each city I come across (even if its London and it makes me look like a complete tourist), even to, perhaps, learn a bit of Italian (beyond the restaurant version) despite my terrible language skills. John Hall Venice may have a lot to do with looking at paintings in churches but only a third of the lectures are on art history. Of this some cover modern and contemporary art that is hidden away in Peggy Guggenheim’s house (4 minutes walk from ‘our home’ at Hotel Messner) or in the large and controversial Pinault collection (2 minutes walk from ‘home’). Other lectures deal with a wide curriculum of arty or cultural subjects and they all have a link; Venice.

At first I was unsure about the idea of living in just one city for five weeks I now realise that it was the most marvellous idea. Not only do you get that ‘pre-university feeling’ but I learnt to truly appreciate living and studying in a foreign city. We’ve never been tourists in Venice; we were just the non-Italian speaking locals. Venice is an amazing city to live in. In no other city have I had to wade through knee high puddles in wellington boots; its ‘aqua alta’ is one of its many original qualities. I’m not going to lie- the first time I discovered Venice, a few years back, I wasn’t as impressed as I had hoped to be about one of the most Romantic cities in the world. It rained all day and every day and the suede boots that accompanied me on this trip became quite soggy. Living in Venice for over a month, this time, is quite another story. Whenever I enter a new, unfamiliar place I experience a rush of adrenalin; I still get those feelings just wandering around each day. Venice’s windy street layout surpasses the busy Souks of Marrakech (or any other city for that matter); all you have to do is listen and you will hear nothing. Literally nothing. It’s a silent city; the absence of any industrial form of road traffic is absolutely noticeable, there aren’t even any bicycles. Even the vaporetto is peacefully quiet.

Venice has played home for over a month now and we still never run out of things to do. The tourists head straight for St.Marks but we knew that Dorsoduro had many hidden treasures; they only have to be found. We’ve had the chance to try out the local specialties in the area- eating fish and ice-cream, though not together (!), where all the locals, plus John hall, hang out. Charlie loves his ice cream so you’re blatantly going to catch him in Grom or Il Doge sometime, along with the ¾ of the rest of the course. The waiters at the Taverna San Trovaso, our local, will have your jug of tap water and a plate for olive oil on your favourite table and a great grin on their face to see you’ve returned, for the fourth time that week. Even the bartenders at Duchamp might offer you the odd discount or free shot which you’ll gratefully accept without thinking about what number you’re on now! Then you’ll realise that heading to Al Volo (for the third time that day) for pizza that evening does the same job as McDonalds but tastes a hundred times better. The friendly Italians you met that one night during Carnival, that you gave your name too will be shouting it across the square the next day; evidence of those nights will be on everyone’s cameras. The next thing you know, facebook, will have them too!

The idea of a cold city in early February never sounds that appetising but I’ve never complained about it; it produces some quite extraordinary settings – the fog gives Venice that deceptive and mysterious feel it’s known for. The rain highlighted the incredible reflections of the Gothic and Eastern architecture in into the streets. It’s like walking through history; no other city remains so dated and so untouched, almost like a museum. But Venice is a mystery and beauty that cannot be capsulated in mere mortal words; it demands a physical reaction. All five senses must be used to appreciate it properly; you must be there to appreciate it. As a city of textures, light, water and reflections, it is a haven for photographers and artists. As you sit patiently on the Vaporetto waiting, a cool breeze across your face, the gentle rocking of the boat to and fro, like a cot, relaxes you entirely and sends you off into a dream state until you realise you’re not dreaming, it’s just Venice, man’s most impressive accomplishment, and your living in the middle of it.
I would love to have visited many other important Italian cities in Italy but then we’d be tourists in all of them; wandering around with maps trying to cover the main big attractions before rushing off on a coach to the next place. It would be a tour; a tour like the extensions to Florence and Rome (which are great by the way), but we’d never properly settle in one place.

John Hall Venice can never be regretted and I’m thrilled I took the leap; it opened my eyes to the beauty of art not just found in painting, sculpture and architecture but also in opera, music, literature, world cinema, photography or simply witnessing the gorgeous Italian landscape, with a glass of prosecco in my hand, beaming in the warm afternoon sunshine.

John Hall Venice