'Brushes with Aviation'


As a child, Geoff was fascinated by aeroplanes and, by 1945, was a student at the Miles Aeronautical Technical School learning to design and build them. Sadly, just two years later, Miles Aircraft was forced out of business. A few years later, Geoff returned to Woodley airfield as a technical illustrator with Handley Page but he soon moved on to become a staff artist with Temple Press, the publishers of technical magazines, including 'Aeroplane'. But his rapidly widening experience in many other industries eventually led him into a different career path and aviation played virtually no part in his life as he eventually built up a successful Berkshire-based advertising, design and PR business.

All this changed in 1985, when he met Julian Temple who was researching his book 'Wings over Woodley' and they began working together, leading a few colleagues from the Berkshire Aviation Group in an attempt to create an aviation museum. When his book was published, Julian moved on to become a curator at the Brooklands Museum and a potential clash of interests led him to resign from the Woodley project. This left Geoff virtually on his own in the efforts to rebuild a derelict hangar that had once been part of the Technical School he had first joined in 1945. It was an eight-year struggle that, thanks to the eventual financial support of Wokingham District Council, saw the museum open with Geoff as one of the first trustees.

The difficult times of the 1990s' recession preceded many changes in his personal life and, once again, 'brushes with aviation' played very little part until, in 1997, he decided to try to paint the story of Berkshire's aviation heritage. Although he had never painted in oils before, his work was quickly selected for major exhibitions and was soon bringing to colourful life the numerous talks and slide-presentations he still gave around his local area.

Then, unfortunately, his painting activities and many other aspects of his life were curtailed when, in 1999, he suffered a stroke. At least one positive thing came out of the many weeks Geoff spent in hospital learning to walk and use his left arm again - the idea of writing a small book for his grandchildren, which was completed in 2001, recounting his involvement with aviation and the start of his painting career.

Later, he expanded that small biography to include a re-telling of the remarkable history of aviation in Berkshire, based upon the many talks he gave around the county and illustrated by the extraordinary number of paintings he had completed since he began in 1997.

With the publication of ‘Brushes with Aviation’ in 2010, he hopes a much wider audience will now find his storytelling in words and paint just as interesting and informative as his family and friends.
© Copyright 2011, Geoff Beckett All rights reserved