Island Life Magazine Ltd February/March 2007 - Page 20

Brian, the eccentric softie... There’s something a bit rock and roll about Brian Hinton. And it isn’t just that controversial Jimi Hendrix statue outside his beloved Dimbola Lodge at Freshwater, of which he is curator. Brian, 56, might look like a fusty academic on the outside but on the inside beats the heart of a maverick. He’s the librarian who helped inspire the rebirth of the Isle of Wight festival; the poet who writes books on some of the greatest rock legends; the property millionaire for whom money’s not that important. Brian was brought up in the Highfield area of Southampton and says he has always had a rebellious streak. “I was a swat but I’ve also been a rebel. “I’m bald now but believe it or not I was actually a haircut rebel. “At school I was sent for an enforced haircut because the headmaster said if I didn’t toe the line he wouldn’t sign my papers for Oxford. At Oxford Brian was free to grow his hair ‘right down my back’ and made the most of everything on offer, from following the hedonistic Sixties music scene to running the Oxford Poetry Society where he 20 hosted evenings with W H Auden and Ted Hughes. As so many students of his era did, he’s sampled a few joints in his time, “I’ve even inhaled with a sheikh,” he said. Now his views have changed Brian now thinks that - however fashionable - even soft drugs are extremely harmful when taken on a long term basis. “Of course I had no idea what I wanted to do in life so I became an academic researcher and went and did my MA and my PhD.” He then got a traineeship at Oxford’s Bodleian Library where he developed a love of rare books. “I had this wonderful year when I didn’t really have to do anything except study and look at these fantastic books. “One day I was given a huge book bound in wood and iron to carry across the road to an exhibition room. “When I got back I said ‘what the hell was that?’ “ ‘Well, it’s a Gutenberg’, they said. It’s one of only two in the world and this is the finer one.’ It was worth millions. It was priceless in fact.” It was also at Oxford that Brian had his first brush with death – an experience which would influence the path of his future career. He says: “I got nephritis, a kidney disease, which very nearly finished me off. “It made me realise early on that life is short and you’ve got to enjoy it. “It was also then that my father made it clear to me that I would never have to worry about money in my life. “He was an esta te agent and had invested in properties to rent. “I’d never be really rich but neither would I be poor and that has freed me up to work in the public service and not worry about how much Continued on page 22... Island Life -