Making their mark on the world: Aberystwyth Contemporaries…


As I walked Jumble this morning, my mind wandered to the huge vat of talent which included Rik Mayall, Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French. They are my exact contemporaries: Mayall was two months younger than I, French three months older and Saunders half a year my junior. They have achieved so much – and lit up the world for so many thousands, millions, of people. I have great admiration for all of that group – and was very upset when Mayall died so suddenly two years ago.

But this wisp of thought has now moved on to the people I knew (all, then, between eighteen and twenty-one) when I was at Aberystwyth University between 1976 and 1979 – and I am curious, intrigued, would love to know what has become of them!

I can tell you that three of them (two in my year – and one who had already got his degree and then stayed on to lecture in the Drama Department) have, as the saying goes, made good. Very, very good in the case of Neil Brand.

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Neil Brand is a composer, writer, presenter and silent film accompanist (http://www.neilbrand.com/) . I have seen him in action two or three times since the seventies, and was, for a while, in touch via Facebook. He is a great guy, a massive talent – and remains centred, down-to-earth and, as far as I can see, without any side. I am delighted by his success.

Anne Davies was also in my year – and, like Neil, a member of the Drama Department. She went on to a career as a television presenter – and now presents East Midlands Today. Sad to relate, I have not been in touch with Anne since we both left Aberystwyth – but I celebrate her talent.

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The third person I wish to mention is Kevin Graal. He has become very well known as a story-teller (http://www.talkingtales.org/). He always was a creative, energetic and individual soul – and, even back then, I had the feeling he was going to make his unique mark on life in some way or another.

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There may well be other people in my year, or who were there during those three years, who have set the world alight in some wondrous way or another. If so, I would be so pleased to know, to hear from them.

I cannot, in all honesty, claim that I am up there with Neil, Anne and Kevin – but I have done what I wanted to do most when I went to Aberystwyth to read English: I have become a published author!

Interestingly, the Welsh voice (which creeps into my writing from time to time) comes from those brilliant years in the mid-to-late seventies – and Granny, who ‘narrated’ ‘Nerve, is it? Diw Diw’, ‘Corpse Candle’, and other pieces, seems to have entered my soul, is both character and metaphor for my enduring love of that beautiful, stark Welsh landscape.

I am proud of Neil, Anne and Kevin – and very happy that all three of them have followed a creative path with passion and determination.

After all, we only have one shot at this life – and, it seems to me, that failing to follow your passion, to nurture your talent, is unconscionable starvation of the spirit, and wilful rejection of the Creator’s generous gifts.

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