Those mentoring moments;Mentoring

4th June 1999 at 01:00
Michael Rosen performance poet

"It was 1975 and my first book 'Mind Your Own Business' had just come out in paperback. Sean McErlaine was the deputy head at Princess Fredericka, a big inner-city primary school in Kensal Rise. He had booked me and when I arrived he'd got the whole school in the hall. Rapid intake of breath. He gave a show biz intro: "Now boys and girls, the moment we've all been waiting for here's... Michael Rosen." There was a huge cheer. Then I held the book up in front of my face and started muttering. "The ship in the dock was at the end of its trip, and the man on board was the captain of the ship."

Probably no one beyond the first four rows heard it. Inner-city kids give you about a minute to see if you're interested in them. I saw Sean out of the corner of my eye. He looked at me and he looked at the kids and said "It doesn't go like that, does it boys and girls?" He grabbed the book out of my hand and sort of danced the poem.

"The name of the captain was old Ben Brown who played the ukulele with his trouser s down." I saw the kids in the room sort of bopping to it. Then he handed me back the book and said: "Read some more."

I suddenly made the connection between poems and performance. Even though I'd done years of acting, I'd never made the connection. I suddenly realised that, what I'd got to do is perform the poems. My performances now are a bit like stand-up comedy. It all started with Sean making the connection that day."

John Monks General Secretary of the TUC

"Many people have given me a lot of help over time. But Howard Pearson, a Methodist Minister really stand out. He ran a Youth Club I started attending when I was about 16. I was brought up in a working class area of North Manchester in the late fifties and early sixties and life was pretty grey and drab. But this youth club was an intellectual hothouse because of the interest taken in young people by Mr Pearson. He ran discussion groups on Marxism and Existentialism, theatre, films and music. He was extremely wide-ranging in his interests and I think he inspired people - not just me - to take a broader view of the world. He widened horizons from a fairly hum-drum existence. He was a great man and I owe him a lot.

Scott Mills presenter 'Top of The Pops' and Radio 1's 'Early Breakfast Show'

"Chris Carnegy, DJ and programme controller at Ocean FM in Hampshire, gave me a break ten years ago when I was 16. He put me on the radio overnight, making me the youngest full time radio presenter in the country. I'd been hanging around the station offering to do things, as people who are keen to work in radio often do. I was really shy. One day, he sent me a letter saying "Send me a tape and I'll make you a star". I've still got it.

Chris is one of the most talented people I know. I have to say I learned pretty much everything about what I think is good radio from him.

Taking me on was obviously a risk. He threw me in at the deep end and gave me the opportunity to sit there in the middle of the night, and make mistakes. At first, I felt completely out of my depth, but the pressure of being on air means you've just got to get on with it. If I did something which didn't work, Chris had a way of telling me which didn't totally destroy my confidence.

Chris is one of those people who get a real kick out of encouraging people he thinks have a spark of talent. I know he's done it for a lot of very good production people who passed through his doors when they were young. I think many people have a lot to thank - I know I certainly do.

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