Deanne Cunningham (1994 -2001, Head Girl 2001)
I left Bolton School in 2001 to study law at Magdalen College, Oxford University. After 3 years of study, I took my Legal Practise exams and joined the corporate law firm, Hogan Lovells. I spent two hectic years as a trainee solicitor in London and Tokyo before realising I wanted to pursue a more creative career. Making the leap, I joined the BBC on their graduate Production Trainee Scheme. Since then, I have worked in TV drama and Film, as a freelance script editor and producer. I have worked all round the country on various TV dramas for Channel 4, Sky and ITV. Last year even brought me back to Bolton School as co-producer of ITV’s comedy drama, Cold Feet, when we used the school as a filming location. I currently live in the West End of Glasgow with my fiancé Hamish and visit my family in Bolton regularly.
What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?
I joined Bolton School at age 11 and was the first member of my family to go there. I grew up in nearby Lostock and apparently had wanted to go to Bolton School ever since I first saw its imposing facade through the car window. I still remember buying my uniform at the school shop as being one of the most exciting days of my life. Since then, both my sisters, Cherie and Philippa, and my cousin Jennifer Hilldrup have attended the school.
What is your fondest Bolton School memory?
I have so many amazing memories of school, from Hadrian’s Wall and Patterdale Hall, to ski trips in Les Arcs, to just messing around eating pasties in the Common Room or hanging around the chemistry blocks in the Boys Division at lunchtime! But my favourite times at school were probably those spent in the theatre. From our epic dramatization of The Highwayman poem for the III Form Drama Festival, to Our Day Out and Macbeth, the school had an amazing drama department and I had so much fun taking part in the various productions. It sparked a life long love of the form that has led me to my current career today.
I should also mention that being made Head Girl is still one of my proudest achievements – it was really overwhelming and such an honour to be given that responsibility by your peers and teachers. I also have lots of happy memories associated with that role, including the hilarious Prefects Panto and the revoltingly messy Monitors v Prefects Rounders Match.
Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?
Mrs Hadjigeorgiou really sticks in the memory for me. She seemed impossibly cool and glamorous to my 12 year old self, with her stories of shaving her head and getting a tattoo. But on a serious note, not only did she cultivate and encourage my life long love of literature, she also had a very feminist outlook on life, which as a teenager I found very empowering.
Mrs McCann should also get an honourable mention for being brilliantly bonkers, Mrs Haslam for being the warmest and loveliest person, and Mrs Greenhalgh for being probably the scariest but best teacher I ever had (with the driest sense of humour).
What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?
I feel really lucky to have had such a positive experience of school. The school’s ethos and atmosphere meant I loved every minute of it. Ultimately that allowed me to thrive academically and pursue a career that I love. I made some wonderful friends for life, and I think Bolton School turned us all out into the world as a well rounded, respectful and confident individuals. You can’t ask for more than that!
What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?
Try and work out what your passions in life are and follow those. I got side tracked for a while by thinking I needed a profession, a respectable and stable job, which led me initially into a career that I wasn’t suited for. I’d also say that the jobs market is changing rapidly and people don’t have ‘careers for life’ in the same way anymore. It’s ok to spend time trying different things and working out what you want to do.
What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
It’s really fundamental that places like Bolton School shouldn’t just be accessible to the very wealthy. The Bursary Fund is one way of addressing that. I hope that with the right support it can continue to offer opportunities based on children’s talent and potential as opposed to their financial background.