My First Job: Tony Wilson, the musical impresario and club-owner, recalls his days as a teacher

'I thought I was God's gift to teaching'
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The Independent Online

Unlikely as it seems, Anthony Wilson can put "teacher" in his CV. The impresario whose life was chronicled in the 2002 film 24-Hour Party People is an improbable pedagogue. This is the man who founded Factory Records, set up the Hacienda night club in Manchester and helped rebrand that city as "Madchester". Teaching is not the career that comes to mind when you see him in the new film A Cock and Bull Story, when he plays himself interviewing Steve Coogan (also playing himself), who played Wilson in the above-mentioned 24-Hour Party People.

Yet teaching is what the youthful Wilson saw as his probable destination - either that or rocket science. After being fast-tracked at grammar school and winning a place at Cambridge, he found himself with two terms to kill, which he spent teaching English and drama at the Blue Coat School in Oldham.

"I'm told it's a posh school now," he says. It wasn't back in 1968. "It had been a mixed secondary modern and became a comprehensive two years before I arrived." This meant that only his classes in years one and two were comprehensive intake. By contrast, the older two years contained "Easter leavers" - that is, very tough kids who had entered the school when it was still a secondary modern and would leave as soon as they reached 15, as they would not be taking O-levels in the summer.

When Wilson tried to pull a third-year boy away from the window, the lad pulled a knife on him. As for the fourth-years, every fortnight or so a screaming of sirens would announce the arrival of a panda car and then a member of the class would find himself helping the police with their enquiries. Yet, having been toughened by growing up in nearby Salford, Wilson declares that this did not phase him.

"I became very fond of all my children," he says. It would seem that they in turn had warm feelings for their teacher, who was scarcely older than his oldest pupils: "On the last day, I ended up in the Oldham parish church graveyard with four second-year girls in tears."

Although he got into trouble for it, he also has fond memories of taking a class out onto the lawn, where he taught them about similes and metaphors. This led to them all producing some wonderful images in their end-of-term exams: "I did get enormous satisfaction from the creativity that was unleashed."

Wilson understands why he got up the noses of the other teachers: "At 17-and-a-half I thought I was God's gift to teaching. As an instinctive rebel, I don't think I was made for the classroom." Well, there was always a career in rocket science. Or, as it turned out, the music business.

jonty@jonathansale.com

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