Damian Barr arrived at Lancaster University by chance in 1995 as, in his own words, a ‘great big drop-out’.
Now, 25 years later and as an award-winning writer, journalist and BBC broadcaster, he is graduating from Lancaster for the third time.
And far from saying goodbye to the place he has called home, Damian insists it is a “hello again” and hopes to return to campus to continue supporting new writers in finding their voice.
Damian initially enrolled at Edinburgh Napier University to study journalism as a teenager, but left after a year. The following summer, Damian picked up the phone and called Clearing, and joined Lancaster’s Bowland College.
“My best friend form school, Joanne, had gone to Lancaster – Fylde College” he said. “So I’d visited her and it all felt very ‘campus’ – its own little world. I was intrigued!”
He studied English Literature and Sociology as his first degree (with a year at University of Texas at Austin), before achieving a Masters in Contemporary Sociology in 2000. He has just been awarded a PhD in Creative Writing, with his memoir Maggie and Me and a critical reflection of the work and the genre.
He now lives in Brighton and is the host of his own Literary Salon, is a regular on TV and radio, and the creator and host of The Big Scottish Book Club.
Damian said: “I never thought I’d do a PhD, – after my Masters I thought that was it. But I’ve loved doing my doctorate – getting back into that academic reading, writing and thinking. I so enjoyed being supervised by Dr Andrew Tate who supported me and pushed me in equal measure.”
He said he loved returning to Lancaster: “It was interesting going back to campus when I started doing my supervisions. It’s a much bigger place, but it’s still intimate and you still run into friends in the square.”
He’s completed his PhD but Damian is certainly not saying goodbye to Lancaster.
“It was more like a hello again”, he said.
“I am in touch with Lancaster University graduates across the world – for example I interviewed Daisy Johnson for the Booker Prize – and I’d like to deepen my relationship with the University. I’d like to come back and give some more talks and maybe even some teaching. The department is packed with brilliant talent like Jenn Ashworth.
“I find it really inspiring seeing people finding their voice and the power to tell stories. I don’t think you need to be a certain person to be a writer – it’s the joy of helping people find their voice.”