Talks @altoncollege

ITN newscaster and journalist Alastair Stewart OBE and his son Freddie Stewart, Alton College alumnus who was previously at Bedales School, hosted a brilliant Q&A session for students in the Wessex Arts Theatre on campus, last week.

Alastair kindly agreed to return to College and speak to students together with Freddie and both have fond memories of Freddie’s time here. Freddie attended Alton College from 2009-2011 and studied A level’s in English Literature, Photography and Business Studies and it was the latter course which really piqued his interests. He told students that the idea for his highly successful horse business ‘Bramble Equine’ was born during his time at College.

The session began with a buffet lunch with a small group of students, Freddie’s student support manager, Director of Learning Jon Myers and Vice Principal for Curriculum and Quality, Sara Russell in the Wessex Arts café bar.  The marketing officers for the Student Union Ali Bayliss, previously at Perins and Freyja Barnard previously at Eggar’s attended and Freyja live tweeted the event from the Student Union twitter account @altoncollegesu. The other students to meet Alastair and Freddie were: Molly Heap previously at Perins and keen member of the Alton College Showjumping Team who spoke to Freddie about his international showjumping successes. Kyra Gorham previously at Kings International College for Business and the Arts is a budding journalist for the Alton College Alternative Magazine, Luke Bateman  and Elliott Williams previously at Amery Hill School, both keen dramatists, Rebecca Quinlan, previously Frensham Heights School and Lily McAuley, previously at Weydon School, both members of Alton College Bar Mock Trial team also attended the lunch. Media student George Garner previously at Frensham Heights filmed the session in the theatre.


Later on twitter, Alastair explained to his 23,000 followers: ‘We had a great time at a terrific College, with delightful and bright young people. Few better ways to spend a lunchtime’, while Freddie said it had been an ‘absolute pleasure’ to visit such a ‘great place’ where he had ‘very fond memories’. Earlier this year Alastair, who has four children, one of whom is a headteacher, mentioned to followers that ‘Fred knows a good teacher when he sees one; met so few in his time until @altoncollege’.


Alastair is the longest serving newsreader on British television. He studied economics and politics at the University of Bristol and was an active member of the National Union of Students.


The pair were quizzed by the audience and answered a range of probing questions which included: ‘What was the worst mistake you ever made on TV and how did you come back from it?’ Answer: Live reporting on a horse race at which someone mentioned that HRH the Princess of Wales had been trampled by a loose horse; live on air Alastair told viewers the situation only to be subsequently told it was not the Princess but a member of the public. Alastair next told viewers ‘everything was fine, it was just a member of the public not the Princess’. He said his director had a few stern words with him afterwards as it clearly wasn’t ok that a member of the public had been potentially injured by a runaway horse! Alastair explained to students to always ‘check facts’ because if ‘you’re in news, your brand is accuracy’.  Another question was: ‘How did you find hosting the first TV Election Debate?’ Alastair said he had great memories of this though the preparation took weeks if not months. Freddie explained how his dad’s study was filled to the ceiling with paperwork and documents during this time and that he literally didn’t leave the room all day. ‘He was like a mole’ said Freddie emphatically. When asked for ‘career advice’ Alastair urged students to ‘get yourself a good mentor’ as they are ‘priceless’ and do ‘listen to your mum and dad’ as he said his told him to give TV a go whereas he had early aspirations of a life in politics. Freddie said he always tried to learn from everyone and everything – ‘even if he didn’t like them’.


Guerson Neto, previously at Bohunt School asked Alastair how he handled natural political bias in interviews while Student Union President Tom Chapman previously at Eggar’s School asked Alastair who he felt was the most interesting person in politics. Answer: Stella Creasy, citing her handling of Wonga as one of the reasons, later referring to her as ‘a star of her generation’.


Alastair’s key piece of advice to young people is to always ‘keep an open mind and seize every opportunity that comes your way’. Freddie who is now running several successful horse-based businesses is proof that his father’s advice works. He remarked: ‘I couldn’t have done any of it without Alton College’s help, advice and patience’.


The next planned talk will be from Yvette Cooper in January, Labour Member of Parliament for Normanton, Pontefract, Castleford and Knottingley who studied at the College after leaving Eggar’s School. Followed by an another alumnus, Ranil Jayawardena, Member of Parliament for North East Hampshire in March(please note these talks are not open to the public).


Freyja Barnard, previously at Eggar’s School and Student Union member , thanked Alastair and Freddie for coming along and confirmed everyone ‘thoroughly enjoyed it’.


Principal Jane Machell thanked the Stewarts and said it was a pleasure to welcome Freddie and his father back to the College for this special event. She described the session as ‘truly inspirational’and explained ‘the talk was part of our ongoing commitment to provide enriching and inspiring talks for students and staff’.

Applications to study at Alton College in Sept 2016 are open until 31 March 2016