On a recent trip to the UK, I was fortunate enough to be spend a couple of days revisiting the University of Leeds. I graduated from there in 1974 with my BA in English Literature, so I’ve always felt strong ties. I was also be lucky enough to be there in the days when it was probably the best place in the entire UK to see great bands, and in my time I was able to see Cream (earlier, in 1968, before I was a student there), The Who. The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Wings, Captain Beefheart, Sandy Denny, Leonard Cohen, Roy Harper, Al Stewart, The Incredible String Band, Hawkwind, The Soft Machine and many others. I even managed to do a bit of studying, too!
I have many reasons to thank the University of Leeds in addition to the education and the music I got there, not least for taking many boxes of my manuscripts, notebooks and random scribblings and giving them a home in the special collections of the Brotherton Library. I was able to visit the stacks and see the collection on the shelves, all neatly boxed and catalogued. One of the members of the English Department was actually consulting one of my old notebooks for a paper she was working on.
A few years ago my wife and I were able to set up a scholarship at the university for students from poorer backgrounds wanting to study English, with an interest in writing. Most imaginatively, it’s called the Peter Robinson Scholarship. It’s not a lot, but I call it ‘books and beer money,’ for which I would have been most grateful in my days there. It’s a thrill to have a connection with these students, and this time we were able to have lunch with three of them, past and present, in the Great Hall. (See photograph: L to R, Georgia Hulkes, Dominick O’Key, Me, Eva Liukineviciute.) Georgia is doing her masters, Dominick his PhD, and Eva, a second year student, had just won a university poetry competition, so that was a nice little extra.
Also, outside the hall, I got to see my Leeds Alumni banner. They’re all around the campus and feature alumni and people connected with Leeds in various walks of life. Among many others, I spotted Mark Knopfler, Mark Gattis and Tony Harrison. So I’m in good company!
Finally, here’s wishing you all a Merry Christmas, whether you celebrate it or not, and a Happy New Year, whenever it may begin for you.