Gillard, the 'Pied Piper of creative talent', dies

John Gillard, acclaimed as one of the foremost teachers of creative skills in Britain, has died at the age of 67.

His death on Saturday in a Shrewsbury hospice followed a severe bout of pneumonia and a long battle against Parkinson's Disease.

Tributes poured in from senior industry figures to the former principal of the School of Communication Arts, who numbered John Hegarty, Graham Fink, Larry Barker and Tiger Savage among his former pupils.

David Abbott, the former Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO creative chief, said: 'John ran a fantastic course and I never failed to be impressed by the people he had taught. He always gave his people real tasks that allowed them to gain creative judgment.'

Hegarty said: 'It was John more than anybody else who made me want to do advertising. He was the Pied Piper of creative talent. People became better just by being around him.'

Gillard was the founder and driving force behind the SCA, dubbed the UK's 'creative university'. Its closure in 1995, due partly to his failing health, caused outrage when it was revealed that the main reason for the shutdown was agencies' failure to provide enough money to support it.

The SCA's demise drew a bitter reaction from Gillard. 'My friends in other countries find it inconceivable that Britain, which leads the world in advertising creativity, can't find the money needed to carry on the school's work,' he said at the time.

The apathy that killed off the SCA is a constant target for critics who believe that Gillard's legacy has been squandered.

'The industry has nothing of such high standard any more and the fact that it does not fund its own elite is appalling,' Bernard Barnett, a senior executive at Rainey Kelly/Y&R Europe and a former SCA governor, said.

During a career spanning more than 30 years, Gillard not only built a reputation as a stimulating and sometimes eccentric lecturer but also as an evangelist for the SCA.

He began work as an art director at Whitefriars Press in 1958. He was a visiting lecturer at the London College of Printing for seven years from 1961 before joining J. Walter Thompson to run training programmes for art directors and copywriters.

He set up the SCA in 1985.

Gillard is survived by his wife, Rosalind, three sons and a daughter.

His funeral will be on Monday at St John's Methodist Church, Bishop's Castle, Shropshire, at 2pm. Friends and colleagues are welcome to attend.

No flowers but donations to the Parkinson's Disease Society.


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