Alumni of the Month February 2008

Stan Beckensall (1954 English, History, Education)

aom_StanBeckensall 1. How did you get to where you are now?

Wherever that may be, through hard work and making the most of opportunities, and luck. Do people ever make important decisions or do things just happen to them?

2. What has been your biggest achievement so far?

Satisfaction in my family of wife and four children, seven grandchildren and a great grandchild on the way. Academically, being awarded a Fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries of London, an Honorary  D.Litt. by the University of Newcastle in the company of Antony Gormley, Miriam Stoppard, Sir John Sulston and Graham Wylie for my work in prehistory, education and drama was a high point, followed soon after by my being awarded the Channel 4 ICT British Archaeology Award in 2006. I hope that my teaching career has helped many, but who can tell?

3. And your biggest mistake?

I have made mistakes, of course, but none of them seems to have been life-threatening, or, hopefully, unforgivable.

4. What are your ambitions now?

To continue to support my family and to continue being creative. I keep looking to the next piece of research and the next book.

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

Remain enthusiastic, work hard, and don’t get bogged down by the appalling jargon that is the enemy of thought and openness. I would ask researchers in all fields to express their findings in the simplest possible way, and not to create a barrier which they think distinguishes them from others.

6. What made you choose Keele University?

The idea of a broad education appealed to me, as a product of a not very good Stoke-On -Trent high school.

7. How has Keele influenced your life?

I was given the opportunity to think for myself, to explore new areas with the guidance of a good and plentiful academic staff, and to live with others on the same campus for four years.

8. What is your favourite memory of Keele?

Two memories, both quite different. One is the night of our final results, when a small group of us went to the cinema in town to avoid the crush and agony, and saw our results in a silent, empty hall. I was so happy with mine. 
The second poignant memory was a performance of ‘The Tempest’ by contemporary students. I had been no good as an actor at school (ask Peter Whelan), but I led a group charged with building a scaffolding and plank bridge over the lake, up to our chins in water, so that actors could have that as an entrance. We also controlled the music from the opposite side of the lake by signals, so that literally:

‘This music crept by me upon the waters’.

There was so much beauty, such a superb performance of one of my favourite plays (it still is) that I will never forget it. When Prospero says ‘

‘We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep’

each night it stirred me to the roots. Then came ‘The Masque’, when a boat was pulled across the water by underwater cable, the lights attracted the swans, goddesses became real and music enhanced the scene. I want to thank all those who did this for me.

9. And your worst?

I honestly don’t think that I had many bad moments, although I did regret being me, quite often.