STAFF and students at Malvern School of Art threw a surprise 80th birthday party for sculpture tutor Guy Woodford, who has been teaching there for nearly 50 years.

They gathered in the refectory at the college in Albert Road North for the party, which was held on Friday lunchtime, one day ahead of Mr Woodford's actual birthday.

They gave him presents, including a pair of wellies, a scarf and a set of mugs, as well as making a donation to the Vale Wildlife Trust, one of Mr Woodford's favourite charities.

And at the party, the college unveiled the Guy Woodford Prize for Sculpture, which will be presented every year for the best sculpture made at the college.

Head of art Caroline Park said: "We decorated the refectory with cards and we managed to keep it from Guy all morning, though I think he suspected something shortly before the party started.

"The refectory was absolutely packed and there must have been about 60 people there. Guy really enjoyed it, but I think he enjoyed it even more when we announced the Guy Woodford Prize. I think he was really touched."

Appropriately enough, the first Guy Woodford prize went to John Harvey, for his larger-than-life sculpture of the birthday boy himself, which he unveiled earlier this year, and which he brought back to the college for the occasion.

"Guy made it very clear that he has no plans to retire and that sculpture classes will continue as normal. He started here in 1966 and he's very much the longest-serving member of staff. At the party, I overheard one lady who said she's been attending his classes for about 40 years," said Mrs Park.

As well as his place in the ton's art scene, Mr Woodford also served for many years as a Malvern Hills councillor for the Green party, and he campaigned for the preservation of a field behind the college, which is now known as Woodford's Meadow.