Miss Gamson, my drama teacher at Burlington Danes Academy in West London, was someone that I was really happy to have teaching me. I always wanted to become an actor and she could see that I was able to perform.
I was a good student. I did my best and put in a lot of effort, but I didn’t do well in my coursework and homework because it didn’t come naturally to me. Miss Gamson forgave the fact that my coursework was not always perfect and paid attention to me.
She was patient with everyone and her patience was always appreciated. My friends and I needed teachers who were going to be patient with us, because it was probably trying to have boys like us in the class. We were generally well behaved, but we were lads, you know…we didn’t always concentrate.
Miss Gamson taught me for the last three years of secondary school. She was short, with bobbed blond hair, red lipstick and a nice smile. The boys found her attractive, but we were really more interested in drama.
Plays and performances
Later, I went to St Charles Sixth Form College. I did A levels in media studies, theatre studies and PE. Theatre studies was my favourite subject. We studied loads of plays and saw performances at the Lyric Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. I remember seeing actor David Harewood on stage in Othello or something like that. It was amazing to see someone on stage that I could relate to and who made me believe that I could be an actor. I hadn’t seen a lot of people who represented me before.
But the teacher who really stood out for me in sixth form was Mr Andy Jones, who taught media studies. He was a young teacher, fresh out of university and he had a different vibe to the rest. He introduced us to films like Pulp Fiction, which weren’t on the curriculum in the mid-1990s.
Mr Jones broke the rules by not teaching us exactly what he was supposed to – and even when he was following the curriculum, he made it seem like he wasn’t. You like that when you’re a teenager, because it makes you feel like you’re rebelling a bit.
He always looked out for our interests, though. He would bring videos into class and let us take them home to watch. We had cameras in class, too, but it wasn’t just a case of talking about cameras – he actually let us use them, teaching us how to make films. It was because of Mr Jones that I decided to become a filmmaker as well as an actor.
Despite that, he never gave us any real advice. He never said “do this” or “do that”. Instead, he simply tried to make sure that we believed in what we were doing. He wanted us to question things.
Mr Jones was tall, always smiling and always seemed to be happy, even when we knew he probably wasn’t. But he was one of those people who never looked like he was letting stress get to him. He was great.
I am still in touch with him these days. The last time I spoke to him was about six months ago now. We stay in touch by giving each other a call or meeting up for a chat. Sometimes, I might even go into the college to talk to the students. He is still at St Charles Sixth Form, where he has been for more than 20 years.
The Level is now available on DVD, courtesy of RLJ Entertainment’s Acorn Label. Noel Clarke was speaking to Adeline Iziren