I went to a private school near Harrods run by Mrs Hampshire, Susan Hampshire's mother. It was a big church hall with six long tables and you started at one end and finished at the other. Mrs Hampshire was interested in the performing arts and I got the early grades in ballet. For the Christmas show she would take a West End theatre.
One dam thing after another?
At seven I went to Great Ballard, a prep school in Surrey. In retrospect, this was quite early, but boarding was a bit of a relief from the situation at home, with parents barely communicating and a father who was quite intimidating - and away. I left Great Ballard a year early and went to Penthorpe, a smaller, more intimate school in Sussex. There was a stream which we used to dam; the trick was to build the biggest dam upstream and keep the water from all the others.
The most memorable event at Stowe was that The Beatles came to play, during the week that "Please Please Me" was released. John Lennon got out of the car and said: "My God, it's all boys!" The legend is that this was the last concert at which they heard themselves play. Stowe was sort of progressive, not in the Gordonstoun cold-showers spectrum, but I found the school restrictive. It was very bourgeois culturally. Academically, no high standards were required. I was in the A stream and did a number of O-levels early. Then they sidelined us for a year with a very poor teacher; it was outrageous. My mother took me away before my A-levels.
Westminster palace of delights?
I did my A-levels at Westminster College, which was fantastic, the equivalent of a sixth-form college. I started hanging out with classic Hampstead types.
On an even Keele?
I got a place at Keele University, a very good, lively, active new university. After the foundation year, I did two out of the final three years. I began with economics (I thought, because of heavy hints from my father about being an accountant, that I ought to study economics) and French - and then dropped economics and did history. Since I didn't know any history, I just drowned.
Did you ken John Peel?
I sold advertising for a Keele magazine called Unit and became editor. I turned it into more of a contemporary-arts magazine. One of my issues was on London and the Counterculture with interviews of John Peel and Jimi Hendrix. I connected with a lot of people in London and what I do now is an extension of that.
I told the university I was going to France for a year as required for my course. I fully intended to do this, but I was probably looking for a mechanism to get me out of my final year. I was interested in cataloguing what was going on in London - and the first issue of Time Out was born. At Christmas I wrote to the university to say that I was leaving - but would they entertain the possibility of my coming back if it didn't work out?
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