Why Varley?

In 2013 was the twenty -fifth anniversary of the Varley Memorial Awards that are presented as a bursary to a first year student in Visual Communications.

The annual awards are in memory of Col Arthur Varley CBE, one of advertising’s greatest practitioners. Known to almost everyone – at his own insistence – simply as Varley, he was quite definitely ‘Mr Advertising’ during the 1950s and 60s. This was the period when his agency – Colman Prentis & Varley – was at its peak and it was the era when many of the greatest creativity in advertising took place. Varley’s contribution was considerable and on an international scale and many of the businesses in advertising today owe a great deal to the leadership he gave. The secret of his success was the instinctive rapport he had with creative people. He managed to preserve its slightly off-beat reputation of the agency and to attract writers and artist of the highest reputation. Deeply interested in what properly trained creative people could achieve and contribute to the commercial world, Varley was also very proud to be a member of the Council of The Royal College of Art during the 1960s. Where better to remember such a man?

Varley and Elizabeth c 1973
Varley and Elizabeth c 1973

The idea for the Awards came from Varley’s widow Elizabeth (nee Montagu) and was set up in 1989 with the support of Jocelyn Stevens, who was then Rector of the RCA.  Elizabeth too had a very successful and creative career –as an actress, musician, lyric writer and then in films, working with Alexander Korda and later running her own production company. After her death in 2002 further funds were raised for the Varley Memorial Awards as a tribute to her, and the Varley and Montagu families now include her memory in the Awards.

Georgiana Varley (nee Hodgkins) at the RCA 1923
Georgiana Varley (nee Hodgkins) at the RCA 1923

More recently the family also include the memory of  Varley’s second wife Georgiana in the Awards. She was a student at the Royal College in 1923-4, on a scholarship from Eastbourne School of Art and an allowance of £60 a year. She was a contemporary of Eric Ravilous and Edward Bawden, and a great personal friend of Edward Burra. She married Varley in 1934 and helped to build up CPV during the 1930s but sadly met an early death and did not have the opportunity to fulfill her artistic promise.

Fancy Dress Party at RCA 1923 Georgiana first row on left. Edward Burra back row
Fancy Dress Party at RCA 1923
Georgiana first row on left. Edward Burra back row

Funding and Donations

In spite of building up and running a highly successful advertising agency, Varley was never in a  position to accumulate private wealth and funding the Awards has always relied on  donations from  his colleagues, family and friends. The original fund was raised by The History of Advertising Trust in 1988. Since then efforts have been made to maintain its value in line with inflation so that the bursaries continue to be of real value to the students. To this end your donation – however small – would be very welcome.

The Varley Memorial Awards are administered by the RCA and benefit from the tax relief offered by the Charitable Trust status of the College. Please use the RCA Donation Form to ensure that your gift goes to the Varley Awards

See the Student Award Winners here





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