My Best Teacher - Charles Worthington

17th April 2009 at 01:00
The celebrity hairdresser credits his dishevelled art teacher for encouraging him to pursue a career to show off his creative flair

I was interested in fashion from an early age. I enjoyed the artistic side of school and had it in my head from my teenage years that I wanted to do something creative.

I started out doing architecture but changed after a couple of years. I realised that I didn't want to be behind a desk and luckily I had parents who were supportive.

But it was Brian Kestevan, my art teacher, who said to me that I needed to pursue something creative in my career. I was good at drawing and painting and did it to A-level, so I had him for quite a few years. He gave us a fantastic confidence in ourselves.

Looking back, he definitely gave me lots of encouragement, maybe more so than some of the others because I really enjoyed art. He wasn't a careers adviser, but I felt like I could turn to him for advice. I have him to thank for opening my mind to going down an artistic route and being successful in it.

He was a likeable character and had amazing enthusiasm. When you were starting out, it didn't matter how bad a picture was, he would find something good to say about it. What I liked about him was that he thought you shouldn't create art to try to please other people - you should create art to please yourself.

He'd probably hate me for saying this, but Mr Kestevan always looked slightly dishevelled and scruffy. The other teachers were smart and straight, whereas he was more casual with floppy hair.

Looking back, I think he was cool and trendy, and was probably in his late twenties or early thirties when he taught me - although he seemed a lot older than that at the time.

I would say he was popular among the staff, but maybe less so with the older teachers who were more straight-laced.

He looked like he'd be a pushover, but he wasn't and I think some of the pupils were surprised at that. He could be demanding, but got away with it because he had a positive way about him. It's a brilliant teacher who can motivate you to work without being too intimidating.

He encouraged me and we all looked forward to his classes. He made lessons fun. It's not until you start thinking back to somebody that you realise how they've influenced your life more than you think.

I didn't particularly love or hate school, but I enjoyed my time at Nunthorpe Grammar School in York, where Mr Kestevan taught. The main building was quite grand, like a mansion, and then the rest of the school was more modern. It was a bit of a mish-mash, but was set on top of a hill and had great views. The art department was a little walk away from the main school and somehow it was a different experience. You were stepping outside the confines of the main school and there was something uplifting about going there.

As a teenager, I was only rebellious when I needed to be, but not overly so - not for the sake of it. Often at school you get groups: the trendy, cool set and the ruffians. I used to slide happily between the two, which was unusual. I was never categorised then and I think that's why I enjoyed school.

I'd always had hairdressing in the back of my mind as an instantly creative profession. Once you're qualified, you can pick up a pair of scissors and go anywhere in the world and work. The speed of creativity excited me. A building takes years to create, whereas a hairstyle can be created in a matter of minutes.

I feel that I am one of these lucky people in life who doesn't look back with regrets. I made the right choices at the right time, and I'm happy that I feel I can say that.

Charles Worthington supports the 14-19 diploma. Visit www.dcsf.gov.uk14-19 for more information. He was talking to Meabh Ritchie.

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