I REMEMBER a boy one year older than me from our village had gone to university, and came back for the holidays at the end of his first term. When he talked about it, it all seemed so exciting - and sounded completely different from living on a farm, six miles from the coast in east Lincolnshire. I said to my parents, 'That's what I'm going to do. . . .'

My mother was quite pleased but it was a bit of a shock to my father because he had sort of assumed I would always be there to help him on the farm. Everyone in the family helped out, I drove a tractor from the age of nine.

It was a small, 200-acre farm, doing a bit of everything, sheep and cereals, a lot of pigs and chickens. But the farm was a real struggle. Most mornings would be spent mending whatever had been broken the day before. You'd spend hours fixing the tractor and, just when you'd got it going, something else would break down.

I remember thinking, there's got to be a different life than this, and university seemed like an opportunity to do something completely different. I went to school and told them what I was going to do. But they didn't give me any help. I got into university by myself, without any help from the school.

I remember sending off for all the pamphlets and brochures, I remember looking through all the courses myself, I remember applying to universities myself. And I didn't get one interview.

The only university that accepted me was Bangor in north Wales. I didn't think it was great; I mean, you wouldn't make it your number-one choice, would you? But at least it was a university.

I went on holiday for the summer, hitch-hiked around Europe with a friend, and I came back ready to go to Bangor - with no great enthusiasm.

Right at the very last minute, I got a letter from Manchester University, which said they had had a cancellation and could offer me a place doing politics and modern history, and they wanted me there, like, the next day.

My father took me there. Neither of us had been to Manchester before and we didn't know what to expect. We drove there in almost complete, nervous silence.

Eventually we arrived at the university; I got accepted for the course and had to find some digs, all in one day.

They had a list of landladies and we went to the very first one, at the top of the list. As it turned out, I should have shopped around; it was very dreary and so cold I had to burn newspapers in the grate.

I worked very hard for the first year, because in my course they kicked the bottom third out at the end of first- year exams. The second year I got involved with student politics and all that sort of thing, and the third year, I crammed like mad to get my degree.

Then I went to the Manchester Business School for a year, because I didn't want to leave Manchester, I was enjoying life there so much.

If I talk to people from Manchester University now, they seem to remember me as being very countrified, not being all that articulate. But I did become much more self-confident and, when I look back, I'm quite impressed at how successful I was at university.

A few years ago, an American friend, one of my best friends, was visiting. I wanted to show him my roots, so we drove around Lincolnshire. We went to the sea at Mablethorpe, and looked at the seals and oystercatchers on the dunes of Saltfleetby. I took him to see Lincoln Cathedral, which must be one of the most beautiful sights in the world.

And we went to the school. They had no idea what I'd done, which I thought was quite strange really, because I must be one of the most successful people that ever went to that school, don't you think? Not that what I've done is remotely important, but I would have expected they would have at least known I had been fairly successful in a high-profile industry.

I can't believe they didn't know. I don't want this to sound egotistical, but I actually cannot believe that Louth Grammar School, with only about 250 boys, that they don't take some interest in people who might have been a bit more successful than average. Can you really?

I think it was a whole pretence, because they couldn't accept that I had been more successful than they expected me to be. To pretend they didn't know what I was doing, I thought it was upsetting, and my American friend, he was extremely upset by it. I feel a bit bitter, yes, I do.

Chris Wright is chairman and co-founder of Chrysalis Records.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments