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George the Poet’s game-changing approach sweeps the board at the British Podcast Awards

Old Elizabethan George Mpanga has achieved unprecedented success – including winning the main Podcast of the Year title – in the British Podcast Awards.

George the Poet’s eight-part podcast, entitled Have you heard George’s podcast?, creatively combines music, drama, news and poetry. It won a record four golds alongside the main prize, as well as two silvers.

There was reward, too, for another QE alumnus, Bilal Harry Khan (OE 2003–2010). Over the Bridge, a podcast Bilal makes with three black and mixed-race friends he met while studying at Cambridge, won bronze in the Acast Moment of the Year category. Bilal took the time to congratulate his fellow Elizabethan, George, on his success via Twitter.

In his acceptance speech at the ceremony attended by celebrities including Fearne Cotton and Michael Sheen, George (OE 2002–2009) said the podcast was “something I was itching for for a long time when I was in the music industry, prior to that when I was just in the streets, just a rapper, and I knew that there was so much wrong that needed to be unpacked”.

He paid tribute to his parents, who were in the audience, as well as thanking others, including his community and his ancestors.

Speaking afterwards, George told the BBC that he first established the podcast because he “wanted to give young people a way to rethink their situation, especially if they’re in the inner city like I was”.

The judges’ citation for the Audioboom Podcast of the Year prize stated: “This podcast showed a level of creativity and craft that was impressive. Alongside it, the entry displayed well-thought-through story-telling which ensured a compelling listen. George the Poet has succeeded in challenging the notion of what can be achieved through podcasting.”

George also won gold in the following categories:

  • Best Arts & Culture: “This is a podcast that deserves your time. It felt a little like a piece of art itself – pushing the boundaries of podcast production,” the judges wrote.
  • Best Fiction: “The judges felt that Have You Heart George’s Podcast? exceeded all our expectations. It is an engrossing podcast: fresh, original, surprising, moving, well-written with breathtakingly beautiful sound design and mesmerising performances. An outstanding and worthy winner.”
  • Best New Podcast: “The judges were impressed with this exceptional, unusual podcast’s bravery and invention. This podcast is unlike anything else out there. It moves between fiction, fact, poetry and reportage to create a new and unforgettable listening experience.”
  • Smartest Podcast: “This podcast captures a unique and powerful voice and views which are so often missing from mainstream media. Using arresting poetry to tackle big issues head on, each episode is a rich and mesmerising performance.”

The silvers were in the Acast Moment of the Year and Best Current Affairs categories.

Among the topics covered in George’s series were the Grenfell Tower fire, the 2011 London riots, whether music causes crime and the glamorisation of violence.

In her report on the awards for the Guardian, Miranda Sawyer highlighted not only that George eschewed the predictable and included some surprising ‘takes’, but also praised the podcast’s use of music (“treated with the respect it deserves”) and the “properly high quality” sound design, complete with “muffled phone chat, voice-note pings, computer key taps moving in and around the voices”.

QE lays foundation for Richard’s flourishing film-scoring career

Richard Collins is now an award-winning composer writing bespoke music for film, TV and games, with his first musical release and collaboration with Universal’s Aurora Production Music label just out.

Yet, if it had not been for the sage advice he was offered by a teacher when in the Sixth Form, it could all have been very different.

Richard (OE 2005–2012) originally planned to study Law at university. “Although I really struggled to write my personal statement, I managed to get something together and got ready to send off my applications.

“It was only when I gave my personal statement to Mr Hargadon [Liam Hargadon, currently Head of Politics] that he made me realise I was heading in completely the wrong direction.

“Writing my personal statement to study Music was one of the easiest 500 words I’ve ever written.

“Also, there is no doubt my musical experiences at QE were instrumental in laying the foundation for my career.”

After achieving straight As at QE – where he had been a Music Scholar – Richard went on to read Music at Durham, where he first acquired a love for composition. He went on to take a first-class Master’s degree in Composition for Film and Television at Bristol University.

In 2016, his music featured in a Student BAFTA-nominated documentary film, A Lion’s Tale. The following year, he was nominated for the Monkey Bread Tree Award for best original score for the film Rambling On. And then, also in 2017, he won second prize at the annual film-scoring competition for the California Independent Film Festival (CAIFF).

A pianist and clarinettist, Richard has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall, Croydon’s Fairfield Halls and at one of the Queen’s garden parties. He gives private piano or music production tuition to students.

He is the co-founder and director of White Square Films, a production company covering all types of video and media production. He has also worked as an assistant to leading composers Martin Phipps and Samuel Sim on productions including Season 3 of Netflix’s The Crown and the BBC’s Black Earth Rising (Phipps) and The Spanish Princess and The Bay (Sim).

In April 2019, Richard’s work appeared on Aurora Production Music’s latest album, Nature’s Way.

  • Richard’s music can be heard on his website.
Making a child’s dream come true: alumni raise money for Sri Lanka education charity

Three Old Elizabethan medics are among a group of London healthcare students who have teamed up to sponsor a child’s education in Sri Lanka.

Raahul Niranchanan (2010–2017), Vipushan Konesalingam (2010-2016) and Athithyan Vijayathasan (2009-2016) are supporting a string of fundraising activities to raise £3,000 for Ocean Stars Trust – a UK charity working in Sri Lanka.

All three are studying at George’s University of London and are committee members of the St George’s Tamil Society.

“If there was one lesson we learnt from attending School at QE, it was the idea that everyone is capable of making a change,” says Raahul.

The team originally began as 17 people meeting in the living room of a house numbered 17A, hence the team name they adopted, 17A.

Their JustGiving page explains their motivation: “We appreciate that growing up in London…we often take what we have for granted. So, when uni got a bit tough for us and we started complaining, we took a step back: we realised we’ve actually got an opportunity to even get as far as studying a degree.

“But there are kids out there who don’t even know if they would still be in school tomorrow, or who can only dream of having an education.

“We know education is a gift that no one or nothing should take away from you, not even poverty.

“Our aim is to be able to give the opportunity we received so easily to another child. A child who dreams for a better education, a better future and a better life. We hope we can help make those dreams come true.”

The charity they have chosen works closely with orphans and other disadvantaged children in Sri Lanka.

The team got things off to a good start with a successful bake sale at St George’s University, London, which raised £500, followed by a Hot Wing Challenge – a spicy wing-eating contest in which OE courage featured prominently!

For more information, or to donate to Team 17A, go to their JustGiving, Instagram or Facebook page.

Recounting the rise and fall – and rise again – of Classics at QE

Old Elizabethan Professor P J Rhodes, a leading ancient historian, highlights a QE connection in a new academic tribute to one of the world’s foremost experts on Greek art.

Peter John Rhodes (OE 1951–1959), who is usually cited as P J Rhodes, has penned a chapter entitled Buildings and History in a festschrift published this spring, Greek Art in Motion: Studies in honour of Sir John Boardman on the occasion of his 90th birthday.

In the chapter, Professor Rhodes, who is Honorary Professor and Emeritus Professor of Ancient History at the University of Durham, mentions that one of Sir John’s contemporaries at Chigwell School was J W Finnett. John Finnett went on to become a popular Classics master at QE, teaching Professor Rhodes when he was in the Sixth Form.

“In my 14th year of retirement, I remain reasonably compos et mentis et corporis,” says Professor Rhodes. “I am still academically active — reading, writing, participating in conferences, still doing a little teaching and higher-degree examining; an academically focused tour of Iran in 2000 gave me a taste for travelling to exotic places (all too often visiting them shortly before trouble strikes — but my reputation hasn’t yet led to my being denied entry to any country).”

He has also been inspired recently to look further into the history of Classics teaching at QE. In an article for the Old Elizabethans Association’s magazine, the Elizabethan, he charts the fluctuating fortunes of Latin and Greek at the School across the centuries, as well as recording his own memories of his teachers in these subjects.

He was at QE during the last of E H Jenkins’ three decades as Headmaster and was in the last year of two-form entry (60 boys) before the post-war expansion. The senior Latin master in that era was Percival Timson, who had been at the school since 1935. John Finnett joined QE in 1951, aged 23.

“Timson and Finnett were of different generations and different styles, but they made an effective pair,” Professor Rhodes recalls in the Elizabethan article. “Timson hated music: on one of the few occasions when he unbent, he explained that at Oxford he had done little work in his first year so needed to do a lot before taking Mods in his second, and at that stage found any sounds that might distract him intolerable. Finnett was keen on music, but regarded Mozart as the greatest composer of all time and everybody more recent as inferior to him.”

A particular inspiration was “rumbustious” Rex M Wingfield, who was his first-form master and first Latin teacher: “…I think he bears much of the responsibility for my having become a Classicist.”

Another Classics teacher was Lynton E Whiteley, from Cambridge. “…On arrival in 1953 he projected a fierce image, and though I think he mellowed I was always somewhat afraid of him.”
Professor Rhodes is the eldest of three brothers, of whom the youngest, John Andrew, also went to QE and later became a modern historian at Wadham College, Oxford (to which Prof Rhodes went as an undergraduate).

“At School I was in Underne House (under John Pearce); I was successful in the classroom but not on the games field (honour was eventually satisfied when I acted as scorer for cricket teams: the Second XI for two years and then the First XI for three); I was involved in music (as a pianist), in the Elizabethan Union and with the school’s printing press.”

He took Latin, Greek, Ancient History and History A-levels at QE. “I sailed through A Level and S Level, but it then took me two years in the Seventh Form to catch up with the kind of competitors who had started Latin at seven and Greek at nine and had spent their school time on little else.” [S Level, involving extra papers, was for those applying for state scholarships for university, before the later introduction of a universal grant system.]Perseverance, and my parents’ patience, were rewarded, and I did in the end in 1959 achieve the Holy Grail of an Oxford Scholarship in Classics.”

At Oxford, he was a prize-winning undergraduate at Wadham. “As it happens, Finnett later went to Wadham too…as a visiting Schoolmaster Fellow. Sadly, in 1971 he died of cancer, aged only 43.”

Professor Rhodes was awarded a double first-class degree from Oxford. “I continued as a [cricket] scorer in my first year but not thereafter, did not pursue a career in the Union Society, but was involved in music (singing tenor, and, in the absence of better players, acting as a not very good organist).”

He went to Durham as a young lecturer in Classics in 1965 and rose to become, firstly, a senior lecturer, and then, in 1983, Professor of Ancient History there. He retired in 2005 and still lives in Durham.

During his career, he has published extensively on the Classical Greek world; his works span the decades, from The Athenian Boule, published in 1972, to a forthcoming edition of Herodotus, Histories, V.

He has held a number of visiting fellowships; Wolfson College, Oxford (1984), University of New England, Australia (1988), Corpus Christi College, Oxford (1993), and All Souls College, Oxford (1998). He served as President of the Classical Association from 2014 to 2015. In 1987, he was elected a Fellow of the British Academy and in 2005 was made a Foreign Member of the Royal Danish Academy.

“In Durham I continued with choral singing for many years, and again in the occasional absence of better players, as a not very good organist, and for a few years I was involved with a printing press; I have also been an active member (including two stints as secretary) of the Senior Common Room of University College.”

In the mid-2000s, soon after his retirement, the then-Headmaster, Dr John Marincowitz, told him on a visit to the School that he hoped to reintroduce Latin soon. Professor Rhodes has been heartened to learn not only that this was subsequently done – it is now a curriculum subject – but that Greek is today also available as an extra-curricular subject.

Back in Barnet: undergraduates return to QE to advise current boys on uni applications

Around 60 of last year’s leavers who are now two terms into their degree courses came back to QE to contribute to the School’s Universities Convention.

With fresh experience of university life, and with the Sixth Form and university application process such a recent memory, they were well-placed to give some first-hand advice to current Year 12 pupils.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “There is always a good turnout for the convention, and it is excellent to see that that each new cohort of OEs is so willing to stay connected with the School and to actively support it.

“These, the youngest of our Old Elizabethans, are able to provide very current insights into their various courses, clubs and societies and their chosen universities. As such, they are a trusted and valuable source of information for our sixth-formers.

“Staff always enjoy the opportunity to hear how these recent leavers are getting on – even if it can sometimes be hard to recognise some, with their ‘civilian’ clothes, beards and new, non-QE-approved hairstyles!”

The returning alumni had the opportunity to catch up both with each other and with their former teachers in a buffet lunch held for them in the Main Hall, which was provided with assistance from the Friends of Queen Elizabeth’s.

The Year 12 boys were encouraged to be quite specific with their questions to the alumni, asking, for example whether there was anything the students wished someone had told them before they applied.

The current pupils also quizzed the OEs on topics such as the cost of accommodation in university cities.

The Universities Convention is part of QE’s University admissions Support Programme (USP), which is designed to ensure boys receive the best advice, guidance and assistance in preparing university applications.

This sits alongside the broader careers provision, through which boys can look at the jobs, professions and industries they might wish to pursue after university, or what other paths they might want to take upon leaving the School.

Some of the students at the convention had also been in to the School the previous week in order to speak to Year 13 on similar issues: Abbas Adejonwo, Rehaan Bapoo, Dhruv Kanabar, Yashwanth Matta and Oliver Robinson gave advice based upon their experiences as first-year undergraduates at Cambridge, Oxford and Warwick.

Look back in gratitude: ‘urban monk’ Jay recalls support from QE

Global social media star and motivational guru Jay Shetty has paid generous tribute to his QE teachers in an ITV interview.

Jay (OE 1999-2006) was speaking to ITV London news anchor Charlene White about the astonishing worldwide impact of his work, which includes a single video with 366m views and social media channels that have gained 21m followers and amassed some 4 billion views in just three years.

Towards the end of the interview, Jay recalled some of the difficulties of his teenage years: “I used to get into a lot of trouble growing up…I was suspended from school multiple times. That was me looking for meaning, that was me trying to find answers and solutions – and so when I found those, I wanted to share them with the world.”

Asked whether his teachers would be surprised at his current life and career, Jay responded warmly. “I have to say that my teachers at Queen Elizabeth’s boys’ School were very patient with me, they were very coaching, they mentored me very well and, yeah, they were great.”

Jay, who grew up in Wood Green, has previously told the School of his fond memories of his time at QE, singling out Head of Art of Stephen Buckeridge and Assistant Head David Ryan for their support, and pointing to his enjoyment of rugby and of public-speaking classes which, he said, “changed my life”.

On leaving QE, Jay went on to Cass Business School in London, from which he graduated with a first-class degree in Management Science. Then, however, his life took an unusual turn: he spent three years as a monk in India in the Hindu Vedic tradition.

When he returned with a mission to, in his words, “make wisdom go viral”, he was spotted by Arianna Huffington and brought to New York, where he rapidly gained a following for his daily show, HuffPost Live #FollowTheReader.

In 2016, Jay married dietitian Roshni Devlukia. Jay featured in the influential Forbes European 30 Under 30 in 2017 – an accolade he described at the time as “one of the greatest moments in my journey so far”.

In the interview with ITV London, Jay explained the rationale behind his motivational videos. “I saw that social media was a place where so many people were having challenges – they were getting stressed out [because of] anxiety, mental health…What I try and do is use social media in a way that people can turn to it as a guide, as a way of thinking about their thoughts, how to improve their relationships, how to improve their careers…and how they can find meaning in their life.”

Jay, who was also interviewed in recent days by Sky News, presents regular interviews with people in the public spotlight, with his subjects this year including celebrities such as Russell Brand, supermodel Gisele Bündchen and tennis star Novak Djokovic.

Winning the vote? Deft debating shakes faith of some in democracy

Sixth-formers took on Old Elizabethan opposition to debate one of the biggest questions of our era – whether there is a future for democracy.

More than 170 guests, including Old Elizabethans, Year 12 pupils and staff, attended the 54th Elizabethan Union Annual Dinner Debate. The debate is a formal event which helps sixth-formers prepare for similar occasions at university and, later, in their professional lives.

At the start of the evening, an indicative vote on the motion, This House believes democracy has had its day, revealed that a large majority – around an 80:20 split – opposed it. However, the School team successfully shook the faith in democracy of some 15-20 people, who had swung to their side of the argument by the final vote, thus technically giving the School victory in the debate. Nevertheless, a majority – albeit now reduced to 70:30 – remained opposed to the motion.

Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This was an enjoyable occasion, with some adroitly made arguments on both sides and contributions in the floor debate that were both enthusiastic and well-considered. I am grateful to the visiting alumni, including our guest speaker, Nikhil Patel.”

The School team of Chris Hall and Aryan Jain explained that democracy was failing to solve the big questions and, furthermore, was wrongly identifying what those big questions were. They gave as examples the fact that large amounts of effort were being spent in the UK on Europe and Brexit, but correspondingly less on issues such as climate change, education and welfare. The pair argued that the electorate’s greatest concerns were not always based upon real evidence – a problem they blamed on media distortion.

Instead they put forward a form of technocratic government under which the experts could get on with running the country and implementing the right policies, noting that we already entrust large and important sections of government, such as the legal system, to independent non-elected institutions – in this case, the judiciary.

“It was perhaps an idealised vision of how such a government might operate, but Chris Hall grounded it all strongly in logic,” said the Headmaster.

The motion was opposed by Ashwin Sharma (OE 2008–2015) and by Year 12 boy Alex Beard (replacing old boy Jason Thomas [OE 2010–2015], who was unable to attend).

“Ashwin and Alex worked very well together to argue a compelling case, with Alex stepping in very well to complete the opposition and contributing significantly to the very high standard of debating across all the speakers,” said the Headmaster.

They argued that democracy is the best system we have. Moreover, the rise of the internet and other new technologies are increasing democratic opportunities around the world, including in countries not typically classed as democracies. Democracy is more than just elections, they pointed out, stating that the very fact that the Elizabethan Union Dinner Debate was taking place was itself evidence of a functioning democracy.

In his after-dinner address Nikhil Patel (OE 2007–2014) recalled his own School days. He heeded the advice given on his very first day by the then-Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz to “get stuck in”,  throwing himself into School life and later becoming School Captain (in 2013), as well as playing in the First XI cricket squad, captaining the Second XV rugby team and playing the saxophone in several ensembles.

He advised the assembled sixth-formers similarly: “Always endeavour to challenge yourself, push the boundaries of what you previously thought and attempt new things, whether that be a language, a sport or an activity.”

They should pursue things about which they are “truly passionate”, he said, before espousing the power and value of friendship: “…always remember your roots and who was with you on this journey when it all started.

After leaving QE, Nikhil studied Geography and Management at Cambridge University where he was President of the India Society and captain of the Fitzwilliam College cricket team when they were twice winners of the Cuppers inter-collegiate competition. After university he took a gap year and now works as a Management Consultant for EY and an advisor to WOAW, a content marketing firm. He was accompanied by his partner, Aparna Joshi.

Nikhil finished his address with a toast to the Elizabethan Union. Current School Captain Bhiramah Rammanohar proposed a toast to ‘The Visitors’, while there were also the customary toasts to ‘Her Majesty, the Queen’ and to ‘The Pious Memory of Queen Elizabeth I’. Year 12 pupil Viraj Mehta chaired the debate.

The guests enjoyed a dinner of spicy parsnip soup followed by confit of lamb (or pulled vegetables) and chocolate cake.

Theory and practice: sixth-formers learn about the real-world importance of Economic Geography

A young Elizabethan now forging a career in private banking with a global finance giant returned to the School to lead a Sixth Form discussion on Economic Geography.

Hemang Hirani (OE 2008-15), who studied Geography and Economics at the London School of Economics and is now working for Barclays, gave a presentation to the select group of Year 12 geographers entitled The role of cities: an introduction to the field of Economic Geography.

Thanking him for his visit, Headmaster Neil Enright said: “This is an important aspect of alumni support – Old Elizabethans coming back to the School to help stretch the older boys academically by giving them an insight into, and a taste of, university-level material and discussion.”

In a lavishly illustrated talk, Hemang included: a satellite picture of Earth by night; a world map showing the growing percentage of the planet’s population in urban areas since 1950, and colour-coded maps of the USA and India depicting the importance of cities in both advanced and emerging economies.

He considered an influential academic paper on the topic, taking the boys through theoretical aspects such as labour market pooling, input-output linkages and knowledge spill-overs, as well as examining complex equations used by economic geographers.

The event was organised by Geography teacher Anne Macdonald, who said Hemang also answered questions about university, including the experience of studying at LSE and the benefits of studying Geography and Economics as a combination. “Indeed, he explained that his new employers – Barclays Private Banking – indicated that one of the things that persuaded them to offer Hemang the job was the broad perspective he was able to offer as a results of having studied Economic Geography.”

In his own time in the Sixth Form at QE, Hemang was a Senior Vice Captain. He has previously been involved in helping QE’s sixth-formers apply for Geography places at university.

In addition, during his time at LSE, Hemang was a Widening Participation Mentor, undertaking weekly visits to state secondary schools in the City of London area to help underachieving groups of Year 12 pupils with university applications.

He has been involved in volunteering ventures ranging from mentoring pupils at under-performing London schools to supporting poor cancer patients in Mumbai.

After graduating, he undertook a number of internships, including three months with Swiss investment bank and financial services company UBS as a Summer Analyst. He joined Barclays Private Bank in a similar role in June last year.

“I enjoyed my internship within the Real Estate Finance team and was offered a role to bridge the gap between the internship and the graduate programme starting this July,” Hemang said. “In the current role, we work closely with hedge fund and private equity professionals from a wealth management perspective.”

World-beater: Veli’s global role with fast-expanding media agency

When Veli Aghdiran graduated from Cambridge in the depths of the 2008 crash, he wasn’t sure exactly what he did want to do, but he was at least clear about one thing: “I didn’t see myself staying in the UK.”

A decade later, as global vice-president of professional development for high-flying media agency Essence, he has found a career he loves – and, true to his original wish, he is based some 7,000 miles from London.

“I’ve spent the last two-and-a-half years living in Singapore, travelling between our nine Asia-Pacific offices, working with people from diverse cultures and backgrounds…I truly believe that if you can get or create the opportunity to work outside of your ‘home’ environment, you give yourself the chance to supercharge your learning and growth as a worker and as a human.”

Interviewed for the media and marketing news website, Mumbrella Asia, Veli (OE 1996–2003) reflects with great honesty on his time at QE: “The first three years were all about being top of the class. I was not one of the cool kids who did their homework on the bus on the way into school. The next three years were all about minimising the amount of time I had to spend doing work so that I could spend more time awkwardly trying to be cool and annoying my parents.

“North London is an ethnically diverse community and my school truly reflected its diversity. I appreciate the fact that I grew up in an environment where, by and large, diversity was celebrated and embraced. That may be part of what drew me to the study of languages – growing up speaking Turkish, English and a tiny bit of Greek, then learning French and Russian at school.” [Veli is pictured here as a child.]

“I had the opportunity to go to Russia on a School trip in the late 1990s. A group of 20 of us headed to Moscow and St Petersburg. My mind was opened up to the reality that the way life and society worked in my corner of North London was not necessarily the way it worked everywhere else. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to understand that at a young age.”

His love for languages and literature took him to Cambridge, where, from 2004–2008, he read Modern and Mediaeval Languages (Russian and French). The picture shows him on graduation day with his grandfather.

“After I graduated, the clear and defined path that I had been on through education suddenly came to an end. I wasn’t so much at a fork in the road as at a rake. I remember that feeling of not being entirely sure what a good next step would be, and also feeling like whatever path I took would define everything that happened thereafter. It’s interesting that we trap ourselves in these situations where we’re desperate to take action and move forward, and simultaneously frozen in the fear of the consequences – even if the impact of the decision is nowhere near as monumental as we make it feel in our heads and hearts.”

Eventually, he opted to start an online business with a close friend and, with the support of his parents, spent two years building it up. Then, as it suddenly dawned on the pair how much they would need to invest in marketing in order to generate significant revenue from the fledgling business, they realised that they both needed security and a proper salary.

He duly applied for a job with KidStart (the online shopping club that allows parents to save for their children as they shop), which was at that time a relatively new start-up. “Luckily I managed to convey some of that enthusiasm in my interviews, and I spent two great years at KidStart in a role that grew and expanded in lots of different directions, as did my confidence.”

Then came the break that would lead him eventually to his current position: “One of the founders at KidStart used to get invited to Shuffle, an event put on by what was then a small independent agency called Essence. He couldn’t make it one year and offered me his ticket.”

As the audience, who included many Essence staff, gathered at the upmarket venue — a Mayfair hotel – Veli says he remembers thinking that he would love to be part of this company. Six months later, following a “tough recruitment process” he was offered a job and, on starting with Essence in February 2013, he quickly found that his initial impression more than matched up to the reality: “In that first year, the agency I joined doubled in size around me and the excitement of being part of a growing, and successful, business was infectious.”

Towards the end of his first year, he was offered a role applying his industry knowledge and client experience in supporting the company. Although not without some hesitation – “there was, after all, growth for me on the client-facing side of things,” – he decided to take the plunge.

“Five years on, to say that I’m glad to have had the opportunity to move into ‘learning and development’ is an understatement. I’m proud of the work we do as a team and the impact we have on the business, and I’m excited about how we can do, and be, even better. The intellectual challenge of trying to build meaningful and effective learning experiences off and on the job is one that continues to motivate me, and is pertinent for every organisation.”

His personal and professional development has been incremental, although he recalls one “real growth spurt” when he and a colleague found themselves on the stage of a theatre facilitating a session on Essence’s new organisational operating model to the company’s entire New York office: “I was so far out of my comfort zone and went with it, appreciative of the fact that [she] and I got to do this crazy thing together.”

He has similar feelings about his time in Singapore: “Moving here with my wife, exploring a continent together… leading a team of smart and diverse people, learning from and working with a wide array of seasoned leaders have been all ‘the right kinds of challenging’.”

Among the lessons he has learned himself, he highlights:

  • The importance as a leader of getting out of his team’s way. “When you’re surrounded by brilliant and smart people, you can waste a lot of time trying to show them that you’re even more brilliant and smart.”
  • Finding good listeners who will resist the urge to fix your problems and will allow you to articulate your own thoughts, and thus to learn and to grow.
  • Remembering in moments of self-doubt that you have felt like this before and “when you do, it usually means you’re on the verge of something amazing”.
  • Stating your intentions, rather than hoping other people will guess what you mean.
  • “If you’re unhappy with something or someone, no matter how sure you are that it’s all their fault, ask yourself on what level you might be creating this situation, and what you could do differently instead.”
Music-lover and movie-maker Richard rises to become Chief Medical Officer at Network Rail

Richard Peters took a degree in Music and then months later embarked on another in Medicine – after receiving some essential help from QE in the interim.

He then successfully trained as a doctor – albeit punctuated by a two-year spell in America pursuing his passion for making film and TV programmes – and later began a career specialising in occupational medicine. Today, Dr Richard Peters is Chief Medical Officer at Network Rail, responsible for the health and safety of 41,000 employees, as well as that of millions of passengers and other customers.

Richard’s time at QE in the late 1990s was relatively brief: he did not arrive until he was 14 and he completed some of his A-level studies elsewhere, since the School at that time was unable to offer the combination of courses he wanted to follow.

Yet he has nothing but praise for the support Headmaster Dr John Marincowitz offered him when he approached him after completing his Music degree at Birmingham in the summer of 2002. Richard wanted to go to King’s College London the same year to read Medicine, and Dr Marincowitz readily agreed to meet him to discuss the matter.

“I talked to him, and within a week he had done my UCAS application. That is the important thing about a school like QE Boys: if you change your career path, they are more than happy to help you to support your ambitions in any way, whether that’s supporting your UCAS application or writing references.”

It had been a similar story when he had joined the School, he recalls: his family had been living in the US and he went straight into the GCSE years. His coming to the School at such a time could easily have been regarded as a problem, yet there was no sense of that at all, and he quickly found common cause with those who shared his love for music.

“When I joined, the warmth and kindness of staff and students to welcome me in at quite a difficult stage was fantastic. Having that support, both from the teachers and from other boys who had a passion for music…well, it was really nice to become part of the QE music family.”

Richard, whose instruments are the flute and piano, threw himself into School life, playing with both the School Orchestra and Concert Band, and eventually becoming House Captain for Pearce. He was among the first users of the then-new Music block and he also has happy memories of developing film in the School darkroom for his GCSE Photography.

He already had a nascent interest in matters medical, wanting at that stage to become a dentist, yet decided to study Music to degree level, taking his Music Performance AS in Year 12 before leaving QE to complete his A-levels and then in 1999 going to Birmingham’s acclaimed Music department, where Edward Elgar had first held the Chair.

After completing his Medical degree at King’s in 2007, he had a variety of roles in the NHS as part of his training. In 2011, he was appointed an Occupational Health Physician at London’s Royal Free Hospital. He then worked in occupational health for AXA PPP Healthcare, before becoming Chief Medical Officer in Capita’s Personal Independence Payment team. He moved to Network Rail in February 2017.

“I love the job. We are a very diverse organisation. My day could involve anything from going ‘on track’, speaking at large national conferences, chairing various steering groups and committees, to working with the business to design an effective health, wellbeing and ergonomic strategy.”

There is a strong focus on the customer. “We have an increasing commuter population that wants a safe, reliable and efficient railway – when they are walking through our stations, for example – and we need to be able to deliver this effectively, hence the importance for a healthy workforce.”

Richard fulfils a number of senior voluntary roles, including chairing the Rail Safety and Standards Board’s Occupational Health Specialist Advisory Group. He is also an Honorary Clinical Senior Lecturer at UCL Medical School where he teaches Occupational Medicine to the medical students.

He retains the enthusiasm that drove him a decade ago to spend two years in Los Angeles making films and working on TV shows. “While I don’t have much spare time, I did manage to combine medicine and media – two of my passions! – when I produced and co-wrote a first-aid training film for Network Rail: it was a fictional drama to raise awareness of the importance of first-aiders for saving lives.”

As for his third passion, music, he continues to play both the flute and piano and also enjoys helping his eldest daughter with her piano practice. He and his wife Kate, a GP in training, who live in London, have two girls, with another on the way in June.

Richard stays in contact with a number of other OEs, mostly by social media, although meeting up does prove difficult with all their busy schedules.