Eilis Searson

Lecturer in Graphic Design, Greenwich University


Eilis Searson

Ian Gabb and Eilis Searson (as Frank and Rita)

Class Matters in Class Matters: Education and Emancipation in Working Class Culture.


I will be presenting a paper on education and emancipation in working class culture, as part of the student forum at the Illustration Research Symposium at Kingston University.

Whilst at the RCA I completed an experimental dissertation about the use of illustrative language (particularly working class dialect) as a tool to generate Higher [or at least wider] Educational exchange. The dissertation took the form of a script for a play, or, as an imagined sequel to Willy Russell’s play Educating Rita (1980).

I used this easily digestible format to explore and illustrate Mikhail Bahktin’s complex ideas on dialogism, and the ideological pedagogical position of Jacques Rancière’s novel The Ignorant Schoolmaster (1999).

In the play we see Rita become academically educated; and as the narrative develops, the idea of what is meant when we say the word ‘culture’ is constantly challenged. My upbringing has been extremely rich in what I consider to be ‘culture’, but certainly not of literature, the gallery, or the theatre.

What becomes clear throughout my dissertation is that where my confidence in conviction lies is in social exchange. [This is that rich, Northern, ‘cultural’ upbringing I was referring to.] My upbringing and early schooling may not have equipped me with a formal knowledge of politics, or even a basic knowledge in social history ­– but I somehow believe that in this lack of awareness comes a social state of intellectual undress: one that disarms and excites information exchange.

I am interested in language as an illustrative medium. I am interested in the practice of education. I am also interested in the pursuit of enrichment. I hope these interests might all amount to the same thing.


Graphic designer and lecturer previously at RCA, University of the Arts, London and Sheffield Institute of Arts. Eilis is currently a Lecturer in Graphic Design. Her current research revolves around amateurism in graphic design, relating especially to Working Class British voice, language and fanzines. Eilis managed Camberwell Press (2014-17), the publishing imprint of Camberwell College of Arts. She is the proprietor of independent publisher HOLY! HOLY! HOLY! (2017-) and an annual contributor to the Artist Self Publishers Fair at the ICA, London.