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Open Eye: Retirement, with strings

Former headmaster Michael Connellan has been enjoying a musical retirement since retraining - as a violin maker.

Michael, who joined the OU in its inaugural year to study for a degree, spent ten years learning the art of making string instruments in the workshop of his home at Polstead, Suffolk.

Now 75, he remains in touch with the education world through crafting and repairing instruments for local schools where he believes music is an important part of the curriculum.

His own parents steered him away from music, and from the career working with his hands which he believes he probably ought to have pursued.

"I loved music. but I wasn't allowed to learn it as a child," he said. "My grandmother played the piano at silent films and one of my earliest memories is sitting on her knee with this huge screen right above my head."

Interestingly, he might not have encountered the same opposition to a career as a craftsman today.

Each year around 30 new violin makers are trained.

Michael says: "That just about saturates the market...

"I work within a 20-mile radius of my home and while I can't make a living out of it, the money it brings in is useful. It takes me 100 hours to make a violin, for which I will charge around pounds 550. A cello will take 200 hours."