Shrewsbury School

Leavers' interviews in Chapel: Charlie Straw (S)

Thursday 17 May 2012

Each summer term a small number of leavers are interviewed in Chapel about their time at Shrewsbury by their housemasters or tutors.  Charlie Straw spoke movingly in his interview with his tutor, Kristina Leslie, earlier this month, and we have chosen to publish the interview here in lieu of a 'Week in the Life' article.


Charlie Straw, before his Art exhibition opening in FebruaryCan you say a bit about your background?

I was born in Chester and was brought up on the Wirral. I went to Birkenhead School, an all boys’ day school. I have a Dad, Mum and Sister: Jonty, Debby and Bryony. Jonts is a Quantity Surveyor, Debs is a Cordon Bleu cook for her own company and Bryony is at Uni in Reading. We’re a pretty standard family. My interests growing up were Rugby, Fancy Dress, Sailing and Ray Charles.

Why did you come to Shrewsbury?

I found out fairly recently that it was my parents’ intention all along to send me here, therefore I didn’t really look at any other schools. Furthermore, my uncle came here and my Mum went to Moreton Hall, so they will have been aware of the school for years. There is a history of a few boys coming here from Birkenhead, Jamie Bradshaw and I are the only representatives in the U6th.

What were your first impressions of Shrewsbury?

My First impression was probably the same as everyone else’s: it was huge. Birkenhead was fairly large, but there were only sixty boys in a year, it seemed strange that I didn’t know everyone’s name in my classes when I came, having to make friends wasn’t something I was used to as I’d been at the same school for 10 years before I came.

The U6th were demi-gods. They seemed to be fully grown adults who were unbelievably comfortable in their surroundings, riding their bikes, going into town and wearing their High School and Moreton Hall hoodies. They were feared but respected: I liked that.

The teachers were mad. Teachers were boring at Birkenhead. Here they had character and actually cracked the occasional joke (and I am not referring to Mr. Bell). I’ll never forget my first latin lesson, with Mr Sheppe coincidentally. It was a resetting test and once we had finished the paper he asked us to write a short story of a pigeon that was found dead on the floor. Being the overly keen 3rd former I was I poured my heart in that essay, I thought it was quite profound. Sadly I have never seen it since...

What three moments have defined the last five years?

The first moment actually came before I arrived at Shrewsbury. It was when my mum was battling cancer for the second time that a group of old friends decided that they didn’t like me any more. I was already down, and now didn’t have the support of my friends. I wouldn’t say I had a rough time, but I certainly felt excluded and a victim. I still don’t know to this day what I did wrong but for some reason they don’t feel that way towards me. The good thing that came out of this time was that I made the conscious decision to be friends with every person I met here. I’d like to think that to this day I could have a chat with anyone in my year as a friend, if of course they like me back. It makes me sound very self righteous, as of course everyone falls out with people and some point, but I’m talking more about not judging someone because they’re not popular or ‘cool’ or if you do fall out, get over it and move on.

The second was playing the song ‘Driftwood’ in the house soirée in Third Form. It was the first time I’d ever sung for an audience and I loved it. It led to being called ‘drifters’ by my house for a few years, but that was just banter. Now music is a huge part of my life; I play with a variety of people, all of whom are far more talented than me and have played in some great venues. I also took the first cringey steps of writing my own songs. In short, if I hadn’t come to Shrewsbury I’m not sure I would have found my passion - even though that passion isn’t sport.

Another moment I won’t forget came last year. This was not being made a postor. Prior to the selection people would say to me that they I hoped I was Head of School etc etc. I wasn’t. Firstly this was great as my ego exploded. The whole of my school career I had wanted to be a postor, but just because something is assumed to be a good, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is the right thing for you. I do what I do because I love doing it.

Charlie Straw, promoting Sounds of Severn concert in 2011What are you favourite parts of the school, what makes this school special?

Location wise, probably that bit at the bottom of Oldham’s gap where you look down on The Quarry, the river and the boathouse. We all over time forget how great the location of this school is and how picturesque this area is.

I also think the art building has got the best atmosphere in the school and I would recommend studying art to anyone here who enjoys being creative.

Apart from that, I love the things that the school does that aren’t designed to get you and A in your exams, such as Thursday afternoon activities and Societies' Hour. I really enjoy debating and have done so for most of my Shrewsbury School life. I also learnt useful skills on a Thursday such scuba diving, cooking and even riding a horse.

As you’re in your final term, any regrets?

It’d be great to stand here and say I don’t regret anything I’ve done or not done here, but I think I regret not doing art for GCSE; not going on any Spanish exchange trips; spending so much money in the grot shop; not working hard enough for AS (retakes are a pain); signing up for morning swimming; getting a cringe-worthy quote on the back of my iPod AND misspelling it; not getting a hair cut over coach weekend.

What does the future hold?

MAGALUF! After exams I’m going for a lads' holiday with Severn Hill. All being well and I get the grades I hope to go up to Leeds Uni to study Graphic and Communication Design as I hope to end up in the world of advertising in the future. If not, I would love to become a musician and play songs for my dinner. Yet that dream is on the back burner for now as exams are probably more important.

Any messages?

Yes, I would just say that don’t hold grudges with people, as you’ll only end up a bitter person. Be nice and smile! We don’t live a Made in Chelsea or Only way is Essex world so don’t get hung up on small things, as a famous person said: ‘Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events and the worst minds talk about people’.

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