Failure CV


A few months ago I was on a weekend camp, a kind of outdoor symposium. One of the topics was ‘Failure’. Charles Hustwick was leading the discussion. The pictures show us doing some activities exploring failure, trying to paint perfect circles and trying to fly (below). Charles is someone I’ve known for 20 years from when he was an artist educator at Tate where I had started my first proper job. I know that’s a very ‘successful’ job to have soon after graduating but I felt like a failure everyday. Charles said ‘what if we thought so highly of failure that we actually wrote our Failure CVs?’ I like that idea, but of course I couldn’t write it any other way than an experiment.

Personal details

Born in Norfolk: The county with no hills and no routes to anywhere.

Live in Lewisham: The borough named the least peaceful in the UK.

One child: Yes, that’s right, only one child.


An August baby: Youngest in year, induces feelings of failure.

Mousehold Infants school: Taken by mistake a term too early. Had to stay the whole term as parents had no childcare arranged. Worried teachers by refusing everything but sitting in the book corner.

Sheringham Primary school: Headmaster called Mr Slipper, who hit people with a slipper. I thought I’d be slippered if I recited the times tables wrong.

Dilham Primary school: Nineteen children. Basic arithmetic and English with Ronald Ridout textbooks. Bored. Retreated into dreams and drawings.

Passed the 11 plus test: Nonetheless, felt a failure for putting ‘Ud’ as a word instead of ‘Us’.

North Walsham Girls High School: Could not avoid bullies. Refusal to wear uniform. Did not excel at sport, chemistry, physics or maths.

Bad at written exams due to questioning nature that meant too long pauses for thought.

Hewett School. Failure to focus on studies due to multiple distractions. A growing sense of excitement about the world combined with a sense of inadequacy to ever embrace it.

University of Sussex: Could not manage to escape social traps and be my own person. Chronic fatigue syndrome.

Wished to do a PhD but failed to get funding for the next step.

University of Brighton PGCE: Could not control children on teaching practice. (Voice too soft.) Had to extend it for one week before certifying.

Chelsea College of Art, Art Theory MA by Research: Distracted by simultaneous motherhood of new baby.


Failure to continue with this experiment, in part because I need to protect my professional reputation, in part because I’ve been much more successful in employment than I have been in education.



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