Nici Hildebrandt

1975 French and German

Alumni of the Month Nov 2010  What I am doing now
I recently retired from 30 years at the BBC; now an aspirant interior designer-cum-Greek beach bum.

How did you get to where you are now?
After graduating, I knew I didn’t want to do any of the jobs my degree would fit me for, and pursued my passion for the stage. I took a job in theatre for a couple of years, blithely turning down an offer to be taught lighting, and subsequently realising that (a) those offers did not come along every day and (b) it would have gained me my Equity ticket, a crucial passport. I then turned to broadcasting and wormed my way into BBC North in Leeds as a copytaker in the local TV newsroom, and eventually moving down to London to work in World Service Drama. There I stayed, later becoming a researcher, first on the World Service’s soap opera, Westway, and then to the BBC’s radio drama department at large.  A couple of years ago, as drama was gradually dropped from the World Service schedule, I was offered redundancy and early retirement. I grasped this opportunity for a new start and took an interior design course. In theory I’m now seeking interior design work but life keeps getting in the way, especially my Other Life on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra where I am fortunate enough to have a house, and where I am spending increasing amounts of time as my two children go off to University and to lead their own lives.

What has been your biggest achievement so far?
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I’d honestly say it’s turning out two amazing, lively, funny, intelligent, caring young people who will doubtless do far better than I have ever done.  

And your biggest mistake?
Being too cautious. Always too worried about paying next week’s rent to take a chance on some of the more physical, artier careers I think I would have been good at, like props buyer, location manager, set dresser – interior designer indeed!

What are your ambitions now?
I would still like to get the interior design off the ground, but to learn good Greek is probably at the top of a longish list.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to work in a similar field?
If at all possible, don’t start at the bottom, it’s too easy to get stuck there. Have faith in your abilities and aim high.

What made you choose Keele University?
I’d love to tell you it was the marvel that was Foundation Year, but if I’m truthful, I found that out after I arrived. I ran away from home just before my A-levels, lived with a discotheque disc jockey and kept club hours, did very little revision and did not get the results I should have. Some merciful fate gave me a place at Keele and I never looked back.

What kind of a student were you?
A stay-up-all-night-writing-an-essay, miss-half-the-lectures, opportunities-are-wasted-on-the-young sort of student. What a fool.

How has Keele influenced your life?
Without any doubt, the Foundation Year broadened my intellectual horizons. I only had one science O-level, and in the sixth form I had studied four languages and nothing else. Suddenly I was doing astronomy, law, politics and much else besides. It was a true eye-opener and has left me with an abiding sense of the inter-relatedness of the world and a belief that whatever life throws at you, you can probably summon up the skills to deal with it. Keele has also given me the bedrock of a lifelong group of friends who do very diverse things. 

What is your favourite memory of Keele?
Oh blimey, how long have you got? All the water fights, the fire extinguisher fights, the dancing, the walks round the lakes, the nights at the Sneyd and the Union, the endless, endless sitting round with cups of coffee talking and listening to music suffuse into one over-riding image – that of the laughing faces of my friends.

What is your impression of Keele now?
Although it’s so much bigger in terms of student numbers and there are many more buildings than in my day, I was still struck on a recent visit by the fantastic amount of space on our wonderful campus, and when I brought my son to an Open Day it was plain that current students love Keele just as much as I and my contemporaries did. Well, maybe almost as much....

Anything else you would like to add?
My years at Keele were undoubtedly the happiest days of my life – so much freedom and so little responsibility.  I’d say to current students “don’t waste a minute, do everything, this won’t come again.