Born in 1943 in
Epsom, Surrey where he lived until 1962 attending Glyn Grammar
School. Having been punished for being poor at painting at primary
school, it took nearly 40 years for Viv to engage again with the
practical side of art. During the intervening period he read for a
law degree at Sheffield University and became interested in the
Visual Arts. As President of the Students Union (1965-1966) he
helped organize an Arts Festival for the University and the City.
The Festival comprised a full artistic programme including an
exhibition of about 25 works from the then unknown Bridget Riley and
large-scale painted steel sculptures by Neville Boden. As Union
President, he met the sculptor Henry Moore in 1966 when the
University conferred an Honorary Degree on him.
Viv working on a project (Photo by Olivia Swinscote)
His first venture
into stone carving was at the Midlands Arts Centre – MAC (www.macarts.co.uk) –
with tutor John Vaughan in the early 1980’s. He has continued to be
guided by John on and off since that date. Subsequently he joined
the Annual Summer School run by the sculptor, John Tonks, at
Winterbourne, the listed gardens owned by Birmingham University. But
work - firstly as Chief Executive and Town Clerk of Walsall MBC from
1982-1988 and then as Chief Executive at Dudley MBC from 1988-1999 -
got in the way of any serious sculptural activity.
However, whilst in those roles he was able to pursue various
cultural projects including presenting the first report to Walsall
Council proposing the creation of a New Art Gallery for the
Garman-Ryan Collection in Walsall and commissioned a Feasibility
Study for a Sculpture Park in the Arboretum.
Dudley Viv played a part in securing the refurbishment of Himley
Hall as a Gallery and Summer Arts facility, the extension of the
Broadfield House Glass Museum and the commissioning of six of the
UK’s leading glass artists to make one piece of work each to add to
the permanent Collection to mark the Millennium.
Viv working on
Fruits of the Forest at Dudley College.
constraint of work, in early 1999 he enrolled on a foundation course
in art and sculpture at Dudley College (www.dudleycol.ac.uk) and on completing various
courses now hires studio facilities for stone-carving from the
He is a member of the Shapeshifters Sculpture
Company (www.shapeshifters.org.uk) a leading group of practising
sculptors in the Midlands, who work at Dudley College and at
In April 2012 Viv was elected a full Member
of the RBSA and also serves as its Hon Secretary.
He has combined
his sculpture with a portfolio of charitable and non-executive roles
including Chairman of the National Forest Company (1999-2005),
Chairman of the Birmingham International Airport Consultative
Committee (2001-2012), mac Board Member (1999-2013), Chair of
Dudley College Corporation (2004-2011).
Viv is an active member of Birmingham Trees For Life, part of
the Civic Society, whose aim is to increase the woodland cover in
the City by planting trees.
He and his
wife, Hazel, were responsible as research assistants for much of the
text and the photographs on the Walsall Borough sections of the
PMSA’s publication on Public Sculpture of Staffordshire and the
Black Country (2005). Viv was awarded the OBE in recognition of his
services to the Community of the West Midlands in 2005. He is one of
the Deputies to the County’s Lord Lieutenant, an appointment
conferred in 2008.
Copyright © 2009 Viv Astling. All rights