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Jo Haywood catches up with renowned fashion designer Bruce Oldfield as he returns to Yorkshire to pick up an honorary degree
Mention a Barnardo's childhood and many people imagine some Dickensian scene with raggedtrousered boys mixing cauldrons of gruel with one hand while picking a pocket or two with the other.
But for couture fashion designer Bruce Oldfield, who spent the first 17 years of his life in Barnardo's care, nothing could be further from the truth. 'Yes, we had to scrub the loos and do our chores, but it was all character-forming,' he explained.
'I feel I can be quite philosophic about it all because I could see that the boarders at my grammar school were actually living a more austere life. These boys, though supposedly much better off than us, were hardly living in the lap of luxury.' The school was Ripon Grammar School, where Bruce arrived at 13.
He was born in London in 1950, the illegitimate son of a Jamaican boxer and a young married Irish woman. He spent the first few years of his life in foster care in County Durham, but moved to Yorkshire after passing his 11+.
'I'm not really from anywhere,' said Bruce, whose recent autobiography was called Rootless. 'I think in a great many ways though I was happiest in Yorkshire. Ripon Grammar School was a good fit for me.' He left Barnardo's care at 17 and moved to Harrogate where he had 'a high old time'. He then ventured into South Yorkshire for a spell at Sheffield College before gaining a place at St Martin's School of Art in London.
'I spent those most important teenage years in Yorkshire and I thrived,' he said. 'I grew up there in every sense.'