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The right place at the right time: how spending 1962 at QE broadened Mike’s education

In 1962, Mike Vanderkelen left behind the warm waters of his native Australia to spend a year in Britain’s chillier climes as a QE pupil.

It was a time of great change, both at the School and in wider British society. Timothy Edwards had succeeded veteran Headmaster E H Jenkins only the year before, and during Mike’s stay in Barnet, he experienced both the last great London smog and the dawning of the Swinging Sixties. Here, Mike records his memorable experience.

“One evening midway through 1961, my father had arrived home from his office in Melbourne with a question that would throw wide open the door to my teenage years. As my sister and I hovered around before the family sat down to the evening meal, Father asked did we want to spend a year living in England?

I don’t think I immediately understood what it might mean to live in another country – let alone go to school there – even though we were regular travellers between Melbourne and the island state of Tasmania to see my mother’s family. [Mike sent the postcard with the view of the School shown here to his grandmother in Tasmania.]

Previous generations of my family had been inveterate global travellers, a process that began after my Belgian great-grandfather had come out to Australia for the Great Exhibition of 1880.

But for my father, who had started his own diamond wholesaling business after the Second World War, to pack up the entire family and budget for the travelling and for a much-reduced family income must have taken some confidence and planning. His was a bold decision.

‘I would like to meet the gem suppliers I have been dealing with in Hatton Garden and see London’s diamond trade first-hand,’ he explained.

Moves across the world are now commonplace for many people, including QE alumni wanting to further their experience and their careers. In 1962, my father must have felt confident that the visit – albeit only for a year – would help grow his business.

Making the journey before international air travel had become commonplace, we disembarked at Tilbury after a five-week sea journey from Melbourne. And within days, we had received a letter from Queen Elizabeth’s inviting my enrolment at the School.

A tall and balding Timothy Edwards, who I thought then was the figure of an archetypal headmaster, accepted my enrolment for 1962. I sat silently in his offices with my parents as he briefed them on the School and its history. [Mike is pictured, top, wearing his QE blazer under an apple tree in what had been an orchard at the Manor Road house where his family lived.]

As a recent arrival in the teenager ranks, my time in England would be one of change. Its first manifestation was when I started to become conscious of the fashion statements of the time. I soon convinced a reluctant mother that a pair of jeans and a duffle coat should be part of my wardrobe.

Heading rapidly towards my 14th birthday and newly attired, I soon stepped proudly into the streets of Barnet.

At Monday morning’s classroom roll call, a balding, sports-jacketed and humorous Mr [Rex] Wingfield singled me out for special attention.

“Vanderkelen,” he said in his distinctly Home Counties accent,” I seen you down de ‘igh Street on the weeken’. Did your mum pour you into those jeans or was they painted on?” he asked, to the mirth of class.

Whether or not I responded did not matter. I had been noticed.

However, with one ‘senior’ teacher, Geography master Sam Cocks, I was noticed for the wrong reasons. I thought it a fair assumption that I should do well in a test on Australian geography – but to my horror, instead of 20 out of 20, Sam Cocks told the class I had one incorrect answer.

‘Where did I go wrong,’ I asked him? ‘Well, boy,’ he bellowed, ‘you did not correctly answer the question which asked where in Australia uranium was mined.’

My answer had been Rum Jungle in the Northern Territory, then a centre of uranium mining. But I was quickly told “no boy, that is not the answer in the book.”

If I learned a lesson, it was not one taken from the 1948 Geography textbook laid out on my desk.

If my classroom efforts at QE were mediocre, so too were my efforts at highland dancing in company with young ladies from Queen Elizabeth’s Girls’ School. Fortunately, these activities were overshadowed by some prowess in the then-open air School swimming pool and on the cricket field. With a fellow ‘colonial’, Chris Aldons from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon), we showed our hosts what warm colonial water did for one’s swimming skills. But we kept hush about any thoughts we may have had about our Ashes-like prowess.

Living in High Barnet we were closer to a more rural England than the metropolis to the south. A short distance from our flat were the lanes and hedgerows that led to the QE rugby fields and, beyond them, a horse-riding school. Equally close was Jack’s Lake in Hadley Wood. The proximity of fields for horse-riding and a lake for fishing were to foster two pastimes I would enjoy on my return to Australia.

Given my ongoing enjoyment of music and an interest in social history, I have always thought that I was in the right place at the right time in 1962. After all, I got advance notice of the musical tsunami that was about to sweep the western world with the arrival of The Beatles, The Stones, The Hollies, The Animals and a myriad of others.  But during my year in Barnet, my ears and eyes were also opened to an earlier era of ‘popular’ music.

It was no doubt at my parents’ recommendation that I walked up to Wood Street, Barnet, and asked for the autograph of someone whose recording career would outlast many of those who made their names in the 1960s and beyond: Dame Vera Lynn was still making the music charts well into her 90s.

As a sheepish 14-year-old kid in a black duffle coat, my photo appeared in the local paper asking for Vera’s autograph. This was one famous lady who was more than a singer. In many ways she had been idolised in Britain for her contribution to war time morale of both service personnel and the public.

And about the same time as I was adding Ms Lynn’s autograph to my book, I was also attending the QE Christmas concert.

Just before our year in the UK was to end, the greater London area suffered its last great smog before clean air legislation and the reduction in the use of coal fires had their full effect.

A wintry outbreak brought snow to the country in mid-December. In the days before the snow began to fall and the roads to ice up, I recall seeing a yellow-ish smog seep in under the front door of our flat in Manor Road.

Opening the door, I could hear the London Transport bus as its diesel engine laboured up the hill outside the house. Peering through the smog as the noise got louder, all I could see was the faint glow of the light on the upper deck as the bus passed by on its way to Barnet town centre.

Parts of southern England had heavy snow on Boxing Day. Barnet and surrounding district was in the grip of the freeze. It was indeed big news just four days before we were to embark at Tilbury for the journey home.

So almost 60 years on, I am now able to answer the question about what it would be like to live overseas and what the QE School experience did for me.

Was QE an élite institution, as several private schools in Australia aspired to be, modelling themselves on well-known English public schools? No, on reflection and despite its long history, QE appeared to be democratic and up to date, remembering, however, that this was a time when there was a real distance between pupil and teacher. It was a distance that I tried to bridge just seven years later when I spent a year teaching at a secondary school in Melbourne.

Vague whispers in the QE corridors that I had come from The Colonies were less concerning than arriving into a class half way through the School year. I was soon to find my classmates were ahead of me in several subjects.

Since school is as much about socialising as it is about academic achievement, I began to fit in. I then continued exchanging letters (remember them?) with former classmates until the late 1960s. Our opinions about the latest releases across several musical genres were an important regular topic.

Apart from this mutual passion for music detailed in every letter, my most regular correspondent Geoff made references to the cricketing fortunes of our respective nations, wrote that the School pool would eventually be covered, that there was an Australian was on the QE staff teaching Latin and the UK was contemplating entering the Common Market.

But as tertiary studies, careers, relationships, sporting and cultural interests on either side of the world diluted our memories of QE, the exchange of letters ended.

Before we embarked for England an unnamed friend or family member – I never found out who –had recommended that my sister and I be sent to boarding schools in Australia for the year while my parents made the trip.

My father, an insightful man, said: ‘No, the experience, including school, will broaden their education.’

And, you know, I think he was right.”

  • After returning to Australia Mike obtained an arts degree from Melbourne University and a commission in the Australian Artillery Reserve. In 1971 he secured a position as a journalist on the small team which launched the first business newspaper in Australia to serve the computer and information industries. This foundation paved the way for him to launch a B2B consultancy providing advice and services to global technology companies, including names such as Hewlett Packard and SAP and numerous Australasian software and hardware providers over more than 40 years. During his career he lived and worked in Melbourne, Sydney and Queensland, before returning to his home state of Victoria. Today he lives in its second biggest city, Geelong, and thinks the concept of ‘retirement’ is an onerous one, so remains busy helping build and restore wooden boats in a local community group, cultivating a large vegetable garden, enjoying food and wine (from the Geelong region’s many fine vineyards) and music. He also likes to get away to Tasmania’s central highland lakes to fly-fish for trout.

 

 

Take life’s opportunities – and leave the rest to God

After gaining a Master’s in Engineering and qualifying as a Chartered Management Accountant, Zeeshan Khalid has forged a career in international consultancy – with a distinctly forward-looking slant.

Zeeshan (OE 1996–1998) is a Partner with a boutique consulting firm, Trestle Group, and is the only member of its seven-strong management team currently based in London.

Along with several of his Trestle Group colleagues, he is involved with Fourth-IR (‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’), a firm established in 2016, which harnesses new technologies including AI to help clients transform their businesses. A recent example is its partnership with a large dental-imaging software provider, where AI is used to provide augmented diagnosis, precision treatment and a better overall patient experience.

“Reflecting on my career, I would advise my fellow Elizabethans not to just follow a traditional career path, but to look at the diversity of your learning, as this is what will help differentiate yourself and open more doors,” he said.

“Life presents many opportunities; sometimes one is unable to realise that a challenge or a setback may in fact turn into an opportunity. Always make use of the opportunities given to you and leave the rest to God.”

After leaving QE, Zeeshan went to Imperial College, where he gained a Master’s degree in Information Systems Engineering.

He then spent seven years with UBS, working across finance, risk and IT departments for the Swiss financial giant, before working for RBS Global Banking & Markets and then Credit Suisse. In total, he notched up more than 16 years’ experience at top-tier investment banks, working in both London and Zurich.

In 2007–2009, he undertook his training with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and then in 2011, he established Atlas Accounting, a niche accountancy business for contractors and consultants.

Over the years he has held a variety of senior roles, covering risk management, regulatory change, capital optimisation, risk analytics, finance transformation, programme management and enterprise-wide global IT delivery.

His work with Trestle Group involves him driving business growth and building teams for consulting projects on key accounts with leading global investment banks. Active projects include transformation programmes relating to Brexit and industry-wide Basel regulations, such as the Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB).

At Fourth-IR, he is the UK Country Head. The firm offers clients a range of Virtual Team members, which are AI-driven products designed to be easily integrated into clients’ business operations. Fourth-IR works across multiple industries, including health, wealth, risk and legal, collaborating with product specialists, such as the dental-imaging software business.

Zeeshan has fond memories of his time at QE, in particular, of the then-Head of Sixth Form, Dr John Marincowitz (who became Headmaster in 1999), and his Mathematics teacher, Mrs Elizabeth Borland.

“Even though I was a new joiner to QE, I was able to establish new relationships with many of those who entered the Sixth Form from the lower years. I still vividly remember all the younger-year pupils carrying brief cases to School and the Elizabethan luncheons & debates.”

Outside work commitments, Zeeshan has been a long-standing primary school governor. Keen on the outdoors, he supports his local scouting association as treasurer.

“2020 has been a strange year, but an important one in re-setting goals and priorities,” he said. “It has made me realise the importance of focusing on friends and family, how to better manage the tricky balance between work and life (I follow the motto: ‘we work to live, not live to work’), and lastly not to take free movement & international travel for granted.

“For those wishing to get in touch, please contact me via LinkedIn; I am happy to help with any career advice or questions current pupils or alumni of QE may have,” he added.

Headmaster’s update

After a spring and summer spent largely in lockdown, I am pleased to report that this Autumn Term has felt much more normal.

The majority of School life has taken place, albeit often in adapted form. Not only have our classrooms once again reverberated softly to the sounds of teaching and learning, but there has also been a welcome return to those in-person extra-curricular activities which could be run within our year-group bubbles. Alongside this, cross-bubble activities have taken place online, including our much-valued peer-mentoring system.

I do not underestimate the magnitude of the changes many have had to contend with. To name just two examples among many, our University Mock Interview Evening and our Year 11 Careers Convention at the School both had to be cancelled. I, therefore, greatly appreciated the willingness of alumni such as Zac Howlett-Davies (2006–2013) and Karan Dewnani (2006–2013) to support senior boys by giving online interviews and speaking at our virtual careers event respectively. Overall, however, I can say that we have been fortunate in terms of the number of incidences of Covid-19 within the School. It has certainly been difficult at times, but I am thankful that we have not faced really significant disruption.

I was naturally delighted to read the highly laudatory report on Queen Elizabeth’s School published recently by the Good Schools Guide. The guide’s Kate Hilpern began her research during lockdown and then visited us in October. Her final report commented on how we had “flexed quickly and well” to the challenge of Covid-19 and had “learned from it, too” in areas extending beyond the classroom, including pastoral care.

That process has continued throughout the Autumn Term. The intelligent use of technology has enabled much more day-to-day normality. For those needing to isolate at home it has also enabled them to participate in their lessons.

We have seen some bold initiatives within the scope of the current restrictions. Our Year 9 Drama Club members rose magnificently to the challenge of staging an abridged version of Hamlet for this year’s Shakespeare Schools Festival. Music, too, has adjusted well to the current dispensation, deploying web broadcasting and live-streaming to ensure that the term’s concerts reached as wide an audience as possible.

The Good Schools Guide mentioned our “intellectual approach to Art”, noting the breadth of the forms and materials used, such as animation, installation, sculpture, and painting. While sports fixtures with other schools have not been possible, the PE department have been ensuring boys stay match-fit, organising intra-year group games and tournaments in rugby and water polo, for example.

Our new, pupil-led initiative, Perspective, continues to have an impact. We were pleased to welcome Jamie Sherman (OE 2002–2009) and Arjun Goswami (OE 2001–2008) on International Men’s Day, when they spoke about their experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community in an event that combined an actual meeting with senior prefects with live-streaming into Year 9–13 tutor rooms. During Black History Month, Ifeanyi Chinweze (OE 2008-2015), recorded films for older and younger boys. recounting discriminatory comments against him as a teenager and telling the junior pupils: “It’s important to understand that racism is not limited to hate crimes or acts of violence.” Our forthcoming curriculum review will incorporate themes of combatting racial bias.

In spite of all the new pandemic-related restrictions, the term got off to a very cheerful start as we continued to celebrate the GCSE and A-level grades awarded to our boys during August. All the things we were hoping for in the summer were realised. At GCSE, a shining performance at the very top, with 61% of all grades being at level 9, helped propel us towards what were ostensibly our best-ever results. It was a similar story at A-level, where our leavers achieved 99.6% A*–B grades, as well as a 9.3% increase to 54.6% in the number of A-levels awarded an A* grade; both figures represent a School record. Given the cancellation of public examinations in 2020, comparing these awarded grades with previous years’ results is difficult. But they are, by any measure, remarkable statistics, and I fully appreciate what an extraordinary amount of time and effort from our whole Elizabethan community stands behind them. They are a vindication of our emphasis on free-thinking scholarship. As the Good Schools Guide put it in their summing-up: “[QE is] a place where boys can expect to get carried away with the collective will to learn both in and outside the classroom, the result of which is one of the most inspiring learning environments we’ve ever come across.”

The end of term sees the retirement of Deputy Head Emi Aghdiran. Emi joined QE in 1998 and has made an outstanding contribution over many years.  She was the School’s first Business Manager and also our first female Assistant Head, before her promotion to Deputy. Dynamic and visionary, yet with attention to detail, she has been a significant factor in the School’s present success. On a personal note, I have found her hugely supportive and a pleasure to work with. Happily, she is by no means quitting the Elizabethan community entirely: she will remain a trustee of the School and of the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s. I wish her a happy retirement.

Work on our keenly awaited Music School continues apace. The foundation works have largely been completed, and the erecting of the steel frame is scheduled to start this week. We remain on track for completion in time for the autumn of 2021.

I also eagerly anticipate the publication of our exciting new School Development Plan, covering the period 2021–2025, which was approved by the Governors last month. We look forward to launching it.

May I conclude by saying how impressed I have been at the resilience and good humour shown by so many in our Elizabethan family in the face of the unprecedented crisis which 2020 has brought us. For that, I thank you.

I extend my best wishes to all alumni for a peaceful Christmas holiday and for health and happiness in the New Year.


Neil Enright
Headmaster

Nilesh champions emerging technology’s “profound and positive impact”

After seven years in a senior role for the global advertising agency behind Nike’s ‘Just do it’ tagline, US-based Nilesh Ashra is now blazing a trail with his own innovation consultancy. 

Named in Ad Age’s 40 under 40 list in 2016, he has been profiled in the print edition of Fast Companythe influential American business magazine. He is a high-profile speaker who has appeared at events including SXSW (the annual conglomeration of jointly organised film, interactive media and music festivals and conferences in Texas), Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity and numerous other conferences. And he has won several industry accolades, a winner of Webby, Cannes, Fast Company and D&AD (Design & Art Direction) awards.  

Nilesh (OE 1995–2002) launched his consultancy, Pragmatic Futurism, in January this year. “My consulting work involves helping companies face the future of technology, work, and business,” he saysWe give our clients new ideas, new strategies; we create prototypes, and redesign their internal processes – all to help them face the future in a more optimistic way. 

His interest in technology was apparent early – he started coding at the age of 11 – and after QE, he took a degree in Artificial Intelligence at UMIST (now part of the University of Manchester) 

On graduating, Nilesh says he was interested in working in a non-traditional technology space. That led me to a digital creative studio called Poke, in London. 

In his four-and-a-half years with Poke, there was, he says, “barely a corner of modern, open-source-stack web development that I didn’t have the opportunity to work on. 

“From there, I was headhunted by the iconic Wieden+Kennedy.” Not only had W+K famously produced Just do it for Nike, they also created all of Nike’s TV commercials.  

He began his seven years with W+K, based in Portland, Oregon, as Creative Technology Lead and was later promoted to Director of Creative Technology. In creative industry circles, Nilesh is best known as the founder of W+K Lodge – the agency’s technology-focused division. One example of the Lodge’s work was the 2017 launch of Nike’s new retail experience that combined video-game-style motion capture and projection mapping to reduce the time needed to customise shoe graphics from eight weeks to less than two hours. This was short enough for it to be done on demand and in-store.  

My professional obsession has been the profound and positive impact that emerging technology can have on culture and on businesses alike. After many years in the spotlight at W+K, I am now committed to my young family, and to humbly helping my clients thrive in their careers.” 

Nilesh is married and has one daughter aged six months and another who is four. “I have found myself very settled in Portland. It is mostly a liberal, relaxed, and positive community of creative people. 

I’m an avid surfer, and have surfed all over the world,” he adds. 

 

Doing what he loves – HOW good is that!

Frankie Vu (OE) has secured a role as a presenter of the iconic children’s television show, HOW, while also enjoying a new job with Facebook, working in virtual reality.

ITV have revived the educational programme, with Frankie (Francis) among the team of four presenters. HOW originally ran from 1966 to 1981 and was then re-launched in 1990 as How 2.

“I have very fond memories of the children’s television I grew up with in the 90s and 00s, and a handful of those shows were memorable enough that they still find their way into nostalgic conversations with my peers,” said Frankie (OE 2000–2008). “How 2 was one of those shows, and when I received the news that I would be part of the new presenting line-up, it took weeks to really process the heritage that I would be contributing to.

“Before the audition process, I was unaware that How had been a successful series from the 1960s through to the 80s, and that How 2 had run for a further 16 years from 1990 to 2006. So to be a part of such an iconic format, and to be reviving a show with so much history, is a real honour.”

Produced by Terrific Television, the new series is being shown on CITV and simulcast on ITV; it is also available on ITV Hub. The team also includes veteran HOW presenter Fred Dinenage MBE, who has been a TV presenter for 56 years and was a presenter on both the original series and How 2.

Frankie, a freelance presenter who has worked for broadcasters including the Disney Channel and CBBC, has also been working for Facebook since the start of this year.

“I work in virtual reality (VR) for Facebook ‘by day’. I’ve juggled this with presenting by using annual leave days to film, as and when necessary.

“After spending the best part of ten years messing around in front of cameras, I decided to get a ‘proper’ job, where I spend my days in the virtual world, desperately avoiding the perils and responsibilities of real life. Jokes aside, VR is a rapidly growing part of the tech industry, and over the past few years, I’ve witnessed huge development in the capabilities of the hardware, as well as the current and potential uses of VR.”

Beyond its most obvious application in gaming, VR is now also being used for fitness, surgical training, sports rehabilitation, corporate meetings and tourism, amongst other industries, Frankie points out. “My own role involves overseeing the training and development of Product Experience Specialists, who are tasked with delivering memorable first-time VR experiences, both in-person and now remotely.

“Managing my schedule has been challenging at times, but the gratitude I feel for being able to do what I love massively outweighs any negativity.”

On leaving QE, Frankie studied English Language & Communication at King’s College London. After attending a talk on careers in the media in his final year, he was invited to screen-test for Disney, and secured his first TV contract at the end of the summer.

A sports enthusiast – he won the UK football freestyle championship while still at QE in 2006 – he was a host for the fencing and taekwondo events at the London Olympics and for the wheelchair fencing at the 2012 Paralympic Games, as well as for other live sporting events, including rugby, football and NFL.

“If I could glean any lessons from my own journey, and from this year in general, I would say that we can never know what lies ahead, so it doesn’t serve any purpose to worry too much about the distant future.

“My advice would be to focus on what you love doing, work hard – and don’t give up. Many of us will spend 50 years of our lives in the world of work, so it’s worth trying to figure out what really motivates you – and if that changes somewhere down the line, that’s fine too. The job I’m doing at Facebook didn’t exist a few years ago, and when I was at QE, I had no idea I’d be presenting TV shows – so focus on the things you can control and everything else will fall into place.”

Frankie adds: “I’m still in regular (socially distanced) contact with lots of friends from QE, and I live within walking distance of two my closest friends from Underne house, Robert Michel and Anil Douglas.”

  • Frankie can be reached at:
    Instagram: @frankiepresents
    Twitter: @theFrankieVu

 

Patience and persistence rewarded as Kushal lands “perfect position”

For any QE sixth-formers frustrated and perplexed because they haven’t yet got a career path all mapped out, Kushal Savla has a few words of encouragement.

“My advice is: just follow your passion in terms of choosing your uni course, and you’ll figure the rest out later.

“I think especially at QE you almost expect yourself to know what you want to do with your career before you even finish your A-Levels. But it took me two years after graduating to figure out what I want to do – and I couldn’t be happier with my decision!”

Today Kushal (OE 2005–2012) is a London-based Senior Sales Operations Associate with Diligent Corporation, a US multinational that provides a secure software platform used by the boards of companies and other organisations for collaborating and sharing information. “What does that fancy job title mean? I’m a data analyst who works with sales and commercial teams. I build data models, analyse our sales and marketing data, and build reports and dashboards for our leadership teams.”

After leaving QE, Kushal studied Economics with German at the University of Nottingham, where he gained a Distinction for his spoken German. He was a student on the European Union’s Erasmus scheme and spent his Erasmus year working at Bosch in Stuttgart, Germany. “It sounds like a cliché, but at the time it really was the best year of my life. I was fully immersed in a whole new culture, I made new friends who I am still in contact with, and, of course, the Erasmus grant meant I was able to enjoy the entire year travelling around Germany and Europe.”

Even after graduating, he still had no idea what career path he wanted to follow. “All I knew was that keeping up and maintaining my German was really important to me. After searching and searching, the main roles on offer were in sales, so I thought I’d try it out to see if I liked it.”

This job, which he took up in September 2016, was with his current employer, Diligent. “I really enjoyed using my German every day on the phone and I was also promoted to Team Leader. But in my heart, I knew that in the long term it wasn’t for me, and I wanted to do something more data and numbers-oriented.”

Diligent later took over a German competitor in Munich. “I almost landed a position as a data analyst there, but that fell through. Then I looked back at my company, started talking to the right people – and after a few months got that perfect position I was after.

“I feel very fortunate and lucky to be in the position I am. Things have fallen into place now and I am learning a lot on the job. There is also lots of opportunity to travel to the US, which is something I really appreciate. (Of course, this was all pre-Covid.)”

He still uses German in his job. Like his fellow Nottingham alumnus, Tony Norman (also featured in this issue of Alumni News) Kushal, has been in touch this term with QE’s Head of Languages, Nora Schlatte. And he points out that none of this – getting a job he loves, with all the perks and opportunities for travel that it provides – would have happened had he not studied German. “Learning language is still dear to me: I used it as an entry point into my career and it has guided so much of that career to date!”

  • Kushal is pictured: top, in New York; above right, with friends in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin, and, above left, at the Munich Oktoberfest.

 

Jamie has no regrets after his Covid baptism of fire in new role

In retrospect, Jamie Wolfson’s move to a different company and a new sector could hardly have come at a more difficult time.

With the coronavirus pandemic raging worldwide, he found himself having to get to grips with his new job entirely online, liaising from Hong Kong across international time zones with colleagues he had never met.

“I joined in March in the midst of Covid, working from home – and Hong Kong apartments are very small; ours is 650 sq ft – and we had a two-year-old baby, too. The first three or four months were challenging, to say the least.

“I had to be quite resilient during that period, as most people did. The last three or four months have been more enjoyable. We are back in the office.”

Jamie (OE 1999–2006) had moved from Ernst & Young to global insurance provider Chubb, with a role as IFRS17 Project Lead for Chubb Life, a life insurer with operations in 23 countries. IFRS17 is, he explains, an international financial reporting standard that needs to be implemented by 2023, predominantly by larger insurers, representing quite a major change for them. “I am working mainly with the global Chief Financial Officer, and also the Chief Information Officer.”

“Before I took this role, my background was more digital transformation, across the insurance value chain working with the c-suite [executive-level managers within a company, such as the CEO, CFO etc].

“I had been at EY for my whole career. Having been a graduate entering one of the Big Four, when it came to my ninth year, I felt like I was in a bit of a bubble. I just thought I needed a fresh challenge – I was in my comfort zone. I also wanted to build up some more insurance-specific experience, and had previously worked with Chubb as a client.

“You have always got to challenge yourself, because then you will keep learning, and there are already things I have learned here. In this day and age, no one can afford to stop trying to push themselves and ‘upskill’ themselves because the environment keeps changing so quickly. It’s important to push yourself out of your comfort zone.”

He adds that with his senior-level contacts at EY, returning there in the future remains a possibility, if he wishes.

Jamie met his wife, Maria, when they were both on the EY graduate scheme in August 2011. “We worked together for three-and-a-half years in London and then in Hong Kong. We moved in January 2015, and the time has flown by. I cannot really understand where the last six years have gone.

“We are very happy here. We don’t have plans to leave anytime soon,” he says, adding that after seven years, they will have the right to permanent residence, meaning they could live and work in Hong Kong without needing a work visa.

He plays 11-a-side football with the Hong Kong Football Club, which involves Tuesday night training and games on Sundays, and contributes to a lively social life. Jamie is trying to get back into tennis and also plays golf, although access to the latter in Hong Kong is difficult.

He has, of course, reflected on the implications of the democracy protests in Hong Kong. These were at their peak for a few months last year.

“Although I was never caught up in it, there were a lot of protests and occasions when the police fired tear gas; it was a strange period to say the least. How the western media portrayed it made it appear worse than it was though – picking up videos of extreme cases. For a lot of people here, I don’t think our lives have been impacted too much. On the odd occasion, we had to work from home.

“One rally last year got over 1m people [but] since May or June this year, with the new national security law, the protests have completely gone, completely subsided. It’s really quelled any dissidence to the government, to be honest, rightly or wrongly.”

There is also the commercial aspect of relations with mainland China to be considered. “In the life insurance industry, we are talking about how we do more business with China. Chubb has a joint venture there and recently took a larger stake. People are not under any illusion: China will become a key headline to profitability, so people are embracing that fact.”

But Jamie says that he does, of course, talk about “basic rights” with his friends and says that if he saw his “day-to-day life changing for the worse”, he would then consider if he had a future in Hong Kong.

Jamie maintains strong friendships with people from his year group, including Anand Dattani, Nick Wallis, Sam Murray, Sam Granger, Dominic St George, Kumar Hindocha and Neil Yogananther. His first cousin, Mark Wolfson, is also an Elizabethan who lives in Hong Kong. “My closest friends are still my mates from the School. They all came to my wedding.

“I have really happy memories of School and I look back at it very fondly.” He especially enjoyed the Sixth Form, relishing the opportunities to spend his days studying subjects he had chosen and the fact that “the teachers didn’t treat us like kids anymore – because we weren’t”.

Among the happy memories are Geography field trips to Swanage in Dorset and “the 18-hour coach trip” to the town of Mende in Languedoc, France.

Jamie, who went on to read Geography at Nottingham, follows Headmaster Neil Enright on LinkedIn, who, he says, taught him Geography for two or three years. “It’s made me quite happy to see how he has risen in the School, but also it’s pleasing to see how well the School has done even since I left: it fills me with a lot of pride.”

Circumstances permitting, he hopes his young son, Isaac, will in a few years’ time follow in his footsteps and become an Elizabethan himself.

And does Jamie have any advice for younger Elizabethans entering their careers? “When I started at EY, I was convinced I wanted to stay and become a Partner and have some sort of global leadership role.

“I am still very ambitious, but I think my priorities, what makes me happy, have changed. They are now more focused on doing something I enjoy and am passionate about and that allows me to spend time with the family and doing sport. Money and titles – for me, that’s not what is important.

He adds: “If you can find a passion, it’s less like work, and you put in more time and more effort, which will likely be more successful. Looking back myself, I think the key is about finding that passion – and you may have do a few different things first before you find it.”

“From Borehamwood, via Barnet, to the Moselle”

Tony Norman has, he says, much reason to be grateful to Queen Elizabeth’s School, since “apart from getting me to university, the School also gave me my first taste of overseas travel”.

This “taste” consisted of “a third-form summer trip [Year 9, in today’s parlance] to Denmark and Sweden, and later the exchange visits with Dortmund and Berlin”.

And it was these trips, with their opportunities to sample other cultures, that set the course for a career that has seen him live and work in various countries, including Sweden and Germany. Now retired, Tony (OE 1955–1962) splits his time between the UK, Frankfurt and the Moselle valley, “where I own a delightful house set amongst the Riesling Weinberge [vineyards]”.

A copy of his memoirs, Growing up with Germany, which includes his reminiscences of learning German at QE, was recently placed in The Queen’s Library. In the foreword, Tony thanks his “very good friend, Richard Newton [OE 1956–1964], who, with his autobiographical The Borehamwood Boy, motivated, or rather shamed, me into getting my act and my thoughts together”. Like Richard, Tony is one of the BWBs, or Borehamwood boys. He is pictured, top, in the middle, with Richard on the right and his brother, Bryan Newton, on the left.

He opted for the languages package of A-levels at QE: Latin, English, French and German. He and his classmates had been learning the first three since they were 11. They did not start German, however, until Tony was 15: the young linguists were therefore expected to reach A-level standard in just three years.

“This ambitious goal needed something special and a special teacher. Enter K.L.E.W. Woodland or Clue (as in “I haven’t a …”) as he was known to staff and pupils alike. But he did (… have a clue). He was one of the many middle-aged bachelor teachers on the staff, who appeared to have been left behind by life. Disruption to career and life in general was almost certainly a consequence of the war.”

Yet while some of the teachers were a little embittered, KLEW, who was rumoured to have worked with British Intelligence at Bletchley Park and to have been a spy in Germany in the 1930s, was different. “Sure, he had a dry, sardonic wit, but it never came across as spiteful. In his grey suit and chalky gown, you felt he knew his stuff and that he liked his pupils, which could not have been easy.”

KLEW’s greatest contribution to Tony’s motivation and interest in learning German was his work in organising the Easter holiday exchange visits. “Clearly KLEW had his contacts in Germany and made them work.” He is in fact doubly indebted to his old teacher: although costs for the first trip, to Dortmund, were kept low, money was tight for Tony’s family and they could not afford it, so KLEW secured a scholarship from Hertfordshire County Council.

The trips not only featured time in a German Gymnasium (grammar school) and visits to industrial sites, but also more unexpected opportunities, such as the chance to sample copious quantities of wine with the exotic Graf Matuschka, a German count who was the co-ordinator for the 1962 exchange.

“The exchange visits, in addition to experiencing German, Germans and Germany first-hand, developed me personally. As the Gruppenleiter, I was spokesman for our group, liaised with the local contacts and made small speeches of thanks at the steelworks and the brewery, hastily scribbled on the back of beer mats. In a strange way I felt less constrained and more confident abroad than back home in London, which probably explains why I have spent so much of my time outside the UK.” Tony is pictured here with his friend and classmate, Colin Lennard, on a visit to Berlin in 1963.

With the British Council having reported this year that language-learning is still in decline in England’s schools, Tony, who recently got in touch with QE’s Head of Languages, Nora Schlatte, is “pleasantly surprised” to hear that QE’s German department is thriving. (Twelve boys completed a German A-level in the summer.)

He went on from QE to read German at Nottingham University from 1963-1966, which included half a year in Freiburg. “My main memory is playing rugby for the university and being selected for Notts, Lincs and Derby and UAU Midlands. Rugby shadowed my travels and I also played for Frankfurt SC 1880 and, in the twilight of my rugby career, for Stockholm Exiles RFC.” One key difference with UK rugby union is that the Swedish season runs from May to September: “snow and ice are better suited to ice hockey!

“After university I embarked on what was retrospectively a self-organised gap year, albeit lasting two years.” This involved initially going to Sweden to teach English. “I then drifted into the travel business and was a resort representative for a Swedish tour operator in Dubrovnik, in what was then Tito’s Yugoslavia.”

He subsequently returned to the UK and was recruited as a graduate trainee by the mighty ICI (Imperial Chemical Industries), then Britain’s biggest manufacturer. “My final interview before joining ICI in 1967 was with a director. He told me I would be based in Runcorn. As a Londoner, I had no idea where Runcorn was, so I asked him. The answer was priceless: ‘If you imagine the Mersey as the arsehole of England, then Runcorn’s half-way up it.’”

He eventually concluded that it was not the career for him – “Selling salt, soda and various acids in Stoke-on-Trent was not my cup of coffee” – and after some three years he moved back into teaching. He was appointed to a role in charge of marketing specialist EFL [English as a Foreign Language] courses for the Colchester English Study Centre, a subsidiary of Oxford University Press.

“There then followed a four-year period of experimenting, searching and despair, finally ending in 1974 with my setting up my own EFL organisation, Target Language Services, focusing on teaching English to companies and their managers.” Individual managers came to the language school in London, while Tony and his trainers also ran in-house programmes for German companies, such as Bosch, Siemens and Daimler, in Germany.

In 1980, he went back to Sweden with his family (his first wife, Chris, being Swedish). “I sort of dropped out, closed the school in London and focused on developing and delivering in-house seminars in Germany. A senior manager at one of my clients, Schering Pharmaceuticals, then convinced, and helped, me to refocus on personal and organisational development. My USP was running management training programmes in English for German companies with international subsidiaries, which was almost all of them.”

Through learning on the job and imitating the successes of others, he developed his skills. “I started to cooperate with UK-based training and development organisations by delivering their programmes in Germany in German and English. By this time, 1976, I had left Sweden and moved to Germany.”

The 1980s brought two important career developments for Tony. “First of all, I became a partner at Consensus Consulting, which became – and is to this day – the vehicle for my management training courses.

“The second development sprang from a chance conversation with one of the ex-pat rugby players in Frankfurt. He was interested in my now-dormant EFL interests, so Target Language Services was resurrected and re-launched as Target Training. Over the years I have been involved with these two organisations, and still have shares – and an emotional interest – in both companies.”

From 1990 – 2010, Tony developed and ran training projects in the US, UK, Germany, Scandinavia and the Far East. The fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification also presented opportunities in the ex-communist countries in Eastern Europe. If he were pressed to specify what his focus was during this period, Tony says it would have been “international leadership and intercultural communication and cooperation”.

Tony carried on working until his early 70s and today keeps busy through his hobbies. These include music: “I have always dabbled in pop, rock and blues.” He played drums with a band, the Square Pegs, while at Nottingham, and also played the guitar. Family and work commitments prevented him from pursuing this much until recent years, when he started jamming with a number of musicians. “This culminated in the making of my Nostalgia CD and, a year later, my debut and farewell concert, both on the same evening, at the Wienerhof in Offenbach-Bieber.” The concert near Frankfurt, which featured Tony Norman and The Nostalgia All Stars, took place in 2018.

He has two daughters with his first wife, Annika and Katja. Besides music and spending time with family and friends, Tony says “I garden, do wood-carving and try to become a wine connoisseur. Prost! – or, your health!”

Learning from sights and sounds of the past – and from the silences, too

Harvard undergraduate Che Applewhaite’s first-ever documentary found success at an international film festival.

Che’s film, A New England Document, was an official selection at the 2020 Sheffield Doc/Fest (Sheffield International Documentary Festival) and had its premiere online during the summer. He is now working on a second documentary during his final year at Harvard.

The 16-minute A New England Document profiles the work of 20th-century ethnographers Lorna and Lawrence Marshall, using images and text from the Marshall Collection at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology. But, as well as recounting their expeditions in Africa, Che (OE 2010–2017) also explores his own concerns with history, with colonialism and with anthropology. He is currently studying Anthropology and History & Literature at Harvard and is due to graduate in May 2021.

In a director’s statement written to accompany the launch of the film, Che said he aimed to show “what the archive didn’t intend”. The 40,000-plus photos in the collection extensively depict the indigenous peoples of the Kalahari, but Che pointed out that few are of the Marshall family, “much less of its patriarch – main expedition funder and co-founder of modern-day defense company Raytheon [Laurence Marshall]. Working with and against the silences in the archive required a polyphonic palimpsest of archival found footage, photographs and documents paired with my own shooting in the Peabody Museum, wider Cambridge, Massachusetts and Peterborough, New Hampshire.”

Che, who was born in Trinidad, told The Harvard Gazette staff writer Manisha Aggarwal-Schifellite in an interview: “I was interested in how [I could] reckon with the silences in the archives that prevent me from having a fuller understanding of my own history as a person under an empire.”

Starting in 1952, the Marshalls went on extended expeditions to the Kalahari Desert over four decades, amassing a collection of more than 40,000 photographs.

Che spent a term going through the photographs and diaries, and then learned some of the skills he needed to make a film, including storyboarding, camerawork and video-editing, helped by staff at Harvard’s Film Study Center.

He met New York Times writer Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, daughter of the collection’s creators, who invited him to film at her New Hampshire home. The finished film included readings of the diaries featuring both her voice and Che’s.

“Reading some of the things she has written and having conversations with her about her family helped strengthen the film,” he said. “I got to see how people [in a family] can have very different life paths and outcomes, and I wanted to show that in the film.”

Che’s website describes the resulting work as “fragmentary counterpoint upon the haunting sounds of archival ghosts – of future possibility arising from once-known pasts”.

During Sheffield Doc/Fest, Che was a contributor to a virtual panel session, Decolonizing Documentary.

He is now continuing to create films and is working on a creative senior thesis documentary, entitled In Loving Memory, which Che’s website describes as narrating “the experiential archives of a Black mother whose father and son breathe once more through her writings on grief and the young athletes she coaches at Normandy High School in St. Louis, Missouri”.

Headmaster’s update

Despite the most difficult circumstances this term, Queen Elizabeth’s School has continued in extraordinary times to do all of our ordinary things well – not, of course, that there is anything ordinary about QE and the Elizabethan community.

I have been concerned by national media reports about children being educationally disadvantaged during lockdown. Thanks to the hard work of teaching and support staff, QE boys do not find themselves in that situation.

Staff have been hugely active in finding new, creative ways of working. It has been difficult, but we have provided pupils with their full curriculum entitlement. Every lesson has been delivered; academically strong, purposeful teaching and learning has been maintained. That we have been able to do so is thanks to the heavy investments made in the development of our digital eQE platform in recent years.

Those eQE investments have generally been funded through voluntary giving, and I am deeply grateful to the many alumni who give generously to the School. Our biggest annual fundraiser is normally Founder’s Day – and I am pleased to report that, the pandemic notwithstanding, this year is no exception. We easily exceeded our £20,000 target in the first Virtual Founder’s Day in the School’s 447-year history; the current total stands at more than £22,000, including Gift Aid.

The programme, presented through the YouTube Premiere facility, was a carefully curated combination of traditional elements, adapted for a digital environment, and innovative features, such as our video curry cook-along. Robert Rinder (OE 1989–1994) made a special guest appearance. My thanks go to him and the many old boys who supported us.

Founder’s Day was also a very public reminder of the philanthropy underpinning the work of The Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s – one aspect of the uniqueness that makes QE a state school like no other. It is as a direct result of FQE’s work and of our success in a Department for Education competitive bidding process that we are in a position to go ahead with our Music School project: construction work will start during the holidays. This, again, is far from ordinary: our boldness at this juncture speaks volumes about the confidence I and the Governors have in the future of the School.

Just as we have continued to provide all boys with a full timetable of lessons, Old Elizabethans have continued to support our senior pupils by providing careers and university guidance remotely during lockdown. They included, among others, Sam Colman (OE 1998–2005), Rohan Shah (OE 2012–2019) , Kiran Modi (OE 2007–2014), Karan Dewnani (OE 2006–2013) and Binu Perera (OE 2012–2019). My heartfelt thanks go to all who have given their time so liberally.

George Mpanga (OE 2002–2009) has again been prominent on our TV screens and radios this term, and I was pleased to learn he had gained further critical recognition, too: his podcast (entitled Have you heard George’s podcast?) is the first-ever UK podcast to win a Peabody Award. Peabody Awards are one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious media awards series, so this is a considerable achievement.

I would also like to honour the many Elizabethans working for the NHS and in other key-worker roles, both here and overseas. Service has always been an important value for our School, and I know that the example of our alumni in these difficult days has inspired current boys as they think about their own futures. Indeed, some pupils have spent considerable amounts of their free time during lockdown volunteering in hospitals and in the community, or putting their engineering skills to good use by manufacturing PPE using equipment such as home 3D printers.

As Covid-19 continues to have a massive impact around the world, another important development during this period has been the global rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. I have now been here for 18 years, half of that time as Headmaster. I know how warm, respectful and kind Elizabethans are, and what a high value we place on diversity. Yet I recognise that we, in common with all organisations, do not always get everything right, and that there is more we can do.

During the term, our new, pupil-led forum, Perspective, was launched to look at issues such as racism and other forms of prejudice and discrimination. The Hughes brothers, Kelvin and Elliot, (OE 1999–2006 and 2002–2009 respectively) were invited as special guests to a Perspective discussion on Zoom for Years 11 and 12, in which I was also pleased to be able to take part. They made a very telling contribution to the discussion, bringing their own experiences and reflections from a generation above the current boys.

In this last week, Bilal Harry Khan (2003–2010) and Kam Taj (2004–2011), two alumni with whom the School has forged an ongoing relationship, have been among our very few physical visitors to the site during the term. Both came in to deliver workshops as part of a special pastoral day for our Year 12 boys, who have been spending increasing time here as lockdown eases, in line with Government policy. Bilal spoke on Tackling discrimination and prejudice and Kam Taj (2004–2011) addressed the sixth-formers on Intrinsic motivation.

Also this week, we have had Jay Shetty (OE 1999–2006), global podcaster, broadcaster and motivational speaker, as the guest speaker for our virtual Junior Awards ceremony.

While the current situation is unprecedented for all of us, I take heart from our proud heritage and from the strength of our Elizabethan community. The great contribution made by our old boys is a major element in this strength. That contribution continues to grow: QE Connect, our alumni platform, was launched at the start of the academic year and its membership has expanded steadily ever since, with more than 800 users now signed up.

QE has overcome past challenges quite as serious as Covid-19, including wars, financial crises and the plague. The dedication, generosity and loyalty of alumni, boys, parents, staff and Governors have carried us through before; they have sustained us during this lockdown, and they are enabling us now to emerge on the other side in a very strong position.

I have never been prouder of the School and would not want to be anywhere else. As we come to the end of a term unlike any other, I wish all our alumni a safe and enjoyable summer.

Neil Enright
Headmaster