Your stories: spring 2021

Where did your Birmingham education take you? Share your updates with us through our website or tweet us @birminghamalum using #wearebrumalum. See the bottom of the page to win books by our alumni. 

  • 1970

    Dr Anne Green (MSc Clinical Biochemistry, 1970; PhD Clinical Chemistry, 1994)

    Dr Anne Green

    'My MSc from Birmingham took me into a rewarding career in Paediatric Biochemistry in the NHS. I was appointed Consultant Scientist at Birmingham Children's Hospital (BCH), and became Director of the Newborn Screening and Inherited Metabolic Disorders Services for the West Midlands, and Professor of Paediatric Biochemistry in 1994.

    Of particular interest to me were the rare and often devastating inherited disorders of metabolism, particularly phenylketonuria (PKU) whose successful treatment was first achieved in a two-year-old girl, Sheila Jones, at BCH in 1951. The team who treated her included two other Birmingham graduates; Dr Evelyn Hickmans, graduated in Chemistry in 1905; and Dr Horst Bickel, PhD in 1952.

    I was proud to continue Evelyn Hickman's pioneering work at BCH, and after retirement, I wrote Sheila: Unlocking the treatment for PKU, published by Brewin Books to bring the story of this internationally acknowledged, Birmingham success to an audience beyond the scientific and medical. It is a global and living legacy of which Birmingham can justly be proud (also available from the Birmingham City Hospital website, all proceeds going to BCH Charity).'

  • 1983

    David Long (BSc Psychology, 1983)

    David Long

    'I went straight into journalism in London but after 25 years, during which time I ghosted several books for others, I decided to concentrate on my own books. Initially these were adult non-fiction, but a new book for children won Blue Peter Book of the Year (I have a badge!) since when I have mostly written for young readers. I try to educate as well as entertain, and my books have been translated into more than two dozen languages.

    Already the son, brother, nephew, and uncle of Birmingham gradates – my father was the first, studying medicine during the war – I recently became the husband of another one by marrying my Moseley neighbour Dr Rosy Chesterman (BA Latin, 1985). We live in Suffolk but have sadly failed to persuade my sons to continue the Birmingham tradition.'

    Read more about David and Rosy in our Campus Romances.

  • 1986

    Elizabeth Seakins (BSc Medicine and Surgery, 1986)

    Elizabeth Seakins with penguin'I qualified as a doctor in 1986. My most fun job was working as a GP in the Falkland Islands in the 90s. I even worked as a squid sexer on fishing boats for a few months so I could stay there for the summer! Here I am pictured with a King Penguin chick in the Falkland Islands back in 1994.'

  • 1987

    Dr Fiona Thompson (BA Theology, 1987)

    'As a mature student at the University of Birmingham, I found my academic subject home and my degree led me to a TV production career in Yorkshire. I eventually combined my TV work with working in HE and I studied at Leeds University for both my MA and PhD. The academic life took over and I retired as Deputy Vice Chancellor at York St John University in 2019. I'm still involved in TV as Chair of the RTS Yorkshire Centre and I am still actively engaged in Biblical Studies. Birmingham opened so many doors for me.'

  • 1996

    Caroline Davies (BA Music, 1996)

    'I graduated in Music in 1996 and then qualified as a chartered accountant with a Big Five accountancy firm. I worked within audit and business recovery for 10 years. After an extended career break to have and raise children I’m now back working as an accountant but also running a choir, doing choral and instrumental accompaniment and playing organ for funerals and weddings in my spare time! Loving life, happy memories of my time at Birmingham.'

  • 2000

    Louise Stevenson (BA Ancient History and Archaeology, 2000)

    'Since graduating in 2000 I have started two new entrepreneurial projects. More than ever, this last year has shown that there's no substitute for getting together to collaborate once in a while. I co-founded Hereford's first community coworking space for freelancers, solopreneurs and small business owners before the pandemic. Our COVID-safe version has been a lifeline for those feeling isolated and lonely as a result of working at home and who sometimes need to keep work and home-life separate.  

    'I have also created a mental health app, WorryTree, to support people like me who struggle from worried and anxious thoughts. When I looked for a mobile app to help me problem solve my worries, I quickly realised that there wasn't an app out there that suited my needs so I decided to create one. Building WorryTree and the tools around it means that I can combine my personal experiences with the opportunity to help others who want to manage their worries and change their habits for the better.'

  • 2000

    Vikki Harman (née Pendleton; BA French and German, 2000; MPhil German, 2006)

    Vikki Harman'After graduating, I worked in Human Resources at the University for a while and gained qualifications in marketing and communications before ultimately deciding to go back to my roots. With a translation qualification under my belt and the breadth of experience gained from my career to date, I branched out and set up as a freelance translator in 2012. It's a varied and fascinating job, and every day I learn about new things – whether it is model railways, tourist hotspots in Germany or the latest in cooker hood technology!'

  • 2001

    Dean Spears (BA Geography, 2001)

    Dean Spears'I graduated with a BA in Geography in 2001 with a first and throughout my career completed an MSc and MBA at other universities in the UK, building on my Geography training. I became a public realm designer, transport engineer and sustainability expert in climate change adaptation designing cityscapes in several cities in the UK and now find myself as a director for a UK university running all campus, commercial, facilities services and a Science park with over a 1,000 people. Loved my time in Birmingham.'

  • 2008

    Brad Mant (BSc Sports and Materials Science, 2008)

    Brad Mant and partner Katie with their gourmet chip buttiesAfter graduation, I trained to be a teacher and whilst working in an international school in Dubai I met my partner Katie. We instantly bonded over our profession, our love of nostalgia and a passion for good food. One weekend, longing for some comfort food to remind us of home we both really fancied a chip butty. However we could not find anywhere in Dubai that did them! Not only that, a quick internet search revealed that there were no companies anywhere in the world devoted solely to the glorious carb-on-carb dish.

    At the end of the school term we packed up our Dubai lives, said goodbye to our high-rise apartment views, shipped Katie's beloved rescue cat across continents and set up The Big Butty Bar in the UK, using quality ingredients to customise this classic British food! We now travel around the UK to cater at private events like weddings and birthdays, and cool foodie spots like breweries and festivals. It's so good to see many foodie businesses going strong and finding ways to adapt to changing restrictions during the pandemic.

  • 2011

    Katie Davison (BA English, 2011) and Chazz Redhead (BA English with Creative Writing 2012, MA Creative Writing 2013)

    Katie Davison and Chazz Redhead'Chazz and I met in the Comedy Society in 2009, where we made many shows together and served on the Society board. Since then we both pursued comedy writing and performing, including shows at the Brighton and Edinburgh fringe comedy shows.

    'During the pandemic our creative work slowed and we've both set up our own businesses. Chazz has launched a sound recording studio for actors, which can be used for recording voice reels (a key tool for securing voice work) and podcasts. I have set up as a freelance digital marketer, and I am helping Chazz to launch his business. We are adapting our skills to the situation, shifting away from our work as live performers and starting businesses that are now working together.'

  • 2012

    Suruthi Bala (MSc Economics, 2012)

    Suruthi Bala'When I met my future co-host Hannah Maguire at a London Thanksgiving party, we knew we had to start a podcast together. There are so many true crime podcasts, so what makes ours different? 'Redhanded' goes deeper into the causes of crime, exploring the societal issues around racism, homophobia, misogyny, politics, mental illness, corruption, religion, injustice and inequality that feed into so many crimes. We've gone from huddling over a £10 microphone in a cupboard under the stairs to nearly 2 million downloads a month, plus awards and major media coverage. Off the back of our sold-out live UK tour in 2019, we were excited to get back on stage and even head to the US; obviously COVID-19 has put those plans on hold for a while, but we've spent the year in lockdown working on our first book instead!'

  • 2013

    Josh Clifford (BSc Applied Golf Management Studies, 2013)

    Josh and Scott Clifford'I've gone from the links to the slopes. Having graduated from the AGMS (Golf) course at Birmingham in 2013, I went on to start my own skiwear company called Oneskee with my brother Scott. Amazingly we have survived the global pandemic and no ski season, and shown growth. We want to capitalise on the bounce back from COVID-19 along with the excitement surrounding the Beijing Winter Olympics in February 2022.'

  • 2014

    Amy Tollyfield (MA Shakespeare Studies, 2014)

    'After graduating, I spent a joyful 2.5 years in Bath, South West England, performing at open-mic events and writing new poems. My first collection of poetry, The Suicide, was published in 2018 by Olympia Publishers. Since then, I have performed my poetry at Clifton Literature Festival 2019, The Barbican Theatre in Plymouth and The Wardrobe Theatre in Old Market, Bristol, among other venues and events, including poetry-reading events for my work at Waterstones Clifton and Foyles bookstore in Cabot Circus, Bristol. Toy Soldiers, my second poetry collection, is out now.'

    Photo by Simon Holliday

Win books by Birmingham alumni

You could win books by Birmingham alumni, including David Long's children’s puzzle books about Pirates, Castles and Egypt, Dr Anne Green's Sheila: Unlocking the treatment for PKU and Amy Tollyfield's poetry collection Toy Soldiers. To enter, answer this question:

Which of these three authors married a fellow Birmingham graduate?

Send us your answer with your name, address and phone number by 30 June 2021. Check our Old Joe competition terms and conditions.