I didn’t get to meet Roger Bannister…

Sir Roger BannisterBut when I was editing Oxfordshire Life magazine, and the idea was pitched that we included an interview with Sir Roger Bannister to mark his 80th birthday, I jumped at the chance to give readers an insight into his latter years in Oxford.

Meeting your heroes

It’s one of the disadvantages of being the editor, rather than the writer or photographer, that you get stuck in the office pushing paper rather than getting to meet your heroes. Both Justin Bowyer, who pitched the idea, and Paul Wilkinson, the photographer, set up their own successful businesses and keep in touch via social media. Some articles, more than others I’ve commissioned as an editor, have stuck in the mind. This one because I’m a mad-keen sports fan, and because both Justin and Paul were thrilled to have met Sir Roger Bannister, and the announcement of his death on March 3, 2018 made me think of them.

The passing of one of our national sporting greats prompted tributes on all media channels and at the IAAF world indoor athletics championships in Birmingham, plus a celebration of his life. No-one lives forever. You can ask no more than you leave a good mark on the world, and tellingly, Roger Bannister rated the achievements of his professional and academic career at least as highly as his sporting successes. Had he been born in the era of professional athletics, he may have chosen to concentrate on his running for longer, once qualified, pretty much as veterinary student and double worlds medallist Laura Muir plans to do. But athletics was a gentleman’s hobby back in the fifties, and if you had to earn a living it couldn’t be through paid appearances.

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Iffley Road running track

I smiled when I heard Sebastian Coe and Steve Cram discussing how many thousands of people would say they had been at the Iffley Road track in Oxford on May 6 1954, watching the historic scenes, when the real figure was around 1,200. Many people will be able to say they met him during his 88 years, but not me. But I am glad that Paul and Justin did. Meeting your heroes is one of the privileges of working in our business. Being a hero – well that’s a different story.

© All pictures and text used in this post are subject to copyright by the original authors, photographer and/or the publishing company. Design and layout in Oxfordshire Life by Louise White.


Howard Goodall and the Royal Albert Hall

James and I almost burst with pride yesterday while watching our children play at The Royal Albert Hall. They are members of the incomparable (and very select) AMC Dance Band which had been invited to the Schools Prom to play before an audience of thousands. It was an amazing night – and should be compulsory watching and listening for all those grumpy old men and women who think today’s kids are tearaways, ne’er-do-wells and layabouts. One of the bands playing consisted of three guitar players and a drummer who could have knocked any of the X-Factor contestants into a cocked hat… one of them arrived on crutches and gigged like a trouper. As compere Howard Goodall remarked – music has the power to heal… Click here to go to the AMC Royal Albert Hall video AMC Dance Band.

None of this would be possible without the amazing teachers who take very little of the glory, a point also made by Howard who was brought up in Thame and whose father was headmaster at Lord Williams’s School. I interviewed him a couple of years ago for Oxfordshire Life magazine.