8th January 2018

Celebrating with last year's Sixth Form leavers

Harry Gamsu, Alumni 2007

On Wednesday 20th December 2017 we welcomed back our most recent Sixth Form leavers to celebrate their results and achievements during their time at High Storrs Sixth Form. We also welcomed alumni, Harry Gamsu, to speak at the evening and present their awards. He has kindly forwarded his speech that we can share with you now.

Y13 Celebration of Success Evening 2017 Address by Harry Gamsu, High Storrs Alumni 2007

Firstly, I would like to congratulate all the award winners on their achievements and all the ex-students in this school, it really is fantastic, well done!

So yes, thank you for inviting me back to give this speech, it’s actually the first time I’ve visited school since the day I received my A-Level results – which was back in 2007. This place has really changed – it got super posh, I barely recognise the place…!

I spent a lot of time thinking about what I should talk about today, and far less time actually writing this speech, so please excuse my slightly haphazard structure. We never had any alumni come back to school to tell us about what they did after leaving High Storrs, so it was always something of a mystery to me. We heard rumblings about an actor on Miranda (Tom Ellis) but that was about it. So at the very least perhaps I can enlighten you a little bit as to what I am up to and reassure you that life post-High Storrs does indeed continue.

I’m also very aware that a lot of you have just completed your first term at university and are probably still drunk. Anyway, welcome to you also thanks for making the effort.

Give you a brief potted history of who I was at High Storrs, I’d come up from Hunters Bar with a group of friends. All I’d really cared about up to this point was cross-country, Sheffield United and Pokemon. I then embarked on the same journey that all of us went through here, trying to find my place and feeling incredibly small in a school that felt so incredibly big.

Sports was my passion, I played for the football team here at High Storrs and relished going up against Silverdale and, of course, the posh boys over at Birkdale with their fancy school (pleased to say we’ve got one too now). I also competed in cross country and long distance running, following my passion further to study PE at GCSE level. I applied the same level of competition and dedication to my school work as I did sports and can admit I was a bit of a geek. I gained strong grades at GCSE and then A-Level but importantly missed out on Head Boy to Will Ellison and having to settle for Deputy… yes that still hurts!

But these aren’t the things I remember fondly when I think about my time here at High Storrs, rather it’s the group of friends I’ve known since infants school and who I still meet up with regularly in London for a pint. These are guys that I know will always be there for me and who I’ll know forever. It’s the passionate and inspirational teachers who I was lucky enough to learn from – and to name a few:

  • Mrs Willouby, whose love for her subject was infectious and her teaching methods eccentric to say the least,
  • Mrs Hetherington who was just great
  • Mr Neill my form tutor from Y7 and A-Level history teacher. A fantastic teacher, a real role model and someone I continue to admire even though I haven’t seen him in 10 years!

But there were some more challenging times here too, like being impaled and left hanging on the fence spikes trying to sneak to Bents Green for a quick lunch-time pasty (wasn’t too pleasant) and bigger things dealing with at the time; I didn’t feel comfortable enough in myself to come out as gay whilst I was student here. I was really pleased to see recently that the school held a LGBT awareness day and that really touched me – round of applause for that. I thought that was awesome and shows the school is continuing to grow and better itself. It has always been an incredibly diverse and inclusive place and that ability to get along with everyone and anyone will serve all of you extremely well in the outside world.

What I am trying to say is that this school, your experiences here and the teachers have all helped shape you. You’ve been given a great start and a great grounding and now it’s up to you to make the most of it – whatever that ‘it’ is and however you get there.

After leaving school that ‘it’ for me was University. I went onto Cambridge University to study Geography. Going to university was incredibly exciting, but it also felt a lot like being that Y7 student starting here again. My advice to those who have just done their first term is relax, enjoy it, try not to worry too much about making friends and that it gets better. But sadly the hangovers will only get worse.

Graduating in Geography I decided I didn’t want to take the easy option and become a teacher (no offense), but I also had no clue whatsoever about what I wanted to do. At the time all my friends seemed to be locking down high paying jobs that sounded very professional – whilst I had no clue. In the end I panicked, applied and got a job doing marketing… in Stoke-on-Trent… for an online gambling company… think Ray Winstone. Not exactly what my Mum had in mind when I got the Cambridge acceptance letter. Anyway, luckily with just two days to go before I started my gambling job I received an offer for a job in TV programme distribution… in London… it was an easy decision.

Seven years later, I now work for the biggest media group in Germany, travelling around the world buying and selling TV shows. It’s this international scale and focus of my job that I love along with the diversity of the people I interact with. I will often wake up to a call to Australia and leave the office after speaking with LA. The last two years alone I’ve taken nearly 100 flights and visited some incredibly cool places and best of all, work pays! The crazy thing is this is an industry I had no idea existed until after university – who thinks about how a TV show ends up on our screens when we are watching it?

If I look around my year group they are lots of people doing really interesting things. To pull out a few of my friends;

  • Kira is a fashion buyer for a major UK chain (river island),
  • Michael is a genetic scientist,
  • James is a producer at the BBC he just published his first short form video online – it was about a blind cheerleader and has been viewed over 60 million times!
  • Faye, who I went to the prom with, is a shipping Lawyer and has just returned from a posting in Monaco
  • Andy is a recruitment specialist at PWC.
  • Others in my year group are construction managers, surveyors, pub landlords, charity workers and a Premiership & England footballer (yes – technically year below).

Fair to say none of us knew what kind of job we were going to end up doing and many of us are still not sure – that’s fine also. What I would say is that it’s massively important to make the most of all of the opportunities presented to you. Whether they may be academic, work experience or elsewhere, you have to make yourself attractive in a very competitive market. Sadly, these days, a degree alone often isn’t enough.

I would also encourage you to reach out to Alumni of High Storrs and your University if you have gone to one. Don’t be afraid to message strangers – if you went to the same school they will most likely help you get that summer work experience or meet for a coffee! If you search on Linkedin High Storrs and a profession or area you will get results. If you put High Storrs and Television in I come up and likewise for fashion my friend Kira appears amongst others.

Or alternatively ask the Alumni office here to help you make connections. I would be more than happy to help anyone interested in a career in TV and I know my friends would do likewise for their respective careers.

Thirdly, and most importantly, help each other – I know it feels so soon since you left High Storrs but time will start speeding up. Remember, you were a team when you studied here together and you remain a team still after leaving. Help each other out and you will rise up together.

Finally, a huge thank you to the school for inviting me back to speak, congrats again to the awards winners and every student in this room. If I see you in the Lescar on Christmas Eve do come over and say hi. Otherwise have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.