Colin Thomas: Keelite of the Month February 2015

1962 English and Political Institutions (History and Biology subsidiary)

Colin Thomas What am I doing now?

Producing/directing television programmes and writing books and enhanced e-books.

How did you get to where you are now?

A BBC General Traineeship after graduation, then freelancing following my resignation from the BBC over censorship of documentaries that I had directed in Northern Ireland.

Photo below: 'The Students Union Committee 1960-61. Back row left to right Martin Edmunds, Ahmed Duaij, Moray Stewart, Ian Stewart, Jim Farquahar. Front row Jocelyn Ryder-Smith, Colin Thomas, Shirley Augustus

SU Committteee 1960-1961 What has been your biggest achievement so far? 

I’ve received a number of TV awards including a Prix Europa but a series I produced for UK Channel Four on the history of Wales –“The Dragon has Two Tongues” in which two historians argued out their totally different interpretations of the past – seems to be the one that sticks in people’s minds. So that, and a very happy marriage.

And your biggest mistake?

Not giving my late father more time and attention when my children were young.

What are your ambitions now?

To be a good grandfather and to keep creating, if not television programmes then books, enhanced e-books, radio plays and mixed media theatre productions. Hopefully I won’t stop until I drop.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?

Don’t join the very long queue trying to get into the BBC; once you know how to shoot and edit, you’ll have far more freedom looking for work creating videos for charities and small businesses. Eventually you will have a portfolio or show-reel enabling you to go after more ambitious projects. 

Colin and fellow Keelites What made you choose Keele University?

The fact that it was new and innovative, influenced by an inspirational English teacher at my school in Cardiff.  

What kind of a student were you?

Manically energetic, fulfilled and mostly very happy.

How has Keele influenced your life?

Considerably, it strengthened a sense of community and social purpose. 

Photo above: Annual gathering of Keelites mid walk - still friends.

Keele Kolliery Khorus 1961 What is your favourite memory of Keele?

Singing with and conducting the Keele Kolliery Khorus (a Welsh male voice choir), especially one night in the back room of a pub where we sang solely for the pleasure of hearing the way our voices blended together - a perfect metaphor for the lifelong friendships that Keele forged. A group of my Keele contemporaries and I still meet together for a few days every year – we rent a large house in the countryside and spend the time walking, reminiscing and, occasionally, singing.

Photo right: Colin conducting and singing with the Keele Kolliery Khorus in 1961. Many of the Keele Kolliery Khorus reformed to sing at the Pioneers Reunion in 2007

What is your impression of Keele now?

Pleasantly surprised that, despite the huge increase in size since my day, students still clearly have a strong affection for it – hence Keele winning the vote for students’ most popular university in 2014. And there still appears to be a strong sense of social obligation that Lindsay aimed to build into the university when he created it.

Anything else you would like to add?

The Dragon and the Eagle/Y Ddraig a’r Eryr is an enhanced e-book (a sort of glorified app combining text, video and interactive graphics) on Wales and America that I have just written and produced - I take some pride in the fact that in my 75th year I have made something that is at the cutting edge of the new technology (£6.99 via Apple and Android!)