Old Boy Stephen Fry thanks City College Norwich for changing his life

A famous old boy told students graduating from City College Norwich that his life had been saved when he was accepted as a pupil at the college 35 years ago.

TV star and film director Stephen Fry was guest of honour at the college's graduation ceremony, held for the 16th year at Norwich Cathedral, on Saturday.

Around 300 students were presented with degrees and other higher education awards by Mr Fry and fellow guest of honour, HM Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk and chairman of Archant, Richard Jewson.

And the former student, who passed A-levels at the college, told the congregation that his time at the college when he was an 18-year-old had been 'the hinge on which my entire life swung'.

Mr Fry said that he had been expelled from several schools and ended up in a West Country prison after spending money on his father's credit card.

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After a 'Damascene' moment in prison, when he realised he needed to get qualifications, he decided to try the college because he'd heard that it did not ask many questions.

He said: 'I arrived back in my beloved Norfolk from prison and got a 7am coach from Reepham to Norwich, and then walked along Ipswich Road. I had heard that City College did a one-year A-level course and did not ask too many questions.

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'As luck had it, it was the second day of registration and there was little Peter Butler – I don't know if any of you remember him from the college – with blue eyes and a cheerful disposition waiting for me.

'I said to him that I wanted to do A-levels in English, French, and history of art. He said I could not because it was fully booked, but I said, 'No, I have to do this'.

''If you let me do them I will get A-grades in them all and get a scholarship to Cambridge University', I said.

''Please, this has to happen'. He looked at me and I looked at him, and then he said 'All right'. It was the hinge on which my entire life swung.

'It all started here in Norwich with Peter Butler taking a risk on someone who was desperate to be educated.

'For that reason I will never forget it, and never cease to be grateful for what it's done. The lectures were gold and I understand that they still are.

'Norwich and Norfolk should be immensely proud of City College. It's a really special place and it's given me nothing but joy to be asked to come here. To me the prizes I got here were the hardest I have ever got.'

More than 600 students achieved higher education awards at the college this year, with Ben Keeley, 22, from King's Lynn, named the college's higher education student of the year.

Ben achieved a first class honours degree in hospitality leisure and tourism, and his ambition is to become a top chef.

This year's graduation saw the highest ever number of higher education awards through the college (634), including the highest ever number of UEA awards, and students achieved the highest ever percentage of 1st and 2:1 awards for honours degrees taken at the college.

<t> Which Norfolk school or college set you on the road to fame and fortune? Call reporter David Bale on 01603 772427 or email david.bale2@archant.co.uk.

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