THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE
Born in Guernsey, his parents were Mary Vidamour and Jack Snell. They had a smallholding and grew tomatoes and flowers which they exported to mainland Britain. He grew up on this farm with his brother Eric.
After leaving Guernsey Grammar School, Richard went to Birmingham College of Art where he got both a Bachelor and Master’s degree.
He started working into furniture when he got a job at Hostess Furniture in Bilston, which he did simultaneously to teaching at the Bournemouth College of Art.
But he showed real talent and flair in furniture design and quickly rose to be ‘Design Director’ at Hostess. They specialised in restaurant design and kitchen units and grew in size and stature as fast-food chains became increasingly popular in the UK.
And the business spread throughout Europe. They won a massive contract for the furniture at Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4.
By now Richard had earned an international reputation for his ergonomic furniture design, particularly his chairs.
Then, Richard was appointed to Birmingham Polytechnic as Head of Furniture Design, although he continued working in manufacturing, alongside his work partner David Rowe. They made seating that supported good posture.
They were asked by Sir Simon Rattle of the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra to investigate postural problems faced by musicians. After thorough research they designed the ‘Opus Musician’s Chair’, specifically created for the ergonomic requirements of musicians, which is now used by many leading concert venues including the Royal Albert Hall – and of course, the Symphony Hall in Birmingham.
Richard and David began to work for the company Hille as part of a design team of four. They built a reputation for hard-wearing but comfortable chairs for establishments such as schools, restaurants and care homes. The Eden Project in Cornwall was one of their customers. Their chairs are now commonplace in the schools of the UK.
The Birmingham City University appointed Richard Professor of Design (incorporating 3D). He also was chairman of the ‘George Jackson Travel Award Trust’. It raised money to fund up and coming designers.
Richard became Emeritus Professor when he retired in 2015 after 45 years in the furniture world.
He was an avid collector of chairs and had a massive personal collection.
Even in retirement he kept designing. There have been various exhibitions of his work, including at the Midlands Modern Museum.
Unfortunately, Richard suffered a brain tumour and died aged just 69.
After his death his collection of chairs was auctioned off. All the proceeds went to his George Jackson Trust.
His successor at the City University, Professor Kevin Singh said, “Whilst being a champion of Product and Furniture Design, he promoted cross-disciplinary working and collaboration between staff, values which we still hold dear today. He will be sadly missed.”
RIP – Restaurants Improved Posture.