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Timothy West’s Letter to my student self

25 October 2017

Timothy West, often referred to as the godfather of British drama, has played more than 250 characters on stage and screen, from our previous Chancellor Sir Winston Churchill to Stan in EastEnders, and was recently awarded an honorary degree. In this letter to himself, we find out about the pivotal moments of his life and how Bristol came to shape the person he is today.

Dear Timothy,

I know you want to carve out your own way, but if your idea of fun when you were a child was to skip school and pretend to be Brunel on Bristol’s docks, then you shouldn’t resist acting so much. Don’t listen to Mother and Father – I know they had a hard life in the theatre, but it’s in your blood. And nothing worth working at, comes easily.

Take the risk.

But I know how stubborn you are. You’ll think you can do both. But you’re here now, so get yourself stuck into the amateur dramatic society and student newspaper. It will be a shock working with girls for the first time, but a wonderful one.

And when you go back to Bristol to take part in the first ever National Student Drama Festival set up by the Sunday Times – be ready. It will change your life. Make sure you time your trip to the loo perfectly because the Chairman of Judges, Harold Hobson, has something he needs to say to you.

Don’t forget to try lots and lots of different things because you won’t really find out what you’re best at until you do it (and that is not being an Office Furniture Salesman – trust me, you will be terrible at it). Experiment, and don’t be afraid to do what you love. Grab hold of the opportunities that come to you, even if they scare you. Have confidence in yourself.

Thank the people who inspired you. Now. You may not realise it, but they shaped who you are and what you love. Tell Mr (Sammy) Cowtan how he made Shakespeare come alive in class. You’ll be teaching his methods in years to come. Because by the time you realise how much they did for you, it may be too late for them.

And I know you don’t have much money, but get out and see the world, because it will most definitely change yours.

Good luck!

From Future-Timothy

PS: Watch out for that Julian Glover kid from Lower 2B…

Further information

You can find out more about Timothy’s time at Bristol and his honorary degree by reading his interview online.

You can listen and download the audio version here (mp3).