I’m a barrister (QC) specialising in planning law in London. I’m a former chairman of the Planning and Environment Bar Association, and in addition to my barrister’s practice I sit part time as a judge, in the High Court and Crown Court. After I left school in 1976, I read law at Oxford University, and then came to the Bar. I live with my partner Eric in west London. We think the capital is a great place to live because it offers such a rich choice of activities. We enjoy the opera at Holland Park, walking through Hyde Park, and visiting the museums. And at weekends, I have a singing lesson. My teacher is making a career in opera, and he tries valiantly to get me singing his latest arias. I have a niece, nephew, two great-nieces (small and fierce!) and several god children.
What is your connection to Bolton School? Were any other members of your family here?
I was at Bolton School for ten years up to 1976, beginning at Park Road. Both my parents attended the school, as well as my brother and my uncle, cousin and god mother. My parents were from poor backgrounds, but both won rare Foundation scholarships which paid their fees. My brother and I also had free education through the Direct Grant system, which did much to ensure that everyone could attend schools such as Bolton School, regardless of wealth. The ending of Direct Grants by the government in the late 1970s was a major mistake.
What is your fondest Bolton School memory?
My fondest Bolton School memories are of acting and singing in the plays and operas, and the school choir. I enjoyed performing, which is one of the reasons I became a barrister. Oh, and I loved school dinners, which taught me to be a happy omnivore. In my last year, I shared a dining table with the Headmaster, David Baggley, and Ernie Ryder, the School Captain (and now a Court of Appeal judge). The three of us were given the same food as a standard table of eleven, and the Head and Ernie weren’t big eaters. Sometimes I had a whole syrup sponge all to myself.
Did any member of teaching staff particularly inspire you while you were at school?
Two of my favourite teachers were Alan Mitchell, who taught me Latin, and Charles Winder, who taught English. They were both clever, but even more importantly, each had an open nature, plenty of imagination, and lots of humour. Alan Mitchell could seem pretty stern until you heard his imitation of Neddie Seagoon.
What do you feel your experience at Bolton School has given to you personally?
Bolton School helped teach me to think, as well as providing me with people to like and admire. One of the best pieces of advice given to me at school was that you should always try to solve a problem by going back to first principles and primary sources of information.
What is the best career advice you can give to Bolton School pupils today?
Find what you’re good at and work at it. Nearly all successful people are highly disciplined and focused. But don’t be put off at school if others seem cleverer than you. There are all sorts of talent, and academic prowess is not the only one. You probably have gifts that the swots don’t.
What do you think about Bolton School’s 100 Campaign aim to re-establish genuine open access through its bursary fund?
I support the aim of the School’s 100 Campaign, which is to provide open access through its bursary fund. But I think in the long term we will have to go even further. The present school system creates and perpetuates damaging divisions within our society, and if we don’t find ways of ensuring all young people have access to good education, we will be in real trouble.