Interview with QMU Drama & Performance graduate, Andy Henry
Andy Henry, 27, from Hamilton in South Lanarkshire, was one of the first students to study at QMU’s new purpose-built campus in 2007 and graduated with a BA (Hons) Drama & Theatre Arts (now BA (Hons) Drama & Performance) from QMU in 2011.
10 years after arriving at QMU as a student, Andy has now rejoined the University’s Performing Arts department as a member of teaching staff and recently became a new lecturer in Performance Theory.
Andy also met his future wife, Gemma, at QMU. They both graduated from QMU in 2011 and five years later tied the knot. They now live in Glasgow with their springer spaniel, Rocco.
How did you come to choose the course and why QMU?
“I was always attracted by the idea of studying at university as I was growing up. At school, I was always more interested in the creative subjects. I chose drama at QMU because I knew it would allow me to draw on my interests in art, music and stories and align that with the practical skills and training of stage acting, directing and playwriting.
“Drama is one of the most sociable subjects as every production relies on a team of people bringing their skills together to make it happen. I’ve always enjoyed working with other people on creative projects so the course was a perfect fit for me. Ultimately, I chose QMU because it felt infinitely more personable and friendly than the other universities I’d visited.”
Why did you choose to study in Edinburgh/Scotland?
“I’d just turned 17 but I was set on moving away from home. Edinburgh was ideal. I was still close enough to my family and friends to retain a certain level of security but far enough away to allow me to branch out and be my own person.”
What was the best things about living in Student Residences on campus?
“I was possibly the first ever person to move into the new halls of residence on the QMU campus. I moved into block G, top floor, at the earliest opportunity. Too early, in hindsight. I seemed to be the only person around and it took a few days before the place started to fill up with other students but it became lively, fast.
“I left halls with a million memories and funny stories. It was such an exciting time for me. I was probably the last to leave when it came to summer as well.”
Life in Edinburgh – what was the best experience you had in Edinburgh? Are there any hidden ‘gems’ you’d like to share?
“Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful places you could choose to live. It’s a lively, cosmopolitan place, steeped in culture with an endless list of things to see and do.
“A quick tip: if you want a panorama over the whole city without the heart-stress of Arthur’s Seat, you should climb the much more manageable Calton Hill which is just off Princes Street. I walked my spaniel up there almost every day and never got tired of looking across the city in an “everything the light touches” kind of way.
“I lived in Edinburgh throughout my time as a student and I was constantly discovering new things to see and do. There’s a graveyard in town where JK Rowling got some of the character names for the Harry Potter books… Well worth a trip if you are as geeky as I am.”
Did you attend an Open Day? If so was there any aspect of the University which made up your mind for you?
“I did attend an open day. I only have vague recollections of it now. I travelled through to Edinburgh on my own and was able to get a whole load of useful information about the course and the various spaces I would be working in. Most importantly, I met some of the lecturing staff. I had a couple of really good conversations and I knew that QMU would be a place where I wasn’t just another anonymous face in a crowd.”
What was the most interesting part of the course?
“I have a massive collection of pictures from lots of different productions I was part of during my four years at the University, each seems more significant to me now than it did at the time. I realise, looking back, that each project enabled me to learn new skills, gave me space to succeed and fail, they allowed me to test myself and they brought me closer to the people I was working with. I left QMU not just with knowledge and skills but also a community that I’m still a part of.
“There was one project in particular where the Contemporary Performance students (a 3rd and 4th year option) worked closely with the Costume Design students to develop a motley crew of creepy characters. I played a villain called Count Montoni who wore a skeletal half mask. We occupied some of the underground caves buried under the city. The audience was invited to join us underground and the whole thing was a lot of fun.”
Any advice for students who might be interested in this course?
“This course will provide a great platform to develop your skills in a supportive environment. If you are passionate about drama and you want opportunities to get creative in a variety of projects then you will get a lot out of your time at QMU.
“Ask yourself what it is that you want to get out of your degree and consider whether this course will help you get what you want. If you are not sure write down all the questions you need answers for and take them to an open day and talk to members of staff or other students who are already enrolled.”
What did you do after graduating from QMU?
“Immediately after graduating from QMU I left Scotland to further my academic studies and attained a master’s degree in theatre and performance at Aberystwyth University in Wales.
“Following a fantastic year on the Welsh coast, I won an Arts and Humanities Research Council Scholarship and joined the Theatre Studies department at Glasgow University where I undertook a four year research project towards the attainment of a PhD.
“The academic path has been tough but QMU gave me the platform to succeed and I’m delighted to be back at QMU as a new lecturer in Performance Theory.
What else would you like to share about your time at QMU?
“I was lucky enough to meet my wife, Gemma, at QMU.
“We both enrolled on the Drama and Theatre Arts course in the summer of 2007. We met as freshers on the first day of university. I remember distinctly scanning across the class looking at all these people I would be spending the next four years with when this beautiful girl caught my eye.
“We were playing this well-known warm-up game where the lecturer would call out a number and then specific body parts. Something like, “3 elbow and ear” which meant we had to get into a group of three people and find a way to connect our elbows with our ears. It was complete carnage and a lot of fun. But I was delighted to find myself as a couple on day one “nose to nose” with Gemma and I had a bit of a crush on her from then on, to be honest.
“We started dating in our second year and we were sort of ironically dubbed Mr and Mrs QMU by our friends. Over the years we performed in many shows together (including the aforementioned production in the caves). Not only that but I ran Cobweb, the student theatre company, and Gemma ran the QMU Sapphires, the university cheerleading team, so we both spent half our lives on campus for rehearsals or socials and were never far from the students union. But it was when we both somehow found ourselves on the front cover of the prospectus together that pretty much sealed the nickname.
“We both graduated from QMU in 2011 and five years later we tied the knot. We both live in a wee bungalow in Glasgow with our springer spaniel, Rocco.
“Gemma works at the Dundee Repertory Theatre as the Marketing Associate for the ensemble.”
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