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Surrey schools’ alumni - the fame academy

PUBLISHED: 12:07 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:59 23 March 2015

David Walliams performing at Reigate Grammar School

David Walliams performing at Reigate Grammar School

Archant

The hallowed halls of Surrey’s schools have produced many pupils who have gone on to find fame and fortune, from international footballers and athletes to newspaper editors via film stars

Vince Abbott

American footballer

St George’s College, Weybridge

Born in London in 1958, Vince Abbott attended St George’s College from 1970 to 1975, playing rugby, cricket and field hockey during his time there – learning his kicking skills in the school rugby team. Receiving a full scholarship to play American football at California State University, Vince went on to play with the LA Express (1983-1985) and San Diego Chargers in the NFL (1987-1989) before a knee injury ended his career. He is best remembered during his time with the Chargers for scoring three game-winning field goals in a row in 1987, versus Cleveland, Raiders and Indianapolis. Since football, he has worked in the medical industry, currently for a lab that makes eye glasses for Essilor, a company based out of France.

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Michael Ball

Singer

Guildford School of Acting, Guildford

Michael Ball is a West End star who’s appeared in musicals such as Les Misèrables, Aspects Of Love and Hairspray, but it all started at Guildford School of Acting (GSA) where he studied drama after being spotted at the Surrey County Youth Theatre. Leaving GSA in 1984, his first part was in Godspell at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre and he’s never looked back. Today, Michael still has strong connections to the area and is a patron of the Shooting Star CHASE children’s charity.

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Ben Barnes

Film star

Kingston University, Kingston

Kingston University drama graduate Ben Barnes plays the title role in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, Disney’s £50 million sequel to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. He studied drama and English at Kingston, graduating in 2004, and was playing the role of Dakin in Alan Bennett’s The History Boys in London’s West End when he was spotted to audition for the role. Cinema-goers can also see Ben in fantasy film Stardust, which was released earlier this year, alongside Robert De Niro, Ian McKellen, Michelle Pfeiffer and Sienna Miller.

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Simon Bird

Actor and comedian

Royal Grammar School, Guildford

Actor, writer and stand-up comedian best known for playing Will MacKenzie in E4’s BAFTA-nominated comedy The Inbetweeners, Simon Bird won the 2008 British Comedy Award for best male newcomer (the youngest male winner of any award in the event’s 18 year history) and was also nominated for best comedy performance at the 2008 Royal Television Society Awards. Simon left the RGS in 2003 to study English at Queens’ College, Cambridge University.

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Derren Brown

Magician, illusionist, entertainer

Whitgift School, South Croydon

Now a regular on our TV screens, Derren Brown attended Whitgift School in South Croydon from 1981 to 1989 – and, at one stage, his father also coached swimming at the school. The Purley boy’s love of art extended to cartoons and his caricatures in the Whitgiftian magazine and other publications are said to be ‘legendary’. He was apparently inspired to turn to illusion and hypnosis after attending a hypnosis show during his time at university. His television career started to blossom from 2000 onwards and well known shows such as Trick of the Mind lasted for several series. Derren has kept in touch with Whitgift and visited the school in 2011 as part of a Channel 4 documentary of his life.

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Flavia Cacace

Strictly Come Dancing star

St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic Primary School, Guildford

Best known as one of the dance stars of Strictly Come Dancing, Flavia Cacace revisited her old school earlier this year with professional partner Vincent Simone. Accompanied by the school orchestra, they quickstepped in the hall in front of the school children before performing an Argentine tango, for which the pair are world-famous.

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Danny Cipriani

England rugby player

Whitgift School, Croydon

Danny Cipriani, the new star of English rugby, joined Whitgift in 2001. He first made his mark with a series of outstanding performances in the school’s under-15 side that went on to win the Daily Mail National Schools Rugby Cup at Twickenham in 2003. “He’s a wonderful young man and a great credit to Whitgift,” says headmaster Dr Christopher Barnett, who offered Danny a place at the school and has followed his rise to professional stardom with obvious delight. “He has told me that he is really keen to do whatever he can to help the school and I am sure he will do some coaching for us and encourage young rugby players following in his footsteps. “I used to travel around the country to watch the Whitgift rugby sides in which he was the No 10. When he was selected by Wasps to become, at just 17, the youngest player in the history of the professional game, Danny telephoned to ask whether I could make it to Bristol to watch him, which I did. A shirt he gave me from an England U19 game against Scotland is proudly on display in my study. We understand Danny is making excellent progress following his recent injury and everyone at Whitgift sends their best wishes to him for a full recovery.”

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Ed Coats

Doctor and adventurer

Royal Grammar School, Guildford

Chosen to join James Cracknell and Ben Fogle on their epic race to the South Pole, Ed Coats and his team finished in second place behind their Norwegian rivals after racing for 473.6 miles, having faced crevasse fields, battled blisters, frostbite and hallucinations as well as catching pneumonia. Even before taking part in the South Pole Race, Dr Ed was no stranger to physical hardship. His achievements include representing Great Britain as a decathlete, captaining two teams that swam the English Channel and completing the Karrimor Mountain Marathon. He has a degree in Aerospace Physiology from the University of London, a law degree and is now back working as a doctor in Bristol.

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Norman Cook (aka Fatboy Slim)

World renowned DJ

Reigate Grammar School, Reigate

“Norman Cook has come a very long way since I was his form tutor at Reigate Grammar School between 1976 and 1978,” says David Jones, a still-serving member of staff at the school. “At that stage, he was just a little blond-haired boy from Reigate with a pudding-basin haircut and, as he put it himself, ‘enormous flares’. When the form moved on from me, a first hint of what was to come emerged. In those days, form groups were re-mixed, as they went into the Fifth Form, but Quentin (as he was then known) was instrumental in petitioning Howard Ballance, the head teacher, that ‘KU’ should remain together; and so they did. When in 2001 the Grammar School became involved with local youth radio station Progress FM, our students at the time begged me to contact Norman Cook. A speculative e-mail to Skint Records produced, to my amazement, a handwritten fax from the man himself inviting me and two students to his home for an interview. Our reception was magnificent - not many 50-somethings have been made coffee by Zoe Ball in her own kitchen, but I have - and our two students were given 45 generous minutes of their host’s time for the interview. That evening showed us the measure of the man and was quite unforgettable.”

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Ted Dwane

Bassist for Mumford & Sons

ACM, Guildford

One of the most successful British bands of the moment, Mumford & Sons have achieved multi-million selling, number one albums in both the UK and US, with Sigh No More and the follow-up Babel, which became the fastest selling album of 2012 in the UK. However, it was here in Surrey that bassist Ted Dwane learnt the ropes at Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music. He completed the ACM Certificate of Higher Education in 2005.

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Ben Elton

Comedian

Godalming College, Godalming

Ben Elton attended Godalming College when it was a grammar school. Having first come to attention as a comedian, he has gone on to write for screen, stage and film and as a novelist. Recently, he returned to his roots as Guildford Institute celebrated the completion of its redevelopment. Having lived on Farnham Road in his youth, his parents Professor Lewis Elton and Mary lived in the town for 45 years. In fact, Professor Elton was head of physics at Battersea College of Technology and accompanied it in its relocation to Guildford as the University of Surrey. Today, the university’s art gallery is named after him.

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Newton Faulkner

Singer/songwriter

ACM, Guildford

In recent years, Newton Faulkner’s ‘have-guitar-will-travel’ approach has inspired a host of other chart topping singer/songwriters, including Ed Sheeran, Ben Howard and Michael Kiwanuka. The dreadlocked singer completed the ACM Certificate of Higher Education at Guildford’s Academy of Contemporary Music in 2003 and was nominated for Best British Male Solo Artist at the Brits in 2008. Before his musical education, he attended Hawthorns School in Bletchingley.

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Tom Felton

Actor

Cranmore School, West Horsley and Howard of Effingham School, Leatherhead

A former pupil of Cranmore School, West Horsley, and the Howard of Effingham School in Leatherhead, Tom Felton’s acting career is best known to date for his role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter series. A keen musician, he immortalised Box Hill in song – long before cycle races brought the spotlight to the Surrey Hills – and is said to have signed a record deal. A fact less well known to the wider world, his mum, Sharon, runs the Swan Lettings estate agents in North Street, Leatherhead.

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Genesis

Charterhouse, Godalming

The origins of Genesis date back to the late 1960s, when two groups of school boys joined forces to form one of the most successful acts in music history. Originally, Mike Rutherford and Anthony Phillips formed a band known as The Anon, who performed mostly cover tunes by popular British acts like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. Then drummer/singer Peter Gabriel and keyboardist Tony Banks got in on the act and, later, drummer Chris Stewart was added. The initial line-up for the world conquering group was complete.

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Nargess Gharani & Vanya Strok

Fashion designers

University of the Creative Arts, Epsom

Gharani Strok is an established fashion label at the top end of the ready-to-wear market and since its creation in 1995, has become a firm favourite among fashion circles worldwide. Once said to be one of fashion’s best-kept secrets, Gharani Strok is now one of the leading designers in the UK, dressing the likes of Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Kate Moss, Keira Knightley, Gwyneth Paltrow and Kylie Minogue, who are all known to be fans.

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Daniel Greaves

Oscar winning animator

University for the Creative Arts, Farnham

Animator Daniel Greaves studied at the University for the Creative Arts in Farnham, formerly the West Surrey College of Art, from 1977 to 1980. In 1986, he founded Tandem Films with his business partner Nigel Pay with the goal of funding personal projects through their commercial work. They went on to create such famous commercials as Paddington Bear’s Marmite advert, Specsavers’ adventure with Thunderbirds and more. In 1992, Daniel won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for Manipulation, which went on to win over a dozen other major awards including the coveted Cartoon D’Or. Flatworld and Little Things were both nominated for the BAFTA and won more than 50 international awards between them.

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Anna Hemmings

Olympic canoeist

Royal Holloway, Egham

Britain’s leading female marathon canoeist, Anna Hemmings is a six times world champion and competed in this summer’s Beijing Olympics. At age 16, she won the junior marathon world title and, while studying at Royal Holloway, she was a semi-finalist at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Anna graduated from Royal Holloway in 2001 with a degree in economics and management and in the same year, at the Marathon World Championships, became the youngest athlete in the history of the event to win both K1 and K2 classes at the same competition. In 2007, she was awarded an honorary fellowship by the college and also won the BBC London Sports Personality of the Year.

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Alexandra Houghton

Triathlete

Woldingham School, Woldingham

This year, Alexandra Houghton qualified to represent Great Britain in the Triathlon World Championships in Beijing, finishing 11th in the world in her age group. After leaving Woldingham in 1997, Alexandra went to Leeds University where she studied geography, then on to City University where she completed a master’s degree in property valuation and law. She hopes to have the chance to compete at the World Championships in Auckland 2012 or London 2013.

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Rufus Hound

Comedian

Godalming College, Godalming

Following in the footsteps of fellow comedian Ben Elton, Rufus Hound attended Godalming College (where he was known as Robert Simpson) before going on to enjoy a career as a comedian and media personality. He is best known for hosting Radio 4’s My Teenage Diary, taking over from Anne Robinson to present the final series of OutTake TV for BBC One and being a captain for three series of Dave’s Argumental. Before Godalming College, he attended Hoe Bridge School in Woking and Frensham Heights School, near Godalming.

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Peter Kelleher

Songwriter and record producer

University of Surrey, Guildford

Songwriter and record producer Peter Kelleher was honoured with the University of Surrey Vice-Chancellor’s Alumni Award for 2013. This annual award is presented by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir Christopher Snowden, to an alumnus or alumna who has made an outstanding contribution to their industry or society, in the past 12 months. Peter, who graduated from the Music and Sound Tonmeister course in 2006, is a founding partner of TMS, together with Ben Kohn and Tom Barnes. In 2012, the world heard his song Read All About It performed by Emeli Sandé at the London 2012 Olympic closing ceremony.

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Alex Kingston

Actress

Rosebery School, Epsom

The acclaimed actress made her name in Moll Flanders, ER and Dr Who, but her roots are in Epsom. Alex was inspired to pursue an acting career by her English teacher at the all-girls grammar school, where she often had leading roles in school plays. She landed her first professional role at age 15 as a judo-trained bully on Grange Hill.

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Ray Mears

Television survival expert

Reigate Grammar School, Reigate

“I remember Ray well from his time at school. He was in the Navy section of the Combined Cadet Force, which I helped to run,” recalls Richard Rooth, design and technology teacher at Reigate Grammar School. “He was interested in the outdoors and, unlike many students at secondary school age, was very comfortable in his own company, which I am sure is a trait that has contributed to the success he has had in his career. I wish him well and I know that many of the current staff and students here also follow his work and enjoy his books and television series.”

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Ben Mee

Author

Reigate Grammar School, Reigate

Author of We Bought a Zoo, the film of which was launched in the UK last month starring Hollywood actors Scarlett Johansson and Matt Damon, Ben Mee attended Reigate Grammar School from 1977 to 1980. He studied psychology at university before becoming a DIY expert writing a column for the Guardian’s Weekend section. Moving to France to restore an old barn near Nimes, an extraordinary change of life saw him and his family heading back to England to take over a run-down zoo on the edge of Dartmoor. His struggles to turn around the zoo were documented in the BBC television programme Ben’s Zoo, which inspired the book.

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Victor Moses

Footballer

Whitgift School, Croydon

At just 21 years of age, Moses already has close to 150 senior club appearances under his belt, as well as a major international title, secured with Nigeria at the African Cup of Nations in January. After leaving Whitgift, the midfielder enjoyed three years at Crystal Palace under the tutelage of Neil Warnock, before a switch to Premier League outfit, Wigan. Moses was a leading light in a side that struggled, but his clear ability prompted European champions, Chelsea, to take him to Stamford Bridge in August 2012.

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Carey Mulligan

Actress

Woldingham School, Woldingham

It is now well known that the actress Carey Mulligan used three places on her UCAS form to secretly apply to drama schools but was turned down by them all. She had the last laugh though after receiving an Oscar nomination for her celebrated role in 2009’s An Education. Her own education was at Woldingham School, between 1999 and 2003, where she participated in a number of school productions including Sweet Charity and was made a prefect. Her first major role, as Kitty Bennet in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice alongside Keira Knightley and Dame Judi Dench, was followed later by roles in BBC’s Bleak House, Chekhov’s drama The Seagull as Nina and with Susan Sarandon in The Greatest. More recently, she starred alongside Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield in the critically acclaimed Never Let Me Go.

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Bill Nighy

Actor

John Fisher School, Purley and Guildford School of Acting

Born in Caterham, the actor best known for films such as Love Actually left the John Fisher School in Purley at 16 with acting not his first choice of profession. His teenage heroes were, in fact, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Ford Madox Ford and Bob Dylan and so, perhaps unsurprisingly, he headed into the wider world wanting to be a writer. As Hemingway had been a cub reporter at the Toronto Star, Nighy tried the Croydon Advertiser and, as folklore would have it, was told to go away and get some more O-Levels. He went on to train at the Guildford School of Acting, which these days forms part of Guildford’s ever expanding University of Surrey.

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Sam Okell

Sound engineer

University of Surrey, Guildford

Since graduating in 2002, Sam Okell has forged an award-winning career in the music industry. After completing a successful placement year at Abbey Road Studios, the 32-year-old walked straight into a job at the world-famous venue. He has gone on to work on a number of projects, including the score for the final Harry Potter film. But Sam’s most notable successes have come in the past two years when he has won not just one but two Grammy awards. His winning run started in 2011 when he received the Best Historical Album prize for his role in remastering The Beatles’ back catalogue and continued this year with success in the same category for his work on mastering Paul McCartney & Wings’ Band on the Run album.

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Lawrence Okoye

Athlete

Whitgift School, Croydon

A former rugby union prodigy, Okoye capped a meteoric rise to the top of his newly-adopted sport – the discus – by qualifying for the Olympic final last summer, the first British male athlete to do so in nearly 30 years. With just two years’ experience under his belt, Okoye’s qualification for the final was a superb achievement, and, having already claimed the European U23 title and British record, he is seen by many as a major challenger for Robert Harting’s Olympic, World and European titles.

Okoye was part of the Whitgift side that claimed the School’s first-ever Daily Mail U18 Cup, in March 2010, scoring a try in the 34-10 triumph over RGS Newcastle.

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Charles Peattie

Cartoonist

Charterhouse School, Godalming

Responsible for the legendary Dick cartoon in Melody Maker (with Mark Warren) and also one of the creators of the Celeb cartoon in Private Eye, Charles Peattie is a name familiar to many. The former Charterhouse student is probably best known, however, as one half of the team behind the cult Daily Telegraph cartoon, Alex, which appears daily on the front of the business pages.

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Alan Rusbridger

Editor

Cranleigh School, Cranleigh

As the wider world discovered on the release of his Play it Again book earlier this year, where he set himself the challenge of learning Chopin’s Ballade No.1 in a year, editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger’s greatest passion is music. In fact, as a child, he was a chorister at cathedral choir in Guildford before heading to Cranleigh School. While reading English at Magdalene College, Cambridge, in the early 1970s, he is said to have worked on the Surrey Advertiser during vacations.

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Keir Starmer

Director of Public Prosecutions

Reigate Grammar School, Reigate

The youngest director of public prosecutions for over 140 years, Keir Starmer attended Reigate Grammar School from 1974 to 1981. Keir’s appointment as DPP in November 2008 followed an already notable career as a human rights lawyer. He returned to his old school as guest of honour at the school’s annual dinner in 2009 where he met with students and fellow old boys and girls of RGS. Keir’s involvement in high profile cases has often seen him in the spotlight: in 2005 for his role in persuading the House of Lords that evidence obtained by torture should be inadmissible and, subsequently, for his work in cases regarding the conduct of British soldiers in Iraq. Legal advice given by Keir to the ‘McLibel Two’, Helen Steel and David Morris, aided their successful defence against McDonald’s.

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Suzie Templeton

Oscar winning animator

University of the Creative Arts, Farnham

“Suzie was an outstanding student with an ability to pay meticulous attention to detail in her animation,” says Roger Noakes, senior lecturer on the animation course at University College for the Creative Arts, Farnham. “She was extraordinarily hard working and committed to ‘stop motion’ film. Even in Stanley, her first major work, she was able to bring animated characters dramatically to life and to establish her voice as a director. She presented her film, Peter and the Wolf, to students at Farnham a few weeks before it won the Oscar for best short animation this year.”

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Ralph Vaughan Williams

Composer

Charterhouse School, Godalming

It has been a year of celebration in Surrey as the county remembers the musical works of Ralph Vaughan Williams on the 50th anniversary of his death. This great composer was a Charterhouse pupil before his musical urges led to him travelling the countryside to collect folk-songs and carols, notating them for future generations to enjoy. He would even cycle all over Surrey to rehearse village choirs for his beloved Leith Hill Musical Festival. Obviously, there are no teachers around to tell the story of Ralph Vaughan Williams’ time at Charterhouse, but his mark is still strong on the school and their music centre is named after him.

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David Walliams

Comedian

Reigate Grammar School, Reigate

Comedian David Walliams returned to Reigate Grammar School last year to film a one-hour special called A Snapshot in Time for ITV about his time at school, which focussed on recreating a cast photo taken during David’s first play there, All the King’s Men (pictured above). “Even during his school days at RGS, David produced a lot of laughs amongst the students and staff,” says head of form, Martin Russell. “His talent for acting was clear through his performances in drama productions and assemblies. We have charted his progress since leaving the school

and are naturally delighted that he’s gone on to have such success.”

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HAVE YOUR SAY!

Obviously, we have only scratched the surface and we’d be delighted to find out Surrey Life readers’ own memories of their time at school, dreams of stardom and famous classmates. So, if you were in the same form as someone who has gone on to find fame and fortune, tweet us at @SurreyLife with the hashtag #surreyalumni

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