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My generation: Brian’s posters recapture Angel in the 60s

Rediscovered artwork by student who became a design professor

26 April, 2019 — By Emily Finch

A poster advertising a City gig

FOR a lot of former students, their best memories of university days are of listening to live music at the students’ union with a cold beer in one hand. But designer Brian Burns took his love of music further by designing posters for The Who and other bands during his time at City University in the 60s.

The psychedelic posters advertising gigs at the university in St John Street were recently rediscovered by the retired professor’s family.

Mr Burns, 72, who studied mechanical engineering at the university back when it was just called City, was part of the poster department at the Students’ Union.

“It was an exciting time for rock’n’roll and there was no internet back then, so word of mouth was so important,” he said. “These bands wanted to play for students just as much as the students wanted to see them play.

“The entertainments team was ambitious, always keen to put on the best bands around. The Students’ Union provided a limited entertainment budget that would be used to pay the bands and then this would be made back with ticket sales.”

Of the atmosphere at the gigs, he said it was “always good” and “never out of control”.

Mr Burns, who now lives in Canada after a long career as a design professor, said creating the posters “was a great way for me to learn about design”.

He added: “It was a very visual time and I was very keen to learn. When I found an image or discovered an artist or designer, I was inspired. And slowly, I think, my work matured, and I also learned how to best use basic silk screen printing in one or two colours.

Brian Burns and, right, in university days

“Finding the information about the bands that we researched for each poster was fascinating too.”

Looking back on his student life, he said: “Somewhere during the shows people stopped dancing and just started to watch in awe. It was a real cultural shift around that time, turning dances into concerts.

“While I enjoy the benefits of technology, it was a much more human time back then. We were very much part of the changing times, where we got to see it and live it.

“Looking back, now that it has been 50 years, helps us remember just how good it really was.”

Mr Burns grew up in Wandsworth Common but his mother was from Chapel Market, a stone’s throw from the university.

His gig posters, digitised by his son, are available to buy online at

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