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David Taylor (OE 1961–1966) here gives his candid account of his key role as the organiser of the 1966 fete. Although there had been occasional fetes at QE before, as it turned out, the 1966 event was to be the start of a tradition of annual fetes that continues to this day.

It was in April 1966 that I first became aware of what being “volunteered“ meant. Tim Thorpe and I were summoned to the study of Headmaster TB Edwards (TBE) in our roles as School Captain and School Lieutenant respectively. We were informed that it had been decided that a School Fete would be arranged to raise funds for the covering of the School’s open-air swimming pool. We were asked to be the organisers. It would be, he suggested, a good opportunity for us to develop our skills and enhance our record of achievement if we were to accept the role of Fete Organisers. It was clearly an honour, and therefore not to be turned down lightly, so we accepted, despite the fact we were also due to take our A-levels in June.

What we had not appreciated was that this was something of a poisoned chalice. Five years after the retirement of the legendary headmaster, Ernest Jenkins, TBE still had not totally won over the hearts and minds of the teaching staff. They had  made clear to him that fete organisation was far down their list of priorities, and it is fair to say that, with a couple of exceptions, they maintained this position.

Additionally, the swimming pool project was not popular. None could dispute the fact that improving the facilities would be of benefit. Countless classes of goosepimpled schoolboys had endured the rigours of an English summer as they shivered on the verruca-infected concrete edge fringing the water, trying to delay the moment of immersion in the icy depths. The fact that so many of us passed our Bronze Life Saving Award was a tribute to some form of inner strength not usually apparent. The problem was that the fund-raising had been started some years earlier. The initial enthusiasm had waned as the growth of the fund failed to keep up with the rise in building costs.

Blithely unaware of all the background issues, we launched the project at the start of the Summer Term. We had the target date of Saturday 23rd July. By now the principles of being “volunteered” were understood and we managed to assemble a working committee with representatives from each class. It was agreed that each class would take on responsibility  for an activity or stall.

There was a lot of haggling about who should do what. Face-in-the-Wall, Pick-a-Straw, a coconut shy, Crazy Kitchen, Bingo, bran tub, darts, hoop-la, roll-a-penny,  raffles, catering, helium balloon race, the list seemed endless. What was actually in short supply were the willing hands to run the activities. Tim Thorpe, my colleague, was a serious cricketer and Captain of the First XI, so increasingly I found more and more of my time taken up by the fete.

Gradually, however, things did start to fall into place, with the production of the fete programme emerging as one of keystones of the project.  It didn’t just publicise the activities of the day, but was crucial for fund-raising by selling advertising space to local tradespeople. In those days, Barnet High Street was blessed by some fine shops and businesses. In many cases the sons of the tradespeople had attended the School and were also suppliers of goods and services. Instead of delegating this aspect of the work, I decided that this was something I wanted to do, even producing the programme’s initial design. Fortunately Huw Purchas, the Art teacher, was one of the few staff members to agree to help in the completion of the final version.

I was then able to take the draft of the programme and start selling advertising space in the High Street. I remember the largely generous reception I received – and actually the advertising side was quite successful. In particular, I struck gold with J Robinson of the High Street Delicatessen who agreed to provide the barbecue, complete with hamburgers and two roasting pigs! After all these years, the names of the advertisers in the surviving programme [see below] bring back good memories.

What had initially seemed like a lonely endeavour became less so as more and more people stepped forward to offer help. Peter Felstead was in our year group and was the manager of a pop group, The Metronomes, and he agreed to arrange the dance in the evening. Peter went on to a successful career in the world of music. A fellow sixth-former, John Little, had a famous father, Trevor Little. He was known as The Balloon Man and he kindly offered his entertainment services.

Eventually key activities such as catering, setting up and taking down stalls, running sports and contests were covered by volunteers. The pace increased and A-levels seemed to pass in a whirl as the day of the fete approached. It was certainly a learning experience as I came to grips with booking a candy floss machine, hiring a coconut shy, and borrowing bunting from the local Scout Group. It was even decided that we should offer goldfish in bags as prizes, and so two boxes of fish and dispensing bags were duly ordered. It is wonderful what can be achieved with so little knowledge and understanding of possible consequences.

TBE was kept informed of developments at weekly progress review meetings and finally the last week arrived. A slight hiccup had been identifed, as the provider of the candy floss machine based in Berkhamsted had indicated that we would have to collect it ourselves. Without batting an eyelid, TBE turned to me, confirmed  I could drive, handed over the keys to his Bedford van, and gave me permission to go that afternoon and collect it. Accompanied by my friend, George Wormald, we set off. All went well until on the trip home I managed to dent a bumper on the van. As I returned the keys and confessed, TBE just smiled and said: “Ah well.” Not sure this would happen these days.

As the final week progressed the reality started to hit home. Where to store the coconut shy? Did we have enough coconuts? The Crazy Kitchen had seemed a good idea, but did we have sufficient supplies of chipped crockery to smash during the course of the afternoon? On the Friday, I was called to the School secretary’s office to receive a delivery of two large boxes containing goldfish, also tanks of helium and a supply of balloons and labels. What had seemed incidental details some weeks ago now emerged as major challenges.

There were several aspects to the goldfish problem. Each box contained a large clear plastic bag filled with approximately one hundred small fish. The bags were sealed and topped up with sufficient oxygen to last for two days. These bags had to be opened and the fish put into individual prize bags. Two heroes volunteered (were volunteered?) to be in charge of the fish situation. They decided that the large communal bath in the changing rooms would be the ideal venue for this operation. This appeared to solve the problem, and I was free to move on to other things.

We had been advised by the supplier of the candy floss machine that it was not quite as simple to operate as might first appear. Those who had chosen this as their activity had been given the opportunity on the Friday to practise their skills. They had anticipated unrestricted access to a tasty fair ground treat. In no time at all they were faced with the reality of how to restrict the sticky treat to the stick and not enmesh their  hands in the cobweb of pink sugar strands. The sight of an arm encased in candy floss remains vividly with me to this day. At least the practice session did give them the chance to prepare for the challenges of full production.

The day of the fete finally arrived, and, to be honest, I can remember little, as events took on their own momentum. The weather was not too bad, a typical grudging English summer’s day. The host of volunteers and a lot of goodwill made the thing happen. I managed to fail to schedule in our star entertainer, the Balloon Man, Trevor Little. Being the professional he was, once he appreciated my omission, he took charge of the entertainment section and soon had a delighted audience.

Somehow the balloons were launched for the distance race, with some form of prize having been offered for the balloon travelling the greatest distance. The operation of the helium tanks was quite a tricky task. These days some form of risk assessment would have been carried out, but those were far-off, and more innocent, times. Learning on the job proved a great way of developing skills. I have no idea of how far the winning balloon travelled, but it did prove to be a good fund-raiser.

Thank goodness there was someone used to handling cash and providing change in what quickly became a swift moving commercial whirlwind  Stall takings were logged and some form of financial control maintained. I may have developed many skills during the course of the fete experience, but this is one aspect of life I have never truly mastered. I have no record of the total sum that we actually ended up raising. [£600, according to the local newspaper report below – Ed].

At the end of the proceedings, a loyal group of helpers stayed behind to clear up the remains of the day. Just as I felt that things were coming to an honourable end, I was approached by a member of the goldfish team. My lack of experience in the goldfish department had led me to overestimate wildly possible demand. When I arrived at the changing bath, I was faced by an unopened box of goldfish. The oxygen supply was insufficient to last the weekend. We decided to fill the bath and pour in the remaining fish, leaving them to swim happily over the weekend.

This didn’t, though, solve the problem of what to do with the excess fish – the option of flushing them down the drains having been rejected after some discussion. On the Monday, form representatives were summoned and given a supply of bagged goldfish to distribute to class mates as a small ‘thank you’ from the Fete Committee. Whoever came up with that solution (not me) I am sure went on to better and greater things.

As for myself, in September 1966 I went with Voluntary Service Overseas teaching for a school year in Grenada in the West Indies. One lingering link with the fete were the regular notes from the Boy Scout Troop Leader asking for the return of the troop bunting. These notes were forwarded to me by my father, but I was unable to help. If anyone does find the bunting I would be grateful if it could be returned to the Scouts.

  • Click on the thumbnails below to view the images.

 

Edge over ego in investment

Investment sector specialist Mipham Samten (OE 2012–2019) may be among the 450 Club’s younger members, but he is clear-sighted about why he needed to buy into the club.

After taking full advantage of opportunities to get involved in debating and public-speaking while at the School, Mipham secured a place to read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford.

“For me, joining the 450 Club is about supporting an institution that believes in meritocracy, as I do, recognising that without responsibility, merit is meaningless,” he says. “From those to whom much is given, much is required. In that respect, joining was an easy decision to make.”

While at university, Mipham spent a year running the Oxford Alpha Fund – a student investment society.

“The game is to find out what everyone is thinking, and identify their potential mistakes. The biggest opportunity and challenge was developing an environment where the society can stay calm when the market is panicking or exuberant. This meant choosing to work with independent thinkers, people who are comfortable being wrong publicly and who change their mind with the facts, not with the crowd. Interestingly, this is not always correlated with ‘intelligence’ per se: separating your ego from your ideas is hard, but ultimately rewarding.”

Mipham completed a summer internship with Man Group, a London Stock Exchange-listed active investment management business, in 2022, and then took up his present role with the firm in September 2023.

“I’m early in my career as an Investment Associate. Everyone wants to know, ‘What’s x fund’s ‘edge’?’ or its advantage over others. Generally, it’s pretty clear that an edge is the product of working hard now, or having worked hard before. It pays to stress assumptions others take for granted, to explore topics others ignore. Opportunities come and go, but those who are able to take advantage are those who prepared when something was unknown or unfashionable.

“I hope to continue investing professionally, learning a lot, and, hopefully, developing a little edge of my own.”

Mipham is pictured taking part in last year’s Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate alongside Saifullah Shah (OE 2013-2020).

Crossing paths, spanning generations

Alan Rymer and Nicholas Warren are Old Elizabethans from different generations who worked together in the property finance industry for several years, never suspecting that they had both been to the same school.

On learning of their shared history, the pair recently paid a joint visit back to Queen’s Road, thoroughly enjoying the chance to reminisce together, while also observing how much QE has changed.

Alan said: “My background is that, having left QE in 1970, I went to work for Nat West where I studied the usual banking exams (Accounting, Economics, Law etc) to achieve my ACIB [Associateship of The Chartered Institute of Bankers], and gained promotion working at various large London branches, until I had the opportunity to specialise in real estate. I then spent much of my career working with property developers and investors to put in place their borrowing requirements – and learning a huge amount about their businesses by doing so. When I left in 2016 I set up my own business, ADR Funding Ltd, through which I focus on arranging finance specifically for the house-building sector.

“As a result, I now have contacts with a very wide range of banks and specialist funders. One of these is United Trust Bank, who I do quite a lot of work with, mainly via Nick Warren. We had already completed a number of deals when we happened to talk about where we had been brought up, and on learning that Nick lived near Queen’s Road in Barnet, I said ‘that’s where my old school is.’ The rest is history.”

For his part, Nick (OE 1991–1998), who obtained a first in Public Policy, Government & Management at the University of Birmingham, said: “Developing relationships with people is the crux of any business. Paths cross at all stages in life and it’s great to see how, like other Old Elizabethans, Alan and I have managed to connect years after leaving.”

Thanking the Headmaster, Neil Enright, and Head of External Relations, Matthew Rose, who hosted them on their visit, Nick said it had been a “fantastic few hours down memory lane”, adding: “I owe a lot to Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet, as it was a place which instilled me with discipline, resilience and a fantastic start on my educational pathway.”

Alan (OE 1963–1970) reflected on how the School had gone from “strength to strength” in the past 50 years. His memories included “cross-country runs in Galley Lane and stone-picking on the Third Field (now a well maintained rugby pitch), followed by bread-and-dripping sandwiches in the refectory – but that was in the 60s!

“QE was and remains a superb school with a great academic history, and it is good to be able to connect/reconnect with past scholars who may now share similar interests and business roles.”

Both now look forward to meeting more Old Elizabethans working in property finance.

Alan also had some career selection advice for current pupils and recent leavers: “I would say make sure you choose something that you will enjoy. I always loved working for Nat West as it gave me plenty of variety, taught me new skills, and enabled me to meet and advise hundreds of different clients over many years.”

 

 

Dramatic advice: Alex lends his expertise to inspire young minds

Leading theatre designer Alex Wardle (OE 1983–1990) has been advising QE how to get the very best out of The Robert Dudley Studio – the School’s new drama and spoken-word facility.

Alumni can still support the project – including helping to fund the all-important lighting and sound equipment – by joining the 450 Club. But, with the tiered seating due to be installed next term, time is running out if you would like your name on a studio seat!

Alex said: “I was keen to help the School make good decisions, as a well-planned drama space can be such an inspiration to young minds. As one of your alumni who hasn’t ended up being a multi-millionaire, I’m afraid all I can afford to give is advice!”

Work started this term on creating the 200-seat studio from two rooms towards the rear of Main Building. So far, a new roof has been installed and internal work done. The studio will come into use next term, with the tiered seating due to be fitted around the half-term break. The lighting and sound equipment has still to be purchased.

“I did have a good time at QE – but spent my time with music rather than drama,” said Alex. “Hopefully my suggestions help to nudge the new drama studio in the right direction, supporting student drama and creativity, and perhaps producing some directors, actors or designers in the future.”

Assistant Head (Pupil Involvement) Crispin Bonham-Carter said: “Alex has been an invaluable source of information for our design of The Robert Dudley Studio. He has visited the site and offered us lots of practical advice, even drawing up detailed sight-line diagrams showing the effect of different seating choices. He was delighted to come back to QE and was thrilled to see how much theatre and performance is taking place.”

QE theatre trips this term included 40 boys in Years 9 and 10 going to see Red Pitch, an award-winning play at Soho House Theatre, which was  built by Alex’s company, Charcoalblue.

Alex provides planning and consultancy on all aspects of theatre design. During more than 15 years of theatre consultancy, he has worked on high-profile projects including: the award-winning Dorfman Theatre at the National Theatre; the new Sadler’s Wells Theatre at London’s Olympic Park; and the first new London West End theatre since 1973, at Soho Place. In addition, he has 25 years’ experience as a lighting designer, production manager and technical stage manager.

  • Among other OEs supporting the creation of The Robert Dudley Studio, is Jay Shetty (OE 1999–2006), the podcaster, author and life coach with a huge global online following. Watch Jay’s appeal for The Robert Dudley Studio here.
New Governor’s guiding hand

A new pupil in QE’s first year as a comprehensive, David Burton (OE 1971–1978) returned to Queen’s Road decades later to work as its Head of Finance.

Now retired, he is back with the School once again: this time, to serve as a Governor.

“I have always set great store by education and learning, which meant that I was happy to accept the Governor position as a way of supporting the running of QE, in particular guiding on the finance aspects,” says David. “I look on it as giving something back to the community and the institution of QE.”

He arrived at QE at a time of rapid expansion, with entry doubling from three forms to six. “It still carried elements of a grammar school in many respects, with masters and prefects wearing gowns in assembly, for example. But in my time I witnessed the expansion of pupil numbers up to close to its current size, and the construction of the Fern Building to help accommodate them.”

His personal memories include being in Eric Shearly’s form in his first year, participating in the School play, getting involved in debating, and becoming a prefect. Although excited to be one of the very few who was at the School for the 400th anniversary in 1973 and is still involved now during the 450th anniversary year, he says: “To be honest, I don’t recall very much about the actual commemorations 50 years ago.”

A clearer memory is of being appointed treasurer of the sixth form entertainments committee by Sid Clark, Head of Sixth Form (who later, like David, served as a Governor in retirement): ” I didn’t realise at the time that this would plant a seed for my subsequent career!”

After reading English and History at university, he embarked on a career in accountancy and insurance, training as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst & Young. Based in the City of London, he nonetheless had the opportunity to travel on assignments to North Africa, the USA, France and Switzerland.

“After a long time away from the School (38 years), a coincidence of me being at a loose end and seeing the vacancy for Head of Finance brought me back in 2016. I had little knowledge of modern state school finance, but in my experience, these are often the best situations  I have always appreciated learning and understanding something new. I found the senior team and all the staff to be inspirational, so enjoyed deeply my second stint of six years at QE.

“Coming back did bring back many more memories than I thought I had retained about the school, the masters and my contemporaries.”

He retired in May 2022 and returned to the Governing Body in September this year, having served a term as an elected Staff Governor from 2016 to 2020.

David is married, with two grown-up children and a young grandson “who keeps us busy and entertained”. He enjoys DIY on both houses and cars, as well as travel, cinema, and, more recently, gardening.

 

 

 

 

Filling in the gaps: harnessing AI to democratise education

Medics and QE contemporaries Kavi Samra and Paul Jung (OE 2008–2015) are working with the School to trial their education app, Medly AI.

The app aims to harness AI to help students from backgrounds like theirs who may not have access to all the educational resources available to others. They only started working on the business in August, yet already it has won funding and been accepted into Microsoft’s start-up programme.

“We’ve always wanted to try to democratise education,” says Kavi. “Medly AI was born from the vision of making quality education accessible and personalised through the power of AI. Both Paul and I noticed throughout our education how people often had advantages from their socio-economic background in terms of educational resources (e.g personal tuition): both of us come from backgrounds that didn’t allow us access to these resources. Recognising the gaps in traditional educational systems due to work pressures on teachers and staffing issues, we saw the potential of AI to fill these gaps and therefore conceptualised a platform that could act as a personal tutor, examiner, and classroom assistant, all integrated into one user-friendly interface.”

After just two months of development, Microsoft admitted Medly AI to its programme, providing Kavi and Paul with mentoring from a business development manager and meeting the costs of the platform up to £150,000. A month later, the project was also accepted into UCL’s Hatchery start-up accelerator, enabling its professional fees for legal, IP and accounting costs to be funded.

Both Paul and Kavi have deep connections with UCL. Paul holds a PhD in Neuropsychiatry from the university and has an extensive background in coding and teaching. He included AI in his research, on which he has published and given international presentations. He has returned to his medical degree at UCL and is in his final year, completing his MBBS in August. Kavi, who currently works as a doctor in anaesthetics, completed his medical degree at UCL in 2021 and is a clinical teacher within its medical school: his approaches to using teaching theory in a digital age earned him an Associate Fellowship of Higher Education Award from UCL and he is also one of the youngest recipients of an honorary fellow contract at UCL.

Paul is responsible for writing code and working on the technical side of the project, while Kavi takes on operations.

After they approached the School about trialling the app with QE students, they recently had a meeting with Headmaster Neil Enright and with Gillian Ridge and Amy Irvine, Heads of Biology and Chemistry respectively. “We demo’d the platform to both Gillian and Amy, introducing our teacher mode,” says Kavi. “This is where teachers are able to set questions (from a large database, or their own custom questions) to their respective classes for homework, or in a test format.”

Medley AI can then:

  • Understand the questions
  • Work out how they fit into the curriculum of the subject
  • Assign them to a specification point
  • Mark the students’ answers.

“From here, the teacher can get in-depth statistical insights into each student’s weak topics, topic by topic and class by class. This then enables them to customise their classroom teaching according to class-wide weak topics and, of course, saves an incredible amount of time in terms of marking student work.

“Both Dr Irvine and Dr Ridge seemed quite impressed and were eager to start using Medly as a resource to save time and understand where their students don’t perform well. We have completed the onboarding for the Year 11 group and look forward to working with the Science department in the New Year,” Kavi adds. “This will involve teachers setting homeworks on the platform and providing feedback on what they’d like to see in our teacher mode to help us improve the platform. The students will, of course, have access to our base platform, too, in case they wish to do additional learning or practise questions or exams.”

Mr Enright said: “We are very pleased to be working with Kavi and Paul as they develop this exciting venture that is showing great potential to support our boys, and other young people, with their consolidation and revision.”

From a slightly shaky QE start to forging a successful path in international business

Sam Colman (OE 1998-2005) is today a Global Key Account Manager for Boortmalt – the world’s second-largest malting business, supplying brewers and distillers of all sizes.

He combines globe-trotting on business with time spent with his young family in beautiful rural Suffolk. Yet, he says, without QE, “I would not have the skills or education to have the life I currently live. I received the invitation for the 450 Club and wanted to give something back.”

In fact, his early years at the School – from the age of 12 to 15 – were not altogether plain-sailing. “I famously did not attend a single RS class for GCSE (something that slipped through the disciplinary net) and never completed any History homework during Year 9. This meant that I was well versed in the School’s detention policy: however, I was never suspended. When I was 15, I had a conversation with Nick (‘The Sheriff’) Oulton and Tim Bennett who imparted some great advice, advising me that if I concentrated my efforts in actually doing the work rather than finding ways of not getting caught for not doing it, I would have an easier life.”

Current Headmaster Neil Enright joined the School when he was past this difficult time. “He is where I learnt the art of negotiation, convincing him to predict me an A in geography rather than the B he initially suggested – to this day one of my proudest achievements.” Sam went on to read Geography at Manchester.

After taking a year out to teach quad-biking and climbing at PGL, he took up a position with British Sugar in 2012, before joining Boortmalt as Commercial Manager UK (Brewing) in 2017 and rising through the ranks.

He has long been a keen supporter of the School. “I try to attend at least one event each year, ideally a careers event. I like to show the current pupils that there is more to life than corporate finance, medicine, law and engineering. I have a background in sales and now report directly to the board for a global company: it’s hard work and fun.”

Boortmalt has 27 malting locations worldwide, with a total production of 3 million tonnes of malt – a key ingredient in both beer and whisky. “We supply brewers and distillers from the big global [players] to local and craft scales. I am responsible for the global account management for several of the world’s largest brewers, in addition to local responsibility in the UK and North America. Roughly 50% of my time is spent travelling, either meeting with customers, or visiting our production sites, or Antwerp HQ. In the past 18 months I have visited: Belgium, France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, Vietnam, Canada, USA and Australia for work.

“I really like the variety within my job: I can be negotiating contracts, working on projects (sustainable barley etc.), or working with internal teams on new customer solutions, for example. I was part of a team that completed one of the first bulk shipments of malt from Australia to the Americas during COVID.

“I fit all my work travel around family commitments. My wife and I have two young children, aged 2 and 4.”

Sam lives near Bury St Edmunds (“not far from Eric Houston’s holiday destination”). He still plays football regularly and he is on the community council as a trustee for a centre shared by four villages.

 

 

 

Forty Society: Going strong by strengthening friendships

The Forty Society’s autumn lunch saw a record turn-out for recent years. Guest speaker Matthew Rose (OE 2002–2009) said: “It was, I understand, a particularly high turn-out, and, happily, I was there to see it!”

The society, which is open to alumni who left the School at least 40 years ago, has gained an influx of new attendees over the past year to 18 months.

The lunches are held in the clubhouse at Gypsy Corner – the Old Elizabethans Memorial Playing Fields – and, in fact, many members have strong connections to the location, belonging to (or having previously belonged to) the cricket club or rugby club (although the latter has now moved).

Matthew is Head of External Relations, Executive Assistant to the Headmaster, and Clerk to the Governing Body. “It was a good-humoured and lively atmosphere, with old friends enjoying each other’s company very much the point of the gathering,” he said. “I talked about the School’s 450th anniversary year, some of the different projects that had been undertaken and my role within them – hopefully giving a mildly entertaining insight. Alongside this, I encouraged them to remain connected, or re-connect, with the School, and explained that they are always welcome.”

The society is part of the Old Elizabethans Association, though it has its own committee – with much effort put in by Peter ‘Scotty’ Yates (OE 1967–1974) and Mike Harrison (OE 1953-1961), to name a couple. OE President Eric Houston was the MC at the lunch.

“It was good fun to meet OEs new to me and to see friendships flourishing – the Society celebrates the importance of these relationships and the connection many have to the sports clubs within the OE family,” Matthew added. “As I said at the end, I look forward to returning on my qualification for the society in the autumn of 2049!” After the lunch, many repaired to the Black Horse pub, where the photo was taken.

AI giants’ warning to the world

Hugely influential OEs Mustafa Suleyman and Demis Hassabis have both spoken of their grave concerns about the risk to humanity posed by AI.

The pair were among the three co-founders of leading AI company DeepMind, formed in 2010. Mustafa (OE 1995–2002) now leads Inflection AI, a California-based ‘public benefit corporation’ that he founded last year, while Demis (OE 1988–1990), remains chief executive at DeepMind, which was acquired by Google in 2014.

In his new book, The Coming Wave: Technology, Power and the 21st Century’s Greatest Dilemma, Mustafa argues that in the coming decade powerful new technologies will create immense prosperity, but also threaten the nation-state, the foundation of global order.

During an episode of The Rest is Politics: Leading – a podcast hosted by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart – Mustafa spoken about his book, which calls for the “containment” of the new technology with a ten-step plan. He also found time to remember to credit his alma mater: “Attending Queen Elizabeth’s School, Barnet, changed my life.”

For his part, Demis spoke to the Guardian ahead of a recent summit on AI safety hosted by the UK Government. He said the world must treat the risks from AI as seriously as climate change and take immediate action to combat them. International efforts to oversee the industry could start with a body similar to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, he suggested.

Demis has long been an influential voice on AI. Through a recent New York Times interview, it emerged that he had left Elon Musk “speechless” in 2012 by pointing out a flaw in Musk’s plans to colonise Mars – the risk that if AI were to surpass human intelligence, it could follow humanity to the red planet and pose a threat there as well.

In the same interview, he related how he had impressed veteran Silicon Valley investor Peter Thiel with his knowledge of chess to win funding for DeepMind. It was the first time Thiel had ever invested outside the US. “He felt the power of Silicon Valley was sort of mythical, that you couldn’t create a successful big technology company anywhere else,” Demis told the interviewer. “Eventually we convinced him that there were good reasons to be in London.”

Quick return: Tony’s rapid reaction to Chemistry labs project

OE benefactor Tony Sherrard (1952-1959) enjoyed the chance to see the fruits of his generosity only a few months after making his substantial donation to the School. His gift was put towards work to completely refurbish two Chemistry laboratories in the Fern Building.

The project went ahead this summer after The Wolfson Foundation (an educational charity) provided its maximum £100,000 grant in January in response to FQE committing significant funds towards the £230K overall cost.

For his part, Tony decided to make his own substantial donation after reading the Headmaster’s article about the project in the Old Elizabethans Association magazine. Tony retired in 1997 after an illustrious career in the chemical and pharmaceuticals industries, so an investment in chemistry facilities was close to his heart.

Accordingly, he brought forward the donation he had planned to make in his will so that the current generation of boys could immediately benefit.

During his visit to the School this term, he called in on lessons in the labs, including a Year 13 practical, speaking to the boys and to Head of Chemistry Amy Irvine. Afterwards, Tony said how pleased he was to see so many taking A-level sciences, and Chemistry in particular.

Tony keeps in touch with a number of fellow OEs and attends the Forty Society lunches. He now lives in Buckinghamshire.


In his own words: Tony Sherrard

I was born in September 1941 and attended Merryhills Primary school, located between Oakwood and Enfield.

Starting in Eric Shearly’s Form 1C, one of the first group of pupils that benefitted from the three-form entry, I was among the youngest (not yet 11 years of age on entry) and one of the few ‘out-of-county’ pupils, too. Despite winning the form prize in the second year (Form 2C), achieving upper quartile marks in later years, my A-level marks were disappointingly ordinary. Being only 16, I stayed on in the seventh form, but the exam results in 1959 showed little improvement, although the benefit of this extra year was evident at university.

I enjoyed sporting and outdoor activities, and although slightly built and short, I played for the Third XV and Third XI on the rugby field and cricket pitches respectively. I continued to play rugby for: the OEs (occasionally in the university holidays); Mumbles RFC, a feeder Club for Swansea; and Furness RFC in Barrow-in-Furness.

During my QE years, I was involved with the gym club’s presentation at the hobbies exhibition, played chess, collected stamps and developed an interest in photography. School and Scouting supported my interest in photography and rambling/fell-walking respectively, both of which remain an interest to this day.

Following external careers advice, I chose to study Chemical Engineering at the University College of Swansea, that benefitted from project work in the local heavy industries, securing a B.Sc degree and an opportunity to pursue a doctorate on techniques used in the oil and pharmaceutical industries. So, in 1965 I completed my PhD and took a job with Glaxo Laboratories at its factory on the southern coast of the Lake District. This factory was a Primary Production unit, manufacturing bulk active ingredients for prescription medicines, including antibiotics and fine chemicals. It provided excellent experience, which involved optimising and troubleshooting the various processes and equipment, designing new chemical processes, and developing solvent recovery systems. In the first ten years at Glaxo, I also managed an antibiotic extraction plant in County Durham and was part of a commissioning team at a new factory near Newcastle.

In preparation for a senior role in a new factory in SW Scotland, I spent time gaining more experience of operating fine chemicals plant in eastern Scotland. So, I became Factory Manager of the small new factory during the completion of construction, the commissioning and the initial production phases in 1977-81. From there, I was appointed Production & Technical Director in Glaxo Australia, responsible for three factories in Tasmania and Victoria – two small ones manufacturing opiates and the other in Melbourne producing prescription medicines predominantly for the Australian market. My contract ran out after three-and-a-half years and I returned to the large UK factory in South Cumbria. Here, initially, I had responsibility for the chemical processes, with the output dominated by antibiotics; later I was promoted to Factory Manager, responsible for the 24/7 day-to-day operations and for developing long-term plans for the factory within the framework of the Glaxo Group’s available Primary Production facilities. After five years (1989-94) in this demanding role, and having spent approximately 20 years working on the edge of Lake District, I moved to a head office role. Here, I became involved in developing the manufacturing strategy for bulk actives ingredients following the merger of Glaxo and Wellcome. With inevitable duplication of skills in the merger, I decided to take redundancy/early retirement at the end of 1997, after more than 32 years in manufacturing for Glaxo, and, latterly, Glaxo-Wellcome.

Shirley and I married more than 50 years ago, and she was a great support  as we moved with my career. We have one daughter who also pursued a career in chemical engineering (working for BP for eighteen years and now teaching Physics to A-level,) and one granddaughter. Golf, travel, and charity work within the Rotary umbrella have been key activities in retirement, although health issues have restricted these in the last few years.

Dr Anthony John Sherrard  C Eng, MIChemE