Parties, programmes, politics, poetry and alliteration – Neil Laurenson

Parties, programmes, politics, poetry and alliteration – Neil Laurenson

  • Neil and Rachel Laurenson
    Neil and Rachel Laurenson

Photo by Chloe Field

Neil Laurenson (Homerton 2000) describes his time at Cambridge and his career path to date, including becoming a comedian, councillor and author.

I remember one particular ‘bop’ at Queens' College, at which everyone pretended to enjoy sped-up children’s TV theme tunes. It wasn’t Ibiza but we liked it.

I started sixth-form college a few days before Google was founded. Until then, the internet was basically Yahoo and Ask Jeeves, so when it came to researching which university I might go to, I went to the college library to flick through many prospectuses. The Cambridge University one had a photo of Colin Greenwood from Radiohead surrounded by students (possibly actors), in which he was flicking through a Cambridge University prospectus. Radiohead were, and are, my favourite band, but I’m pleased to say that the photo was not the main reason I applied to study at Cambridge. I had wanted to be a teacher since the age of ten and Homerton College was, and probably still is, best known for training teachers. It also happens to be beautiful and part of the best University in the world.

Bedding in and bops

I would love to say that I was an amazing student, regularly dazzling my contemporaries with spectacularly incisive, original and spontaneous remarks on an array of texts from across the ages. In reality, I took quite a while to ‘bed in’, which meant a lot of time in bed. This was usually after a visit to the bar or, if feeling more adventurous, attendance at a ‘bop’. I remember one particular ‘bop’ at Queens' College, at which everyone pretended to enjoy sped-up children’s TV theme tunes. It wasn’t Ibiza but we liked it.

I forgot to hand in a form to ensure that I would stay in halls of residence for my second year, so I asked a group of more organised students if it was possible that I could seek to rent a place with them. Mercifully, they agreed, and I was allowed to have the smallest room. One of my fellow residents is now my wife. Rachel and I have been together for almost 18 years, and we have a daughter, Grace, and a son, Rowan.

Phones, fridges and photocopying

I somehow managed to achieve a 2:1 in English Literature and Education Studies but I didn’t become a teacher in the way that I had imagined. My first job after graduation was in a pub in Bromsgrove and my next one was as a residential support worker: 50–60 hours a week, helping adults with autism and learning disabilities. After some temp work, including phone surveys about fridges and photocopying maps for planning applications, I became a Probation Service Officer. I spent five happy years in an Accredited Programmes team, facilitating group and one-to-one programmes. I left the Service because of looming political decisions and returned to education. I worked in a college, an academy, and I became a self-employed personal tutor. During this time, I was elected as the first Green Party councillor in Worcester. Highlights of my time as a councillor so far include supporting the introduction of the Living Wage and proposing a successful climate emergency motion. I’m looking forward to the public drinking water fountains I asked for being installed in the city centre.

I’m currently a member of the Careers and Employability Service at the University of Worcester. I run the University’s employability award and organise events, and I’m in my first year of the Postgraduate Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Higher Education course. I hope that one day I will be a lecturer and will be able to share my love of literature with people in the classroom as well as on my blog and at gigs. My first book of poetry is called Exclamation Marx! and I’m writing a book about my time at Cambridge. Thank you, Cambridge University, for introducing me to my wife, my best friend, and fun times that I wish I could experience again!

Neil Laurenson studied English Literature and Education Studies and attended Homerton​ College.

If you would like to submit your own alumni story, send us an email for details of our submission guidelines.

This article has been written by Neil Laurenson and the opinions expressed are those of the author.